Gustavo Menezes is champing at the bit to climb behind the wheel of Signatech-Alpine’s LMP2 class sportscar in Bahrain later this month, as the talented American racer evaluates his options ahead of the next phase of his burgeoning career.
Menezes has spent the past couple of seasons competing in the fiercely-disputed FIA Formula 3 European Championship, tallying a brace of podiums and an impressive 28 top ten finishes against the indisputable crème de la crème of up-and-coming open-wheel stars.
Having proven his potential in what is widely regarded as the toughest junior single-seater series on the planet, the highly-rated California native is exploring a variety of avenues for progression in 2016 in different disciplines both in Europe – where he has predominantly ploughed his furrow since 2011 – and back home in the United States.
Menezes has already exhibited his sportscar credentials with a handful of outings in America’s most prestigious endurance races, and in evidence of his enthusiasm, he will dash straight from this weekend’s Macau F3 Grand Prix on an overnight flight to Bahrain International Circuit.
No sooner will his feet have touched the ground on Middle Eastern soil for the first time, than the Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé will be track-bound to take to the cockpit of Signatech-Alpine’s A450 sports prototype.
Run by an established outfit with an excellent pedigree – clinching back-to-back European Le Mans Series drivers’ and teams’ crowns in 2013 and 2014 – the Alpine A450 has this year shone on the global stage in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), finishing second amongst the LMP2 protagonists in Fuji and flashing past the chequered flag first in Shanghai. Menezes clearly intends to grab his Bahrain opportunity with both hands.
“I’m extremely excited about the test,” enthused the 21-year-old, a former winner of the coveted Jim Russell Driver Scholarship Award. “We’ve been assessing possibilities for next year since midway through the season, and WEC is definitely a big draw. The series markets itself superbly, the cars are so technologically advanced and when I went along to the race in Austin a couple of months ago, I was very impressed by the professional environment.
“Sportscar racing is continuously increasing in popularity, and WEC is the pinnacle. It’s a great showcase and an ideal platform to enhance your international profile as a driver. You get plenty of seat time and the endurance element teaches you how to settle into a strong rhythm and be consistent over a prolonged stint – very different to the short, sharp single-seater mentality.
“It will be really cool to drive the Alpine, particularly coming off the back of Signatech’s class win in Shanghai. I’ve driven sportscars before in the Prototype Challenge category in the 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans. This will be my first time in an LMP2 car and I’m aware it will have more downforce, but I’m expecting it to be a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to pushing it to the limit.
“Formula 3 drivers have historically adapted well to LMP2 cars, and Alpine is obviously aligned to a manufacturer in Renault, which is a big deal for me. Signatech is a fantastic team with a lot of experience, a rich history and a great success record. I know them from European F3 and there’s tremendous potential inside the team. I have every faith that they will give me sufficient preparation and track time in the car to show what I can do.
“Ultimately, my goal is to forge a sustained career in this sport as a factory-backed driver, and to compete in the Le Mans 24 Hours has always been a dream of mine – it’s one of the most iconic races in the world, right up there with the Indianapolis 500 and Monaco Grand Prix.
“WEC is a phenomenal championship that is growing fast, and over the next few years, it will attract more and more quick young drivers who have come to realise that Formula 1 isn’t the be-all and end-all – so now is the time to really capitalise.”
Source. Russell Atkins Media/Photo. DPPI
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