Rebellion Racing claimed its fourth successive LMP1 Privateer Trophy as Mathias Beche and Nicolas Prost brought the #12 R-One AER home in seventh overall at the 6 Hours of Shanghai on Sunday, the pair securing their second straight win of the season amongst the non-works teams.
Rebellion's season-long triumph follows on from similar success in 2012, 2013 and 2014, and adds to the 1-2 result the team took at the Le Mans 24 Hours in June.
The race in Shanghai was a tough one, with the start taken behind the safety car and the rain changing in intensity for nearly four hours. Only during the final stages of the race did a drying racing line begin to appear, but the #12 had an almost trouble-free afternoon as Beche and Prost led the privateer race from the early stages through to the chequered flag. In the closing minutes, however, Beche crashed at high-speed, damaging the front and rear of the car, but was able to bring the #12 back to the pits where the crew, assisted by that from the #13 sister entry, managed to quickly replace the bodywork and send it back into the race without losing the lead.
“I did a mistake on track and that is not common for me,” Beche insisted, “I was lucky, and the boys did an incredible job to quickly send the car back on track. I want to thank them, as well as our engineering side, because, if we got the win at the end, it's thanks to them.
“Otherwise, it was a good day for us. We always try to push and extract the best from the car and from ourselves and it's nice to get the win at the end. It was a tough race, conditions were difficult all the way and we are pleased to be at this position at the end of the weekend.”
The #13 car's race was briefly interrupted early on thanks to an unscheduled pit-stop due to an oil pressure alert that dropped the red car down in the standings. Later on, during an intense period of rain, Dominik Kraihamer suffered aquaplaning and ended his slide in a gravel bed, although he was able to rejoin the race. Later still, co-driver Alexandre Imperatori had a contact with a GT car and had to stop for repairs to the car's bodywork, leaving the #13 four laps behind the #12 car with two hours remaining in the race.
GP3 regular Mathéo Tuscher drove well on his first stints in a FIA WEC race, running fast and safe on a drying track as he tried to catch the #4 CLM car and, as the six-hour race neared its conclusion, the #13 was back within reach of the podium – only for a mechanical failure two laps from home to spoil their efforts.
“It was another hard day for car #13 - and for me,” Kraihamer admitted, “We had a bad start with an alert with the oil sensor and, later in the race, the rain was heavier and I lost the car on aquaplaning, losing time waiting to be towed out of the gravel bed.
“I drove more than three hours and it was mentally demanding so a DNF just two laps from the end of the race, losing a podium finish, is not the result you want to have when you have put so much of yourself into the race. I deeply hope that next race will be a good one for us - winning at Bahrain would be the best way to end the season.”
“It's a day of mixed emotions,” team manager Bart Hayden concluded, “On the one hand, we are absolutely delighted to have won the FIA Endurance Trophy for private LMP1 teams, the fourth year in a row that we have done that, but on the other side, we've had a DNF with the other car just two laps from the end of the race.
“If we focus on the positives, there are many good things that we can take away from the weekend. We've achieved significant mileage across both cars during the weekend and shown good pace in the wet and the dry conditions. Mathéo Tuscher made a very commendable debut in sportscars and, as the youngest LMP1 driver in the history of the WEC, achieved a personal milestone too.
“Special thanks need to go to the mechanics on both cars who prepared the cars well and, in the race, effected the bodywork repairs that were needed in very quick order after the couple of collisions that we had. “We've got one race left this season and we will be going to Bahrain trying to secure second place in the championship too.”