Guest blog by Thiemo Albers-Daly
With motorsport continuing to expand its reach across the globe, not only are more and more individuals trying their hand at it, but those who were already quietly working their way up through the ranks are rightfully getting more of the spotlight thrown upon them. One such person is Canada’s Marie-Soleil Labelle. Hailing from Ontario, Marie races in the Nissan Sentra Cup and has been a racing driver since a young age when she first started karting. Marie’s packed a lot into her career so far, even managing to go racing in one of the support races for Formula 1 earlier this year at the Canadian Grand Prix.
But she doesn’t plan on stopping there in terms of ambition. We caught up recently to chat about her plans for the future, what it was like racing around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, her biggest challenge to date and much more. I hope you enjoy our conversation.
What first got you interested in motorsport?
I always loved race cars and speed! When I was young, my father and I often went indoor karting together. One day an employee at the indoor karting place, Top Karting, asked my father if I could stay after regular operating hours to do some testing with cones and a wet track.
A few weeks later I was on outdoor tracks to start the Coupe de Montréal Karting Championship that takes place in Quebec.
How was the transition from racing in Karts to racing cars and the Nissan Micra in particular?
The first season in the micra cup series was quite a challenge for me. I had to adapt through the races and learn the car. Driving a micra is very different from a kart. The vision, the braking zones, the gear change, etc. are all things that I had to adapt to with a micra. The first season of racing on the road circuit – I consider it a year of learning and gaining experience. Now, I feel much more comfortable in my car, and I allow myself to push as much as I can during a race.
Which has been the most challenging track for you to race at in Canada?
Each track has a little challenge. Personally, I find the tracks without elevations and slopes easier. So, I would say that the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park track, having a lot of elevation, is an impressive track for me. It’s a good challenge and the best way to learn this track is to take it step by step and work on specific corners during practice sessions.
How did it feel to go racing on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve when you see that Formula 1 race there too?
I have still no words to describe how magical this race weekend was. It was a dream come true! I was proud to race on the track of my idol Gilles Villeneuve. It was an unforgettable race weekend. I was going to this race with no expectations, just to be able to race on the track was a big dream for me. So, finishing on the podium at the Canadian Grand Prix in front of many spectators couldn’t be better! I’ll never forget that race weekend.
What are your motorsport ambitions for the future?
I have several personal goals, such as finishing my double bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and computer technology in order to become an engineer in a racing team. I hope to be able to continue to drive my racing car for as long as possible and demonstrate that the impossible is possible while inspiring young and old. My biggest dream is to work in F1, specifically to go to the Monaco Grand Prix (one of the oldest circuits and one of the three most prestigious races in the world).
Do you have a favourite racing memory so far – either on track or off?
I am an ambassador for the MAKE A WISH/RÊVE D’ENFANT CANADA foundation and during the Montreal Grand Prix I met a dream child on Thursday. It’s nice to share a common passion, he came to walk with me to the pits of each team in Formula One. Afterwards, he came to see our series paddocks. His dream was to come and watch a Formula One race and I’m glad he had a good time that weekend! It is a strong memory for me, because it is since 2018 that I have been helping the foundation and the fact that in 2022 I had the chance to bring a child to live his biggest dream to have hope through motorsport is a source of great pride for me. I’m also very happy to have finished on the podium in front of him and his family since I told him that I would race in his honor throughout the weekend.
Describe how a race weekend feels to you/the emotions you go through throughout the weekend.
What I like the most in motorsport is the adrenaline created by speed, decision making, its smell, its sound, the G-forces that I’m exposed to, to be next to another race car a few millimeters from my car. It’s all about analysing the data, onboard and getting better and better every session on the track. I really enjoy facing myself and my performances through the year to see my progress as a racecar driver.
A lot of emotions settle in me during a race weekend, and they are all good emotions. It is difficult to explain; I think you really have to live in the moment to understand. You can be super focused, determined and convinced that your race will end well, and two seconds later everything can be turned upside down. It’s as exciting as it is disappointing. I think you must be very resilient in motorsport, because a race may not end the way you want it to. When I go to a race weekend, I always come out positive and I’m grateful to be able to race.
If you could race any other driver from history in an identical Nissan Micra to yours, who would you choose and why?
Gilles Villeneuve. I love this racing driver; he showed resilience multiple times. His driving technique seems very special, and I would have liked to learn from him. He never gives up and always pushes his car to the limit. I would love to see how he would drive a micra! I am 100% certain that he would do well and that we could exchange driving techniques on this car.
When you’re not racing, how do you like to spend your time?
When I’m not on the racetrack, I train a lot physically, I do cardio, bodybuilding and also, I work on my reflexes. I work on my car in my garage, revise my videos of previous races, in short, I try to prepare for the next race.
It’s also good to rest a bit, so occasionally I do some activities with my friends. I must admit that this summer with the university in addition to the race I was quite busy!
If you had to describe motorsport in one word – which word would you choose?
It’s very difficult to describe motorsport in one word. The racing world is my second home. No matter the track or the drivers I always feel good in this sport. I think the best word to describe racing for me would be passion.
As you can undoubtedly tell, Marie has her eyes firmly set on big things for the future, both on and off work but also very firmly rooted in motorsport. Perhaps we’ll see her make her engineering debut as part of a W Series or Formula 3 crew sometime in the not too distant future. For now, we’ll just have to be content with watching her go racing and proving that Canada might just be an untapped resource for potential future motorsport drivers in the highest categories.
Thanks again to Marie for taking the time to chat and best of luck for the rest of 2022 and beyond.
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