HAWKSWORTH: HIGHS & LOWS OF DETROIT

HAWKSWORTH: HIGHS & LOWS OF DETROIT

The 3GT Racing team came into Detroit riding on a wave of momentum after a historic first victory at Mid-Ohio a few weeks ago.

Unfortunately, that victory didn’t come from our side of the garage, but nonetheless it was a great confidence boost for the whole team. The only negative of our strong performance at Mid-Ohio was heading into the Detroit weekend we had been handed a substantial weight penalty, courtesy of IMSA’s Balance of Performance. We knew this would make life a little more difficult for us but nonetheless we knew that certain characteristics of the Detroit circuit would suit our Lexus RC F GT3. We hoped we could challenge for the victory.

Friday practice went very well. The engineering team and mechanics had done a fantastic job with the car and David Heinemeier Hansson and I both felt very comfortable straight out of the box. We spent both practice sessions working through various fuel loads and tires, both fresh and old, to try and get a better understanding of the car in different situations and to help prepare David in the best possible way for the qualifying session. An added bonus was that we set the fastest time of anyone in practice and we were consistently able to run a very strong pace.

Qualifying followed and David did a fantastic job to qualify the car P5, in front of all the other real amateur drivers in the field!

Race day came and the talk around the paddock was whether to take four, two or zero tires when pitting. It was a one-stop race and with the minimum drive time for silver drivers set at the 30-minute mark, it was clear that the pit stop would be a short fuel. This therefore meant that the time spent on pit lane would probably be decided by the driver and tire change. In a one-stop race, and with little passing, this pit exchange would be a golden opportunity to get it right or screw it up! Unfortunately, in the race it wasn’t a problem we had to deal with.

After making a solid start, David got caught out by a snap of oversteer in Turn 5 and hit the wall. That was our day done. These things happen on street circuits, but it was a shame as we were probably the only GTD car with the pace to go forward and make some passes. Ah well, would of, should of, could of, this is racing, and we’ll move on. The results are only part of it and as always, I look forward to the next race, this time at Watkins Glen.

It presents another opportunity to do things better, continue to refine my craft and understand how to extract more lap time and speed from the Lexus RC F GT3. This is what gets me out of bed every morning and keeps me motivated. I look forward to pushing forward with the rest of 3GT team from here on out, hopefully the results follow!

MENEZES SETS NON-HYBRID PACE FOR TOP THREE FINISH ON TOP TIER DEBUT

MENEZES SETS NON-HYBRID PACE FOR TOP THREE FINISH ON TOP TIER DEBUT

Gustavo Menezes proved his pace and potential on a hugely impressive LMP1 class debut in the fiercely-disputed FIA World Endurance Championship last weekend (3-5 May), lapping fastest of the non-hybrid competitors around legendary Belgian circuit Spa-Francorchamps to secure a top three finish with Rebellion Racing.

The 2016 FIA WEC LMP2 class champion and Le Mans 24 Hours winner is a hot property on the sportscar racing scene, and he was snapped up over the winter by Anglo-Swiss outfit Rebellion for its return to LMP1 level – the uppermost echelon in endurance racing’s premier global series. Notwithstanding very limited pre-season track time, Menezes and team-mates Thomas Laurent and Mathias Beche came out-of-the-blocks in fine form to place third in opening free practice at Spa behind the wheel of the No.3 car. The talented young American was then the quickest of the Rebellion sextet in FP2 and outpaced a certain Fernando Alonso in FP3, before teaming up with Laurent to tackle qualifying.

In a session punctuated by a brace of red flag stoppages – one for a hefty accident involving Menezes’ friend Pietro Fittipaldi – the pair lapped fourth-fastest, but were promoted to third on the grid when the No.7 Toyota had its times disallowed for failing administrative checks.

Laurent returned to the cockpit of the Rebellion R13 for the start of what would be an eventful 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps the following day, held in perfect weather and in front of some 63,000 avid fans. After initially holding position, the Frenchman briefly assumed the lead when the majority of the LMP1 protagonists pitted during a lengthy safety car period at the end of the first hour to allow for barrier repairs to be carried out at Eau Rouge.

Highly-rated Santa Monica, California native Menezes was next to take to the track, keeping close company with second-placed stablemate Bruno Senna and more than matching the ex-Formula 1 driver for pace throughout his double stint. Beche then took over inside the Gibson-powered ORECA prototype and despite finding himself obliged to concede to the recovering No.7 Toyota, he reclaimed third with two hours remaining when the sister Rebellion had to make an extended pit visit to fix transponder issues.

