FIA World Endurance Championship LMP1 star Gustavo Menezes will join DragonSpeed’s lineup for next month’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship round at Sebring International Raceway.
The 25-year-old Californian is set to sub for DragonSpeed regular Ben Hanley in the team’s Oreca 07 Gibson alongside full-season driver Henrik Hedman due to a clashing European Le Mans Series round that weekend.
DragonSpeed is set to take part in both events with simultaneous race operations for the first time.
With a limited pool of U.S.-based drivers available due to the current border restrictions and IndyCar holding a race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway the same weekend, team owner Elton Julian told Sportscar365 that Menezes came as a logical choice.
“For me, Gustavo snuck up on everybody,” Julian said. “He finished P11 in European F3, he spent a couple of years next to Nico [Lapierre] and I think a big part of his development has been that time spent with Nico.
“His continued improvement year by year to the level that he’s now, where they put [Neel] Jani and [Andre] Lotterer in the cars around him… Pace-wise he’s as quick as anybody now.
“You don’t often see that. Also his maturity under Hugues de Chaunac and the pressure of Rebellion has really elevated his game, enough for me to entrust him with Henrik for the weekend.
“Every year I rate him higher and higher to the point where I think he’s become a legitimate pro. I think you have to put him in that category.”
While Colin Braun had driven for the team in the Rolex 24 at Daytona as well as the WEC round at Circuit of The Americas, the former CORE autosport ace is now under contract with fellow IMSA LMP2 outfit Era Motorsport.
Julian said DragonSpeed will enter the Sebring event, the first WeatherTech Championship LMP2 round since January, with a “100 percent” new team, due to the clashing ELMS race at Paul Ricard.
“We’re building an entirely different team for Sebring,” he said. “It’s not just plug-and-play as it is right now because of the clash with the ELMS.
“We have the DNA; we know what we’re doing. We’ll use our IndyCar engineer who works well with our technical director.
“It’s basically our IndyCar team that was partly with us at Daytona.”
Julian said simultaneous tests at Sebring and Barcelona prior to the COVID-19 lockdown in March has served as an unexpected “dry run” for the July 17-19 weekend.
“It was successful and really, really cool but we didn’t expect to have to do a race weekend after that!” he said.
DragonSpeed’s ELMS car will be driven by Hanley, Ryan Cullen and reigning series champion Memo Rojas in the Paul Ricard season-opener.
Barring any travel restrictions, Julian said he anticipates being with the ELMS squad at its pre-season test earlier that week and then fly directly to Florida to oversee the IMSA operation at Sebring.
“There will be so many new faces, it’s better to have my stamp on it,” he said. “I’m also going to an IMSA race because there’s business for me to do in the IMSA paddock.
“There’s no business for me to do in the ELMS paddock. That’s a positive for IMSA and sports car racing.”
DragonSpeed Remains Committed to IMSA Program
Julian has reaffirmed his team’s plans to contest the entire LMP2 season in the WeatherTech Championship although has expressed concern on a potential drop of entries later in the year.
The Indianapolis-based team had committed to a full season on the condition of having at least four or five cars in the class.
“We intend to go to all of them, but like everyone else, we’re watching the playing field and making sure there’s people to race,” Julian said.
“There’s no point in spending money to race [one team].
“We’re going to Sebring no matter what in order to support the series, in support of our crew and to get the money flowing again. We have to. We remain committed to the program.”
Julian voiced his displeasure of a so-called “coalition” made between several teams that proposed for the remainder of the LMP2 season to be contested exclusively with races in Florida, starting with the July 3-4 event at Daytona.
No schedule changes have been made by IMSA to the LMP2 calendar, which remains at seven rounds, including the Rolex 24 at Daytona, which did not count towards the season-long championship.