Gustavo Menezes is set to become the first American to drive a modern-era LMP1 car, when the 22-year-old Californian takes part in next month’s FIA World Endurance Championship Rookie Test in Bahrain.
Menezes, who is on the brink of locking up the LMP2 Drivers’ Championship in his rookie season with Signatech Alpine, has been selected by the WEC to test Porsche’s 919 Hybrid, an opportunity the rising star has been dreaming of for years.
“I’m beyond words on this one,” he told Sportscar365. “Obviously I knew we were looking at a strong season but to put everything in play and have a year that we’ve had and be blessed with the opportunity the FIA WEC and Porsche has given me… I’m extremely excited.
“The whole thing about LMP1, it’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid. Now to get that opportunity and doing it like this is amazing.
“Now we’re just going to keep our heads down until the end of the season. I’ll be anxiously waiting to get my hands on that car.”
Having carved his way through the junior open-wheel ranks in Europe, Menezes’ full-time switch to sports car racing this year has paid dividends, with four class wins in seven races, including victory in his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut.
The Silver-rated driver has routinely been one of the quickest in LMP2, in what he’s targeted to be a stepping stone into a future factory drive.
“Every time I see a Porsche at the moment, it brings the biggest smile to my face,” Menezes said.
“As a brand, it has such a rich heritage in the sport and is continuing to rewrite the record books all the time, and the 919 Hybrid is a dream machine… unquestionably one of the most technologically-advanced cars in the world.
“It will be incredible to climb behind the wheel in Bahrain, and I will listen and learn and take as much away from the experience as I possibly can.”
Menezes and Signatech co-drivers Nicolas Lapierre and Stephane Richelmi hold a 38-point lead in the LMP2 championship heading into next month’s penultimate round of the season in Shanghai, in prime position to lock up the title one race early.
“This year, winning Le Mans as an American in P2 at my age was already exceptional,” he said. “We’ve worked extremely hard. In Mexico, we had tough struggles with the pace.
“But I wouldn’t believe it at the beginning of the year if someone told me we’d win Le Mans, we’d win four races and have five podiums out of six races. It’s looking great.
“We just have to bring it home and finish this thing on top.
“There would be nothing better than to go to Bahrain in this LMP1 test as the LMP2 World Champion. That’s the goal right now and hopefully we can finish this weekend strong and wrap things up by Shanghai.”