Gustavo Menezes feels that Rebellion Racing has one of its best chances for victory on pure pace against Toyota this weekend, in the wake of the latest round of Success Handicap adjustments.
Sunday’s 4 Hours of Shanghai will see both points-leading Toyota TS050 Hybrids slowed by 2.74 seconds per lap, marking nearly an additional 1.5 seconds added to the No. 8 Toyota from last month’s round at Fuji.
The change compare to the No. 3 Rebellion R13 Gibson of Menezes and co-drivers Norman Nato and Bruno Senna, who have been made only 0.89 seconds slower than the reference car, the No. 6 Team LNT Ginetta G60-LT P1 AER.
Menezes, who became the first American driver to win a WEC race overall at Silverstone in 2018 following the post-race exclusions of the two Toyotas, said he’s feeling more optimistic than ever of achieving a win on merit.
“I think it’s about time we get on the top of the podium,” he told Sportscar365.
“Obviously the team has been working super hard since Fuji just to make sure we maximize what our car’s capable of.
“With the success handicap, I think it’s a very good shot for us. We just have to give it all we got.”
Menezes feels the ORECA-built LMP1 non-hybrid, which has undergone some “mechanical adjustments” this weekend, should be better-suited for the 16-turn Shanghai International Circuit than last time out in Japan.
While Senna led the opening 20 minutes of the race at Fuji, Menezes admitted that the Toyotas “definitely had the pace” over the long haul.
“I think we took them a bit by surprise in the beginning,” he said. “But once they got into the rhythm, they were gone.
“[Shanghai] is stronger for us than what Fuji was. Fuji being a low-speed circuit, our car struggles a little bit mechanically.
“But we definitely have a good read on the aero side of the car and I feel this track is quite a big downforce track, so I think it’s going to be interesting.
“I think we’re going to have a decent car.
“I feel for this weekend we’ve made a small step. We’ll have to see how it goes in Free Practice but we have some expectations for sure.”
No Success Handicap for Le Mans “A Bit of a Shame”
Menezes has voiced his displeasure of the new-for-2019 Success Handicap system not being in place for the full season, notably the season-ending 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“I wish we had this handicap system a year ago. That’s for sure,” he said.
“It’s a shame that it goes away for Le Mans because it’s very obvious what’s going to happen there.
“With that being the most important race of the WEC championship, it’s a bit of a shame to know what’s going to happen ahead of time.
“But, at the same time, I’m excited to see how it is actually working. I think we should have a fair shot this weekend.”