AMERICAN MENEZES MAKES HISTORY IN SILVERSTONE

AMERICAN MENEZES MAKES HISTORY IN SILVERSTONE

Gustavo Menezes made history at Silverstone last weekend (17-19 August), becoming the first American driver ever to win a race outright in the fiercely-disputed FIA World Endurance Championship courtesy of a scene-stealing back-to-front charge through the field.

Competing for Rebellion Racing, Menezes – the 2016 FIA WEC Champion and Le Mans winner at LMP2 level – is swiftly establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with this season in the headlining LMP1 class of sportscar racing’s premier global series. Following consecutive third-place finishes at Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans, the talented young Californian travelled to the celebrated ‘Home of British Motor Racing’ – a circuit at which he has always excelled – fired-up to maintain his rostrum run. Menezes duly set the fastest lap time of the six Rebellion drivers in free practice – his team-mates notably including overall Le Mans winners and World Champions Neel Jani and André Lotterer – and in FP1, he even outpaced three of the factory Toyota drivers for good measure, Formula 1 hero Fernando Alonso amongst them.

The highly-rated Santa Monica native subsequently partnered Mathias Beche in qualifying to put the No.3 Rebellion-Gibson R-13 prototype fifth on the starting grid for the six-hour showdown, as he once more circulated quicker than any of his stablemates – this time, to the tune of nearly eight tenths-of-a-second.

Mere moments into the race, however, Beche found himself turned around by Stéphane Sarrazin in one of the SMP Racing cars – for which the Frenchman received a drive-through penalty – sending the Rebellion plummeting down the order to the very foot of the field. In front of an enthusiastic crowd of more than 60,000 spectators, the Swiss ace immediately initiated what would turn into a spectacular recovery drive, and when he handed over to Menezes at the end of an action-packed opening hour, the crew were up to fifth. His 23-year-old team-mate continued to chase down the sister Rebellion in third and the SMP in fourth, consistently closing the gap as he produced a series of scintillating lap times rapid enough to rival those of the race-leading Toyotas. All of that good work looked to be for nought, though, when an ill-timed safety car intervention shortly before mid-distance dropped the No.3 entry almost a full lap behind its two adversaries, and it required a herculean effort from Beche, Thomas Laurent and Menezes to haul the car back into podium contention.

After Laurent shook off the SMP threat, 2016 FIA WEC ‘Revelation of the Year’ Menezes returned to the cockpit for the final hour, and he had more than halved a 1m12s deficit to Jani when the latter was forced into the pits with 15 minutes remaining to fix a defective rear light, prompting a switch in positions.

 

The Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé went on to take the chequered flag third, but when both Toyotas were later disqualified following technical checks, Rebellion became the first privateer team to win an FIA WEC race outright since 2012 – vaulting its No.3 driving trio to within two points of the World Championship lead.

In evidence of the key role he played in the result, Menezes completed four of the nine stints himself and posted a best lap time almost half-a-second out-of-reach of anybody else – making him the fastest Rebellion driver weekend-long in another supremely impressive performance.

I’m absolutely ecstatic,” enthused the former Jim Russell Driver Scholarship Award winner. “I haven’t felt this happy for so long. It’s my first win since COTA last year, and it feels very special. Having spent a while living in the UK during the earlier stages of my career, Silverstone is something of a ‘home’ track for me and it’s a great feeling to take my first LMP1 victory there.

Obviously it wasn’t the ideal way to do it, but ultimately, winning a race is winning a race, no matter how it comes and we will grab this result with both hands. All the boys at Rebellion have worked so hard to get the whole LMP1 project off the ground and to develop the car to the stage where it is now, and they really deserve this one-two finish. I’m immensely proud of everybody involved in the programme.

The race certainly wasn’t without its dramas and setbacks for us, from the contact at the start to the safety car appearance midway through that threatened to derail our podium challenge altogether. That was hugely frustrating. I was in the car at the time and making inroads into the battle for third, when the leading Toyota went by to lap us literally seconds before a Full Course Yellow was thrown, which left us virtually an entire lap behind the two cars ahead. After that, I had no choice but to get my head down and push like hell, and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment.

The pace was really good in my first two stints, and the team asked if I would be fit to get back into the car for the race’s final hour. It’s always an honour to be offered the opportunity to bring it home, so I said, ‘let’s give it a shot’. In the meantime, Thomas had cleared the SMP and slashed the gap to third place from more than 1m40s to 1m12s, which remained a tremendously tall order but I knew I just had to dig as deep as I could and see what was possible. The R-13 felt incredible, which allowed me to quickly settle into a really strong rhythm and I’d got the difference down to only 26 seconds when Neel hit trouble.

