Rebel Leaders: Rebellion Racing's incredible 2016 campaign

Discussion in 'Motorsports' started by R.J. O'Connell, May 9, 2016.

  1. R.J. O'Connell

    R.J. O'Connell

    rebellion_silver_pit.jpg It is the single most incredible storyline of the opening two rounds of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship. In an LMP1 category dominated by Audi, Toyota, and reigning champions Porsche, it is the privateer Rebellion Racing team and the driver trio of Alexandre Imperatori, Dominik Kraihamer, and Mathéo Tuscher that's now ranked joint second in the World Endurance Drivers' Championship table after two consecutive podium finishes to open the season.

    Nothing like this should happen in the current structure of the WEC's top category, even if for one quarter of a season.

    Rebellion Racing are the class of a very thin privateer sub-category of LMP1, once known as "LMP1-L." The privateer teams don't have the 1,000 horsepower hybrid powerplants of the factory teams - truth be told, the AER twin-turbo V6 in the Rebellion R-One prototype doesn't make that much more horsepower than the vehicles of the LMP2 category. Around Spa-Francorchamps, the R-One's fastest lap was just under six seconds slower than that of the Porsche 919 hybrid - and that deficit can add up over a six hour race.

    The closest comparison to privateer LMP1 as it is, is MotoGP's short-lived CRT subdivision - inexpensive, but grossly underpowered privateer-run bikes that stood no chance of ever competing with the factory and satellite bikes of Honda, Yamaha, or Ducati.

    Consider also that Rebellion Racing didn't even race in Silverstone or Spa-Francorchamps last season, due to a change in engine suppliers that forced the team to extensively re-design its Oreca-constructed R-One.

    On pure pace alone, Rebellion Racing should never, ever make it onto the overall podium at a WEC event. Endurance races have now become elongated sprint races. Even the most complex and bleeding-edge technological advances found in the factory LMP1 hybrids are, comparatively speaking to the cars of many generations ago, nearly impervious to failure. And the driving talent in the factory teams is truly top-notch - the days of sports car racing being an island of cast-away drivers who couldn't hack it in F1 is dead and buried.

    Two races later, Rebellion Racing now have two overall podium finishes to their credit. Two more podiums than anyone had ever given them any chance to collect.

    The first was awarded hours after the 6 Hours of Silverstone. Audi took the chequered flag on the track, but when their winning car was excluded from the results for excessive skid plate wear, it promoted every team up, including the two Rebellion cars. What was already a remarkable 4th and 5th place overall for Rebellion at first, turned into an even better 3rd and 4th place finish - and for the first time since 2013, a non-factory LMP1 car was classified in the overall top three in a WEC race.

    They survived as the heavy hitters all fell out for one reason or another - from Brendon Hartley's shocking crash in the #1 Porsche, to the Audi exclusion and the breakdown of their sister car just after Hartley's crash.

    The second one was no act of stewards' decisions. At the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, attrition hit the factory teams, and it hit like a ton of bricks.

    Both Toyotas suffered engine failures. The Porsche of defending WEC champions Hartley, Timo Bernhard, and Mark Webber picked up two punctures and needed a gearbox change. The other Porsche ran most of the six hour race without most of its hybrid power after an ERS failure. Audi won with the trio of Lucas di Grassi, Loic Duval, and Oliver Jarvis - but they still needed some minor repairs, and the other Audi lost 14 minutes due to floor repair.

    Through all of that, and a clumsy incident where Kraihamer tangled with the LMP2 Manor Oreca of Tor Graves (which he accepted full responsibility for), Rebellion Racing came home relatively unscathed, and the team got the chance to stand on the podium at Spa-Francorchamps for their efforts - something they didn't get to do in Silverstone. They bent a little, sure, but they did not break where other teams literally exploded.

    Those trapped inside a bubble would be easily led to believe that Rebellion Racing's charge is led by the team of 12-year F1 veteran Nick Heidfeld, reigning Formula E champion Nelsiñho Piquet, and fellow Formula E standout Nicolas Prost. They're still a very impressive joint fourth in the championship standings, but it's the lucky number 13 team that's the talk of the WEC - comprised of three drivers who are not yet household names in motorsport. Not by a long shot.

