American racer Menezes clinches first major title with WEC LMP2 success


American racer Gustavo Menezes clinched his first major title in motorsport on Sunday in Shanghai as the Signatech Alpine team wrapped up LMP2 class honors in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Menezes, 22, has raced through 2016 behind the wheel of an Alpine A460 Nissan alongside seasoned sportscar racer Nicolas Lapierre and former GP2 driver Stephane Richelmi.

Their charge to the LMP2 drivers’ title was built upon a string of three wins in Europe at Spa, Le Mans and the Nürburgring. The Le Mans victory was particularly crucial, being a double-points round.

A fourth victory at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas last month was topped and tailed with podiums in Mexico and Fuji, before a fourth-place finish in Shanghai on Sunday clinched the title.

The title rival RGR Sport by Morand squad could only finish third in China, giving Menezes and co. a 35-point buffer with 25 left to play for in Bahrain at the final round of the season.

The success sees Menezes become the first American to win an FIA world championship in 35 years, the last being Bob Garretson in the 1981 World Sportscar Championship.

Menezes made the switch into sportscars full-time this year, having made his first appearance at Petit Le Mans in 2013. Additional appearances followed at Daytona in 2014 and 2015, as well as at Sebring and Petit Le Mans once again two seasons ago.

Menezes spent much of his junior career focusing on single-seaters on both sides of the Atlantic. After racing in the Star Mazda series in 2011 and 2012 without recording a race win, his first breakthrough victory came in German F3 in 2013, when he finished fourth in the championship standings.

Two years in the FIA F3 European Championship followed in 2014 and 2015 where Menezes finished no higher than 11th in the championship, before signing a deal with Signatech Alpine for 2016 that would lead to the LMP2 world title.

Richelmi’s championship win is also a career first. The Monegasque racer spent his junior days racing in Europe before three full seasons in GP2, yielding one race win in 2014. Richelmi moved into Blancpain for 2015 ahead of his switch to the WEC for this season.

Completing the trifecta of single-seaters-to-sportscars trajectories, Lapierre raced in F3 and spent three years in GP2, as well as winning the A1 Grand Prix title for Team France in 2006 before then moving across to sportscars from 2008.

Since the formation of the WEC in 2012, Lapierre has been one of its most consistent performers, never finishing lower than fourth in every race in which he has seen the checkered flag – and now, he has a championship to boot.

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.