Gustavo Menezes has hailed his Le Mans 24 Hour LMP2 victory on debut as 'the best day of my life' as he helped the #36 Signatech Alpine with co-drivers Nicholas Lapierre and Stephane Richelmi to an impressive win.
The American 21-year-old only made the switch to sportscar endurance racing over the winter after leaving the European Formula 3 championship for the World Endurance Championship having signed for Signatech in LMP2.
The Nissan-powered #36 car came into Le Mans with strong form having claimed fourth place the 6 Hours of Silverstone plus victory at 6 hours of Spa, but even for Menezes he felt it was always going to be a dream to win at Le Mans on debut.
“Sunday was without question the best day of my life.” Menezes said. “It was always one of my ambitions to compete here, and it's a dream come true to win.
“Nobody ever has a flawless race at Le Mans, but we ran as close to flawlessly as possible – everything just gelled perfectly, from the team to the drivers to the car.
"We prepared meticulously and right from the Test Day, it was evident that Nico, Stéphane and I were working well together and had strong average pace, so we knew we would be in with a good shout.
“To then go out there and actually get the job done is a different challenge altogether and there was a certain degree of pressure and expectation upon our shoulders.”
The #36 Signatech Alpine enjoyed an almost fault-free 24 hours to not only win LMP2 outright but also finished fifth in the overall classification, stopping in garage just once for precautionary brake checks.
Menezes says he was overwhelmed by the emotion of the moment clinching victory on his maiden outing at the Circuit de la Sarthe in front of over 250,000 adoring fans.
“To win the most difficult race in the world proved that I deserve to be here, and to do so as a rookie is simply incredible,” he said. “Standing up on the balcony afterwards, I felt a mixture of excitement, joy and relief and it brought tears to my eyes. I think I still need to let it all sink in.”