The REBELLION Racing team had high ambitions for the 90th anniversary of the Le Mans 24 Hours race.
On Saturday 22nd of June, the race started well for the Swiss team, both Lola-Toyotas, #12 driven by Nick Heidfeld, Neel Jani and Nicolas Prost and #13 driven by Mathias Beche, Andrea Belicchi and Cong Fu Cheng, were in strong positions leading the LMP1 Privateer field close to the works Audi and Toyota entries.
On Sunday morning, after 17 hours of solid running the #13 and #12 Lola-Toyotas were still strongly positionned in the classification, respectively 5th and 6th overall, followed by Audi #1 and HPD #21.
But, the 18th hour of the race dealt a hammer blow to both the REBELLION Racing entries.
Just after the 18h mark,the team took the decision to stop the #12 Lola-Toyota and pull it back in to the garage to fix a geabox oil leak that was causing the clutch to slip. The crew of the #12 car were assisted by the crew from the #13 during the repair.
But it was only the start of a bad morning for REBELLION Racing.
At 08h38, the #13 Lola-Toyota driven by Andrea Belicchi crashed heavily at the Michelin Chicane. Just after the safety-car released the field from a previous incident, Andrea was overtaking a GT whilst that same GT sarted to overtake another car and Andrea was forced into an extra move and had to put two wheels on the side of the track which was slippery. The Lola-Toyota slid sideways, then gripped and the car was flung head-on into the barriers before spinning and hitting the barriers for a second time.
Having lost the front bodywork and damaged the rear wing, Andrea was able to drive the car back to the pits. He got out from the car with some difficulty, but with rapid intervention from the circuit’s medical staff, Andrea was found to have cracked a rib in the impact, so he was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.
The crew of the #13 Lola-Toyota, now assisted by the crew from #12 repaired the crashed car, and once it had been rebuilt, Cong Fu Cheng was sent back on track to check all the systems worked okay.
With more than 70% of the distance already covered by both the cars, the team opted for “an accountant” strategy regarding FIA Endurance Trophy for LMP1 Teams championship points. Time spent in the pits was used to ensure that the cars were both fully safe to drive and they rejoined the race in the closing minutes to ensure that they were classified in the results.
After the hardest and most emotional Le Mans 24 Hours race in the team’s history, REBELLION Racing secured 2nd and 3rd places amongst the LMP1 Privateers.
Andrea Belicchi was forced to stay in a Le Mans hospital for three days. Doctors confirmed a broken rib, but wanted to keep him under observation. On Wednesday 26th June, Andrea was relased from hospital and went back to his home in Italy. The entire REBELLION Racing team members and partners wish him a swift and strong recovery.
During the race, the very sad news of the death of Allan Simonsen reached the Team. Some REBELLION Racing team members had worked with Allan Simonsen or knew him from past seasons in the Le Mans Series. They were devastated when they received the confirmation that the always smiling Danish driver will not be back. The REBELLION Racing team wish to pass on their deepest sympathies for Allan’s family, friends and team members.
The next round in Brazil for the 6 Hours of Sao Paulo, on a circuit REBELLION Racing performed well at last year securing the 4th and 6th places overall in the race (1st and 3rd in the the FIA Endurance Trophy for LMP1 team).
Bart Hayden, REBELLION Racing Team manager : “Le Mans in 2013 was an emotional event, with the tragic loss of Allan Simonsen, the appetite for racing was dulled for a while. At REBELLION Racing our race unravelled with about 6 hours to go, but the crews on both cars worked hard to repair the cars and we had both on the track at the finish to be classified. We didn’t have the type of race that we had hoped for, but we are not down-beat; we were on the Privateer podium bringing home the trophies for 2nd and 3rd and we scored a lot of points for the WEC car. We’ve raced Lola cars at Le Mans for the last 6 years, we know that it is a tough race, and we’re already looking forward to coming back next year with the new REBELLION R-ONE cars.”