Menezes: Winning Le Mans the best day of my life!

Menezes: Winning Le Mans the best day of my life!

22.06.2016: • Endurance racing rookie tames world’s biggest sportscar test

•    Endurance racing rookie tames world’s biggest sportscar test

•    21-year-old part of Signatech-Alpine’s victorious LMP2 trio

•    California native produces impressive pace on La Sarthe bow

Gustavo Menezes has described winning last weekend’s Le Mans 24 Hours as the ‘best day of his life’, as together with team-mates Nicolas Lapierre and Stéphane Richelmi, he delivered Signatech-Alpine its maiden LMP2 class victory in what is widely regarded as the toughest race in the world.

Having graduated from a formative career in single-seaters to sportscars this year, Menezes has made an immediate impact and alongside Lapierre and Richelmi, he arrived at Le Mans at the top of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship LMP2 class standings.

Buoyed by a promising pre-event Test Day, the talented young American was instantly on front-running form again during practice and qualifying, although much of the track time was severely disrupted by torrential downpours.

The N°36 entry began the legendary round-the-clock classic from third position amongst the 23 high-calibre LMP2 protagonists and 12th overall on the 60-strong grid.

Hollywood actor Brad Pitt was on-hand to flag the field away, but another heavy shower shortly before the start meant the first hour was spent circulating behind the safety car.

Once the action finally got going, Lapierre swiftly seized the class lead but as the track surface dried out, a mistimed pit-stop for intermediate tyres cost the 550bhp Alpine A460 prototype more than two minutes and dropped it down the order to 15th.

That proved to be the catalyst for a stirring recovery as the Frenchman scythed his way back into the top ten courtesy of a flurry of fastest laps.

By the time Menezes took over at the wheel three hours into the race, the car sat fifth and the combination of an impressive turn-of-speed and an incisive approach to traffic saw the Santa Monica, California native vying for and repeatedly trading the top spot.

He handed the reins to Richelmi two-and-a-half hours later and returned to the cockpit not long after midnight, 20 seconds shy of the lead.

With the night famously separating the men from the boys at Le Mans, Menezes belied his lack of endurance racing experience and prior track knowledge with a scintillating effort as the N°36 found itself embroiled in a captivating three-way tussle for supremacy.

It was a performance that helped to lay the foundations for the squad’s success, with the 21-year-old Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé completing an eye-catching quadruple stint on the same set of tyres and getting to within barely a quarter-of-a-second of the highly-rated Lapierre’s benchmark time around the 13.6km Circuit de la Sarthe.

 Not only that, but he was the fastest of the Signatech-Alpine trio through the long final sector and wound up eighth-quickest out of all 69 LMP2 drivers over the full lap.

Having pulled consistently clear of his pursuers, Menezes received a rapturous reception from the team at the end of his run and after one of their key rivals crashed at Mulsanne on Sunday morning, the Signatech-Alpine crew focussed on consolidating their advantage without taking any unnecessary risks.

The car ultimately flashed past the chequered flag first in-class and an outstanding fifth overall – the second-best finish in Alpine’s Le Mans history – and in addition to toasting the greatest triumph of his career to-date, the former Jim Russell Driver Scholarship Award winner and his two team-mates significantly extended their championship lead in endurance racing’s premier global series. It has, all told, been quite a start to Menezes’ burgeoning sportscar transition.

“Sunday was without question the best day of my life!” he reflected. “It was always one of my ambitions to compete here, and it’s a dream come true to win.

Nobody ever has a flawless race at Le Mans, but we ran as close to flawlessly as possible – everything just gelled perfectly, from the team to the drivers to the car.

“We prepared meticulously and right from the Test Day, it was evident that Nico, Stéphane and I were working well together and had strong average pace, so we knew we would be in with a good shout – although of course, to then go out there and actually get the job done is a different challenge altogether and there was a certain degree of pressure and expectation upon our shoulders.

“Once the early-race safety car disappeared, we got our heads down, kept cool and cracked on. As drivers, we remained error-free, the Alpine A460 felt awesome and ran like clockwork and every pit-stop was faultless.