The Equivalence of Technology regulations still evidently aren’t where they need to be, but all we can do is keep performing to the best of our ability and hope the FIA and ACO address the situation. As a team, there’s no question that we’re more competitive than we’ve ever been, with all three drivers working together extremely well. Ultimately, we know we gave it absolutely everything at Silverstone, and to have fought through the field from the back of the pack to win the race is nothing short of mind-blowing…”

CONWRIGHT ‘KEEPING FEET ON THE GROUND’ AFTER PROMISING TESTING PACE

CONWRIGHT ‘KEEPING FEET ON THE GROUND’ AFTER PROMISING TESTING PACE

Jaden Conwright is remaining level-headed as he prepares to make his debut in the inaugural F3 Asian Championship certified by FIA at Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia this weekend (13-15 July), after lapping an encouraging second-quickest in the official pre-season test.

The first driver to commit to the all-new series back in May, the American teenager will compete for Absolute Racing behind the wheel of a high-performance, 270bhp single-seater, with a grid of 17 drivers representing ten different teams confirmed for the fast-approaching curtain-raiser. Conwright – a former World Speed Motorsports Rising Star Award recipient, rookie class podium-finisher in the fiercely-disputed Italian F4 Championship and Carlin Academy member – tested for Absolute Racing in Shanghai last winter, impressing the multiple race-winning outfit with both his strong work ethic and pace.

The 19-year-old carried that eye-catching form over to this week’s group test at Sepang, lapping inside the top four more often than not and placing an excellent second in the final session – arguably the most representative given that all competitors were on new tyres at the same time. The only driver to go quicker was Jake Hughes – a man with race-winning credentials in both the GP3 Series and FIA Formula 3 European Championship – leaving Conwright feeling quietly confident ahead of the opening round.

 

It was good to finally be back at a race circuit as a driver, and now I can’t wait to return to the cockpit for the weekend,” the Californian enthused. “I’ve always followed Asian motorsport closely, and I’m really happy about what the FIA has managed to pull together in just a few months. The car looks amazing and the championship itself is going to be very competitive. The overall level of the teams is very high and most of the drivers have a lot of experience, with some of them arriving from really prestigious series.”

That is a great source of motivation for me and for Absolute Racing. We share a common goal – since my first test with them, I had no doubt this was the best team for me at this stage in my career. They are ultra-professional and extremely structured and efficient, and we felt a great chemistry and synergy straightaway.

It’s still too early to fully assess where we are at the moment, but the team have been working like crazy to put the cars together so I’m pleased we didn’t encounter any issues during the test and now the guys can rest a little before the weekend. I literally cannot thank them all enough for the support they have given us. We spent the two days learning the car and seeing how it behaves in different weather conditions. There were some ups-and-downs, but at the end we managed to produce some good performances, which is obviously positive. It was cool to see my name in second position between drivers like Jake Hughes and Raoul Hyman, but this is only testing and we need to keep our feet on the ground.

I will enter the first race weekend aiming for a strong result, but not expecting it. The championship will be very strong and very close, so remaining focussed and continually looking for ways to improve will be the best approach. There are a lot of uncertainties with a brand new series and a new car, but the objective has to be to hit the ground running from day one.”

 

The 2018 F3 Asian Championship will take in 15 races spread across five rounds – to be held at Sepang as well as China’s Ningbo International Speedway and Shanghai International Circuit between now and the end of November.

The region’s first F3 series to be officially sanctioned by world motorsport’s governing body will form part of the FIA’s new open-wheel ladder of progression, with the top eight drivers in the final standings all earning points towards qualification for a Formula 1 superlicence. In evidence of its stature, competitors will accrue the same number of superlicence points as their counterparts in the likes of the DTM, Super GT and World Touring Car Cup.

Having nurtured Conwright through the formative stages of his career in America and Europe, Williams-Harfield Sports Group Director Chris Harfield is convinced that his highly-rated young protégé has what it takes to make a real name for himself in the burgeoning new series.

We were already considering a programme in Asia for Jaden in 2018, and when we heard about the inaugural F3 Asian Championship, we had no doubts this was the path to take,” he explained. “The new engine and chassis package is a big step forward for the series, and championship organiser Top Speed has demonstrated a solid understanding of the motorsport industry.

The FIA has pushed a lot with this project and we believe we will see more and more drivers and teams racing in this part of the world. The Asian market is currently booming and we haven’t yet seen its full potential.

Since we started working with Jaden, he has grown and developed both on and off the track and we cannot wait for this exciting new adventure to begin. During the last two years, Jaden focussed on the consistency of his performances, while always aiming higher. Collaborating with top-flight teams and organisations has given him the opportunity to compare himself against some of the best junior drivers in the world and he is ready for this next chapter.”

