Nissan Micra Cup Year 1 Q&A With Didier Marsaud

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Olivier Bédard captured the first Nissan Micra Cup Championship as well as the prestigious Gilles Villeneuve Trophy. (Photos-Nissan Micra Cup)
 
By: RaceCanada.ca
February 8 2016
 

As we work our way through the long, winter off-season for Canadian racing, RaceCanada had a chance to talk to Didier Marsaud, Senior Manager Corporate Communication for Nissan Canada about the first season of the Nissan Micra Cup, and what's coming up in season 2.

RaceCanada - With season one of the Micra Cup now complete, did it meet your expectations?

Didier Marsaud - The first season of the Micra Cup surpassed expectations on all levels, and we were incredibly excited to see our small but mighty Nissan Micra racing on the best race tracks in Quebec. Overall driver attendance, event organization, and the quality of the racing on the track was exceptional. Most importantly, the enthusiasm from fans, the media and on social media has been fantastic. Internally within our dealer network, we had seven dealers in the races. The Micra Cup garnered international exposure from media around the world, in part because our two GT Academy drivers, sent by Nismo, were from India and Thailand.

RaceCanada - How was the fan reaction been to the series, especially at the larger events like the Canadian 16020802bGrand Prix and GP3R?

Didier Marsaud - Fan reaction has been incredibly positive; we’ve seen a lot of enthusiasm from fans in the stands and online. Stefan Radzinski, winner of the second race at the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, got a standing ovation after his reverse donuts in the hair pin! It was an exciting weekend.

What amazes fans the most is how incredibly fun it is to watch the Nissan Micra race around a track. Each Micra is equipped with a stock engine, transmission and gear box, so fans were treated to races featuring amazing driving skills and ingenuity, which are essential when every driver is racing in the same car.

RaceCanada - You recently announced an expansion of the Nissan Micra Cup into Ontario. With the dates and events still to be confirmed, have you had a good response from Ontario drivers and fans?

Didier Marsaud - The decision to expand into Ontario is a testament to the efforts of all those involved in Québec – JD Promotion & Competition, the drivers, their teams, the series organizers, and our own team at Nissan. Promoter Jacques Deshaies got numerous calls from Ontarians who are very excited to hear that the Micra Cup is coming to Ontario. Internally, we are working with dealers who want to follow the path of their colleagues from Quebec. On the other hand, most of the tracks outlined in our schedule will be limited to around 42 cars. As almost of the drivers from 2015 are coming back, drivers return ration is above 90%, it means the number of new attendees will be “somewhere limited”. In terms of driver eligibility, the Micra Cup in Ontario is first come, first served for the remaining spots. Go fast !

RaceCanada - Although nothing is confirmed or announced yet, are you looking to get the series into major events in Ontario, or is it more likely they will be part of regional weekends?

Didier Marsaud - At the Montreal International Auto Show, Nissan announced the 2016 race calendar for the Nissan Micra Cup's second season. Launched exclusively in the province of Quebec last year, the Nissan Micra Cup will expand to Ontario in 2016 with one race weekend at Calabogie Motorsports Park in May, and two race weekends at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in July and September respectively. The 2016 race calendar is as follows:

2016 MICRA CUP RACE SCHEDULE

 

DATES

LOCATION

TRACK EVENT

Races 1 and 2

May 14-15

Calabogie Motorsports Park

Calabogie's May Race Fest

Races 3 and 4

May 27-29

Circuit Mont-Tremblant

Spring Classic

Races 5 and 6

June

To be announced

To be announced

Races 7 and 8

July 7-10

Canadian Tire Motorsport Park

Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix

Races 9 and 10

July 22-24

Circuit Mont-Tremblant

Summer Classic

Races 11 and 12

August 12-14

Circuit Trois-Rivières

Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières

Races 13 and 14

September 2-4

Canadian Tire Motorsport Park

Chevrolet Silverado 250

Races 15 and 16

September 23-25

Circuit Mont-Tremblant

Fall Classic

During last year's inaugural season, popularity grew with each race as seen in the stands; through engagement levels online with the Nissan Micra Cup organization; and was heard on the showroom floor. We are thrilled to keep that momentum going to get even more fans behind the series with the expansion of the Nissan Micra Cup to Ontario and join some very high profile events at Mosport.

