Teams2010 Le Mans Series By Jeremy McMullen
It is an insult to say to someone, 'You drive like an old lady'. In the case of Rebellion Racing, they would take that as a compliment.
SEBAH Racing began in 2001 with a single Porsche 996 GT3-R. The team would continue to race the car well into the 2004 and 2005 season. Despite its age, the car would go on to win the Le Mans Series GT2 category in both seasons. This surprising success led journalist to refer to the Porsche as the 'Old Lady'.
The 'Old Lady' has fostered quite a lineage. And, in 2008, Sebah Racing decided to make the move into prototype racing. Initially, the team focused on LMP2 entering a Lola B08/80 chassis. Then, in 2009, the team entered a car in both prototype categories. By this time, Sebah had forged a partnership with Speedy and Rebellion Racing.
Headed into the 2010 season, SEBAH Racing, which became known simply as Rebellion Racing, would enter two cars again, but this time strictly in LMP1. Sebah Racing had progressed throughout the years, but would now manage the Rebellion as it took on the mighty diesel-powered Peugeots and Audis, as well as, the other petrol-powered LMP1 teams.
In 2009, Speedy Racing Team Sebah used a Lola-Aston Martin in the LMP1 category. Similar to 2009, Rebellion Racing would use Lola B10/60 chassis, but would use their own 'Rebellion' engines. Rebellion had a special partnership with Judd. The team took the Judd engine and reworked it until it became their own version. Also similar to 2009, the Lola chassis were painted in red and white livery. However, for 2010, a fair amount of gold was also added to the team's livery.
The team had the cars and the engines. They still needed one of the most important pieces to the puzzle—the drivers. The team decided upon its drivers. Neel Jani and Nicolas Prost would be paired in one of team's cars. Andrea Belicchi, Jean-Christophe Boullion and Guy Smith would be given the other car.
With all of the pieces to the puzzle together, the team headed off to France for the first round of the Le Mans Series for 2010.
The first round of the 2010 Le Mans Series season was the 8 Hours of Le Castellet. This was a special race. Besides the fact many teams had already had the opportunity to test at the circuit the month prior, the race itself was longer than any normal Le Mans Series round since the Mil Milhas Brazil back in 2007. In and of itself, the 8 Hours of Le Castellet promised to be a great test for teams in preparation for Le Mans in a few months time.
While Team Peugeot Total had travelled across the Atlantic to take part in the 12 Hours of Sebring, Team Oreca Matmut (which was given the opportunity to enter a 2010-spec Peugeot 908) and Audi Sport were present and accounted for to take part in the 8 hour race at the Circuit Paul Ricard.
The Circuit Paul Ricard has become a popular venue for teams, especially for testing. However, the circuit would provide teams with a little bit of everything. The circuit features some tight corners, fast bends, and one incredibly long straight. Using the 3.61 mile 'long' circuit, speeds down the long back-stretch routinely would exceed 180 mph.
Rebellion would enter its two cars in the race. Driving the number 12 Lola would be Neel Jani and Nicolas Prost. In car 13 would be Andrea Belicchi, Jean-Christophe Boullion and Guy Smith.
During the first practice session, the Rebellion cars ran nose-to-tail. Car 12 would end up the faster of the two. Rebellion Racing would be 4th and 5th quickest. Team Oreca Matmut, with their diesel-powered 908 would be fastest. Throughout the remaining practice sessions, Rebellion Racing hung right around the 5th fastest mark amongst the LMP1 category.
In qualifying, it would be more of the same. Nicolas Lapierre would go on to take the pole in the 908 for Team Oreca Matmut. His best time around the 3.61 miles was one minute and forty-one seconds. Rinaldo Capello would record the second-fastest time with the revised Audi R15 'Plus'. His time was a half a second slower.