    Imperatori, the Swiss driver who learned his craft racing across Asia, and is one of many ex-Super GT drivers who now feature as star performers in the LMP1 category in the WEC - just like Duval, Jarvis, Andre Lotterer, Benoit Tréluyer, Kazuki Nakajima, and Romain Dumas in years past.

    Kraihamer, a full-time sports car racer, university student, and selfie aficionado who's now become a staple of the privateer LMP1 category in four seasons with Rebellion and what is now ByKolles.

    And Tuscher - who doesn't even turn 20 years old until after the end of the 2016 season - a former Autosport Rookie of the Year winner who went from unemployed three years ago, to frustrated throughout two hard-luck GP3 Series seasons in the last two years, to the remarkably young phenom of the LMP1 category in 2016.

    All of them are under thirty years old, and all of them go into the 24 Hours of Le Mans sitting ahead of several former Le Mans champions and former F1 stars in the World Championship table.

    In fact, if they were entered as a full-fledged manufacturer, the points earned by Rebellion's start to the 2016 season would have put them at the top of the Manufacturers' Championship after two races - ahead of Audi, ahead of Toyota, ahead of Porsche.

    And these two races, that have seen a shrunken LMP1 category ravaged by mechanical atrition in the first two rounds, have given Rebellion Racing and their supporters the hope for something that, before the season, seemed all but impossible; that they could win it all at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

    The talk of the international sporting world in 2016 is by far Leicester City F.C.'s fairy tale run to win the English Premier League. In endurance racing, there are many great tales of upsets and improbable winners - from privateer Jean Rondeau winning Le Mans in 1980 at the wheel of a car of his own construction, to Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet driving a GT class Porsche 911 to overall victory in a rain-blasted Petit Le Mans just last year.

    It would be a truly enormous feat to pull off, but if Rebellion Racing can survive the warfare of attrition that's projected at this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans, they could win it all. Against the odds, against a class structure designed to keep them from doing such a thing, against the might of the greatest manufacturers that have ever contested the great race - they would execute the ultimate rebellion against the system and become immortals of racing forever.

    For however long Rebellion Racing, Imperatori, Kraihamer, and Tuscher continue to overcome the odds and survive all the battles that lie ahead of them, this is a journey that should be celebrated and cherished for as long as it lasts.

    What do you think about the start to Rebellion Racing's 2016 WEC campaign? Please leave a comment below to discuss, and for more discussion of the FIA World Endurance Championship, be sure to visit our WEC sub-forum.

    Image Credit: FIA
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  2. TobiasR

    Czarleeese Baygio Premium

    These guys are always there to pick up the pieces. Awesome to see :)
    • Agree Agree x 3
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  3. antirussia81


    It was a surprise but a pleasant one. It's always nice to see a small team brings the big boys down a peg or two. I'm very curious about their result at Le Mans.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  4. Matheus Machado

    Matheus Machado
    Talking Door Racing

    They are such nice guys in the paddock too! I had a really good talk with one of the mechanics back in Interlagos 2014 race:)
    • Like Like x 3
  5. red bullet

    red bullet

    Kudos to Rebellion. Great to see them 'challenge' the factory teams by begin reliable.

    Somehow I hope that they might be a challenger for a podium spot at LM24.
    • Like Like x 1
  6. Andrew Harper

    Andrew Harper

    Well done to Rebellion, I think a lot of people (including myself to some degree) thought they were crazy to step up to the top category from LMP2 but they have done an amazing job over the last few years and they are now getting the rewards.

    They always have amazing colour schemes as well! :cool:

    I guess my only concern is to perform at this level costs incredible amounts of money and I hope they don't become "burn out" financially like some other top privateer teams in the last ten years or so. I've heard a few interviews with the team management though and they certainly sound like they know how to approach this from a business perspective so hoping we'll see them around for many for many years to come.:thumbsup:

    Will be a fairy tale if they get an overall podium at Le Mans this year. With the works teams bringing less cars that could be a possibility.
    Last edited: May 10, 2016
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  7. kondor999


    I like how the author mentions prototype racing isn't a place for "cast away" F1 drivers, then proceeds to mention Webber and Heidfeld.

    • Agree Agree x 2
  8. Vapir


    Exactly what I was thinking. Love the paint schemes on those cars!

    Keep it up Rebellion!
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