16020802cRaceCanada - Will the Ontario races be part of the whole series, or will the series be divided into regions? If its part of the whole series, could we see a split series in the future if numbers warrant it?

Didier Marsaud - For the second season the series will expand to Ontario and grow to eight race weekends, with three of these happening in Ontario and five in Quebec. With two races each weekend, there will be a total of 16 races over the course of the 2016 season, with 10 in Quebec and six in Ontario. For the championship, 12 races for each driver will be included in their personal total.

RaceCanada - With one season in the books, how well did the cars stand up during the races? Are there any changes you will be making to the cars for next season?

Didier Marsaud - We are extremely happy with reliability and agility of the Nissan Micra. Prior to the initial season, we did about 40 hours of testing with our prototype and didn’t find any issues, nor did we experience any in the first season. Despite the fact that it is a stock car, the Nissan Micra has demonstrated its reliability. In addition, it’s a fun car to drive and offers great performance, too. With that said, our sport management team has worked on minor changes for 2016 to ensure continued optimal performance in the Micra Cup, as for instance a new format for qualification: The qualifying session for one weekend is now split into two halves, one for each race. On a technical prospective, the Nissan Micra Cup race cars will no longer require spec fuel, and wheel camber setting will now be free.

RaceCanada - Were you and the teams happy with the performance of the Pirelli tires? Will they be the same spec for next year?

Didier Marsaud - Our ultimate goal is to provide satisfaction for our drivers and our teams. We conducted a survey at the end of 2015 regarding slick compound and rain tires, and most of the teams were very satisfied with those products. Therefore, we do not plan on any changes for 2016.

As we talk about partners, I m delighted to announce that Total Canada has signed on as an official partner of the series for two years. After a successful season for the Total team in the Nissan Micra Cup, Total Canada will increase their participation through the partnership as the official provider of lubricant for the Nissan Micra Cup series.

RaceCanada - Looking back and knowing what you know now after one full season of racing, is there anything you16020802d would have done differently?

Didier Marsaud - Launching a brand new racing series in Canada was a very exciting challenge for everyone involved, including JD promotion, Nissan, and our partners. There are always things that can be improved and adapted upon, we believe it went very well for an inaugural season. We were able to rely and capitalize on a very experienced sporting team, which helped bring the professionalism we wanted in the organization and made the series a success from the very first race. Drivers were delighted, our partners were happy, and fans grew more numerous with each race. The best proof of this is that almost all of our 2015 drivers will be back for 2016. We aim to capitalize on this first year of experience and do even better this year!

RaceCanada - What was it like to have young guys like Olivier and Stefan mixing it up with veterans like my former boss, Richard Spenard?

Didier Marsaud - One of the defining characteristics of the Nissan Micra Cup series is the diversity seen on the grid. Karting champions, racing legends, and rookies – they're all out there in identical Micras!

It was fantastic and demonstrated the spirit of the Micra Cup. We offered very young, beginner, or gentleman drivers the chance to race against experienced top racers and legends – or even stars like Elvis Stojko or Marc André Bergeron. As all cars are stock and identical, the only way to make a difference is with talent. It all comes down to the driver, and that’s the appeal and the fun of the Micra Cup. This is a truly unique motorsport series for the masses, and witnessing the camaraderie between the drivers and their teams in the paddocks was fantastic, but seeing the intensity of competition on the actual race track is exceptional - it gets very heated. Finally, we were very happy to see the Micra Cup Champion rewarded by ASQ with the Gilles Villeneuve Trophy; it shows that in only its first year, the Micra Cup has revealed exceptional new talent in Canadian Motorsport.

RaceCanada - You've also done something that hasn't been done in a long time in running media cars. How did that work out, and will it be done again in 2016?

Didier Marsaud - Running media cars was a very fun and exciting experience. A large part of our media guests were beginners who had never raced before, but they performed very well. That was no easy task on their part, especially at the end of the season, when all of the paddock had grown in experience. Overall it was a fantastic experience for the journalists involved, as they learned to set up a car, study a track, and really feel the adrenaline of racing. The best proof of success is that they would all like to be back this year!   

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