Twenty-one-year-old American Gustavo Menezes has switched from single-seaters into the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2016 after joining the Signatech-Alpine team.
The Californian raced in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship in 2014 and 2015, but now turns his back on single-seater racing to race in the #36 Signatech-Alpine entry in the LMP2 class of both the WEC and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Menezes has previous endurance racing experience after racing in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona twice, plus racing at Sebring and Petit Le Mans, but will now compete full-time for the first time in the premiere Endurance Championship.
“I’m ridiculously excited for the season ahead!” said Menezes. “It will obviously be a big change after three years of Formula 3, but it was the right moment to move on.
“We spent the second half of 2015 exploring all the available options to determine what would be best to advance my career. We spoke to several teams, and when I tested with Signatech-Alpine in Bahrain, I was blown away!
“I immediately felt at home with the team, too; we ‘clicked’ really easily, and it’s fantastic to now be a factory driver for such an illustrious manufacturer as Alpine. It’s an iconic brand with a long and proud motorsport history, and they are on the verge of launching their first new road-going sportscar in more than 20 years, which looks set to be mega.
“Endurance racing is a real team effort in which everybody has a crucial role to play, and it calls for a completely different mentality and style to single-seaters. Formula 3 is all about short, flat-out sprints, whereas in sportscars, the races are much longer and you’re sharing the car with two other drivers. There’s generally a lot more to think about – from managing the fuel load to looking after the tyres – as opposed to just putting your foot flat to the floor for 35 minutes.
“There’s no doubt that we’ll need to dig deep because the calibre of competition in WEC’s LMP2 class is extremely high, with a lot of big-name drivers – some of them ex-Formula 1 – either already signed up or showing an interest. That will make for an immensely strong field, but the aim is clearly to be amongst the front-runners right from the outset and I’m confident we will be.
“WEC is a phenomenal championship with massive potential, so this really is a tremendous opportunity for me to prove myself and show what I can do on an international platform.”
Menezes will share the #36 with Frenchman Nicolas Lapierre, while the #35 will be run as the Baxi DC Racing Alpine entry, which has been founded by actor Jackie Chan and owner/driver David Cheng, who will race alongside fellow Chinese driver Ho-Pin Tung. The third drivers for both the #35 and #36 will be announced at a later date.