Norman Nato said that Rebellion Racing struggled for wet weather grip in Saturday’s Total 6 Hours of Spa as the non-hybrid LMP1 team finished a lap down to both Toyotas.
Nato, Gustavo Menezes and Bruno Senna battled for pace against the four-wheel-drive Toyota TS050 Hybrids with their rear-wheel-drive Rebellion R13 Gibson in the changeable conditions.
While Nato and Menezes led Friday qualifying to put the Rebellion on pole for the fourth straight FIA World Endurance Championship round, the weather turned on race day and compromised the R13’s ability to compete.
“It was something which is not working between the car and the tires,” said Nato, who drove the first stint which started in heavy rain under a safety car.
“In these kinds of conditions when you are that far away, you have no grip. It’s not something with the setup or car balance. It’s just the tires are not working.
“It’s not like we have a wet setup: it’s our race setup. That’s the difficulty. Not testing to find the solution is not easy.
“I don’t know if we will have the solution for Le Mans, but it was a tough day for us and Toyota were just too strong for us.”
Nato said that Rebellion was expecting to struggle against Toyota if the race featured wet weather, even with a more favorable success handicap to its advantage.
The Frenchman started from pole but was instantly overwhelmed by Sebastien Buemi and Mike Conway, who boosted past out of Les Combes and never looked back.
He reckoned that the wet weather performance troubles were costing seven seconds a lap, and contributed to Menezes going off-track on a couple of occasions.
The Rebellion then sped up when slick tires became relevant, while Menezes set the fastest lap of the race almost four hours in.
“When there is water on track, there is no improvement for us [over a stint],” said Nato. “As soon as it dries up it’s getting a bit better and we can get closer to the Toyota by one or two seconds.
“But as soon as there is water we are suffering with aquaplaning and general grip. It’s just not easy to keep the car on track.
“But there are still some positives from today. Every time we have these kinds of conditions in a race, we don’t really get the opportunity to try something [with setup].
“That’s why we are always having the same setup and the same problems, so that’s why we don’t really have the opportunity to work on it.
“Today, during the race, we tried to give the tire pressure feedback to the engineers in the car to understand it for the future.”
Nato added that the team will be hoping for a dry Le Mans to prevent a similar problem from taking hold at the biggest race of the year.
“If at Le Mans we have this kind of tricky condition, it’s going to be a tough race for us,” he said. “We need to wake up and find at least half of the problem for Le Mans.”