Laurent rejoined the fray for the final blast, working hard to shake off the attentions of the chasing SMP Racing entry – whose subsequent crash necessitated another safety car period going into the last hour and eradicated the No.3 crew’s healthy advantage over their team-mates. A close battle ensued to the chequered flag, and although the No.1 Rebellion crossed the finish line ahead, the car’s post-race exclusion for an over-worn skid block promoted Menezes and co. to third overall.

Not only that, but the 23-year-old Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé – a former winner of the coveted Jim Russell Driver Scholarship Award – posted the race’s fastest non-hybrid lap by more than two tenths-of-a-second, leaving him fired-up for the fight looking towards the next outing on the 2018/19 FIA WEC ‘Super Season’ calendar, the iconic Le Mans 24 Hours on 16/17 June.

 

It was a great weekend all-round,” Menezes enthused. “Spa is a track I know well and love going to – one of the true classics and a hugely rewarding and demanding test of driver and car alike. It was such a rush to get everything ready for the season that we’d had very little prior running, and it’s always difficult to know what to expect with a new car but ORECA do a phenomenal job and nothing major cropped up to cause us any real concern.

The first time I drove the R13 in free practice, we were a little bit off in terms of the balance but the Rebellion guys worked their socks off and with a few tweaks and adjustments and a fresher set of tyres for FP2, the car felt a lot better and my confidence quickly returned.

Qualifying was a difficult session with the two red flags. We knew from practice that we would likely be battling our team-mates to be best-of-the-rest behind the two Toyotas, but after Pietro’s big accident, it wasn’t worth risking everything just to gain one spot on the grid – and ultimately, of course, we ended up third anyway with what happened to the No.7 car.

In the race, Thomas did a great job early on, and I soon established a good feeling with the R13 on full tanks when I got behind the wheel. The pace was there immediately, and to set the fastest non-hybrid lap of anybody on my LMP1 debut and be on average one of the quickest drivers on the track was immensely encouraging. I was very pleased with my performance, and then Mathias continued that good work when he got into the car.

It was a shame for our team-mates to lose third place for something so minor, but I’ll definitely take a top three finish first time out and I think we can be very proud of what we achieved. With two outright Le Mans winners and LMP1 world champions as well as the reigning LMP2 title-holder in the No.1 Rebellion, for Thomas, Mathias and myself to show we can run at the same speed and perform at a very similar level is really important and will be a big help when it comes to developing the car.

Now, it’s full throttle ahead for Le Mans. For us, the entire Spa weekend was essentially preparation for what is beyond doubt the biggest race on the FIA WEC calendar, and you can be assured that we will be leaving no stone unturned and giving it everything we’ve got. We need to keep our heads down and work on closing the gap to the Toyotas so we can push them as hard as possible and give them a genuine fight. That will be the primary focus over the next few weeks.”

MENEZES CONFIDENT OF WEC TITLE TILT AS NEW REBELLION BREAKS COVER

MENEZES CONFIDENT OF WEC TITLE TILT AS NEW REBELLION BREAKS COVER

Gustavo Menezes was in bullish mood as Rebellion Racing released a sneak preview of the new R13 that he will pilot in the 2018/19 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) at the Geneva Motor Show yesterday (6 March), describing his new ride as ‘one mean motor’ as he revs up for his maiden assault on international sportscar racing’s most prestigious title.

Still aged just 23, Menezes is one of the hottest properties on the endurance racing scene right now. In his rookie campaign in the fiercely-disputed discipline in 2016, the talented young American not only won the LMP2 class in the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours – widely regarded as the toughest race in the world – but he went on to lift the coveted Drivers’ trophy come season’s end, courtesy of four victories and three further rostrum finishes from nine starts.

Menezes added another triumph – on ‘home’ turf in Texas – and four more podiums to his impressive résumé last year, leading to his recruitment by 2017 LMP2 Teams’ Champion Rebellion Racing, where he will share the No.3 entry with Thomas Laurent and Mathias Beche as the Swiss outfit returns to the headlining LMP1 category with its new Gibson-powered ORECA prototype. All three men are class-winners at Le Mans, while Beche also counts the 2012 European Le Mans Series LMP2 class crown on his career CV – as well as a long prior association with Rebellion.

