Rebellion Racing’s Bruno Senna believes the Swiss team has “more work to do” to bridge the gap to Toyota despite being able to put up a fight at the start of the 6 Hours of Fuji.
Senna had a sustained dice with the No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid of Kamui Kobayashi over the first few laps on Sunday, but eventually lost ground near the end of the opening stint.
Despite having this duel, which was aided by the Toyota’s larger success handicap, the No. 1 Rebellion R13 Gibson that the Brazilian shared with Gustavo Menezes and Norman Nato went on to finish two laps down in third behind the two Japanese cars.
After the race, Senna explained how he was able to get past Kobayashi and why the Rebellion ultimately dropped off the second-placed Toyota’s tail.
“I had enough grip to begin with, to hold [Kobayashi] back,” he said.
“For the first couple of laps, we had better grip than both Toyotas. Unfortunately, the safety car curbed our chances to push for the lead because the tire temperature dropped, and they had the boost.
“I wasn’t going to just lay down and let him go, but when we hit traffic it became very difficult for me to keep him behind.
“Our tires have been completely out of the window this weekend, with the wrong choice, so we were not optimized.
“If I had the medium tire for the first stint, maybe we could have been OK. For sure for qualifying, it would have been much better.
“We know the car has some potential, but we need to do a lot more work to make it more consistent.”
Senna suggested that Rebellion’s showing in the race, despite ending up far behind the Toyotas, was better than its qualifying effort on Saturday.
The team started third on the grid but Menezes and Nato’s combined average was two seconds slower than last year, when the track had cooler conditions.
Senna reckoned the sub-optimal track conditions in the rain-affected race helped Rebellion to get the most out of its package.
“Our lap time in qualifying was two seconds slower than last year when it was cooler,” he said.
“At the end of the race, Gustavo was really able to push and have good pace, so it means that the tires are not working for us at the wrong temperatures.
“In the end, it was a big shame [as] it would have been nice if it was very cold and we could push the Toyota. But I think we can push them a bit more at Shanghai.”
Toyota “Never Got Comfortable” – Lopez
Jose Maria Lopez, who steered the No. 7 Toyota to second with Kobayashi and Mike Conway, said the manufacturer was wary of Rebellion’s potential strengths despite having a clear advantage in qualifying.
“We knew in the beginning it would be tough,” he told Sportscar365.
“The different speed in the straight line, there is a huge difference there. We never got comfortable – we always suspected the privateers at one point would be very quick.
“We know they have the potential. They are able to do very quick laps in practice. Today in the race they were quicker than us, at least on the lap time [1:27.238 compared to 1:27.353].
“They looked very strong in the first 10 laps of the race, but with the tire degradation, we managed to get a bit better, and then with the pitstops and a clean race we made the bigger gap.
“I think the bigger difference is today is more on how we execute the race without mistakes than pure performance.”