Rebellion Racing team manager Bart Hayden believes Toyota may now be “further down the road” than initially expected following several Equivalence of Technology changes and declarations in the weeks building up to the start of the FIA World Endurance Championship season.
LMP1 non-hybrids have been hit with a double blow heading into this weekend’s Six Hours of Spa, following a reduction of energy and fuel since the Prologue, as well as a new maximum stint limitation that sees a two-lap deficit to the pair of Toyota TS050 Hybrids.
It comes in addition to an expected half-second pace advantage and quicker refueling times for the Toyota, which Sportscar365 understands could equate to an eight-minute leg up at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
While understanding of the concessions made from “all parties” in the new-look LMP1 class, Hayden fears the concessions may have gone too far.
“We understand that in order to bring the privateers back into the P1 category, there had to be some acceptance amongst all parties on the changes,” he told Sportscar365.
“I suppose if Toyota wanted to stand their ground and say, ‘Build the car as per the original specification of the regulations and come and play’ we probably wouldn’t have the grid.
“They’ve clearly made an effort but there seems to be reasons to think they will be further down the road than we’d like.
“We’d dearly like to have close competition. But just in the experience, the efficiency, etc of the factory team, they should prevail, even if the cars were at the same level. They’ve got an advantage in that already.
“At the end of the day, we’re here to play and we’re here to compete and we want to try to win and we’ll do what we can do to that.”
Based on the recent changes, the new-look LMP1 class could produce two significantly different tales, between single lap and race pace.
While the non-hybrid pace-setting No. 3 Rebellion R13 Gibson of Thomas Laurent came within 0.457 seconds of the quickest Toyota in Free Practice 1 on Thursday, the gap is expected to be extrapolated over a full race distance, especially if privateer entries will be forced to make an additional pit stop.
Hayden, however, is still holding out hope the evolving formula would provide close competition, at least on the track.
“I think that’s what the fans want to see; they don’t want to see two hybrid cars disappearing up the road,” he said.
“The teams don’t want to see it either. I’m sure Toyota don’t really want to see that, either.
“I’m sure they’d like us to be a half-second behind them, but at least it’s not five seconds and ten seconds every pit stop.”
Rebellion Pleased With Team’s Progress
Hayden said he’s been pleased with the team’s progress with its two brand-new Rebellion R13s, which have been through an accelerated build and development schedule.
Chassis No. 1 debuted at the Prologue in April, with the second ORECA-built prototype completing a rollout at Paul Ricard last week.
“It’s probably a little bit early to say we feel truly confident we’re on top of everything,” he said.
“I think the performance and reliability of the car, both at the Prologue and the subsequent test we did at Magny-Cours was very encouraging.
“This is the first time we’ve had both cars running at the same time, and that obviously puts a slightly different pressure on the team because you’ve got to make sure all of your resources.”
In addition to its return to LMP1 with brand-new machinery, the team has also gone through an off-season transformation, with the influx of ORECA personnel.
“The engineering side of the team is much more closely aligned with ORECA, obviously, with their involvement in the design of the car,” Hayden said.
“But there’s familiar faces that are here and the core of the team is still centered around Sebah Automotive. It’s changed but teams have to change sometimes.”