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.

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.”

WILLIAMS-HARFIELD SPORTS GROUP PROTÉGÉ PROMISES TO ‘GIVE HIS ALL’ IN BAHRAIN FINALE

WILLIAMS-HARFIELD SPORTS GROUP PROTÉGÉ PROMISES TO ‘GIVE HIS ALL’ IN BAHRAIN FINALE

Gustavo Menezes ensured that the fight for the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) LMP2 class crown will go down to the wire in the Bahrain season finale later this month, after racing to a fifth consecutive podium finish last weekend in Shanghai (4-6 November).

Defending LMP2 World Champion Menezes headed to the technically challenging and abrasive Shanghai International Circuit in the knowledge that he and his Signatech Alpine Matmut team-mates Nicolas Lapierre and André Negrão needed to outscore their championship-leading rivals if he was to keep his title defence alive. A troubled run throughout practice and traffic for Negrão on his fastest lap in qualifying conspired to restrict the N°36 crew to a frustrated fifth on the starting grid for the 6 Hours of Shanghai, but a feisty opening salvo from Lapierre under grey, overcast skies saw the Frenchman steer clear of various incidents to move up to second.

Negrão maintained that position before handing over to 2016 FIA WEC ‘Revelation of the Year’ Menezes as the race approached mid-distance. In front of an enthusiastic crowd, the talented young American produced a flawless performance during his double stint behind the wheel of the 600bhp Alpine A470 prototype, after which Lapierre returned to the cockpit for the final push.

The runner-up spoils at the chequered flag – the result of a considered approach and a strategy focussed on efficiency – were just reward for a determined effort in a memorable contest not short on drama, tension and excitement. The outcome also means Menezes will enter the season finale in Bahrain on 18 November still in outside contention for the fiercely-disputed FIA Endurance Trophy for LMP2 Drivers, having further narrowed his deficit to the top of the table to 23 points – with 26 remaining in play under the Middle Eastern floodlights.

Another podium and another strong finish – it’s fair to say the end result was better than we might have anticipated at the start of the weekend,” acknowledged the highly-rated Santa Monica, California native, a former winner of the coveted Jim Russell Driver Scholarship Award.

Shanghai is a very difficult circuit to get right from a car balance perspective, and we struggled to find the Alpine A470’s sweet spot during practice and qualifying. We feared it would likely be a similar story over the longer runs in the race, but we pulled together and dug deep. The engineers Olivier and Tom worked miracles to turn things around, and the progress made allowed us to establish a much better direction with the set-up by Sunday morning.

Nico made an excellent start, and then André managed to keep up a very good rhythm before handing over to me. I was able to close a little bit on the leaders during my first stint, but it’s always a balancing act between putting pressure on the car in front and managing your tyres and fuel consumption.

As we only changed the rear tyres at the pit-stop, I had to deal with some understeer but we kept out of trouble when others came unstuck and that paid off. Although we probably didn’t have the outright speed to win in Shanghai, I think second place was an accurate reflection of our performance and a very solid result in the circumstances.

Most significantly, of course, it means we will go to Bahrain still in with a chance of defending our LMP2 title. Whilst that is admittedly the longest of long shots and we will need to rely on other factors outside of our control, I can promise you we will be giving it our absolute all right the way down to the very last lap!

MENEZES CLOSES ON CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD AS ALPINE WEATHER FUJI STORM

MENEZES CLOSES ON CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD AS ALPINE WEATHER FUJI STORM

Gustavo Menezes continued to home in on the top of the points table in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) at Fuji last weekend (13-15 October), despite not even turning a wheel in a ‘crazy’ race punctuated by no fewer than six safety car periods, one Full Course Yellow and two red flag stoppages.

Fresh off the back of a scene-stealing performance at Petit Le Mans a week earlier – in which he had pulled off some spectacular overtaking manoeuvres to scythe through from fourth position into the overall lead – the talented young American returned to the track in Japan with his focus firmly on maintaining his positive run of momentum. In the legendary ‘Land of the Rising Sun’, it was somewhat ironic that virtually the entire weekend would be plagued by heavy rain, and Menezes and his Signatech Alpine Matmut team-mates Nicolas Lapierre and André Negrão initially struggled to extract the best out of their 600bhp Alpine A470 prototype in the inclement conditions.

Lapierre and Negrão dug deep in qualifying to secure fourth on the grid amongst the nine high-calibre LMP2 category protagonists, before overnight set-up work transformed the N°36 entry ahead of the following day’s 6 Hours of Fuji, which was held in front of more than 50,000 enthusiastic Japanese fans and against the dramatic backdrop of the iconic mountain that gives the fast-and-flowing, 2.835-mile circuit its name.

