Rebellion Racing became the final overall winners in American Le Mans Series competition, when Neel Jani, Nicolas Prost and Nick Heidfeld took their Lola B12/60 Toyota to victory in last weekend’s Petit Le Mans, the team’s second-consecutive win in the 1,000-mile/10-hour enduro.
While it marked the end of an era for North American sports car racing, it also signaled the completion of the Anglo-Swiss squad’s successful LMP1 venture with Lola, as it gears up for a new chapter in the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship with a pair of ORECA-built, Toyota-powered Rebellion R-One prototypes.
FOX Sports’ SPEED Blog caught up with team manager Bart Hayden to get an update on the development of the new car, as well as Rebellion’s ambitions for a return to the States on a full-time basis.
John Dagys: How has development of the Rebellion R-One gone so far?
Bart Hayden: “We’ve had quite regular meetings. I was over in France [three] weeks ago. We had the drivers involved and took a look at what was happening. Things are progressing. The schedule is still that we’re aiming to have the first car on track in the middle of March.
“That’s obviously a little late when compared to the likes of Porsche but I think for where we are, it’s difficult to be much earlier than that.
“We’re hoping that having a conventional style car, i.e.: a non-hybrid, with an engine that’s an evolution of this one, hopefully we won’t have too many teething problems. I’m sure there will be a few. But hopefully we can identify those early on and rectify those before we get into any serious testing and before the first race.
JD: Is the plan still to have both cars ready for the WEC season opener at Silverstone?
BH: “We don’t want to think of anything less than that because if we do, then things will slip. They just tend to. Silverstone and Spa with two cars will be good preparation for Le Mans as well. It will be the first real opportunity for everybody, the ACO, included, to see how the new regulations will be panning out and if any adjustments are needed. For sure, we’re pushing very hard for that.”
JD: Have you received any interest in selling customer R-Ones, or even potentially your Lola-Toyotas, which will be grandfathered into LMP1 next year?
BH: “People have approached us but more towards the interest in grandfathering the Lolas we have. The Lola has been a good car and it’s probably an attractive proposition because it’s reliable, competitive, parts are available through Multimatic and Haas. It’s one where if people want to get involved, they can do so in a low risk way.
“In terms of interest in buying R-Ones, there’s been a little bit but we haven’t really pushed too hard because it’s all out to be ready for ourselves for the first couple of races.”
JD: Are you concerned about the potential lack of competition in the LMP1 Privateer category (LMP1-H) next year?
BH: “I’m not really too worried about that because I’m hoping that if the ACO has the table of equivalency correct, there should be less of a distinction between a LMP1-L and a LMP1-H. Hopefully we’re all going to be racing each other rather than having this class within a class we have today.”
JD: Are there any plans to return to the U.S. in the future?
BH: “We’d like to come back but 2014 is probably a little bit too early because it’s not clear what the regulations are going to be for ’14. I think watching from the sidelines through 2014 whilst we develop and refine the car that we’re having built for the WEC regulations, is probably a sensible approach.
“If things have settled down a little bit through ’14, then maybe we can look to come back here in ’15. It might be difficult given the number of cars on the grid and some of the limitations that are being expressed about that.
“It’s hard to say whether a P2 or a DP or what car we’d want to come back with. The R-One chassis will have some bearing towards the new ORECA P2 Coupe. Potentially we could look to utilize the tub in that kind of configuration. But I think that’s a little bit distant and not close on the horizon.”Bart Hayden, Lola, Rebellion Racing, Sports Cars, TUSC, WEC