 

I’ve been spending some time with the team and my new team-mates, and I’m starting to get really excited!” enthused highly-rated Santa Monica, California native Menezes, the 2016 FIA WEC ‘Revelation of the Year’ and a former winner of the Jim Russell Driver Scholarship Award. “It’s cool to have two such distinct driver line-ups at Rebellion – the young guys against the older, more experienced crew.

I raced against both Thomas and Mathias throughout last season, but I’ve raced with them in the past, too, in the Asian Le Mans Series and Petit Le Mans so I already know them reasonably well and can vouch for just how quick and competitive they are. Thomas won the Le Mans 24 Hours at the age of only 18, I’m one of the youngest Americans ever to win the race and Mathias has a lot of knowledge of working with ORECA and knows the team inside-out.

We all get along very well, and that chemistry is so important in endurance racing, where being able to lean on each other and support one another is absolutely key. It looks like we’re going to be the youngest driving partnership in the LMP1 field – and by some margin – but we still have a considerable amount of experience between us and I can assure you we are ultra-motivated and hungry for success. Here’s hoping we can really take it to the sister car and give the factory Toyota boys a hard time, too!

 

The 2018/19 FIA WECSuper Season’ will see ten cars vying for glory in the top tier LMP1 class – with one of the most prominent names on the entry list a certain two-time Formula 1 World Champion called Fernando Alonso. Menezes reveals he is looking forward to going wheel-to-wheel with the Spaniard out on-track – even if at the end of the day, the McLaren star is ‘just another driver that I want to beat’.

It will be pretty surreal to be fighting against Fernando,” reflected the Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé. “I had a little taste of it at Daytona earlier this year, and I remember spending the summer with Carlos Sainz Jnr back in my mid-teens. We used to constantly play the Formula 1 game on the PlayStation; one of us was always Sebastian Vettel, and the other was Alonso.

It’s fantastic for the series to have big names like that coming in and there’s no doubting Fernando’s calibre as a two-time F1 World Champion, but as soon as the helmet goes on and the visor comes down, he’s just another driver that I want to beat.

Rebellion and ORECA have been working together non-stop all winter and are doing everything in their power to give us the best package possible, and they always come up with a competitive proposition. Yes, we’re a little bit behind the curve in terms of pre-season testing – the R13 probably won’t roll out until the official ‘Prologue’ group test at Paul Ricard early next month, which means the first race at Spa-Francorchamps will be quite literally a shakedown for Le Mans – but that is a deliberate tactic.

There are inevitably hiccoughs and minor issues with any new car, and we want to make sure we are as prepared as we can be before we hit the track because there are so many unknowns out there still, with five different chassis and engine manufacturers in the LMP1 field. We won’t truly find out what the pecking order is until we get to the first race weekend.

That said, I’m confident we will have a quick car underneath us, and the new Rebellion looks awesome – really aggressive and purposeful and one mean motor! What is it they say, if it goes even half as fast as it looks… Ultimately, this year represents a massive opportunity for me – and I fully intend to grab it with both hands and run with it!

The 2018/19 FIA WEC ‘Super Season’ will incorporate eight rounds across Europe, Asia and North America, including two editions of sportscar racing’s jewel in the crown – the iconic Le Mans 24 Hours. The action will begin with the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium on 3-5 May.

TAN MAKES HISTORY WITH ‘INCREDIBLE’ VICTORY ON ASIAN LE MANS LMP2 DEBUT

TAN MAKES HISTORY WITH ‘INCREDIBLE’ VICTORY ON ASIAN LE MANS LMP2 DEBUT

Weiron Tan made history at Thailand’s Buriram International Circuit yesterday (13 January), as he teamed up with Jazeman Jaafar and Afiq Ikhwan Yazid to speed to the first-ever all-Malaysian victory in the Asian Le Mans Series on his LMP2 class bow.

After steering his burgeoning career from single-seaters to sportscars and spending last year contesting the China GT Championship and Blancpain GT Series Asia, Tan has returned to the fiercely-disputed Asian Le Mans Series for the final two rounds of its 2017/18 campaign, having previously participated one rung down the ladder at LMP3 level. The highly-rated Malaysian Chinese racer – managed by Williams Harfield Sports Group – was recruited by Jackie Chan DC Racing x JOTA Sport last month to pilot its #7 Nissan-powered ORECA 05 prototype, in an effort officially backed by Sepang International Circuit (SIC).