The Frenchman took the start of the race, and despite losing ground on the opening lap when he had to avoid a spinning Nelson Piquet Jnr, he rapidly set about storming through the pack, lapping significantly quicker than his rivals to advance to second before proceeding to apply pressure on the class leader. An aggressive strategy enabled Negrão to seize the advantage on lap 85, and – unlike the majority of the LMP2 brigade – the Alpine was fuelled to reach the finish when the action was halted for good on lap 115, with rain and dense fog reducing visibility to nigh-on non-existent.

Like a number of other drivers in the field, that meant Menezes – who was scheduled to climb behind the wheel for the final stint – never got to take to the track. With the result declared before most of the LMP2 contenders had served their last pit-stop, the highly-rated Santa Monica, California native and his two team-mates were classified a frustrated second, right in the slipstream of the race-winner. To rub salt into the wounds, Lapierre’s fastest lap was comfortably the best in-class, while Menezes took the honour of the fastest Alpine lap of the weekend outright in FP1, meaning the defending FIA WEC LMP2 Champion and 2016 ‘Revelation of the Year’ had at least proven his pace in practice, even if he was denied the opportunity to demonstrate his ability in the race itself.

His fourth rostrum finish in swift succession nonetheless saw Menezes close to just 25 points shy of the championship lead in endurance racing’s premier global series, with 52 still in play over the remaining two outings of 2017 in Shanghai and Bahrain – and he is ready to fight.

 

What a crazy race!” reflected the 23-year-old Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé, a former winner of the coveted Jim Russell Driver Scholarship Award. “That was the first time I’ve ever been on the podium without actually having driven the car! The conditions were really difficult all weekend, right from the word ‘go’. Initially we found it tricky to establish a good balance for the A470, however come race day, Alpine and the engineers did an amazing job and the guys created a rocketship!

Fourth on the grid placed us well in the ballpark to achieve a good result, and Nico demonstrated just how strong we were by recording the fastest lap of the race prior to handing over to André.

Although I unfortunately didn’t get to drive my stint due to the many delays and stoppages, I still experienced all the excitement from the pit garage. I also shared the frustration of the team, because we clearly had the car, the strategy and the speed to win and without the final red flag, I’m confident we would have done so as we had a pit-stop in hand over our closest rivals and were the fastest on the track. The end result was obviously disappointing, but safety has to be the number one priority and with such heavy rain and thick fog, the risk was just too great to re-start.

Our fourth consecutive podium enabled us to narrow the gap slightly to the top of the LMP2 standings, and while we should have closed up even more, there are still two races to go and we will keep pushing right the way to the end. We’ve really found the sweet spot with the Alpine A470 now and we’re keeping the pressure up, so bring on Shanghai!

JONES REFLECTS ON ‘FANTASTIC’ ROOKIE SEASON AFTER CALIFORNIAN INDYCAR FINALE

JONES REFLECTS ON ‘FANTASTIC’ ROOKIE SEASON AFTER CALIFORNIAN INDYCAR FINALE

Ed Jones’ hopes of signing off the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season with a sixth top ten finish were dashed by mechanical misfortune at Sonoma Raceway last weekend, but the talented Dubai, UAE-born ace was nonetheless able to hold his head high at the end of an impressive maiden campaign at the pinnacle of US open-wheel competition.

Having tested at Sonoma Raceway earlier this year but never previously raced there, Jones returned to the 12-turn, 2.385-mile northern California road course for the Grand Prix of Sonoma eager to produce one more eye-catching performance before the final chequered flag fell.

The 2016 Indy Lights Champion and former European F3 Open Champion logged 42 laps over the course of a pre-weekend test day held in changeable conditions, placing 13th on the timesheets amongst the 22 high-calibre protagonists, but practice and qualifying would prove to be more of a struggle, leaving him a disappointed 18th on the grid for the race. Undeterred, a bright start saw Jones advance five spots on the opening lap to settle into 13th position, subsequently progressing further to run 12th. The 22-year-old Brit looked set to finish inside the top ten behind the wheel of his 720bhp Dale Coyne Racing Dallara-Honda single-seater, until a right-rear suspension failure just 16 laps from home spelt an early bath.

Sonoma was a completely different experience to the previous race at Watkins Glen, going from a super high-grip track to one that falls off really quickly,” he mused. “It was also very hot compared to Watkins Glen, where it had been on the cold side, so polar opposites really.