A new championship always brings with it new challenges, but we are confident that both Jaden and Absolute Racing have the hunger and determination to make this season a success.”

COINDEAL BECOME WOLVES SLEEVE PARTNER IN GROUND BREAKING CRYPTOCURRENCY DEAL

COINDEAL BECOME WOLVES SLEEVE PARTNER IN GROUND BREAKING CRYPTOCURRENCY DEAL

Wolves are delighted to announce global cryptocurrency exchange platform CoinDeal as 2018/19 first team shirt sleeve sponsors. The deal is the first ever sports sponsorship deal involving a cryptocurrency exchange platform, representing an exciting development for the cryptocurrency and blockchain community.

Joe Williams, director of WH Sports Group, who brokered the deal, said: “This is a groundbreaking partnership in the cryptocurrency sector, giving Coindeal a global platform to promote their cutting-edge exchange to a huge array of potential customers. We are delighted to have facilitated this with Wolves on the eve of their return to the Premier League.”

 

Shirt sleeve sponsorship debuted in the Premier League last season, and as such official sponsors CoinDeal will become the first ever shirt sleeve sponsor to feature on a Wolves shirt. CoinDeal branding will also be visible around Molineux – on LED advertising boards and the first team dugout – as well as on all first team training kit. Wolves managing director Laurie Dalrymple said: “We are absolutely thrilled to partner with CoinDeal at such an exciting time in Wolves’ history, and very pleased to announce our first ever shirt sleeve sponsor. Once more a partner has agreed to tweaking the colour of their logo to complement our kit, which is a huge gesture of goodwill towards the club and its fans, and something we are very grateful for.”

CoinDeal is a bold and progressive company, who we believe to be an ideal match to become one of our principal partners, and we look forward to working with them throughout our first season back in the Premier League.”

Founded in March 2018, CoinDeal is a cryptocurrency exchange platform which aims to offer fast, safe, and easy cryptocurrency exchange services. CoinDeal offers 22 cryptocurrency markets with currencies such as, BTC, BCH, ETH, LTC, DASH, or QTUM, also, offering two fiat currencies – EUR & USD. Uniquely, if users wish to add a new cryptocurrency to the exchange, they can launch a vote for a “new cryptocurrency”. If a certain number of users vote for the suggested cryptocurrency, it will be approved and added to the platform.

I have always had a passion for the world of sports and its impact on consumers,” said CoinDeal co-founder Kajetan Maćkowiak. At CoinDeal we are very aware of the impact that football marketing can have on brand and its community, especially in industry such as ours. We believe that a club like Wolves will help portray our message globally.”

It is an incredibly exciting time to be involved with Wolves, on the eve of their return to the English Premier League and we look forward to supporting them to ensure they continue their incredible performance levels both on and off the pitch.”

19 YR OLD JADEN CONWRIGHT CONFIRMS FOR FIA F3 ASIA

19 YR OLD JADEN CONWRIGHT CONFIRMS FOR FIA F3 ASIA

The inaugural F3 regional Asian championship calendar includes 15 races – three at each of the five rounds – at Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit, and China’s Ningbo International Speedway and the Shanghai International Circuit.

The season will kick start with an official test on July 9 and 10 in Sepang. Commenting on joining the team Jaden Conwright said:

I can’t thank Ingo, Fabien, and the entire Absolute Racing team enough for the wonderful opportunity to compete in the inaugural F3 Asian Championship certified by FIA! From the first time we worked together there was great synergy and atmosphere. We all strived for the same goal. Absolute Racing’s professionalism allowed me to improve my driving in a very structured and efficient manner. There are a lot of uncertainties with a brand-new championship and a new car, but there’s no doubt that Absolute Racing and I will be ready to hit the ground running from day one at Sepang.

Ingo Matter, Team Director, added,

We are delighted to announce Jaden Conwright as our first Formula 3 Asian Championship driver. When he tested with our Formula Masters Series car in Shanghai, Jaden’s display and professional approached impressed everyone. With his speed never in doubt, our goal is to provide him with the necessary tools to be able to battle for the top positions in every race.”

THIRD PLACE ‘LIKE A VICTORY’ FOR MENEZES AFTER ‘MAGICAL’ LE MANS

THIRD PLACE ‘LIKE A VICTORY’ FOR MENEZES AFTER ‘MAGICAL’ LE MANS

Gustavo Menezes has described his third-place finish in last weekend’s Le Mans 24 Hours as ‘like a victory’, after the talented young American led the Rebellion Racing charge in a captivating race full of unexpected twists-and-turns.