Jaafar was firmly in the mix for pole position throughout qualifying, ultimately winding up third, a scant tenth-of-a-second adrift of the top spot at the end of an intense and hard-fought 15-minute session – and comfortably clear of the ‘best-of-the-rest’. The next day’s 6 Hours of Buriram was two hours longer than standard Asian Le Mans Series races, and it witnessed a superb duel between the two Jackie Chan DC Racing x JOTA Sport entries. Tan and his team-mates initially gave chase to the sister #8 car, with little to choose between them – although drama lay in wait.

When Jaafar exited the pit-lane following his first refuelling stop 45 minutes in, he unfortunately clipped a traffic cone that got caught in the ORECA’s bodywork, sending the engine and brake temperatures soaring and obliging an unscheduled extra pit visit to allow the team to remove it.

The tables turned in the fourth hour, however, when the #8 was issued with a drive-through penalty for a pit entry violation, handing the initiative to the #7 crew. It was an advantage they would not relinquish, going on to stretch their lead to almost a minute-and-a-half at the chequered flag, with Jaafar posting the race’s fastest lap for good measure. As debuts go, it was remarkable – and 23-year-old Tan is already eager to climb back into the cockpit on home turf at Sepang in early February.

What an incredible feeling!” enthused the CEFC Manor TRS Racing test and reserve driver and former Caterham F1 Academy member. “To win on our debut in LMP2 with the first-ever full Malaysian line-up is just surreal, and the perfect way to kick off 2018. Hopefully we did our nation proud.

I want to thank Sepang Circuit and DC Racing for giving me this opportunity, my team-mates Jazeman and Afiq for doing an amazing job and the whole team for their hard work and full commitment all weekend.

Our target for Buriram was to bond and discover how best to work together, and that’s exactly what we did. We learned both from each other and from the sister car, which has very experienced drivers including Le Mans 24 Hours winner Thomas Laurent. Afiq and I got up-to-speed quickly even with limited track time, and I was happy with our performance. That said, there is still plenty of room for improvement – so I’m very much looking forward to the next race on home soil!

TAN SET FOR LMP2 DEBUT WITH JACKIE CHAN DC RACING IN ASIAN LE MANS SERIES

TAN SET FOR LMP2 DEBUT WITH JACKIE CHAN DC RACING IN ASIAN LE MANS SERIES

Highly-rated sportscar star Weiron Tan will make his LMP2 class bow with Jackie Chan DC Racing x JOTA Sport in the remaining two rounds of the 2017/18 Asian Le Mans Series as part of an all-Malaysian effort backed by Sepang International Circuit (SIC).

Having steered his burgeoning career from single-seaters to sportscars, Tan has spent 2017 competing in both the China GT Championship and Blancpain GT Series Asia, impressing observers with his scintillating raw pace – yielding no fewer than three pole positions – and accomplished racecraft in the hotly-disputed GT3 category.

Indeed, the Malaysian Chinese racer’s eye-catching performances during his maiden campaign in the discipline saw him selected as one of just seven finalists from more than 300 applicants for Porsche China’s recent shootout to determine its 2018 ‘Junior’ driver. They have also now brought him to the attention of the renowned Jackie Chan DC Racing outfit – co-owned by legendary actor Jackie Chan – the team that currently leads the Asian Le Mans Series LMP2 standings after taking a clean sweep of victories from the opening two events of the season. It is the same squad that sent shockwaves through the sport in finishing a sensational second overall as it lifted the LMP2 laurels in the prestigious Le Mans 24 Hours back in the summer.

Williams Harfield Sports Group protégé Tan is no stranger to the ACO-endorsed Asian Le Mans Series, having contested the 2016/17 campaign at LMP3 level. He is excited to be returning one step further up the ladder in LMP2, where he will join forces with McLaren GT Driver Academy ace and 2016 Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup runner-up Jazeman Jaafar and multiple Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia champion Afiq Ikhwan Yazid.

The youngest of the talented trio having only just turned 23, Tan will make his debut for Jackie Chan DC Racing at Buriram’s Chang International Circuit in Thailand on 11-13 January, before returning to the track for the finale on home soil at Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia on 2-4 February.

First of all, I would like to thank [Sepang International Circuit CEO] Dato’ Razlan Razali and the entire SIC team for making this happen,” enthused the erstwhile Caterham F1 Academy member, who earlier this year was appointed as an official test and reserve driver for FIA World Endurance Championship contender CEFC Manor TRS Racing.

