Sunday’s 4 Hours of Silverstone winner Mike Conway admitted that he expected Rebellion Racing to mount more of a challenge to the Toyota TS050 Hybrids in the FIA World Endurance Championship opener.
Conway led home a Toyota 1-2 finish in his home race, sharing Toyota Gazoo Racing’s No. 7 car with Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi.
The best-placed Rebellion R13 Gibson finished a lap down on the pair of Toyotas, while the two teams’ best lap times were around 1.2 seconds apart.
“I thought they would be a little bit closer, with the pace we saw in Free Practice,” Conway told Sportscar365.
“They looked pretty strong on averages so they didn’t seem to be quite as quick, but maybe our pace was a little bit quicker too.”
This went against Toyota’s expectations going into the race, which were that Rebellion could likely challenge on outright pace, even if the non-hybrid cars’ strength only fully came in traffic-free conditions.
“On pace, yes,” the team’s technical director Pascal Vasselon said on Saturday, when asked if Rebellion could theoretically win on pace.
“According to what we have seen [on Friday], pace, yes. The traffic should work in our favor. How much, it’s still to be seen, but it should. It will be close, because of that.”
Instead of this, Toyota clearly had an outright pace advantage throughout the race, with Rebellion’s short time out front quickly ended with fairly easy passes from the Toyota drivers.
“They dropped back quicker than we thought actually and then in the race, we could get by them when we needed to,” explained Conway.
“I expected their average pace to be a little bit up but, to be honest, our pace was quite strong in the first few stints so that really gave us some gaps.
“The [success handicap] readjustments now are going to come, so we’ll see how that pans out and obviously we’ll be slower come Fuji.
“We’ve just got to execute as much as we can and do the right job. We’ve got to do clean races, no penalties, nothing like that, and see where we end up.
“If they slow us down by nine-tenths, or whatever, for Fuji, that’s really going to hurt. Expect them to be right there.”
Conway added that Toyota did make some mistakes on Sunday, such as with his first pit stop when the car went into the pit box at the wrong angle.
The team also lost time by staying out on slick tires longer than Rebellion when rain began to fall, closing the gap to little over 20 seconds by the time its drivers eventually came in for new Michelins.
“Our first pit stop was a bit messy, we lost position there,” Conway said. “That could have been better.
“Things like that will really count when our competition is quicker than us [due to success handicap] so we’ve got to be on top of that.
“During the race, all the drivers did a great job in the conditions and Jose did a really strong first stint. That was enough to keep a nice gap and secure the win, I think.”