Shanghai victory was "meant for" Rebellion
Gustavo Menezes believes victory in the Shanghai round of the FIA World Endurance Championship was “meant for” Rebellion after it defeated the factory Toyotas in a straight fight for the first time.
It marked Rebellion’s second outright victory in WEC and its first on-the road triumph, as its maiden win was inherited after both Toyotas were disqualified at Silverstone in 2018.
The Swiss privateer outfit was helped by an unfavourable success handicap for Toyota, with both the TS050 Hybrids pegged by 2.74 second a lap on account of exceeding the 40-point threshold to the last-placed LMP1 car in the standings.
That meant the #1 R-13 held a comfortable lead heading into the second half of the race, and Toyota’s fuel advantage was then negated when an ill-timed FCY was deployed to remove tyre debris from the GTE Pro-leading #95 Aston Martin Vantage.
Menezes said the timing of the FCY, which meant the #8 Toyota would also have to pit for a late splash-and-dash like the Rebellion, made him believe that luck was on his team’s side in Shanghai.
“It was actually very fun to be able to actually fight," he said. “It’s been a long time since the LMP1 class has seen any kind of real racing and even though the success handicap was there I’d say it was a little bit towards advantage for us, that was obvious.
“It was still the healthiest we’ve seen any kind of racing in the WEC championship. To be able to fight with the Toyotas and have some entertainment for the fans of the championship and for us it was great.
“And once I got in the rhythm I maintained it. What I was really ecstatic about was the pace on the second stint of the tyre. We managed to kind of keep the separation from the cars behind whilst on the second stint and then on new tyres.
“So that gave us a lot of confidence giving the car to Bruno. And have to say he did a splendid job.
“The FCY kind of timed itself well for us. And I thought that the race was meant for us today. So very grateful.”
Senna took over the car for the final stages of the race and gradually extended his lead over the #8 Toyota, eventually securing a dominant one-minute victory for Rebellion.
With that result, Senna has now won in all four classes of WEC, a feat made possible thanks to a single race-winning GTE Am appearance with Aston Martin back in 2013.
The Brazilian said he struggled in the early part of his stint on worn-out tyres, before a fresh pair of rear tyres “transformed” the Rebellion and allowed him to streak clear of the field.
“To be fair I felt Norman’s pain because I started on a full set of quali tyres and we were really struggling with pace,” Senna said. “Actually I was losing time to the guys behind me on old tyres, second-stint tyres. So it was a real struggle.
“And then once we put two new tyres on the rear, the car transformed itself completely. It was a new car. It gave me a second and a half average, just like that. So I could push.
“I know that these guys pushed everything they had. They did a really good job considering every conditions we had. And the team did a good job.
"We’ve been having lots of reliability issues, small things but they all count. Today the car ran from beginning to the end without any issues.
“Good job from the team and, as Gustavo said, maybe today was meant for us. So we’ll take it and we’re happy about it.”
Additional reporting by Jamie Klein
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