 

It is a great honour to be a part of this programme. I’m well-acquainted with the championship and I’ve known Jazeman and Afiq for some time now, and we gel together very well – that’s especially important in endurance racing. I’m sure the competition will be fierce which will make things interesting, but I’m confident we will combine to form a really strong package.

I’m hugely looking forward to my LMP2 debut at Buriram! The car has a lot more speed and downforce compared to LMP3, and it’s a bit better on the brakes and able to corner much faster too. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a long time. Thank you to everyone who made it possible!

Each class champion in the Asian Le Mans Series will receive an invitation to enter France’s iconic Le Mans 24 Hours, with SIC’s ultimate goal being to field an all-Malaysian assault on the race widely regarded as the toughest in the world to win.

I see this as a stepping-stone in reaching our ambition of racing in the Le Mans 24 Hours,” added Dato’ Razlan. “It is a dream for all drivers to qualify and participate in this race – and that dream is a realistic one.”

MENEZES MAKES ‘DREAM’ MOVE TO TOP TIER WITH REBELLION RACING

MENEZES MAKES ‘DREAM’ MOVE TO TOP TIER WITH REBELLION RACING

Gustavo Menezes will graduate to the highest level of international sportscar racing in 2018-19, after signing to compete for Rebellion Racing in the headlining LMP1 category of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) – describing it as a ‘dream’ move and ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

After steering his burgeoning career from single-seaters, Menezes stunned observers during his maiden campaign in endurance racing’s premier global series in 2016 by speeding to both Le Mans 24 Hours glory and the fiercely-disputed LMP2 class crown with Signatech-Alpine. His outstanding achievements deservedly earned the gifted young American the coveted FIA WEC ‘Revelation of the Year’ accolade and a head-turning try-out in Porsche’s potent LMP1 contender in the end-of-season Rookie Test in Bahrain.

The highly-rated Santa Monica native reprised his front-running form this year as he popularly triumphed on home turf at the Circuit of The Americas and tallied four further podium finishes behind the wheel of Alpine’s 600bhp A470 prototype. Notwithstanding that valiant defence, early-season ill-fortune meant Menezes ultimately had to concede his hard-fought title to Rebellion’s No.31 crew, but the Anglo-Swiss outfit had nonetheless taken note of his talent – particularly when he starred for the team in a one-off, scene-stealing performance at Petit Le Mans, where he was the architect of some spectacular overtaking manoeuvres to scythe through from fourth position into the lead.

With Rebellion now returning to LMP1 following its successful single-season foray into LMP2, the Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé will join forces with Porsche LMP1 refugees Neel Jani and André Lotterer – outright Le Mans winners and World Champions both – as well as reigning LMP2 title-holder Bruno Senna, fellow incumbent Mathias Beche and 2017 FIA WEC ‘Rookie of the Year’ Thomas Laurent in an all-star, six-strong, two-car driver line-up. Already an ambassador for Rebellion Timepieces, Menezes is primed to push for overall FIA WEC honours when the series’ eagerly-anticipated and significantly overhauled new ‘super-season’ revs into life at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium next May. To say that he is fired-up would be quite the understatement.

 

It’s really special and a privilege to be joining Rebellion Racing to compete in LMP1,” enthused the former Jim Russell Driver Scholarship Award winner. “I want to thank the team for placing their trust in me, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to get into the car for the first time! I had a great couple of years with Signatech-Alpine, and now another adventure begins.

It’s been an incredible journey from Formula 3 to FIA WEC, winning both Le Mans and the World Championship in my first season, driving an LMP1 car at the 2016 Rookie Test and now stepping up to actually race at the pinnacle of the sport! When I sampled the Porsche in Bahrain, I immediately thought, ‘this is the future – this is where I want to be’, so when the Rebellion option presented itself, it was way too good to turn down. This is my dream.

I didn’t have the perfect season in 2017, so to go and race for Rebellion at Petit Le Mans and do so well there was a real boost. It was the ideal time to shine and show that I hadn’t lost any of my speed, and I don’t think that went unnoticed. The weekend also allowed me to get to know the team and witness first-hand the impressive calibre of everybody involved, and I instantly felt at home and established a good relationship.