Although the 86th edition of France’s legendary round-the-clock classic marked only Menezes’ third start at La Sarthe, the highly-rated Santa Monica, California native already boasted an impressive record in the event, having sensationally triumphed on his debut there in the LMP2 category in 2016. Now competing in the headlining LMP1 class, Menezes and team-mates Thomas Laurent and Mathias Beche initially qualified the No.3 Rebellion-Gibson R-13 prototype third in the fiercely-contested, 60-strong field – best of the non-hybrid entrants – but they were relegated to fifth due to a pit-lane infringement.

Immediately rising to fourth when the race got underway, Laurent engaged in an entertaining early battle with SMP Racing’s Stéphane Sarrazin, exchanging places on several occasions and finding a way past for good while navigating a backmarker at the Tertre Rouge Esses an hour-and-a-half in. Swiftly stretching his legs, the Frenchman pulled out almost half-a-minute over his countryman before relinquishing the reins to Beche. When the Swiss driver returned to the pits for a routine tyre and fuel stop an hour later, however, an ill-timed safety car intervention to deal with debris meant he was held at pit-lane exit, costing the No.3 crew two minutes and dropping them to fifth.

Menezes first took to the cockpit as the sun began to set, and the 23-year-old was regularly the fastest non-hybrid driver on the track as he chased down the SMP entry ahead. That relentless pressure ultimately told as the Russian car went off shortly before 11pm local time, reinstating the Rebellion in third. The 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship LMP2 class title-winner and ‘Revelation of the Year’ returned to the fray during the night, but just past half-distance, a small mistake damaged the rear floor of the R-13 and obliged an unscheduled pit visit for urgent repairs. Eight-and-a-half minutes later, Menezes rejoined the race, albeit down in fourth again, behind the sister car.

What ensued was a see-saw internecine scrap for supremacy between the two Rebellions for the honour of finishing as best non-hybrid after the all-conquering Toyotas, with an issue for one invariably being offset by a problem for the other, from sensor failure to pit-stop delays and disobedient doors that refused to stay shut. The last four hours saw Menezes complete a marathon six stints behind the wheel of the 655bhp sportscar, overcoming a malfunctioning gearbox to impressively outpace former World Championship and Le Mans-winning team-mate Neel Jani in the No.1 Rebellion and safely bring the No.3 car home as leading privateer. Not only that, but the Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé ended up on average the quickest non-hybrid driver by more than six tenths-of-a-second per lap. He also lapped barely a second-and-a-half adrift of two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso’s best effort in the significantly faster Toyota around the demanding 13.626km circuit – firmly underscoring his burgeoning sportscar racing credentials in what is widely renowned as the toughest race in the world.

We really couldn’t have done very much more than that,” Menezes reflected. “We effectively finished first-in-class. There’s just no way we can compete with Toyota given the way the regulations are, but we fought with everything we had to reach the podium and as a comparatively small independent team up against a major factory effort, third place was honestly like a victory for us – particularly after all the drama and stress we went through along the way.”

When I climbed in for my first stint as evening was falling, we were a minute behind the SMP following our earlier delay during the safety car period – and by the time I returned to the pits again to hand over to Thomas, we were literally running nose-to-tail, so I was really pleased with that.

The next time I took to the track was around 3am, with the No.1 Rebellion right on our case. I made a little error at the first chicane and clipped the kerb, which caused the rear plank to collapse and the loss of all rear downforce. There were sparks dragging on the ground and the back end of the car was just dancing all the way along the Mulsanne Straight at around 200mph, which was pretty terrifying. I had to hang on for dear life and drag it back to the pits, where the team did an amazing job to change the floor in only seven minutes.

That put us two laps behind our team-mates, but we never stopped believing. There was a stage when we seemed to alternate issues with the sister car, or one or other of us would get caught out by the timing of the safety car – the momentum kept swinging this way and that – but we doggedly persevered and it goes to prove you should never give up.

When I began my final stint with just under four hours left on the clock, we were around a minute behind the No.1 Rebellion. On the one hand, I had the team telling me not to take any risks as the main priority was to preserve the three-four finish, but as a driver, I wanted to get on the podium and I felt as a crew, we deserved that so I carried on pushing. Then, two laps later, Neel [Jani] had to pit due to his door coming open, which allowed us back into third and I could ease off a little.

Towards the end, we encountered some upshifting difficulties and I had to stop using second gear, which you need a lot at Le Mans! Despite that, my lap times held up and the R-13 still felt very good. I could literally have driven it all day and I said to my engineer, ‘I’d really like it if I could bring this home – I’m in the zone and I know I can do it’. The team agreed, and it was a real privilege to be allowed to take the chequered flag in such a prestigious race.