When we tested there, we had a pretty decent car but the circuit conditions changed a lot between the open test and free practice. There were also cars from other series that had been on-track in the meantime, and the different types of rubber laid down made it more challenging and unpredictable.

Qualifying clearly didn’t work out the way we had hoped. We had been aiming to be in the fight for the ‘Fast 12’, but we tried something in an effort to overcome the difficulties we had encountered in practice and while that helped in some areas, there were a few downsides as well.

I had a good start to the race and gained quite a few positions. I attacked really hard because I knew that would be my best opportunity to make up ground, and we ran 12th for a long time with pretty decent pace. We were on-course to finish at least 11th and could maybe even have slipped into the top ten, so it was obviously frustrating to then suffer our first major technical issue of the season. Saying that, everything has gone so well this year that the law of averages dictates it was going to happen eventually.”

 

The failure to finish was a double blow – quite literally – given that double points were on offer for the Grand Prix of Sonoma, restricting Jones to 14th in the final standings. Nonetheless, after being presented with the prestigious ‘Sunoco Rookie of the Year’ trophy – and the $50,000 prize that accompanies it – the Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé professed himself justifiably pleased with his achievements in 2017, capped by an outstanding third place in the legendary Indianapolis 500 back in May.

It’s been a great year for us and it’s an honour to receive this award,” he enthused. “There are so many drivers in the past that have won it as rookies and moved on to be champions or won a lot of races, and I’m hoping I can be part of that story. I feel like as a driver, I got stronger as the season progressed. Early on, I had some great results and while I was driving well then, a lot of things also fell my way. Now, I think I’m better both as a driver and in terms of my bond with the team.

Coming through the Mazda Road to Indy was key to my success this year. Before 2015, I had only raced in Europe. Learning all the American circuits was very important for me, and to be able to do that in Indy Lights was really helpful. Without that, I wouldn’t have been able to gain the experience I did, which is what makes the Mazda Road to Indy so relevant for young, up-and-coming drivers like myself.

I want to thank Dale [Coyne] and the whole DCR team for the opportunity they gave me this season, to work alongside a great group of engineers which has allowed me to progress quickly and secure some of the results we did. It’s been a fantastic year, and I hope we can do it again in 2018.”

MENEZES REIGNITES TITLE DEFENCE WITH DOMINANT VICTORY ON HOME TURF

MENEZES REIGNITES TITLE DEFENCE WITH DOMINANT VICTORY ON HOME TURF

Gustavo Menezes fired himself firmly back into title contention in the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) in Austin last weekend, with a commanding and hugely popular victory on home soil as Signatech Alpine Matmut celebrated an overdue return to winning ways.

Having endured a difficult start to the defence of his hard-fought FIA WEC LMP2 class crown, Menezes’ season kicked up a gear over the summer, with third place at Germany’s Nürburgring and second in Mexico City, leaving the talented young American with his tail up heading to his home race, the 6 Hours of COTA held around the undulating and technical Circuit of The Americas.

Behind the wheel of the 600bhp Alpine A470 prototype, Menezes and his Signatech Alpine Matmut team-mates Nicolas Lapierre and André Negrão featured consistently inside the top five during free practice amongst the nine high-calibre LMP2 protagonists. The Frenchman and Brazilian then teamed up in qualifying to annex a second consecutive pole position, with Lapierre taking to the N°36 entry for the start of the race and going on to pull inexorably away from the chasing pack under the blazing Texan sun.

With the team deliberately adopting an aggressive strategy, Negrão and Menezes continued that good work, but their 40-second lead was reduced to nothing shortly after half-distance when the safety car emerged and bunched up the field. The highly-rated Santa Monica, California native wasted no time at all in re-establishing a healthy advantage once the action resumed, and he was back in the car in the closing stages when a late scare necessitated a rear bodywork change with just 12 minutes left on the clock. Once again, Menezes found himself having to get back on the gas, but he had enough in-hand to cross the finish line comfortably clear of the second-placed car, with Lapierre claiming a new lap record for good measure.

The result not only confirmed Signatech Alpine Matmut’s recent progress and upward trajectory, but also replicated Menezes and Lapierre’s 2016 Texan triumph. Notably, the 23-year-old Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé is now the leading LMP2 scorer from the last three rounds in sportscar racing’s premier and most fiercely-disputed global series. Having advanced to third in the championship standings, he has closed the gap to the top of the table from 42 points to 28 with 78 remaining in play over the final three outings – beginning across the other side of the Pacific Ocean at Fuji in Japan in mid-October.

