Despite what’s been a challenging season, on a number of levels, Rebellion Racing is planning a return to the FIA World Endurance Championship next year in LMP1 Privateer, although a switch to IMSA competition for 2017 has not been ruled out.
The Anglo-Swiss squad began its 2015 WEC campaign at Le Mans, following a late switch to AER powerplants for its pair of Rebellion R-Ones, which have since struggled with reliability issues, although still managing to collect three class wins in the last five races.
Team manager Bart Hayden said they fully intend to be back for a two-car full-season effort with the ORECA-built prototypes, looking to build on its first season with the Rebellion-AER package.
“This is the whole point of continuing with in the WEC; we get the reliability [sorted] so we can go into next season on the front foot rather than the back foot,” Hayden told Sportscar365.
“This year we were late; we missed the first two races. The year before that we were mid-change because we did the first race with the Lola chassis.
“We’ve had for the last two seasons a kind of behind schedule, less-than-ideal start and we want to start ’16 more prepared and ready to go and build on what we have now.”
While Rebellion has already locked up the LMP1 Privateer’s Trophy, following a string of class wins for Nico Prost and Mathias Beche, Hayden feels the three-car subclass has lost any hope of being able to fight with the P1 factory teams for overall wins.
“The factory cars have moved ahead six seconds [in Shanghai] while we’ve moved ahead one [second]. What does that say about the gap? It’s gotten bigger,” he said.
“I don’t know what the solution to that is, really. Toyota were ahead last year and they’re third of the bunch now. The pace of development and the power the bigger factories have is incredible.
“From a pure technological standpoint, it’s fantastic. I think it’s a credit to all of those guys for what they’ve done. But from a position of being there as a privateer, it’s somewhat disheartening.
“I can’t see a huge change next year because although the regulations are going to take some energy away from the factory cars, I think they’ll take a step forward and probably overcome that. I can only see the gap being as big, if not more.
“It’s difficult. But having said that, you go to Le Mans and if we’re prepared as we’re hoping to be by continuing the program that we’ve got at the moment, things happen.
“The first year running the R-One we were fourth, so who knows.”
For 2017, all options remain open, including a return to North America to compete in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with a P2-based program.
The team took part in selected American Le Mans Series events in 2012-13, which included back-to-back overall victories at Petit Le Mans with its Lola B12/60 Toyota.
“It’s a place we’ve enjoyed some success in the past and we’ve enjoyed racing over there,” Hayden said. “I know the shape of the series has changed a bit since the merger.
“It’s hard to say that it’s quite the same as it was but nonetheless, you’re still racing at those big events like Daytona, Sebring, etc.
“You would be racing for the overall win, so there’s definitely an appeal there. I think it’s not out of the question in ’17 that we could be looking to go that way.”
Hayden said a decision on the team’s 2017 plans, on whether to continue in the WEC with the P1 cars, or make a switch to P2-based racing, will likely be made sometime early next year.
“If you went with a new 2017 car in the U.S., you’d obviously want to try to bring it to Le Mans if you could,” he said.
“For us, Le Mans is the big jewel in the crown, as it is for most people. We’d like to try to find a way to be a part of that for as long as possible.
“Whether we’d elect to go down the route of a European compatible P2 and have that we could run in ELMS or other categories… I don’t know. I think it’s a bit further away. We haven’t thought too hard about it yet.
“But all of the P2 chassis guys are out touting for customers and looking at what the options are.
“Even if you weren’t looking, people are starting to ask questions and it opens up interesting possibilities.”