It takes a real team effort to win the Le Mans 24 Hours and that’s exactly what we had – everybody gave their absolute maximum.

“We encountered very few issues and only really went into the garage properly once, which was a precautionary measure under safety car conditions; we had seen a few cars suffer what looked like brake failures, so we wanted to check everything was ok and we had enough margin over our nearest competitors to do so.

“On the driving side, I just focussed on settling into a consistent rhythm, maintaining the tempo, saving the fuel and tyres as best I could and generally looking after the car – and to be honest, the speed came very naturally and I was able to lap really quickly even when battling through traffic.

The initial plan was to put me in for a total of six hours but I ended up doing more than eight and when I wasn’t on-track, I didn’t sleep much as I was keen to make the most of the whole experience.

“Having had very little night-time running during practice due to all the red flags, that aspect of the race was something of a step into the unknown for me, but it didn’t take long to get into the groove.

Whilst some parts of the circuit are floodlit, others – like Indianapolis, Mulsanne, Arnage and the Porsche Curves – are pitch-black, and even if you are physically in shape, keeping your concentration in the face of fatigue really pushes your mental boundaries because all it takes is one slip and you could find yourself out on the spot.

“With all that in mind, to win the most difficult race in the world proved that I deserve to be here, and to do so as a rookie is simply incredible.

Standing up on the balcony afterwards, I felt a mixture of excitement, joy and relief and it brought tears to my eyes – there were so many people crammed into the pit-lane that we literally couldn’t see where the crowd ended. I think I still need to let it all sink in.

“Signatech had achieved podiums at Le Mans before but never a victory, so this shows that the commitment everybody has invested into this project is really reaping rewards and we have no intention of throttling back now.

As for Alpine, it was obviously a massive moment as a manufacturer with a proud and successful history at Le Mans and an exciting new road car coming next year.

There could be no better way to really put the brand on the map than by winning this race, so I think it’s safe to say that Alpine is back!”