It’s a fantastic driver line-up for 2018-19, and I’m already good friends with some of the other guys in the team too, which definitely helps. There’s a great blend of youth and experience, and we all bring different qualities to the mix. After only two years in sportscars, I still can’t believe I will be competing for the biggest title in the discipline with such an amazing group of people – and I genuinely think we have a realistic shot at winning.

This really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’m just a 23-year-old kid from California and American success in the highest echelons of global endurance racing has been few-and-far between, so to get the chance to battle for the World Championship in LMP1 is magical. It’s a pretty awesome story – and this is only the start! There is massive potential inside this team and I am looking forward to truly taking the fight to Toyota next year. I can’t wait to show everybody what we are capable of.”

FORMER KART CHAMPION GORE AIMS TO MAKE STRONG PROGRESS ON F3 DEBUT

FORMER KART CHAMPION GORE AIMS TO MAKE STRONG PROGRESS ON F3 DEBUT

Double R Racing has this morning, Friday, 8th December, completed its first driver signing for the 2018 BRDC British Formula 3 Championship with talented American competitor Dev Gore joining the former title winners for his sophomore season of car racing.

The 20-year-old, originally from Oklahoma City but now residing in Atlanta, Georgia, graduated from karts to single-seaters cars this year in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and is now making the step-up into Formula 3 with Woking’s Double R. Testing with the 2006 and 2016 British F3 champions at Silverstone earlier this week, Gore has now become the first confirmed driver for Double R’s three-car assault on the series next year and the American – who is managed by the Williams Harfield Sports Group – is relishing the opportunity.

I really am so happy to have joined Double R for my first season of racing outside the US”, he commented, “Racing in Europe next year will really help me get a lot of seat time, testing and opportunities for development and that’s the reason we’ve decided to race in British F3 next year.

It’s a fantastic car, lots of power and aero, and the plan is to develop myself as a driver and learn from the huge experience and success Boyo [Double R Team principal Anthony Hieatt] and the team has in Formula 3. I’d like to say a big thank you to my management, the Williams Harfield Sports Group, for helping to put this deal with Double R together so early. Bring on 2018!

 

Starting out in karting in 2015, Gore competed in the Florida Winter Tour and the Rotax Grand Nationals in the DD2 category and the following season won the Rotax DD2 National title as well as the Rotax DD2 US Open Championship.

After becoming part of the MAXspeed Driver Advancement Program, which earned Gore a two-day Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda test, he graduated into single-seater car racing this year in USF2000 where he ended the season 13th overall in the championship and was also the 10th highest placed Rookie in the standings. Commenting on Double R’s first driver signing for 2018, team boss Anthony Hieatt said: “We are super excited to welcome Dev to the team and we’re looking forward to getting the full pre-season testing programme underway. We want to be seeing Dev on the BRDC British F3 podium in 2018, and we’re confident he has the potential to do just that.”

Oulton Park International Circuit in Cheshire will host the opening three races of the 2018 BRDC British Formula 3 Championship over Easter weekend, 31st March to 2nd April.

BRITISH STAR HAWKSWORTH CONTINUES WITH LEXUS FOR 2018 IMSA CAMPAIGN

BRITISH STAR HAWKSWORTH CONTINUES WITH LEXUS FOR 2018 IMSA CAMPAIGN

3GT Racing is finalizing its return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, with up to two full-season Lexus RC F GT3 entries, according to team principal Paul Gentilozzi. The Michigan-based team is at this week’s IMSA-sanctioned test at Daytona with a single Lexus for Jack Hawksworth, who will return alongside a to-be-announced Silver-rated driver.

Jack is committed,” Gentilozzi told Sportscar365. “We took Jack’s option and he’s an integral part of the team. We have to get the second car done commercially before I can hire second drivers. We’re talking to a lot of people globally, including Sage [Karam], but I’ve got to be sure I have a deal first. We’re running out of time.”

Hawksworth, Karam, Scott Pruett and Robert Alon made up the team’s full-season lineup this year, with the Silver-rated Pruett among the leading options for the second car, should sufficient sponsorship be found. 3GT, along with Acura outfit Michael Shank Racing, are both transitioning into full customer efforts following a single year of increased manufacturer support permitted by IMSA.

Scott’s still deciding what he’s going to do and hopefully we’ll have some idea in the next two weeks,” Gentilozzi said. We’re hunting [for] sponsors that would be interested in having Scott as their full-time Silver, just as we’re hunting Silvers with money for the second car.”

