Neel Jani admitted he was surprised by the two-lap gap between Rebellion Racing and Toyota in Saturday’s FIA World Endurance Championship season-opener at Spa as the LMP1 privateer teams failed to put up a fight at the front of the field.

Toyota is the sole manufacturer racing in the WEC’s top class this season, but series officials looked to put ‘Equivalence of Technology’ rules in place to bunch the field and give the privateers the opportunity to fight at the front.

While leading LMP1 privateer Rebellion managed to start P2 and P3 at Spa, the team was unable to stick with Toyota’s pole-sitting car through the race. The Japanese marque’s second car recovered from a pit lane start to finish the race second, leaving the Rebellion R13s third and fourth at the chequered flag, two laps down on the race-winning car.

However, the third-place Rebellion shared by Jani, Andre Lotterer and Bruno Senna was later disqualified over a technical irregularity with its skid plank found in post-race scrutineering.

Jani explained after the race that while Rebellion had hoped to finisher closer to Toyota in the race, a slower refuelling time plus tight regulations on usage left the team second-guessing itself, and always struggling to take the fight to Toyota.

“We were hoping to be closer obviously,” Jani said following his podium finish. "We had to do quite a lot of fuel saving per lap. But also we had quite a lot of issues [like the sensor] where we lost one and a half minutes, and a lot of little things that also didn’t work together.

“But each pit stop we lose 10 or 15 seconds to the Toyota on the refuelling. Then we have less laps [in each stint], and we have to do a lot of fuel saving.

“We were hoping to be only one lap down, to be honest. But on the other hand, we lost 1m30s with this other thing in the pits. We lost another 30 seconds in the first full course yellow. So that’s a lap.

“I don’t think it’s completely two laps, but clearly, the most difficult part for us is when we have to refuel because, for us, we don’t know where we are. We don’t have the software. We are always going to not be efficient with that.

“There are a lot of things we can still improve on. We start with setup, aero, car setup. It’s the first time the car ran, so we are quite happy to finish third.”