Rebellion Racing won’t be able to fight on track with Toyota despite being the fastest non-hybrid LMP1 team, according to Neel Jani.
The Swiss driver says the team’s aim is to be “the best of the rest”, and that its only hope to beat Toyota is if the Japanese manufacturer hits problems.
He says he would have no chance of matching the Toyota’s one-lap pace because of a rule that penalizes non-hybrid teams that are quicker than the hybrid Toyotas.
“We’re not allowed to be quicker than the Toyota,” Jani told Sportscar365. “Otherwise, we get a drive-through. It’s in the rules.
“As soon as we are too quick, we get a drive-through. We know we can never fight them straight on the track, so our aim can only be the fastest non-hybrid.”
Equivalence of Technology rules for Le Mans stipulate that the Toyotas will have a 0.5-second per lap advantage in pace over the non-hybrids, as well as going one additional lap on fuel per stint and having quicker refueling times.
When added up for the full race distance, the Toyotas could have upwards of an eight-minute leg up, in the case of a trouble-free 24 hours for the pair of hybrid contenders.
It’s thus made non-hybrid teams like Rebellion re-adjust their expectations heading into this weekend’s French endurance classic.
“Even if we had the pace, we wouldn’t be able to play it,” Jani said. “Anyway, we don’t have the pace to beat them in a straight fight.
“It’s logic, it’s a manufacturer. We cannot have that pace. We’ll focus on ourselves and see what we can do.”
Jani has first-hand experience of the different approaches to Le Mans shown by manufacturer and privateer LMP1 teams, having come from the now-defunct Porsche LMP1 program along with Andre Lotterer.
“It’s a much smaller operation,” Lotterer told Sportscar365.
“Audi had over 300 people spending more than €200 million a year so you could have what you wanted in terms of technical requests. Here, it’s a small project but it’s a very strong one.”
Both drivers have stressed that Rebellion is focusing on itself and is much more concerned with remaining the quickest non-hybrid team than chasing the Toyotas.
“Focusing on Toyota will not help us,” Jani added.
“Under normal circumstances, we cannot beat them, but Le Mans has shown its own rules many times.
“That’s why our focus is to concentrate on ourselves and maximize our chances.”