Rebellion Racing repeated its 2012 achievement by finishing the fourth overall in last weekend's Le Mans 24 Hours, despite the presence of seven LMP1-H factory cars in the race.
Unlike various members of the Audi, Toyota and Porsche cohort, the Toyota-powered Rebellion R-One driven by Nick Heidfeld, Nicolas Prost and Mathias Beche avoided any serious mechanical or traffic issues to claim not only class honours in the LMP1-L category but also just miss the overall podium.
During the early stages of the race, when a heavy downpour caused the downfall of one Audi and badly delayed a Toyota, the Rebellion drivers made no mistakes and, while some minor problems pushed the car, the mechanics and the engineers to their limits during the night and early morning, each little issue was rectified with the minimum amount of time lost.
When the last few hours of the race then saw some of the LMP1-H factory cars suffer mechanical issues, forcing them into lengthy visits to the pits, the #12 Rebellion entry remained on track, picking up their positions.
The result was all the more remarkable as Le Mans was the first 24-hour race for the all-new R-One, and only the second race for the car after its debut at the 6 Hours of Spa last month. The Rebellion design first hit the track for a shakedown less than two month ago, and reaching such a level of reliability was great reward for the efforts of the team's mechanics, engineers and ORECA personnel involved in the programme.
The only disappointment for the team was the retirement of the sister R-One, driven by Andrea Belicchi, Dominik Krahaimer and Fabio Leimer. All three drivers showed good pace in some tricky conditions before trouble hit just before the sixth hour, when a powertrain failure proved terminal.
"I don't think we can quite believe this result!” team manager Bart Hayden admitted, “In the space of only two months, the first shakedown has taken place and now we have finished in fourth place in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, beating three factory cars.
“The whole team has given their all to prepare the cars, and the drivers drove really well to look after the car when needed and to push when we were challenging for positions.
“We're all exhausted, but delighted too. It's a shame that one of our cars had to retire, but I don't think many people outside of the team were expecting us to finish. Standing on the podium at the end of the race and seeing the huge crowd was an amazing experience - one that I'd like to repeat again next year.”
The team will now get some rest before heading back to the workshop to prepare the R-Ones and equipment for the second part of the season, starting with the 6 Hours of COTA in Austin, on 20 September ahead of a whistle-stop tour of Japan, China, Bahrain and Brazil to round out the WEC calendar in a three-month period.