ALL ABOUT ......Xavier Maassen... LANAKEN. With just over one and a half weeks before the 24 Hours of Spa, the major event of the FIA GT championship, we had the opportunity to have a chat with Xavier Maassen. Xavier Maassen is presently lying...
ALL ABOUT ......Xavier Maassen...
LANAKEN. With just over one and a half weeks before the 24 Hours of Spa, the major event of the FIA GT championship, we had the opportunity to have a chat with Xavier Maassen. Xavier Maassen is presently lying second in the World Championship for GTs and is heading off to the mythical circuit in the Belgian Ardennes with high ambitions. For once Xavier Maassen is not looking ahead to the actual race itself, but in this case is reminiscing about life, the future of the racing world as also the marketing aspects of this top-class sport.
Xavier Maassen about ... Xavier Maassen
"In itself it's rather strange to talk about oneself, but I do notice that not everyone in the motor sport world has enough background information regarding myself. It was in a rather recreational manner that I became involved with motor sport, and more precisely with karting. Step by step I built up my career. My father always coached me, but did demand my full devotion. He considers my career to be a top-class career where you have to commit yourself 100%, and this applies to the physical, mental and marketing aspects. We look on my career as a sort of company that experiences an annual growth."
"In addition he also felt that it was imperative that I complete my studies. Motor sport is one thing, but in due course that can run out and you need to keep all other options open. I'm a Doctorandus - the equivalent of the present Masters - in International Business Studies, a course given entirely in English which I followed at the University of Maastricht. In fact my thesis dealt entirely with sponsoring in the motor sport world. I'm fascinated by the commercial and marketing aspects involved with sport and more specifically motor sport."
"One of the additional advantages of this education was the fact that I was also able to concentrate fully on my knowledge of languages, of major importance in an open and united Europe. Thanks to my studies I have a perfect command of English, but am also at ease with French, German and even have smatterings of Italian."
"And now language brings me to the most difficult point, namely whether I am Dutch or Belgian..Well I do live in Belgium and feel very much at home here and I retain a Belgian licence, but my passport states that I am Dutch. On top of that with my Dutch, French and German I speak the three official languages in Belgium. So I leave it up to you to choose."
Xavier Maassen about... his future in motor sport
"As a young driver you need to remain realistic and everyone knows that it is extremely difficult to break through on to the F1 scene. So you start searching around for alternatives and one of these reputed alternatives is endurance racing, more specially the FIA GT. Last winter together with Kees Van de Grint, my personal advisor we researched the various options, ranging from DTM via Porsche Supercup through to FIA GT, and the package that really suited us was FIA GT. For that matter SRO (the FIA GT promoter) supported us fully, as they were on the look out for young drivers, and as it transpires something in which they were entirely successful. Then followed a great package comprised out of a Corvette, SRT and Christophe Bouchut and you then realise that you have this superb opportunity to make a name for yourself, as proven with our excellent victory in Monza. But the FIA GT is not my ultimate goal. My biggest ambition is a podium place at Le Mans, and preferably on the top rung. Looking into the future I intend pulling out all the stops as my ambition is to drive either for a make or a works team. The new world championship for GT cars, which comes about in 2010, fits this ambition like a glove."
Xavier Maassen about... his future apart from motor sport
"I don't only approach motor sport from a driver's point of view. I'm really intrigued by the marketing side associated with it, and I'm entirely convinced that we need to concentrate and work on this aspect. We obviously have F1, with such success stories as the ING and Renault tie up, but this can also be achieved in other motor sport categories. In my personal opinion I truly believe that the business world remains receptive to motor sport sponsoring, even in our present 'green' environment."
"Sport also gives you the opportunity to closely involve the fans with your brand, something not always feasible via classic marketing channels. I have noticed that certain pieces of the puzzle need to fit perfectly in order to win over potential companies. And one of those, namely that of the sport's personality, today explains the enormous difference between The Netherlands and Belgium. Over the last few years The Netherlands have enjoyed several F1 drivers, in particular Jos Verstappen, and you then arrive at a sort of snowball effect, comparable to what Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin represented for the tennis world in Belgium. A couple of weeks ago Jos Verstappen competed at Le Mans, with a victory in LMP2, and even the Dutch Premier, Jan Peter Balkenende was present. I might branch out in that direction in the future, but I'm not committing myself at the moment. Let's wait and see..."
Xavier Maassen about ... his physical preparation
"Motor sport is a top sport; you can take that from me. I reckon that without a strong physical condition you won't get very far in the motor sport world. I obviously train several times per week at Topfit in Maastricht, I regularly ride out on my mountain bike, do a fair amount of running, but there's more than that. Every driver prepares himself physically so you need to differentiate yourself from the others. I personally have great faith in neurological training, whereby you measure and train your brain activity as also mental training. Other drivers concentrate on eye training, high pressure chambers and so forth. But the 24 Hours of Spa is another story, a race taking in 24 hours, racing at night, the rain, tiredness setting in, but all in all I'm pretty well prepared to take on the challenge."