Gustavo Menezes believes the new Rebellion R13 Gibson can challenge the Toyota TS050 Hybrids for overall podiums in the 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship.
The 2016 LMP2 world champion is confident that despite a tight development window, the pair of ORECA-built cars will be capable of running near the front of the LMP1 field.
Rebellion released the first images of its new non-hybrid car,which hasn’t tested yet, at the Geneva Motor Show on Tuesday.
Although it will be the last of the new LMP1 contenders to hit the track, Menezes reckons the package will be fully up to speed by the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, which makes up the second round of the WEC ‘Super Season’.
“Rebellion and ORECA have been working together non-stop all winter and are doing everything in their power to give us the best package possible, and they always come up with a competitive proposition,” said Menezes, who will share the No. 3 car with Thomas Laurent and Mathias Beche.
“Yes, we’re a little bit behind the curve in terms of pre-season testing – the R13 probably won’t roll out until the Prologue test at Paul Ricard early next month, which means the first race at Spa will be quite literally a shakedown for Le Mans – but that is a deliberate tactic.
“I’m confident we will have a quick car underneath us – it looks really aggressive and purposeful.
“Here’s hoping we can really take it to the sister car [of Andre Lotterer, Neel Jani and Bruno Senna] and give the factory Toyota boys a hard time, too.”
The R13 is based on the Oreca 07 LMP2, which claimed titles in both the WEC and European Le Mans Series last season.
Despite those successes, Menezes believes that it will be hard to gauge how Rebellion’s new car will stack up against its rivals before the season starts.
As well as challenging the Toyota hybrids, the R13 will come up against non-hybrid competition from the Ginetta G60-LT-P1 Mecachrome, BR Engineering BR1 AER, and the ByKolles’ ENSO CLM P1/01 NISMO.
“There are inevitably hiccoughs and minor issues with any new car,” said Menezes.
“We want to make sure we are as prepared as we can be before we hit the track because there are so many unknowns out there still, with five different chassis and engine manufacturers in the LMP1 field.
“We won’t truly find out what the pecking order is until we get to the first race weekend.”
Racing Alonso will be “Surreal”
Menezes says the opportunity to compete for wins against two-time Formula 1 world champion and Toyota driver Fernando Alonso will provide a bonus to his LMP1 debut.
The 23-year-old American, who has joined Rebellion after two years with Signatech Alpine, was aged 12 when Alonso won his second F1 title in 2006.
Now Menezes is relishing the prospect of contesting a full WEC season against one of his racing luminaries.
“It will be pretty surreal to be fighting against Fernando,” he said.
“I remember spending the summer with Carlos Sainz Jr. back in my mid-teens. We used to constantly play Formula 1 video games; one of us was always Sebastian Vettel, and the other was Alonso.
“It’s fantastic for the series to have big names like that coming in and there’s no doubting Fernando’s caliber, but as soon as the helmet goes on and the visor comes down, he’s just another driver that I want to beat.”