Nelson Piquet Jr. says he is looking forward to a “real” battle for class honors in this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans after Rebellion Racing’s switch to LMP2.
The Anglo-Swiss squad, entered under the Vaillante Rebellion banner this season, completed a hat-trick of victories in the poorly-supported LMP1 Privateer sub category at Le Mans last year, finishing 54 laps off the lead after a race littered with mechanical troubles.
Having managed a best result of fourth from the opening two rounds alongside Mathias Beche and David Heinemeier Hansson, Piquet is enjoying the renewed competition of LMP2, which has the biggest entry at Le Mans this year with 25 cars.
“For sure this is going to be a real race, it’s not going to be like last year which was just about finishing the race and being safe,” the Brazilian told Sportscar365.
“We had no competition, so we learned absolutely nothing. It was just cruising around for the whole year and now we actually have a lot of competition where need to really work hard.
“It’s going to be much tougher, it’s not going to give us any room for mistakes. We’re going to have to be reliable, we’re going to have to be quick, problem-free, and just be on the pace all the time.”
Piquet believes limited testing has hampered the team’s efforts to match better-funded rivals in the early rounds, but is optimistic that despite their relative disadvantage to the established teams, Rebellion can turn their fortunes around.
Teammates Bruno Senna, Nicolas Prost, and Julien Canal currently lie third in the standings, following a pair of second-place class finishes at Silverstone and Spa.
“It could have been much better if we tested more and if the team had a bit more budget, but we’re trying to deal with what we’ve got,” Piquet said.
“We haven’t had any days of testing, just straight to the races so it hasn’t been easy, but the team is working very hard and trying the best they can.
“It’s a spec car, but still the better teams are going to do a better job. They are going to have the bodywork better fitted together, they’re going to have better engineering – it’s like in GP2 you have cars that are a second quicker than others.
“It’s all about fine-tuning the car and having the best setup and really finding all the limits on the edge of the car.”
After a disappointing Formula E weekend in Berlin where he finished 12th in both races, Piquet added that the speeds achieved by the LMP2 cars on the Mulsanne Straight made for a refreshing change.
“It’s a quick car, it’s a lot of fun,” he said.
“It’s good to drive fast cars once in a while. The Formula E car is more technical, it’s a completely different driving style, so it’s good to be driving these kind of cars every once in a while.”