Toyota: Rebellion, SMP are 'very serious competitors' at Le Mans

Toyota has described the Rebellion and SMP privateer teams as "very serious competitors" after their performances in Sunday's official pre-race test ahead of the Le Mans 24 Hours

Toyota: Rebellion, SMP are 'very serious competitors' at Le Mans

The Japanese manufacturer admitted to being impressed by the speed of the Rebellion-Gibson R-13 and SMP Racing's BR Engineering-AER BR1 over the course of the test day on the full 8.47-mile Le Mans circuit.

The fastest Rebellion time of 3m19.680s set by Mathias Beche was only six tenths away from the 3m19.066s Fernando Alonso posted to top the classification aboard his Toyota TS050 HYBRID and just ahead of the second Toyota in third place.

Vitaly Petrov was 2.5 seconds off the pace in the best of the pair of non-hybrid P1 entries fielded by SMP on 3m21.603s.

Toyota Motorsport GmbH technical director Pascal Vasselon said: "They are coming strongly, so we cannot rest so much.

"What we are interested in is the progress, because obviously our new competitors are not stabilised in their performance development.

"We have seen very large progress for the Rebellion and even more for the SMP cars."

Asked if he thought Toyota would have a fight on its hands in the blue-riband World Endurance Championship round on June 16/17, Vasselon replied: "It looks like that. We are already pushing and we will try to find some extra tenths."

Rebellion was content with its performance, suggesting the times from its ORECA-built contender were as its simulations predicted.

Bart Hayden, team principal of the Anglo-Swiss team, said: "We were where we expected to be, but I'm not sure Toyota was where we expected it to be.

"I wouldn't say we are hopeful of being able to race the Toyotas, but we are encouraged."

He pointed out that the privateers were also fighting against the additional lap the Toyotas will be able to do each stint and the five seconds they will gain during refuelling.

The SMP team said its focus on Sunday had been on understanding the aerodynamic revisions introduced for the test and getting its three Le Mans rookies, including Jenson Button, the 10 laps necessary to qualify them to take part in race week.

The six-tenth margin between the Toyota and the best of the P1 privateers was in line with an advantage of half a second a lap that the rule makers have set out to give the Japanese cars under the Equivalence of Technology rules used to balance the hybrid and non-hybrid P1 cars.

Toyota ended up slower than at the test 12 months ago because it did not undertake qualifying simulations with either car this time.

But Vasselon said that improvements to the TS050 since last year and high-grip levels yesterday meant that Toyota's simulations predicted that a 3m17s lap would have been possible.

That compares with a 2017 test best of 3m18.132s set by Kamui Kobayashi. Vasselon said that in terms of race pace the TS050s "were significantly faster than last year".

shares
comments
Jenson Button's first experience of Le Mans 'disconcerting'

Previous article

Jenson Button's first experience of Le Mans 'disconcerting'

Next article

Aston Martin building new car for Le Mans after test day crash

Aston Martin building new car for Le Mans after test day crash
Load comments

About this article

Series WEC
Drivers Rob Bell
Teams Toyota Racing , Rebellion Racing , SMP Racing
Author Gary Watkins
The philosophical problems the WEC's new Hypercar class is already facing Plus

The philosophical problems the WEC's new Hypercar class is already facing

OPINION: Most of the column inches after the World Endurance Championship's opener were centred around the relative pace of the Hypercar class and the LMP2s, but there's another question that needs addressing in order for the new division to have a successful future

WEC
May 7, 2021
How stumbling Toyota drew first blood in the WEC's new era Plus

How stumbling Toyota drew first blood in the WEC's new era

Amid concerns that the new Hypercar class would be upstaged on debut by the spec LMP2 machines at Spa, Toyota delivered the pole and victory that the vast majority of observers expected. But neither car had a clean run, which gave the grandfathered Alpine LMP1 an unexpected shot at glory

WEC
May 4, 2021
Seven things to watch in the 2021 World Endurance Championship Plus

Seven things to watch in the 2021 World Endurance Championship

Beyond the slender grid of headline-grabbing hypercars, there are numerous subplots and changes to look out for in the new season of the WEC, which gets underway at Spa this weekend. Here's the seven key things you need to know about

WEC
Apr 30, 2021
What to expect from sportscar racing's bold new Hypercar era Plus

What to expect from sportscar racing's bold new Hypercar era

A slim field of three cars will be entered in the Hypercar class for the first round of the World Endurance Championship's post-LMP1 age. But there are plenty of reasons for optimism with the new wave of manufacturer entries and competing class philosophies just around the corner

WEC
Apr 29, 2021
How Aston Martin Racing scaled new heights in the Prodrive era Plus

How Aston Martin Racing scaled new heights in the Prodrive era

The 2021 World Endurance Championship kicks off at Spa this weekend, but for the first time since its 2012 inception there will be no works Aston Martins in the GTE-Pro class. As its new era in Formula 1 begins, Aston leaves behind a legacy of success courtesy of its Prodrive-run factory programme that was a hit from the word go in 2005

WEC
Apr 27, 2021
How 'Brilliant' Bob Wollek lived up to his nickname Plus

How 'Brilliant' Bob Wollek lived up to his nickname

Sportscar racing lost one of it's greatest talents 20 years ago today when Bob Wollek was knocked from his bicycle prior to the Sebring 12 Hours. The enigmatic Frenchman never won the Le Mans 24 Hours, but many still remember today why 'Brilliant Bob' became a legend

WEC
Mar 16, 2021
Top 10 moments of an underrated British great Plus

Top 10 moments of an underrated British great

Brian Redman was one of the best sportscar drivers of the 1960s and 1970s, as well as a three-time champion on the fearsome American Formula 5000 scene. To celebrate his 84th birthday Autosport contacted him about his best races – and he decided to write the piece himself…

WEC
Mar 9, 2021
How an endurance racing boom could help one of LMP2's top teams Plus

How an endurance racing boom could help one of LMP2's top teams

The G-Drive squad has been a mainstay of endurance racing in recent years, and has linked up with Russian manufacturer Aurus in recent years to promote its brand. With a change of rules in endurance racing's top tables, the team could be well-placed to take advantage of a potential boom...

WEC
Mar 7, 2021