American racer Menezes clinches first major title with WEC LMP2 success

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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.

Ganassi announces multiyear sponsorship extension with American Legion for No. 10

Chip Ganassi American Legion
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Chip Ganassi Racing announced a new primary sponsorship deal with The American Legion this week, shoring up the funding on its No. 10 Dallara-Honda of Alex Palou.

The 2021 NTT IndyCar Series champion primarily had driven with NTT Data sponsorship the past two seasons. But NTT Data will move next season to McLaren Racing as a primary sponsor for Felix Rosenqvist in 10 races and on the Indy 500 car of Tony Kanaan (who drove an American Legion car for Ganassi at the Brickyard last year).

It was the latest twist in a McLaren-Ganassi saga that included a contract dispute for the services of Palou (who is expected to move to McLaren in 2024 after reaching an agreement to race with Ganassi next year).

Ganassi stayed within its own walls to help plug the sponsorship gap left by NTT Data, re-signing The American Legion to a multiyear extension. The Indianapolis-based non-profit organization, which has been sponsoring Ganassi cars for the past few seasons, also will be associated with other Ganassi drivers, including Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson and development driver Kyffin Simpson in Indy NXT.

The Ganassi organization will continue promoting The American Legion’s “Be The One” campaign aimed at reducing veteran suicides. The team launched an online auction for the initiative this week.

“Supporting our nation’s veterans is of immense importance to our organization and we are humbled to continue supporting The American Legion’s mission in ending veteran suicide,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a release. “We will do absolutely everything we can to help veterans get the support they need while raising public awareness of the ‘Be The One’ platform.”

“We have received an overwhelming amount of support from fans, active-duty military members and veterans as a result of this partnership and we’re pleased to see it grow,” said Dean Kessel, chief marketing officer at The American Legion. “Thanks to the continuous collaboration with the team’s other partners, and the promotion of the ‘Be The One’ initiative, we are discovering more ways to engage with the military community than ever before. We want all veterans to know that it’s okay to ask for help.”