Alon, meanwhile, is unlikely to return to the team, as the former Prototype Challenge competitor is eyeing a move to the Prototype class and tested with JDC-Miller Motorsports this week. Gentilozzi said he’s confident of having two cars for Daytona and could potentially “piecemeal” the second entry for the remainder of the year, with lots of interest for partial-season programs.

Better and Smarter’ Team After Mixed First Season in GTD. Gentilozzi said he feels the team is “better” and “smarter” following a challenging debut in GTD, which was marred by a number of incidents. While not reaching the podium, the pair of Lexus entries showed improved pace in the second half of the season, highlighted by Karam’s class pole at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

We learned so much about the cars: how to work on them, how to be efficient working on them. They’re reliable,” Gentilozzi said.

The mistakes we made in 2017 strategically we are pretty confident we’ve learned from. We’re committed not to let drivers crash the car because it takes away from your ability to focus and compete. I think we get it. We didn’t race in ’15 as a team and we had to play our way into shape. I think we’re better now, smarter now. I feel good about our engineering. I feel good about the car itself, and I’m hoping we get an equitable BoP and can earn our way to the podium.”

MENEZES GOES DOWN FIGHTING AS HE PROVES PACE IN BAHRAIN WEC FINALE

MENEZES GOES DOWN FIGHTING AS HE PROVES PACE IN BAHRAIN WEC FINALE

Gustavo Menezes produced a champion’s performance in the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season finale in Bahrain last weekend, and whilst he was not able to overcome the inconceivable odds to clinch back-to-back titles in sportscar racing’s premier global series, the talented young American certainly did not surrender his hard-earned crown without a fight.

Menezes travelled to the Middle East sitting 23 points adrift of the top of the table in WEC’s fiercely-disputed LMP2 class with just 26 remaining in play, meaning he and team-mates Nicolas Lapierre and André Negrão essentially needed to secure both pole position and the race win while hoping their rivals scarcely troubled the scorers.

It was, quite literally, a case of all or nothing and admittedly the very tallest of orders, but in tandem with Negrão, highly-rated Santa Monica, California native Menezes was on scintillating form in qualifying to annex Signatech Alpine Matmut’s third pole of the year – and third in swift succession in the ‘Land of One Thousand and One Nights’ – almost four tenths-of-a-second clear of their closest pursuers.

So far, so good, and Lapierre subsequently stuck to the plan as he led away at the start of the next day’s 6 Hours of Bahrain, which began late afternoon and continued into the evening under the floodlights illuminating Sakhir’s Bahrain International Circuit. Unfortunately, traffic and premature tyre wear on the hard-compound rubber forced the Frenchman to relinquish his advantage, and following a change of strategy at his first pit-stop, he re-emerged down in seventh place.

After completing a rapid triple stint, Lapierre handed over to Negrão as night fell, and both the Brazilian and Menezes maintained the offensive as the N°36 crew endeavoured to battle their way back up the order behind the wheel of the 600bhp Alpine A470 prototype. Erstwhile Toyota factory ace Lapierre returned to the cockpit for the final blast and ultimately took the chequered flag in fourth position, with Alpine Deputy Managing Director Bernard Ollivier quick to praise the ‘excellent’ performances of all three men.

The result guaranteed Menezes the same spot in the prestigious FIA Endurance Trophy for LMP2 Drivers at the end of a campaign that saw the 2016 FIA WEC LMP2 Champion, Le Mans 24 Hours winner and ‘Revelation of the Year’ place inside the top five in every race – finishing on the podium more often than not, including a popular victory on home turf in Austin.

Although understandably disappointed at not being able to make it back-to-back title triumphs, Menezes acknowledged that after conceding ground at the beginning of the season, it was always going to be the very longest of long shots.

 

We gave it our all and I am satisfied with what we achieved,” reflected the 23-year-old Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé, a former winner of the coveted Jim Russell Driver Scholarship Award. “We had a rocky start to the weekend and whilst we took steps forward throughout practice, we knew there was much more left in the tank and we proved that in qualifying as André and I pulled out a mega effort for pole, which kept the championship dream alive.

Unfortunately, we made a wrong call on tyres in the race, which turned out to be very expensive for us. Nico did a great job in his first stint to stay among the leaders, but it was difficult to know exactly where we were in relation to the other cars, given we were on a different strategy due to the unexpectedly high tyre degradation that left us playing catch-up from early on.