 

We’re back in the groove!” enthused 2016 FIA WEC ‘Revelation of the Year’ Menezes, a former winner of the coveted Jim Russell Driver Scholarship Award. “This win has been a long time coming, and what makes it all-the-more satisfying is that there was no element of luck involved – we were the team to beat throughout and it was so good to be able to go out there and truly take charge of the race. We led for 144 of the 177 laps, which I think speaks for itself.

As the only American driver in the field, I knew I was upholding national pride so there was a little bit of pressure on my shoulders from that perspective, and there’s no question that for me, after Le Mans, COTA is the most important race. Not only that, but it’s the most physical track on the calendar, its anti-clockwise layout is tiring on the neck muscles and the temperatures make tyre management key.

During practice, our sole focus was on race pace, so to take pole position the way we did in qualifying came as a bit of a surprise. We knew we were going to be competitive, but we didn’t expect to be quite that competitive. Nico and André did a great job, which proves just how well this new partnership is working. It already felt quite natural and cohesive in Mexico, and I think we gelled even more in Austin.

In the race, we managed our strategy perfectly – although it was obviously tough to see the 40-second lead that we had worked so hard to build up wiped out by the appearance of the safety car. That left us with it all to do over again, but the car felt fantastic so we had a lot of fun pushing to re-establish our advantage and because I was in the cockpit at the time, it gave me the opportunity to really show what I could do.

My final stint wasn’t straightforward either. We had increased our lead to around a minute heading into the closing stages when I got a radio call from the team saying, ‘you need to back off a bit to save fuel so we can avoid a late splash n’ dash’. That was followed by another call shortly afterwards saying, ‘scrap that, you need to push because we have to pit to replace the rear assembly due to a tail-light failure’.

The Signatech Alpine Matmut guys did an incredible job to complete the work in just ten seconds, which meant we still had an 18-second margin when we rejoined the track and I could essentially just cruise to the finish. It was very special for me to be able to take the chequered flag again, and a proud and emotional moment to clinch our first win of the season at my home event.

This victory has put us back in the championship hunt, so now the key will be to keep our positive momentum going. The level of competition in WEC is so high that you need to be absolutely on top of your game but after a difficult start to the season, we’re finally beginning to rediscover the form we showed last year – which means it’s maximum attack from here on in!

JONES PRODUCES PACEY POCONO PERFORMANCE BEFORE MISFORTUNE INTERVENES

JONES PRODUCES PACEY POCONO PERFORMANCE BEFORE MISFORTUNE INTERVENES

Ed Jones ran as high as second in last weekend’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway – the 14th of 17 outings in the fiercely-disputed 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series – but the combination of a rare late-race error and little luck with the timing of caution periods conspired to deny the impressive rookie a top ten finish.

Reigning Indy Lights Champion Jones was making his debut around the 2.5-mile Pennsylvania oval – known as the ‘Tricky Triangle’ for the unique challenge it poses – whereas 18 of his 21 high-calibre IndyCar rivals had competed there before. Immediately on the back foot, his lack of experience at the north-eastern superspeedway was compounded by a spin and light contact with the wall in free practice as he got to grips with Pocono’s very particular characteristics.

Undeterred, the talented young Dubai, UAE-born ace produced an excellent performance in qualifying – in which grid slots were determined by the fastest cumulative times over two consecutive laps – to line up 11th at an average speed of 217.565mph behind the wheel of his 720bhp Dale Coyne Racing Dallara-Honda. As strong winds resulted in a number of incidents, Jones didn’t put a foot out-of-place, outpacing championship leader Josef Newgarden and several other big names in the process.

In the 500-mile race the following day, the 22-year-old Brit conceded some early ground but swiftly set about fighting back. He was up to eighth – duelling with IndyCar heavyweights Ryan Hunter-Reay and Hélio Castroneves – by the time he made his second pit visit just past one-quarter distance. As is frequently the case at the pinnacle of US single-seater competition, the pecking order oscillated wildly as various issues and dramas brought out the yellow flags, sending drivers scurrying for the pits and playing havoc with strategy calls – and on this occasion, Jones did not enjoy the rub of the green.

Running competitively in the pack, the former European F3 Open Champion reached second place at one stage – picking off the likes of oval specialist Ed Carpenter and pole-sitter Takuma Sato along the way – but a mistake entering his pit box at his final stop relegated him to the tail of the field. Jones went on to take the chequered flag a disappointed 17th, and is fired-up to bounce back quickly at Gateway Motorsports Park this coming weekend (25/26 August).

 

Pocono Raceway certainly lived up to its nickname!” quipped the Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé. “It’s fast and quite a difficult track, but DCR had been really strong on circuits like that earlier in the season, so I was confident we would have a good idea of what we needed when we got there and I was really looking forward to it.

