The Nissan crests a hill and banks into a turn. The driver grips the wheel, checks the mirror and sees the other cars behind her. It’s the final lap. The final turn. The final sprint in the Nissan Micra Cup. All of her stress, sweat, and pressure from battling other cars on the grid drop off her conscious like body armor, piece by piece, falling to the floor. Weightless in time, she floats the car across the finish line. In that moment, Valerie Chiasson became the first woman in racing history to podium a Canadian Grand Prix.
Changing racing history is quite a feat. Though she’s still in her prime, for Valerie, her journey of racing started years ago at the age of eleven by originally wanting to race motorcycles. Though her parents disapproved, they finally agreed to let her begin karting.
Blazing across pavement at the local track days in a F125 Rotax Max kart, Valerie spent most her weekends practicing. It wasn’t long before the local racers convinced her dad to let her start racing — and from that point she took off. During the next four years, she competed in local karting events and in 2007, she was offered to race a Toyota Echo cup car.
The Toyota Cup Series Challenge cars were much faster and although racing a larger vehicle was an adjustment, she finished as Vice Rookie of the year. The following year in 2008, she raced the series part time but then made a massive leap by accepting an opportunity to race stateside in the American Canadian Tour – Castrol Late Model Series.
Migrating from road course racing to oval track is quite a difference. “It was very tough.” She says. “Utilizing outside passing, bumping and passing . . . they are all NASCAR techniques! A lot of people think oval racing is easy, but for me it was harder than road Racing course!”
“One of the most challenging experiences was during 300 laps in the St-Eustache on a 1/4 mile oval.” She said. “What a long race and so physical! . . . But I finished 9th place out of 42 on the grid.” Over the next few years Valerie continued to race the late models, but at the end of 2012 her time one the oval tracks came to a finish.
“Racing started to become to expensive for me.” She says. “Traveling around had a lot of costs . . . and I had been wanting to start my own business.” So that’s when she decided to step away from driving to launch an automotive marketing business dubbed Valerie Chaisson Enterprises (V.C.E.). Meanwhile in her spare time, she taught racing classes at the local Quebec racetracks. Although things were going well for her, after a couple of years she was itching to get back in to the racing seat.
So in 2014 she signed up for the Canadian Touring Cup Championship, one of the most competitive racing series. During the year, Valerie placed several times in 4th and 5th positions, but her inner race demon was truly awakened with an opportunity to race a Prototype Formula WF1 car; in which she placed 1st and 3rd on the Circuit Mont-Tremblant. “The Stohr is really fun to drive!” She continued. “It’s fast — but really fast in the corners and was completely different from the others cars I drove before . . . I learned very quickly with We Tune and got good results in short time with them.”
That season was the boost Valerie needed and the following year in 2015, she raced in the Nissan Mirca Cup Series and placed 6th in the overall season — along with becoming the first woman to podium a Canadian GP in all categories. She finished up the year by racing the Stohr Prototype again in the Fall Classic, where she took home a 2nd place podium finish.
Valerie then it was time for her to join a faster series, so after a hefty fundraising campaign, she gathered up enough money to compete with a Porsche GT3. With help from Group Gabriel and Porsche Prestige she gained the sponsor support and has now been racing a fully spec’d GT3 in the Canadian Cup Circuit.
Being recognized as the first woman to race a full a season in the Canadian Porsche GT3 Cup Series, she plans to continue her pace and take the Prestige Porsche to the top. “I know a lot of the mechanical basics and so I’m working a lot on database configurations with the engineers to make a fast car on the track.” She continues, “Next year, (2017) I’ll be back in GT3 Cup Canada for minimum of 3 races and I’d like to race in Europe as well to get more experience.”
While her racing career is still gaining speed, Valerie is also juggling several other projects including being the CEO of V.C.E. Marketing where she helps other driver’s brand themselves for motorsports and assisting in brand marketing for automotive companies, locally and globally.
Plus, she’s been recently chosen to be one of the eighteen global representatives of ASN Canada; the sporting authority delegated by the Federation International of Automobiles (FIA) that oversees all Canadian national motorsports. In this role, she’s a part of the Women in Motorsport Commission (WiM) and was recently chosen as the new Ambassador of Canada for the 150th anniversary in Monaco race — with the F1 world Champion Jacques Villeneuve for 2017.
If all of that’s not enough for you – she also races horses. But that’s another story for another day. All and all, Valerie is an asset to the racing community and shows that with a lot of passion and drive, you can go a long way. Just make sure not to get in her way when your on the track . . . she may just show you how a woman races.