Frédéric Gabillon talks about the possibility of him becoming the first driver to reach 100 starts in NASCAR Whelen Euro Series’ top class at Zolder as he discusses the sport’s evolution from his debut year, the good and bad memories, and the future plans of his career.
RDV Competition’s Frédéric Gabillon is approaching a historic milestone for the upcoming NASCAR GP Belgium as the round at Zolder presented him with the first opportunity to become the first driver to start 100 races in the EuroNASCAR PRO class.
Gabillon, who is already sitting as the most experienced driver in NASCAR Whelen Euro Series’ top class with 98 starts to his name, will set the historic milestone if he is to start both races at Circuit Zolder, something that he was not aware of until our interview a few days ago. Gabillon has spent 9 years in EuroNASCAR, by far the longest time he has stayed in one championship in his career.
“I was not aware that I could be the first driver to take 100 starts in EuroNASCAR PRO on Sunday at Zolder, it just made me feel older than ever!” said Gabillon on the 100 starts milestone.
“In 30 years of racing I’ve never stayed that long in the same championship but every year when you look at other series, there’s nothing as fun and competitive as a NASCAR car to drive on track. Even if we are struggling during the last few years, I enjoy driving this car and spending time with my crew every weekend.”
With NASCAR GP Belgium also set to feature Anthony Kumpen’s return to the sport after his 4-year suspension by the RACB, Gabillon said that he will celebrate both Kumpen’s return and his 100 starts milestone during the weekend. “I will drink a beer with Anthony to celebrate this and his comeback,” Gabillon said.
During Gabillon’s time in the sport, EuroNASCAR has evolved in many ways since his debut year back in 2013. Gabillon has seen the series adding new tracks and countries to the calendar, a new generation of cars, a new tire supplier, and plenty of regulation changes that have led to the series’ ever-growing competitiveness and stature as NASCAR’s sole European championship.
“EuroNASCAR has grown in so many different ways,” said Gabillon on the sport’s evolution. “Cars, tracks, regulations, tires, that is hard to compare now and 2013 but the spirit remains the same even if I’m not agreeing with everything. It for sure is more professional than it was in 2013. Each team works hard to put good cars on tracks for their drivers and with 35 cars on track in 2022, it has been a great year for fans and the show.”
Gabillon also opens up on what he believed to be his best moments in the sport, with the sweep of victories on his home race at Tours Speedway in 2013 and 2016 being a particular highlight for the series veteran.
“I think my best experience was when we still had races on the oval, winning both races in Tours in 2013 and 2016 in front of my sponsors, family and French fans was special. But those times are gone, no more ovals and no more races in France…” said Gabillon.
Given Gabillon’s longevity he also has had a number of bad experiences during his stay in EuroNASCAR. He noted that finishing as the series runner-up three times does sting, being unable to contend for the 2014 title showdown at Le Mans due to a throttle issue on the Saturday race is still the worst moment of his EuroNASCAR career so far.
“I have plenty of bad souvenirs after losing 3 championships, but the worst was during the first Final in Le Mans in 2014. I was leading the race and then my throttle pedal broke… I finished 4th [in the standings] that year but with the potential win on Saturday I would be able to fight for the title Sunday, so it was really a hard time.”
Gabillon has yet to decide on what he would do for the future after he delayed the possible retirement plans that he announced in 2021 for a full-time campaign in 2022, but the 46-year old Frenchman would certainly maintain his strong relationship with Franck Violas’ RDV Competition team and the support from his sponsors, TEPAC ASTERI and BLA, for next year.
It’s too early to say what we will do next year,” explained Gabillon on his future plans. “We have a strong relationship with RDV Competition and I know my sponsors, TEPAC ASTERI and BLA, will follow me next year. We have to take some time to think about our future.”
Disclaimer: Unless noted on the photo, all photos used in this article are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Klemen Sofric / Stephane Azemard / Bart Dehaese.