Historically, sports have been an outlet for the elite, while those who considered themselves to be ‘lesser’ only watched from the sidelines. What if that entire concept was about to change? The common misconception that only neurotypical drivers have a chance on the field in Nascar is coming to an end, thanks in part to Ulysse Delsaux who went from a potential winner to a champion with just a single checkered flag. Not a single eye was dry in victory lane that day, but who is he, and where did he come from?
Who is Ulysse Delsaux?
The first and most important thing to know, is that Ulysse Delsaux was diagnosed with high-functioning autism, and while it IS high functioning, he did not speak until he was five years old. Multiple doctor visits didn’t seem to help, and it seemed that his life would be bleak, at best. In an attempt to make life more interesting for him, his father, Emmanuel, introduced him to go-kart racing. This was in no way intended to spark anything more than minor interest, or to serve as a distraction, and no one could have predicted what would come next. Rather quickly, the hobby turned to competition, and with his own cart, Emmanuel began to enter his son into events. He won a regional championship in 2011, and then began to enter international competitions throughout Europe. A crash forced Ulysse to switch over to stock cars for safety reasons, and in 2013, he joined the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series Development Program.
Entering his Fourth Year
He’s just 19, but he’s entering his fourth season in the Whelen Euro Series. He finished 9th in Elite 2 in 2014, and 7th in 2015. Last year, he finished 9th in Elite 1, and he seems to be working his way up the ladder. One thing that has really helped him develop is the focus and concentration required in this sport, as it is one of the most basic attributes that all autistic people share. The ability to ‘shut out’ the rest of the world gives him a significant advantage, but he has progressed far beyond the little, non-verbal boy that he was. Now, instead of being completely isolated, he talks to his team, goes to movies, and even gives TV interviews. Most importantly, he has given representation to autistic people in sports. With any luck, this will give other disabled individuals the chance to participate in sports, and ultimately open the hearts and minds of those who believed that only able-bodied individuals could turn laps.