Jean-Christophe Boullion would end up being the fastest of the Rebellion Racing teams. His best lap was one minute and forty-three seconds. This was almost two and a half seconds slower than the diesel Peugeot. Boullion, driving the number 13 car, would start the race from the third row in 5th position. Neel Jani put the number 12 Rebellion Racing Lola beside the sister-car on the third row with a lap of one minute and forty-four seconds. Amongst the petrol-powered cars, Rebellion Racing would start 3rd and 4th.
The start of the race saw a tremendous battle between the Peugeot and Audi. McNish pressured hard throughout the first couple of corners. This led to the Oreca Peugeot making a mistake. Unfortunately for Audi, McNish was hung up as well. This allowed Stefan Mucke to go through into the lead in the 009 Lola-Aston Martin. Because of the fray during the first lap, Boullion would end up getting held up slightly and would also drop a position. At the end of the 1st lap of the race, Rebellion Racing ran 6th and 7th overall, and in class.
With 10 laps completed, Audi was in the lead. Rebellion Racing ran 4th and 5th. Both of the cars were already over thirty seconds down to McNish. However, both of the cars had managed to get by Franck Maulleux in the Signature Lola-Aston Martin. With the exception of Lola-Aston Martin, number 009, Rebellion Racing had the highest-placed petrol-powered cars in LMP1.
Less than an hour into the race, trouble hit the number 12 Rebellion Racing Lola. The car had already been in and out of the pits twice and was in 37th position overall, well down amongst the GT runners in the field. Car number 13 continued to run in 4th place.
Trouble during Oreca's first pitstop would drop the 908 well down in the field. This enabled the 009 Aston Martin Racing entry to come back up to 2nd overall. This also allowed the number 13 Rebellion Racing Lola to slot into 3rd. The team's second car, number 12, was still in 37th overall and multiple laps down.
At the end of the 8 hour race, McNish and Capello would turn 266 laps and would take the victory by five laps over Aston Martin Racing's number 009. Rebellion Racing's number 13, driven by Belicchi, Boullion and Smith would finish the race over a minute behind the Aston Martin Racing Lola in 3rd! In their first season solely dedicated in the LMP1 category, Rebellion Racing already had its first podium.
Despite its early troubles, Rebellion Racing's number 12 would come back up through the field and would finish the race 11th overall and 7th in category. They would be 18 laps behind at the end.
One race into the season and both of the team's cars managed to score points toward the Le Mans Series Championship. Car 13 had earned 23 points. While car 12 earned 14 points. The team packed up both of its cars and would prepare for the second round of the championship. A month would pass before the second round of the championship.
In the early part of May, Rebellion Racing had made its way to the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps for the 1000km of Spa, set to take place on the 9th of May. With Le Mans only a little over a month away, the 1000km of Spa was considered to be the final 'dress rehearsal' for the 24 hour race.
Located in the heart of the Ardennes forest, the Spa-Francorchamps circuit remains a favorite with the drivers and the fans. Though not as fast as the old circuit once was, the modern 4.35 mile circuit remains very technically demanding. Its main challenge comes from its constantly changing nature. The hilly countryside on which the circuit is located features blind entries and terribly fast corners. In addition, the usually unpredictable weather causes Spa to remain an incredible challenge each and every visit to the track.
Since the race constituted the final run up to Le Mans, all of the major teams were present for the race. This included three cars from Audi Sport and three from Team Peugeot Total. Surprisingly missing from the field was the Aston Martin Racing team.
Throughout practice, Rebellion Racing was amongst the fastest, if not the fastest, of the petrol-powered cars. In the third practice session, Rebellion's number 12 would even out-pace Audi's number 8.
In qualifying, it would be a totally different story. Sebastien Bourdais would take the Peugeot 908, of Team Peugeot, and would put the car on the pole with a lap time of one minute and fifty-seven seconds. He would be joined on the front row by Audi Sport North American entry, car number 9, driven by Timo Bernhard.
