Gustavo Menezes believes Sunday’s 4 Hours of Shanghai was the first time the FIA World Endurance Championship has seen “real racing” for overall honors in a “very long time”
The American claimed his second career overall WEC victory and first on the road in a breakthrough race for Rebellion Racing, which dominated the third round of the 2019-20 season.
Menezes took over the lead of the race in the second hour following a frantic start that saw co-driver Norman Nato drop to sixth after struggling for grip.
“We saw the tires that were used in qualifying really did pay a toll immediately,” Menezes told Sportscar365.
“There was no rear grip on them and you could see that when Bruno changed to [fresh] rear tires in his second stint, he found a second-and-a-half.
“Poor Norman struggled a little bit with that situation, as well as the tires not being at prime temperature.
“Our car struggles massively when the tires aren’t in the window. We were fighting head-to-head with the P2s for the first two or three laps.
“Once things got going we were good. When I got the car, I just gave it everything I had and it was enough to build a margin and give Bruno the car in a good place.”
While Menezes, Nato and Bruno Senna claimed victory by more than 1 minute, the race featured ten lead changes among three of the five LMP1 cars, making it one of the most competitive in recent years.
It came in the second race of the WEC’s new-for-2019 success handicap system, which penalized the Toyota TS050 Hybrids by nearly three seconds per lap and gave the LMP1 non-hybrids a significant straight-line speed advantage.
“It was very fun being able to actually fight,” Menezes said. “It’s been a long time since the LMP1 class has seen any kind of real racing.
“Even though the success handicap was there, and I’d say it was a little bit towards an advantage for us, that was obvious, it still was the healthiest of any kind of racing we’ve seen in the series in a very long time.
“We need a lot more of that if we want to see WEC in a healthy place in the future.
“It was amazing. I’ve never seen so many replays of overtaking between the LMP1 class. For me it was a very special feeling. It was the first real win where it was earned and deserved.”