Three-time series runner-up Frédéric Gabillon admits that 2019 was a tough season for him and the No. 3 RDV Competition team as he looks forward for another shot for the title in 2020.
“The last season was tough for sure,” is what the 43-year old veteran Frédéric Gabillon said in an interview to us after we approached the Frenchman following the announcement made on 11 February that announces RDV Competition, Gabillon, and teammate Ulysse Delsaux’s return to the grid for another shot at the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series title in 2020.
It’s perhaps safe to say that the 2019 season is Gabillon’s worst season in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series so far. After finishing 2nd in the overall standings twice in the previous three seasons, Gabillon only finished 12th in the 2019 overall standings after scoring three Top-5 finishes and 6 Top-10 finishes throughout the whole year, easily the least amount of Top-5 and Top-10 finishes that Gabillon have scored in a single season campaign.
The 2019 season also includes three retirements – the highest number of retirements suffered by Gabillon in a single season – and a DNS in the final race at Zolder, Gabillon’s first ever DNS in the series and one that stopped his most consecutive races started – NWES’ “Ironman” streak – count at 84.
While he did scored a victory in the second Elite 1 race at Brands Hatch after a race-long battle with Stienes Longin, that win was pretty much the sole highlight for Gabillon and RDV Competition’s No. 3 team in 2019.
From a practice crash during the Thursday Valencia free test session that opened on-track activities of the season, to the team’s struggles with adapting to the new General Tire tires, to the various DNFs and mechanical issues that hampered the team’s efforts, it was certainly a year to forget for Gabillon and the No. 3 RDV team.
“We had a crash in Valencia during the Thursday free test and it broke the right front chassis,” said Gabillon on the struggles that he and the No. 3 team had to face in 2019. “We had to fix it and everything goes wrong until the end of the season with lot of DNF and mechanical problems.”
Gabillon also reveals that his crew chief Claude Galopin, ex-Ligier, DAMS, and Pescarolo race engineer, had to miss the majority of the 2019 season following an illness that required Galopin to have a surgery, forcing RDV Competition Team Principal Franck Violas to temporarily replace Galopin as the crew chief of the No. 3 team in 2019.
“My crew chief Claude Galopin is coming back after a surgery in 2019,” said Gabillon on the return of Galopin for 2020. “It’s a great news for all the team, even if Franck (Violas) was really good to set up cars it’s better to let him focus on the management of the team.”
As such, the start of the new decade will mark a new beginning for Gabillon and the No. 3 RDV team. RDV has prepared a new car for Gabillon in 2020 and will be bringing back the famous black-and-white split scheme that adorned Gabillon’s car from 2016 to 2018 to complement the new livery design style that RDV ran last year.
“We have decided to build a new car for 2020 and we go back with the split white and black skin. Our goal it’s to fight for the title as always and I hope we put everything at the right place,” said Gabillon on this year’s campaign.
With the 2020 season featuring the addition of Vallelunga, a new double-point Playoff system that now includes the last three rounds of the season instead of the last two, plenty of team changes from the drivers, and a brand new and improved tire specification from General Tire, Gabillon hopes that he and his team can be the best team at adapting to the new additions to the series this year.
“We will have new track with 3 double points week-ends and new tires this year. Lots of drivers have new teams and the series is growing up each year so it’s really cool to be part of it again for another year. The key is which drivers and team will get used to all this new parameter to win the title. I hope it will be us, but we have a lot of work to do,” concludes Gabillon.
Disclaimer: Unless noted, all photos used in this article are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard.