--Marie-Soleil Labelle teams up with veteran driver for inaugural Nissan Sentra Cup season
Preparing to race in the inaugural season of the Nissan Sentra Cup, as part of the series’ Micra class, local motorsports phenom Marie-Soleil “Sunny” Labelle recently teamed up with one of the competition’s most well-reputed racers. According to a press release issued by the Musée Gilles-Villeneuve (MGV) racing team on May 12, the 17-year-old Aylmerite will hit Ontario and Quebec race tracks with enhanced forces this season, as Sherbrooke-native driver Nicolas Barrette, son of comedian Michel Barrette, will join her on the Musée Gilles-Villeneuve (MGV) racing team.
The museum’s General Manager Alain Bellehumeur said he’s looking forward to seeing how the newly established duo’s combined talents will translate to success on the race track. Sunny will sport her usual number 999, and Barrette will wear number 427. Having raced in the Nissan Micra Cup series since 2017, along with multiple years competing at other levels, Barrette’s addition brings a great amount of experience and talent to the team Bellehumeur said. “His presence in the race team will be an undeniable asset,” Bellehumeur said. “and Sunny aims to improve every time she gets in the car.”
Both extremely competitive and equally passionate about motorsports, Sunny’s father Maxime Labelle told the Aylmer Bulletin that the partnership should be very beneficial for his daughter’s short- and long-term development. He pointed out that the drivers’ relationship grew last year, with Barrette offering Sunny advice on how to improve her racing abilities throughout the final season of the Micra Cup Series, and on a more regular basis during post-season training sessions at the ICAR complex in Mirabel – which has already paid great dividends. “Marie-Soleil is not the same person as last season,” Maxime said, stating that she suggested the idea of expanding the racing team back in January. “She had evolved at that point. She likes how receptive Nicolas is to her language-learning disability … he takes the time to listen to her and explain it in a way that she understands. It creates a great chemistry and great confidence.”
The 2021 Nissan Sentra Cup’s schedule was announced recently, featuring six dates from late June to late September on race tracks in Québec and Ontario. Excited for the season to begin, Maxime is confident that, with Barrette’s help, Sunny will make considerable improvements from last year’s results.
Throughout the season, Sunny and Barrette also intend to do their part to give back to the community. Living with a language-learning disability, Sunny found it very important to do what she can to help people undergoing issues that she can relate to. So, she has accepted to become the official spokesperson for the 2021 campaign of Regroupement de Language du Québec’s – a non-profit-organization dedicated to helping people with language learning disabilities, and will also return as an ambassador for Make-A-Wish/Children’s Wish Canada, a role in which she has served since 2018. Last summer, Sunny reached her goal of raising $10,000 to help a severely ill child realize his dream. People are encouraged to support her cause by donating funds to the Make-A-Wish website.
On May 29, the team hosted a virtual press conference, to unveil its cars and its colours for the 2021 season, live from the museum located at 960 avenue du Musée de Gilles-Villeneuve in Berthierville, Québec. The MVG’s racing team is all about perpetuating the memory of Gilles Villeneuve, his passion, and his legacy in motorsports, and they believe that Sunny is the ideal ambassador to keep his memory alive for younger generations with the museum started last year and extends until 2026.
For Bellehumeur, Sunny is a prime example that competitive racing is inclusive for women at all levels, stating that she is currently working on a project that will highlight the contributions of women in Quebec motor sports history. Established 33 years ago, the MGV has hosted guests from more than 30 countries and is all about letting people learn about the legend of Gilles Villeneuve – one of the all-time-great competitive motor sport racers. Despite being hard hit by the pandemic, the museum is doing what it can to survive and thrive, notably planning to launch programming to allow people to visit virtually.
Thankful for all the support Sunny and the racing sport have received over the years and is continuing to benefit from, Maxime gives a special nod to its 2021 partners: Claire Poirier from REMAX (Chairman category), RendezVous Nissan Hawkesbury, Benny&Co., Regroupement Langage Québec, Impression Charles, the Aylmer Bulletin, the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Engineering, Vaillant Autosports, Dominique Boies Notaire, Philip Ratté, CPA, Lucas Oil Products Inc., Make-A-Wish Canada, Concept Store Fixture International, PEGASUS DRONES, Days Inn Berthierville, Formule 27 Inc., ICAR Complex, Dormani Nissan, GO-VR, and MAWASHI Science and Technology.