Russell Atkins - photos Romain Scholer


22.06.2016 / MaP

More News

Michelin Rückblick: 24 Stunden von Le Mans 2016
•    Michelin macht 25. Le Mans-Sieg komplett und gewinnt mit seinen Partnern auch beide GTE-Klassen•    Alle drei LMP1-Partnerteams von Michelin auf dem Podium•    Ferrari und Ford duell more >>
24 Hours of Le Mans, LMP1 Facts from the race
Porsche wins in Le Mans – 5,233 kilometres on the limitThe 84th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans will always be remembered for its dramatic finish on June 19th 2016. Porsche took its 18th overall victory when the leading Toyota retired on the more >>
Stefan Mücke took the lead of the GT drivers at the FIA WEC
 The Berlin finished fourth of the GTE Pro class at the 24 hour race of Le Mans together with his Ford works driver colleagues Olivier Pla (France) and Billy Johnson (USA) of the team Ford Chip Ganassi Racing UK on Sunday (19th of June). The trio got all the more >>
Murphy Prototypes at Le Mans 2016: the Pluck of the Irish
Murphy Prototypes came to Le Mans in 2016 for their fifth consecutive challenge on the 24 Hours at La Sarthe. Team Principal, Greg Murphy, centred upon the established partnership of Marc Goossens, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Ben Keating - three drivers w more >>
Algarve Pro Team 24h Le Mans review
The Algarve Pro team successfully completed their first 24 Hours of Le Mans, finishing the race 17th overall, with Sir Chris Hoy, Michael Munemann and Andrea Pizzitola at the wheel of the sky blue and white #25 Ligier JS P2 powered by Nissan (LM P2 category).  more >>
Young Driver AMR score big points at 24 hours of Le Mans
•    Sørensen/Thiim/Turner finish fifth in the GTE Pro class•    Trouble free and flawless race for Young Driver AMR•    Aston Martin Racing takes lead in manufacturers world championship  more >>
Risi Competizione finishes 24h of le Mans in second place
Trouble free run for the American Ferrari teamRisi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE-Pro No. 82: Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA)                     &nbs more >>
Larbre Competition claims eight in 24h Le Mans 2016
•    #50 Corvette C7.R shows pace and reliability at La Sarthe•    French GT experts pick up valuable FIA WEC pointsLarbre Competition added a new 24 Hours of Le Mans finish to its list of honou more >>
Ford Wins Le Mans!
•    #68 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT of Sébastien Bourdais, Joey Hand and Dirk Müller takes victory in LM GTE Pro category•    Victory comes exactly 5 more >>
ProSpeed Competition and Team AAI 24h Le Mans review
SHORT PREPARATION PERIOD, INTENSE RACE & CHEQUERED FLAG!ProSpeed Competition and Team AAI saw the chequered flag of this 84th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans which in itself is an enormous performance. Look more >>
10 of the 11 Onroak Automotive chassis make it to the end of the 24 Hours of Le Mans
With only one retirement, after 22h30 of racing, out of the eleven Onroak Automotive chassis entered, this 84th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans confirmed the reliability of the LM P2 sport-prototypes that have come from t more >>
The Marseillaise played for Alpine at the 24 Hours of Le Mans
•    Nicolas Lapierre, Gustavo Menezes and Stéphane Richelmi produced a perfect performance in the Signatech-Alpine no. 36 to win the LMP2 category at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.•    The crew also claimed more >>
Heartbreak for Toyota Gazoo Racing at Le Mans
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing finished second in the 84th edition of Le Mans 24 Hours but had the victory taken from its grasp in a cruel late twist. Both TS050 HYBRIDs took turns to lead the race as part of an exciting ba more >>
18th overall win for Porsche after drama in Le Mans
24 Hours of Le Mans, LMP1 - FinishFrom midnight the duel between Porsche and Toyota for the 24 hour Le Mans race win had intensified but no-one would have expected such an ending. Before the final lap, Toyota s more >>
Battle from the back results in 10th place for RGR Sport by Morand
19.06.2016 24 Hours of Le Mans LMP2 CHAMPIONSHIP POSITION: 1STCHASSIS: #43 RGR Sport by Morand / LMP2 / Ligier JS P2 The final six hours of the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans were in favor of the only Mexican team, RGR Sport by more >>
Strakka signs off era of open-topped LMP2 cars at Le Mans with fourth in class
... and eighth placed overall  With a trouble-free run, attacking drive and the swiftest pit work, Silverstone-based Strakka Racing claimed a strong fourth in the highly competitive and 23-strong LMP2 class resulting in eighth overall from 60 starters at t more >>
Guy Cosmo Flies to Fifth at Le Mans
Fastest lap of the race in his first-ever start on legendary circuitYou only get one chance to make a first impression, and American racer Guy Cosmo made the most of his this weekend at Le Ma more >>
Positions three and four for Audi at Le Mans