Facing the might of all of the diesel-powered teams, Rebellion struggled for position in qualifying. Nicolas Prost would end up the fastest for Rebellion in the number 12 Lola. Prost's best lap would be two minutes and two seconds. Unfortunately, his lap time would not be the fastest of the petrol-powered cars. That honor would go to Signature Plus Lola-Aston Martin's 008 car. Prost would put the number 12 in the race in 9th overall.
Jean-Christophe Boullion would qualify the number 13 Rebellion Lola. His best lap was three tenths slower than Prost's time. Boullion would not end up starting 10th though. That position went to Danny Watts in the rapid HPD ARX-01 Strakka Racing LMP2 team. The Strakka was proven to be extremely fast down the straights and was awarded a fast enough time to break up the Rebellion Racing entries.
Fifty cars prepared for the start of the race. Surprisingly, one of those prepared was Strakka Racing. During the morning warm-up, Nick Leventis lost control and crashed heavily. The necessary repairs meant Strakka would start from the back of the grid, if they could get it repaired in time. This meant the number 13 Rebellion Lola received an upgrade on the starting grid. The two Rebellion cars would again start together on the same row.
Rain at Spa can always cause some of the most dramatic races in history. Though always a favorite, Spa has always been a rather dangerous track, which is part of its appeal. Climbing the hill at Eau Rouge, especially in the wet, always tests the nerves, courage, even the sanity of the drivers. The 2010 running of the 1000km race would do more of the same.
During the pace lap before the start of the race the rain began to fall on the track between Eau Rouge, Les Combe and Pouhon. Immediately, the cars had no grip as they went out on slick tires. Andre Lotterer, driving the number 8 Audi R15 would lose control going through Les Combe and would heavily damage the rear of the car. Even Olivier Panis would spin out in the Oreca Peugeot. All of this would happen even before the race started.
Then, as the race got underway, Pedro Lamy would spin out at La Source. This handed the lead to Frank Montagny. Timo Bernhard would lose the backend of Audi number 9 going into Eau Rouge. This would allow Allan McNish to close up and take over 3rd. With all of the early dramas happening in front of them, Jean-Christophe Boullion would end up getting by his teammate Neel Jani for 7th. As the rest of the field filed through Eau Rouge, the Racing Box LMP2 car would get touched and sent hard into the tire barrier. This would bring out the safety car. One lap hadn't even been completed yet.
At the conclusion of the first safety car period Jean-Christophe Boullion would end up causing damage to a competitor while pushing hard. Coming out of the La Source hairpin, Boullion was right behind the Oreca Peugeot. Perhaps a little over-anxious in the wet conditions, Boullion twitched a little climbing up through Eau Rouge. This caused his left-front to touch Panis' right rear, which sent the Frenchman sliding off the course and crashing heavily in the tire barrier.
Not bothered in any way by the event that had just taken place, Boullion took off after another victim. Boullion would end up getting by the Audi number 9 with Timo Bernhard at the wheel. The wet conditions were helping to level the field somewhat between the diesels and the petrol-powered cars. This would become evident as even Neel Jani would also get by. This put Rebellion Racing 4th and 5th.
Boullion was on an absolute charge. After only 6 laps into the race, Boullion had managed to make his way past Allan McNish in the Audi number 7. The race began to settle down slightly. Ten laps into the race Jean-Christophe Boullion would end up getting passed by Pedro Lamy and Allan McNish, and therefore, was running 5th overall. Neel Jani had also fallen back down the field slightly and was running 7th overall.
When 30 laps had been completed, Rebellion Racing's number 13 car was still in 6th position overall. The sister-car, number 12 was right there running in 7th overall. Each of the cars were one lap down to Allan McNish in the lead of the race.
As the race was nearing the halfway mark, another unpredictable event would end up taking place. Spa, always known for its surprises, threw the officials and the teams for a surprise. Power outages all around the track were threatening the running of the race. The officials did not have timing scoring as they had no power. Sure enough, the race was brought to a stop.