Then on the cooling-down lap afterwards, the gearbox broke completely. I don’t think it had more than another lap or two in it – we really did make it home by the skin of our teeth. What a story!

 

Indeed it was, and whilst Menezes had ascended the podium at Le Mans before – for his LMP2 success two years ago – this was metaphorically-speaking a much bigger stage, and with two rostrum appearances now from three starts in such a famously gruelling race, he is fast developing an enviable reputation. The result also saw him become the first American to stand on the overall podium at La Sarthe since 2001 – quite the achievement.

Sharing that with my two team-mates was beyond doubt one of the most special moments of my career to-date,” acknowledged the erstwhile Jim Russell Driver Scholarship Award winner. “Thomas and Mathias both did an incredible job, and I couldn’t have felt prouder being up there with them looking out at our mechanics who had worked their absolute backsides off all week and the sea of fans down below. It was also the perfect way to kick-start the partnership with my new sponsor, crypto-currency Modex. The whole experience gave me goosebumps – just magical.”

TAN READY TO TAKE ON ‘BIGGEST CHALLENGE’ FOLLOWING PRODUCTIVE LE MANS TEST DAY

TAN READY TO TAKE ON ‘BIGGEST CHALLENGE’ FOLLOWING PRODUCTIVE LE MANS TEST DAY

Weiron Tan admits he is excited and nervous in equal measure as he prepares to tackle the ‘biggest challenge’ of his fledgling motorsport career later this month, following a positive and productive test day ahead of the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours.

One of the fastest-rising stars on the international sportscar scene, Tan is competing this year for Jackie Chan DC Racing x JOTA Sport as part of the first all-Malaysian driver line-up in FIA World Endurance Championship history, alongside team-mates and countrymen Jazemen Jaafar and Nabil Jeffri. Behind the wheel of the team’s 600bhp #Fortunecat37 entry, the trio made an encouraging debut in sportscar racing’s premier global series last month, tallying a solid fourth-place finish in the fiercely-contested LMP2 class at the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps – the 2018/19 FIA WEC ‘Super Season’ curtain-raiser.

Rapidly getting to grips with their new Gibson-powered ORECA 07 prototype, Tan, Jaafar and Jeffri then headed for France’s revered, 13.626km La Sarthe circuit, which will stage the 86th edition of the iconic Le Mans 24 Hours on 16/17 June. Making the most of the eight hours of official testing available, the crew completed 68 tours to place 11th on the timesheets amongst the 20 high-calibre LMP2 protagonists. After lapping less than a second adrift of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and seven-time grand prix-winner Juan-Pablo Montoya, 23-year-old Malaysian Chinese racer Tan professed himself pleased with initial preparations.

 

The test went well,” affirmed the former Caterham F1 Academy member. “Having done a lot of prior simulation work, I felt like I got to grips with the track quite quickly – but of course, the simulator can never fully replicate reality. The real circuit is way more fun, way scarier and much more exciting! With some 60 cars in the field, it was very difficult to get a clear lap which meant it was almost impossible to accurately judge where everyone was pace-wise, but our objective was to learn and develop a race car for the 24 Hours and in that respect our programme was very productive. With so much information to take in, the test was a positive learning curve for us and we made good progress.”

I must admit, it was incredible to be driving through the streets of Le Mans at over 330km/h. This track has so much history and it really is a privilege to be here, and I’m feeling excited and quite nervous, if I’m honest. It will be the longest race I’ve ever done. I mean, 24 hours – that’s crazy! I’m just looking forward to experiencing it for the first time and the primary target will be to reach the finish, because anything can happen in 24 hours – so that in itself is the biggest challenge already.”

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.

WHSG PARTNERS 1XBET WITH FOOTBALL LEGEND ANDREA PIRLO

WHSG PARTNERS 1XBET WITH FOOTBALL LEGEND ANDREA PIRLO

WH Sports Group is delighted to have put together the brand ambassador partnership between Russian bookmaker, 1xBET and World Cup winner Andrea Pirlo.

This is the first ambassador activity which 1xBET have undertaken and marks an important step in their global growth strategy. Pirlo recently retired from professional football aged 38, after a stint with New York City FC in the MLS. During his career, the Italian legend won the Champions League twice, the World Cup and six Serie A titles during a trophy-laden career that saw him represent Inter Milan, Juventus and AC Milan.

Over the course of the partnership, 1xBet will be sharing unique content through Pirlo’s channels as well as their own. Keep your eyes peeled over the coming months!

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!

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