Audi on podium for 18th time in Le Mans 24 Hours      Both Audi R18 finish in spite of issues      Valuable World Championship points for both Audi squads more >>
Porsche clinches a last minute victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans!
263,500 spectators came to watch Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the Porsche 919 Hybrid #2 in a spectacular twist of fate!At three minutes to the end, the #5 Toyota was heading for victory and suddenly g more >>
ACO/UJSF Communications Trophy, Muriel Belgy winner
ACO/UJSF Communications TrophyMuriel Belgy (Panis Barthez Compétition)Winner of 27th Communications PrizeThe 2016 ACO/UJSF Communications Trophy has been awarded to Muriel Belgy, head of communications and press relations at Panis Barthe more >>
2016 Le Mans 24 Hours: 263,500 spectators!
A total of 263,500 spectators came to watch the 24 Hours of Le Mans, third round in the FIA World Endurance Championship.The Automobile Club de l’Ouest is delighted to have attracted as large a crowd as last year despite last-minute more >>
Porsche has achieved its 18th overall Le Mans victory
Porsche has achieved its 18th overall Le Mans victory at the 84th running of the famous 24-Hours of Le Mans. Drivers Romain Dumas (FR), Neel Jani (CH) and Marc Lieb (GER) brought home the innovative Porsche 919 Hybrid in first place more >>
Retirements in 24h Le Mans 2016
50    44    Ret    P2    Manor    RAO Matthew    Oreca 05 - Nissan    D    283    101 Laps    3:42.323    more >>
24h Le Mans Overall result by Class 2016
24 Hours of Le MansChequered flag  at 15h03:17Sunday, June 19th 2016LM P1   more >>
24h Le Mans overall classification 2016
24 Hours of Le MansChequered flag16h55:591    2    Run    P1    Porsche Team   more >>
Porsche and Toyota battle for seconds in Le Mans
24 Hours of Le Mans, LMP1 – after 20 hoursThe thrilling fight for the win at Le Mans between Toyota and Porsche has gone on for hours, with the final stages of the 24-Hours race approaching. Until shortly before 11 more >>
Retirements in 24h Le Mans 90 minutes to go
24h Le MansSunday, June 19th 201650    44    Ret    P2    Manor    RAO Matthew    Oreca 05 - more >>
24h Le Mans standings by class 90 min to go
24 Hours of Le MansSession time :22 : 15 : 33Remaining time :01 : 44 : 2713h18:26LM P1 1    5    Run    P1  &nbs more >>
24h Le Mans Half time standings by class
24 Hours Le Mans 2016Session time :12 : 13 : 20Remaining time : 11 : 46 : 40Last update : 03h13:35LM P1   1    6    Ru more >>
24h Le Mans standings by class after 11h
24 Hours Le Mans 2016Session time :11 : 01 : 58Remaining time :12 : 58 : 02Last update : 02h01:50 LM P1 1    6    Run    P1  more >>
Larbre Competition sixth in Le Mans night
10 Hour update•    #50 Corvette C7.R continues to show strong pace around La SartheLarbre Competition has built on its strong start at the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours with the #50 Corvette C7.R of Pierre R more >>
Porsche in second position and with problems at Le Mans
24 Hours of Le Mans, LMP1 – after 10 hoursAfter midnight in Le Mans the number 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Romain Dumas (FR), Neel Jani (CH) and Marc Lieb (DE) was running in second position at the Le Mans 24-Hours race. The more >>
Rollercoaster first third of the 24h Le Mans race for the Porsche 911 RSR
World Endurance Championship WEC, round 3, 24 Hours of Le Mans – GTIt was an interesting start to this year’s Le Mans 24-hour race: Due to heavy rain, the long distance classic in France started behind the safety car for the first time more >>
Toyota Gazoo Racing 24h Le Mans at midnight
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing remained in a close battle for supremacy in the Le Mans 24 Hours as midnight arrived at the Circuit de la Sarthe. The #6 TS050 HYBRID of Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi held the lead into the 10th hour, with Anthon more >>
24h Le Mans standings by class after 10h
24 Hours of Le MansSession time :10 : 00 : 11Remaining time :13 : 59 : 29Safety car        Last update : 01h00:35LM P1 1    6& more >>
Alpine in the mix for victory in Le Mans
•    As the Le Mans circuit gradually fell into darkness, the Signatech-Alpine no. 36 held second place in the LMP2 category of the famous 24-Hour race.•    The Baxi DC Racing Alpine no. 35 was ninth after having more >>
24h Le Mans overall standings after 9h race
24 Hours Le Mans 2016Session time :09 : 07 : 05Remaining time :14 : 52 : 55Yellow flag1    2    Run    P1    Porsche Team    JANI Neel    P more >>
Risi Competizione leads after the first six hours at Le Mans
Rain again plays its part in the early stages of the 24 Hours of Le Mans race Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE-Pro No. 82: Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA)                  more >>
RGR Sport by Morand at 24h Le Mans 6h update
LMP2 CHAMPIONSHIP POSITION: 1STCHASSIS: #43 RGR Sport by Morand / LMP2 / Ligier JS P2 After a pleasantly sunny grid walk here at the Circuit de la Sarthe, heavy rain began to fall just as famous actor Brad Pitt waved the flag for the start more >>


2001-2022 full copyright