Fresh off a massive win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 21 year old Gustavo Menezes is a whizz kid.
One of the sport's rising stars is both humble and confident. Bouncing from excitement recounting his recent victory to concern for the challenges ahead, we caught up with Gustavo over a morning workout in Venice, CA and learned a bit about what it takes (both physically and mentally) to race a car for 24 hours straight.
Q: It seems like there are a lot of different events and venues in the sport. What is your favorite kind of race or track? Why?
A: 24 hours of Le Mans is my favorite race. It is such a long event that it slowly wears you down. The challenge is to keep your concentration up throughout. My favorite circuit on this year’s calendar has to be Spa Francorchamps - the circuit gets you into a nice rhythm and the elevation changes are spectacular.
Q: How is a race like Le Mans different from other races?
A: Every race besides Le Mans on the World Endurance Calendar is 6 hours. The race is our equivalent to an ultra marathon. It’s both physically and emotionally demanding. There is also a rich history to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and it brings together over a quarter of a million spectators. It is hard for drivers not to get emotional before we take the start, to say nothing of finishing.
Q: What’s it like in the driver’s seat?
A: It’s intense. While I’m racing, my mind is set on maintaining focus so I can problem solve quickly.
Q: You’re an enthusiastic cyclist, riding up to 250 miles a week when you’re home. What about being on the bike and riding do you love?
A: I started cycling when I was 15 years old. It is another passion of mine and a great way for me to stay healthy. Cycling also helps keeps me at the correct weight for racing. It’s been a great way for me to meet new people, and find space to think clearly. There is no better way to disappear than to ride off into the mountains.
It is hard for drivers not to get emotional before we take the start, to say nothing of finishing.
Q: How does fitness come into play in your sport?
A: Driving is extremely physical. First, we are dealing with very high temperatures in the drivers seat. The G force strains your entire body. Then there’s the force of controlling the steering wheel. When I’m home, I train around 4 hours a day, if not more, to prepare myself. It’s crucial to be fit enough so that I can fully focus on driving. If I’m feeling any physical exhaustion, my focus begins to suffer.
Q: How physically demanding is a typical race for you?
A: I lose about 5lbs of water during every driving stint of a race, and I’ll start to feel serious fatigue in my shoulders and core. When I’m out of the car, I need to re-hydrate as quickly as possible and get physiotherapy to stay loose.
Q: Can you lay out a typical week of Training (Monday - Sunday) to give us a better idea what it's like to be Gustavo Menezes?
A: I ride my bike nearly every day, mixing in long and short days (and I run on my short ride days). I also try to incorporate weight sessions and core work 5 days a week.
40 mile ride (4 mile run) (1.5 hour Gym)
60 mile ride with elevation (1.5hour Gym)
30 Mile ride (4 mile run) (1.5 hour gym)
60 mile ride with elevation (1.5 hour Gym)
30 mile ride (2 hour Gym)
80 mile ride with elevation (core session)
Photography by Dylan Nord