Rebellion Racing CEO Calim Bouhadra says his team’s ambition in the FIA World Endurance Championship this season is to take the fight to Toyota, not merely beat Ginetta.
The Swiss team is one of only two non-hybrid runners in the LMP1 class for the 2019/20 campaign, alongside Ginetta factory squad Team LNT, and is set to begin the new season with just one of its Gibson-powered R-13s on the grid.
Rebellion ran Toyota close during last month’s Prologue test at Barcelona, with Gustavo Menezes lapping within 0.267 seconds of the pacesetting TS050 Hybrid in the final session.
That performance has given Bouhadra hope that his team can fight for victories on merit this season, especially against the backdrop of a new system of handicaps designed to give the privateer squads a fighting chance against Toyota.
“The Prologue confirms that we can be serious [competitors for Toyota],” Bouhadra told Motorsport.com. “It’s the result of the work we did just before Le Mans.
“Last season we didn’t have any competition with Toyota, the Equivalence of Technology was a joke, but I hope now my competitor is Toyota.
“The FIA and ACO changed the regulations with the new EoT, ballast [handicaps]. All these things I hope will mean it’s different, because I want to compete with someone.”
He added: “Don’t get me wrong, the new regulations are not a gift for Rebellion. I don’t want people to think that. It’s just to try to have a fair competition.
“I think we were very patient last season, but it was not fair for the spectators, for us, or for anyone. We want to compete fairly, with a good balance. It’s just logical.”
Bouhadra said Rebellion did not consider following the lead of its main rival during the 2018/19 season, SMP Racing, which quit the WEC over its frustration at the inability of the privateer teams to seriously threaten Toyota.
He added expecting Ginetta to be on the same level as SMP initially would be “not fair”.
“I try to be respectful of my competitors, I know they are working hard, but they have to prove everything,” Bouhadra said. “I just hope we have a nice competition with them.”
#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050 - Hybrid: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez
Photo by: FIA WEC
Menezes, who is hoping to remain part of Rebellion’s slimmed down one-car line-up for the start of the new season, likewise expressed hope this season’s new rules will help accelerate the process of getting the privateer cars on a par with the Toyotas.
“We hope the EoT closes [the gap] a little bit faster,” Menezes told Motorsport.com. “Last year the WEC did a good job, but it took too long, and we didn’t fully get there.
“If we can do what it took one year to do in two races, we can have real racing going on, and that’s important for the championship. If we can fight for Le Mans, that’s what we want.”
The American driver added the two days of Barcelona testing were vital for Rebellion to further refine its package after it introduced a major aero upgrade for Le Mans.
“We’re making progress off of where we finished last season,” said Menezes. “We knew our problems and we’ve been dialling those down and seeing where our performance lies.
“Honestly you saw a few times last season when we were in the sweet spot, we were there. We just need to be in that sweet spot more often.
“Testing always helps, it’s just trying to unlock the ultimate performance of this car.”
Bouhadra however warned that, after 18 months of development on the R-13, there is little more performance to be extracted from the Oreca-designed car.
“Now the car is starting to be at the limit,” he said. “We saw it at Le Mans when we changed the power of the car [in line with the EoT], we broke a lot [of times] the engine.
“To push the car more is starting to create unreliability. We don’t want that.”
#1 Rebellion Racing Rebellion R-13: Nathanael Berthon, Felipe Nasr. Gustavo Menezes, Norman Nato
Photo by: FIA WEC
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