Our plan was always to go conservative in qualifying, because looking at the bigger picture, there can be a lot of consequences for not a lot of gain – and it had been proved in the past that grid position is not necessarily one of the major factors at Pocono.

Eleventh represented a solid place to start from and I was optimistic of being able to move forward, but unfortunately, it was a difficult race. The approach we took with the set-up meant it was really hard to progress without errors from the cars in front, which made things challenging.

That said, it was fun in parts; some guys were quite aggressive and there were a few crazy moves, so I was adjusting to that and we had a good run, but we were pretty unlucky with the timing of the yellows. We were still looking alright towards the end, but then I made a mistake at my last pit-stop and that cost us. It’s just frustrating, because I feel we should have come away with a decent result.”

MENEZES FIRED-UP TO DEFEND HIS CROWN IN BIGGEST RACE OF THE YEAR

MENEZES FIRED-UP TO DEFEND HIS CROWN IN BIGGEST RACE OF THE YEAR

Gustavo Menezes is ready to fight to defend one of the most coveted trophies in international motorsport later this month, following a positive and productive ‘dress rehearsal’ for the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours.

Menezes stunned the sportscar racing fraternity last year by speeding to LMP2 class victory at La Sarthe as a rookie, alongside team-mates Nicolas Lapierre and Stéphane Richelmi. The talented young American will be the only one of the race-winning trio to return to the cockpit of the N°36 Signatech Alpine Matmut entry 12 months on – now partnered by Romain Dumas, a man with two outright triumphs to his name at Le Mans, and newcomer Matt Rao – and his sights are firmly set on replicating his stellar 2016 result.

Behind the wheel of the 600bhp Alpine A470 prototype, Menezes, Dumas and Rao took it in turns to lap the ultra-fast 13.629km French circuit during the course of the official test day, with the highly-rated Santa Monica, California native completing 28 tours as he outpaced multiple grand prix-winner Rubens Barrichello amongst a whole host of fiercely competitive adversaries. In ideal weather conditions, the primary focus was on long runs, aerodynamic evaluations, tyre durability comparisons and race set-up. Whilst single-lap form was not a major preoccupation, the Alpine A470 did display consistently strong pace on both new and used rubber, as Nelson Panciatici in the N°35 sister car topped the timesheets with a new class lap record – at an average speed of an eye-watering 235.72km/h.

Menezes was denied the opportunity to challenge that benchmark by traffic – with the N°36 Alpine ultimately placing eighth amongst the 25 high-calibre LMP2 protagonists and 14th out of 60 overall – but the 22-year-old Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé was nonetheless greatly encouraged by both reliability and performance as preparations intensify for the 85th edition of the iconic round-the-clock classic on 17/18 June.

 

The test day went well,” affirmed the reigning FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) LMP2 title-holder. “It’s fantastic to go back to Le Mans and our speed looked good straight out-of-the-box. With everybody following their individual agendas, it’s tricky to ascertain the true pecking order at this early stage – but one thing for sure is that it’s insanely close in LMP2.

The N°35 car put in a great lap, which proved the potential of the package we have and that’s promising because our pace was very similar but we just never got a clear run to show it. We concentrated on our own technical programme, played around with a variety of different set-ups, came away with plenty of useful data and – most importantly of all – worked well together as a team.

At Le Mans in particular, you can really feel the extra downforce and power in LMP2 this year because the long straights allow the cars to properly stretch their legs. The Alpine A470 felt incredible to drive round there – more like a single-seater than ever before. We were hitting top speeds in excess of 330km/h, which was very impressive and in a non-competitive session, Nelson was already eight seconds faster than last year’s best LMP2 qualifying time – meaning we’re likely to be even quicker come the race weekend itself.

We still have a bit more work to do, of course, but I think we’re in reasonable shape and I’m really excited to return next week. The team and Alpine have placed their trust in me, and I want to reward them for that by fighting for the win again. The clear objective is to keep up my 100 per cent record at Le Mans and whilst that obviously won’t be easy, nothing worth having ever is – so bring it on!

It was a very positive day,” echoed Alpine Deputy Managing Director Bernard Ollivier, “with a lot of work completed by the team and some superb performances. They say it’s only testing and it’s true that we don’t necessarily know the strategies adopted by our rivals, but I think we can safely say we have the potential to successfully defend our victory.

Le Mans is the most important race of the year, and not just because there are double points on offer towards the FIA WEC standings. We want to live up to the achievements of last season, and we came away from the test with a lot of confidence that we can be a force to be reckoned with again.”

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