Rebellion Racing officially took the wraps off its new Rebellion R-One Thursday at Spa, ahead of the car’s debut in this weekend’s FIA WEC Six Hours of Spa.
The Anglo-Swiss squad arrived at the Belgian circuit with both of its new ORECA-built LMP1-L cars, only two weeks after the car turned its first laps at Paul Ricard.
Despite the accelerated timeframe due to production delays, team manager Bart Hayden is happy to have reached the the target but has set realistic expectations for the Toyota-powered car’s debut race.
“I’m pleased that we’re here and I’m really proud of the guys for getting two cars here,” Hayden said. “I wouldn’t say they’re 100 percent ready but they’re here and will both be out in Free Practice 1 and hopefully we’ll have a good weekend.
“We haven’t got massive expectations really. We just want to try and gather as much information as we can about the cars, hopefully not find any problems. But if there are problems, we’ll at least identify them and keep getting as many laps as we can.
“If we’re honest, we’re not really here to race. It’s all about prepping for Le Mans and gathering more information for Le Mans and getting this car reliable for Le Mans.”
The all-new prototype, the first closed-top design from ORECA, has so far completed five days of testing, with the No. 12 entry (chassis No. 1) of Nicolas Prost, Nick Heidfeld and Mathias Beche racking up around 500 miles at Paul Ricard.
Rebellion’s second chassis, designated for car No. 13 this weekend, was only rolled out for the first time on Monday, with Andrea Belicchi completing about 100 miles at the French circuit. His co-drivers, Fabio Leimer and Dominik Kraihamer, will get their first chance to sample the car in practice tomorrow.
While the R-One is the first LMP1-L car to hit the track and the Lotus T129 has still yet to break cover, Hayden isn’t concerned about running unopposed and has instead set his sights on eventually taking the fight to the factory LMP1-H entries from Porsche, Audi and Toyota.
“If the Balance of Performance regulations are correct, or if at least the spirit of those is correctly policed and implemented, we shouldn’t really just be considering racing against fellow LMP1-L competitors,” he said. “We should be looking at competing against the factory cars.
“So It doesn’t really worry me that Lotus aren’t here. I’d love to see them here and I’d love to see as many LMP1-L cars as possible. But we’re not really looking over our shoulder at competitors that are privateers. We want to look ahead and look at the guys we think that would probably be at the front and challenging those guys.
Hayden, meanwhile, has stressed the long-term focus of the program and doesn’t expect results to happen overnight.
“I think for any project like this, you have to think of three years,” he said. “For sure, we’d love to go to Le Mans this year and be absolutely on the top of of our game.
“To be realistic, we have to be looking at this year as a little bit of a learning year and familiarizing ourselves with the new regulations and technologies and trying to maximize for next year.
“For sure, the factory guys are not going to be standing still. So we need to be able to advance and develop the car. It’s not turned that many laps so right now, we need to get reliability.”
As for the team’s goals for the remainder of the season, a podium finish, or three, is clearly a target, despite the stiff competition from the factories.
“We’d love a great Le Mans, whatever that might mean and three [overall] podiums,” Hayden said. “We nearly got one at Silverstone so we nearly touched it there.
“But hopefully with the new car we’ll be that little bit further ahead and maybe that will happen.”