We took a gamble after that by switching to the medium compound, but by then, the damage was already done. André went on the attack and was fast throughout his stints, and I gave it absolutely everything when I got into the car, as I have done all year. My best lap was very comparable with Nico’s at the end of the race, which is extremely positive as everybody knows how quick and capable he is.

Although on paper, the results don’t necessarily suggest it, I’m pleased to have made progress this season and to have accumulated more experience. The standard in LMP2 unquestionably stepped up several notches in 2017, but we held our own and we can be proud of the work we put in. I’d like to congratulate Vaillante Rebellion on their well-deserved title success.”

TAN ON SHORTLIST TO BECOME CHINA’S NEXT PORSCHE JUNIOR PROTÉGÉ

TAN ON SHORTLIST TO BECOME CHINA’S NEXT PORSCHE JUNIOR PROTÉGÉ

Weiron Tan is in contention to become Porsche China’s 2018 ‘Junior’ driver, after being selected as one of just seven finalists for a shootout designed to discover the legendary sportscar manufacturer’s next superstar.

Having steered his burgeoning career from single-seaters to sportscars this year, Tan has impressed with his turn-of-speed behind the wheel of Absolute Racing’s Bentley Continental GT3 in both the China GT Championship and fiercely-disputed Blancpain GT Series Asia. His eye-catching pace and prowess saw him secure pole position for half of the races he contested in the China GT Championship and set fastest lap at Zhuhai International Circuit, which brought him to the attention of Porsche China as it weighs up its options for next year’s Porsche Carrera Cup Asia campaign.

Porsche’s young driver programme is a well-proven talent development model in the high-octane world of motorsport, and over the course of its 20-year existence, ‘Juniors’ from the various different Porsche Carrera Cups have gone on to achieve tremendous success for the brand. Previous alumni Timo Bernhard, Marc Lieb and Earl Bamber, for example, can all now count Le Mans 24 Hours victories on their career CVs as Porsche factory drivers. Out of more than 300 applicants from across Southeast Asia, 22-year-old Tan was shortlisted amongst just seven candidates for the comprehensive evaluation process, which was held at Shanghai International Circuit earlier this month. It comprised a rigorous appraisal of on-track ability in a range of road-going Porsches and the race-bred Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (Type 991), as well as physical fitness and media skills.

The road car assessment took place at the newly-built, on-site Porsche Experience Centre (PEC). Asia’s first PEC will only open to the public in January, which meant the seven finalists enjoyed an exclusive early preview of its test-driving course, skidpan, drifting circle and slalom facilities in the manufacturer’s 911 Turbo, 911 Carrera 2S, Macan GTS and 718 Cayman. The objective of the Porsche Junior Programme is to provide aspiring young stars with the guidance and tutelage they need to make the grade as professional racing drivers. As Tan bids to carve a career path to the very pinnacle of international sportscar competition, he is hopeful he has done enough to convince Porsche of his potential.

 

Firstly, I’d like to thank Porsche China for giving me such an amazing opportunity to compete for the chance to become their Junior driver in 2018,” enthused the highly-rated Chinese ace, who is already the official test and reserve driver for FIA World Endurance Championship outfit CEFC Manor TRS Racing and a former member of the Caterham F1 Academy.

The calibre was extremely high and we had a great panel of judges from Porsche to conduct a full and fair assessment over what were three very intensive days. I thought I did a pretty good job, and it was fantastic to finally be in a 911! Until the shootout, I’d never driven a Porsche before, but I’ve always been a fan and the 911 Turbo is undoubtedly one of the best road cars I’ve sampled to-date. We were also very lucky to be the first to try out the awesome new PEC.

The 911 GT3 Cup was a beast in its own right too, quite different from the GT3s I’ve piloted before. The car doesn’t have a lot of downforce, no ABS and no traction control, which means the driver has a major influence over its performance.

The fitness element was intense, and I’m glad my regular training prepared me for that. We were tested to our maximum capabilities in a manner not dissimilar to a standard military exercise, including running, push-ups, chin-ups and core strength. It goes to show how important fitness is in motorsport, because racing drivers need to have a high degree of strength and muscle endurance to withstand the extreme heat and long durations spent in the car.

Such a detailed evaluation underscores Porsche’s outstanding level of professionalism, and just how seriously it regards its Junior Programme. It is no coincidence that the brand has enjoyed more than 60 years of motorsport success all around the globe, and it would be a dream come true to be a part of that incredible story going forward. All I can do now is wait until December when Porsche announces the winner…”

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