Drivers from leading privateer LMP1 teams have ruled out taking the fight to Toyota in Saturday’s FIA World Endurance Championship opener at Spa.
Toyota locked out the front row with its pair of TS050 Hybrids, the quickest of which was 1.842s up on the best non-hybrid car, the #1 Rebellion R-13.
Stephane Sarrazin, whose #17 SMP Racing entry failed to set a time after stopping on circuit with an engine systems issue, said fighting the Toyotas would be impossible.
“We are in another world,” said Sarrazin. “We are a private team so we fight with [the other] private cars. We cannot dream. The target is to be same level as Rebellion.”
Sarrazin confirmed SMP’s two AER-powered BR Engineering BR1s are running in low downforce trim, with the primary goal of preparing for next month’s Le Mans 24 Hours.
“We have good balance but sliding a bit too much, understeer,” he said. “You hope for a result, but we know there’s not enough grip.”
Rebellion driver Neel Jani said that while the qualifying gap to Toyota was not accurate due to the session being disrupted by two red flags, the race pace difference remains substantial.
He estimated that the deficit between Rebellion and the Toyotas would be more than a second per lap.
“We haven’t brought everything together what we need,” Jani said. “Our gap is for sure bigger than a second on an average lap, which makes it difficult.
“Qualifying was not representative for anyone. Toyota could have gone quicker without the red flags, and we could have gone a little bit quicker. It was not clean for anyone.
“But the formation is correct – Toyota, us and the rest, that is clear. Third is the new first!”
ByKolles qualified sixth with its ENSO CLM P1/01-Nissan, behind the best of the SMP Racing cars, and Oliver Webb said the goal would be to challenge Rebellion rather than Toyota.
“We’re off the Rebellions, but the SMP we were only one tenth off them [in terms of best laptimes],” said Webb. “We’ve got a second to the Rebellion cars.
“I’d like to think we can challenge Rebellion on old tyres rather than new ones, but I still think they have a bit of an edge out of all the privateers.”
Webb added the privateers are capped at 17-lap stints during Saturday’s race, while the Toyotas are expected to run 19 laps between pitstops.
“That is the rule,” he said. “We [all the privateers] will be very obviously pitting [together] and that will make it really exciting in the pitlane!”
The Spa race is likely to feature just seven LMP1 cars, following the withdrawal of both Manor-run Ginettas due to financial issues and DragonSpeed driver Pietro Fittipaldi’s high-speed crash in qualifying.
Fittipaldi sustained suspected fractures in both legs and the DragonSpeed BR1 chassis is believed to be too damaged to race, with no spare tub available.