The adventure of Olivier Bâcle in Nascar Whelen Euro Series

Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard

Former team manager of KNAUF Racing Team and spotter of Thomas Ferrando since his debut in NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, Olivier Bâcle talks with us from his adventure in the NWES…

I have been involved in motorsport since 1992. Originally, I am a rally driver and co-driver. I am rally driver and co-driver. For over 20 years I’m faithful to the tean FJ, with Jérôme Galpin (President of Team FJ and NASCAR Whelen Euro Series). We have been friends for more than 20 years.

In 2008, Jérôme started building the first NWES chassis and we talked almost daily. Initially, he wanted to build a FFSA homologated chassis but one day I called him and I told him “It’s a foolishness, you have to make a FIA homologated chassis, you have to project yourself at the world level” So he redid the plans. The day the chassis went through the crash test, it was a moment of tremendous stress. Jerome called me more than twenty times a day and it turned out that the people UTAC had never seen such a strong chassis – for example, the chassis on which Thomas Ferrando rides dates back to 2009!

As for the engine, in 5 years with the Knauf Racing Team we have never broken one. The engine with which we were champion in Elite 2 with Thomas Ferrando in 2017 was 2 years old and had never been revised. It’s a General Motors engine that is a 4.7-liter V8, more than 400 horsepower, that can develop more than 600, but that would require more extensive overhaul.

It was only a few years later that Olivier became involved in the championship…

Thomas Ferrando (the son of one of my best friends) made his first rounds aboard a NWES on the circuit of Val de Vienne at the age of 12 years. Because of his age we have had to wait until he was 14 years old to drive in NASCAR Modified at Bowman Gray in the US. When he turned 16, he was able to start his season in NWES on a low budget and when we arrived on the race of Tours in 2014, I came with clients and my boss who headed Knauf in France and I introduced him to Thomas and his parents on Monday when we met at the office and he said, “Listen, I want to do something to Thomas. I want you to make a complete season, you make me a complete file and we launch the project.

Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard

In April 2015, we were at Valencia in Elite 2 with Thomas and a 100% KNAUF car with our own structure. The first race, Thomas finishes 4th and the second, he wins. At the third meeting of 2015 at Brands Hatch, I introduced to my boss Willy Boucena who helped Thomas a lot in his debut. During this meeting, there was a serious accident where Willy’s car (who was driving for another team) was totally destroyed when he could not do anything. Willy was therefore without steering wheel. Five minutes after the race, My boss came to me to tell me that we had to help him. From the meeting in Tours we put Willy on the car in Elite 1 with instructions not to damage it because it remained above all the car of Thomas. The rest of the season went very well.

Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard

During the winter of 2015/2016 I proposed a plan to my boss to add a second car: Thomas in Elite 1 and Elite 2, Willy in Elite 1 and create the “Volant KNAUF” for the remaining place in Elite 2. the idea was to do something that was inspired by the Elf fillière. The winner wins a full season in the KNAUF Racing Team. We had 116 candidates, I selected 12 on file and I gave them an appointment on the circuit of Fontenay-le-comte for a day of driving to evaluate them with, at the end, an interview with each candidates to be sure that the winner corresponds to the values of the company. At the end of the selection, we recruited Paul Guiod. He finally did 3 seasons with us.

KNAUF’s communication plan with the NWES came to the end after 4 years but Thomas will drive the car n°27 of the CAAL RACING team with the support of KNAUF. Despite the end of KNAUF Racing Team, Olivier is still the manager and spotter of Thomas Ferrando.

Being a co-driver in rally, for me the role of the spotter is almost the same except that I am not next to him but at the top of a tower where I can follow him. The role of the spotter is above all security and so to inform the driver of all the dangers that may be happen. I ask my drivers to focus only on what is happening in front of them, I am their “mirror” and I take care of informing them of what is going on behind them. There is a real relationship of trust between the driver and the spotter.

Credits: Olivier Bâcle

For example, Thomas never adjusts his mirrors. I know Thomas since his birth so the trust was immediate. The role of the spotter is also to pass on the decisions of race control to the driver and his mechanic chief. I also give them advice during the race.

In Zolder last year, I had 3 relay spotters who transmitted me the information because it’s a circuit where radio communications goes bad and where we do not see cars.

Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard

I wish to thank Denis KLEIBER CEO of Knauf Group in France who has agreed to follow me during these 4 beautiful years of the KRT and without whom all this adventure would never have taken place. Unfortunately, he has disappeared today …

I would also like to thank Thomas, Willy, Paul and their respective parents: it has been an extraordinary human adventure with them all !

And of course, I want to thank those who, without them, nothing would be possible: the best mechanics of the NWES : Alysson, Jeremy, Fabien, Sam, Louis, Edouard and Thierry.

Article written by Guillaume Hesnault on June 1st, 2019