Mathias Beche says Rebellion Racing has a lot to learn about its new LMP1 racer ahead of the 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship season.
The ORECA-developed Rebellion R13 Gibson made its public debut during last month’s Prologue test at Paul Ricard, having only completed four shakedown laps prior to that weekend.
Having had a smaller pre-season development window compared to the competition, Beche reckons Rebellion will approach the upcoming campaign, which begins at Spa next month, with an eye to learning as much as possible about the car in its first year.
The Anglo-Swiss outfit is returning to LMP1 with a new package for the ‘Super Season’ after winning the WEC LMP2 title in 2017 with Bruno Senna and Julien Canal.
“I think we’re going to be in a learning process almost until Le Mans next year,” Beche told Sportscar365.
“Everything is very new. If you take the Toyota, they’ve been developing that car for many years, but we’ve only had the two days of the Prologue where we didn’t test like crazy because of time and budget restrictions.
“Spa will most likely be a big learning curve and even at Le Mans [in June] we will still be discovering new things about the car.
“The aim is to make the downward part of that curve pretty steep and we hope that we will learn quicker and more effectively than in the past – that’s the challenge.”
Beche is sharing one of two Rebellions with 2017 LMP2 champion Gustavo Menezes and reigning Le Mans LMP2 class winner Thomas Laurent.
The trio form one half of the lineup, with Senna teaming with former Porsche factory stars Andre Lotterer and Neel Jani in the second car.
Only Beche and Senna were part of Rebellion’s roster last year when it made the switch to the secondary prototype class after eight consecutive seasons in the LMP1 non-hybrid ranks.
According to Beche, that brief venture helped Rebellion re-stock and push for its return to the WEC top class for the coming season.
“In LMP1 we did a great job and we won [the now-disbanded privateers’ championship] but it was hard to measure the level of competition,” he said.
“I think that if we had stayed in LMP1 privateer and not gone into LMP2 I don’t think the level of the team would be where it is now. I really felt a strong power coming from the team last year.”
With ORECA leading the design effort, Beche is confident that the team will be stronger than ever during the 2018-19 campaign.
The French constructor first partnered with the team in 2014 when the two companies set about creating the Rebellion R-One, which finished fourth at Le Mans that year.
ORECA also supplied the cars for Rebellion’s successful assault on the LMP2 category last term.
“They [ORECA] were there from 2014, but actually we got to know each other better in LMP2 with support from them,” said Beche.
“We come back into LMP1 with that relationship already strongly built so it’s a different approach to other teams.
“Now we have a few technical people from ORECA who are working with us and helping us – in 2014 it was a bit different because we had the car, but the support wasn’t always used because we were not at this level yet. That’s been important.”
Rebellion Taking ‘Wait and See’ Approach for Spa
Beche is refusing to draw any conclusions from the Prologue about how the opening race of the new season might pan out.
Toyota ended the test four seconds up on the nearest non-hybrid runner, but it later emerged the TS050 Hybrids were using setups that fell outside the EoT regulations designed to even out the LMP1 field.
Rebellion’s fastest lap came courtesy of Lotterer shortly before midnight on the Friday, and was enough to place the car fourth in the time sheets.
The single-car operation completed a total of 263 laps, roughly the same as the class average over 30 hours.
“I think it’s hard to draw any conclusions from what we’ve seen at the Prologue,” said Beche.
“What makes me happy is that we did not have any big problems – only very little things – so that is very positive, especially for a brand-new car. I’ve never seen that in the past.
“Now we have to find the performance but it’s too early to say where we will be for sure.
“We were impressed by the times for the Toyota and there seems to be a bit of a gap between it and the private teams.
“Toyota will be flying and very strong, but if you remember in 2014 when we were six or seven seconds off the pace… I don’t think that’s going to be the case this year.”