After a rather lengthy red flag period, the race was back running again. Very soon, the race was nearing its end. However, it had already come to an end for one of Rebellion Racing's cars. The number 12 of Neel Jani and Nicolas Prost would only complete 65 laps and would end up out of the race. Having one car already out of the race, the number 13 car slowed its pace in order to make it to the end. The car was further delayed by some lengthy pitstops.
After a wild 1000km race, Team Peugeot Total, car number 3, would go on to take the victory. One of its sister-cars, car number 2, would also finish 139 laps, but over a minute down in 2nd place. Audi's number 7, driven by Kristensen, McNish and Capello, would end up a minute and a half down in 3rd. Rebellion's number 13 Lola would complete 127 laps and would finish the race 11th overall and 6th in category. This gave the number 13 car 8 more points toward the Le Mans Series Championship. Having not finished, the number 12 car would score no points. That was it. The next race would be the big one, the most important one of the season, the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Le Mans isn't merely a race, it is an event. The teams arrive early to prepare for practice and qualifying, let alone the actual race. Rebellion Racing would arrive at Le Mans with its two cars. The team would have an interesting third driver for the number 12 car at Le Mans. In addition to Nicolas Prost and Neel Jani, Marco Andretti (son of Michael Andretti) would also co-drive the car. Car 13 would be driven by Andrea Belicchi, Jean-Christophe Boullion and Guy Smith.
Team Peugeot Sport, the defending champions, had brought their three cars, but would essentially have four since Team Oreca Matmut would also enter its Peugeot 908. Audi Sport would also bring its three cars for the race in an attempt to reestablish its dominance at the 24 hour classic. This meant, likely, the first-seven spots on the overall grid, and in LMP1, would be occupied by these diesel-powered cars.
The ACO, the governing body for Le Mans, would go to great lengths to try and slow the diesels down. Given the proposed restrictions, the ACO believed the diesels would not be up over 210 mph down the Mulsanne Straight and would only be able to turn laps of three minutes and thirty seconds around the 8.46 mile famous road course. They were extremely off the mark.
In practice the diesels did lead the way, but they weren't slowed down at all. In fact, the speeds increased and the times decreased. The diesels, especially the Peugeot 908s, were touching speeds in excess of 215 mph. Team Peugeot's car number 2 would end up setting the fastest lap of practice with a lap of three minutes and twenty seconds. Aston Martin Racing would end up being the fastest of the petrol-powered cars who, once again, found themselves short on power in comparison to the diesels. The best lap the number 009 of AMR would turn would be three minutes and twenty-seven seconds. This was over seven seconds slower than the fastest of the Peugeots.
In the case of Rebellion Racing's Lolas, the gaps were even larger. The number 13 Rebellion Lola would end up turning the fast lap of the two team cars. Their fastest lap was three minutes and twenty-nine seconds. The number 12 Rebellion Lola's best lap in practice would end up being three minutes and thirty seconds. A full ten seconds separated the fastest times of the Peugeot and Rebellion Racing's number 12 car!
Knowing that their speeds would not be enough to have a really top-flight starting position, Rebellion focused more on preparing their cars for the race than for turning the fastest qualifying lap.
Peugeot and Audi, on the other hand, were locked in a duel for the pole of the race. On the first day of qualifying, Peugeot's car number 3 laid down the gauntlet for the rest of the field. Ever other team, with the exception of Team Peugeot and Team Oreca Matmut, would let them battle it out for the front couple of rows after seeing the times the 908s were able to post.
Over the course of the two days of qualifying, no one would come close to the time set in the number 3 Peugeot. Their time around the circuit was three minutes and nineteen seconds. It was obvious the ACO was a little off in its estimates concerning lap times, and their goal of three minutes and thirty seconds.
While Peugeot, Oreca and Audi were up at the front of the grid after qualifying, Rebellion Racing was down at the tail-end of the LMP1 field. The team had decided to focus on striking the balance between being fast and comfortable at speed. This would be important during the race. The team would need to be as fast as possible while not hanging it on the edge too much that the car was not drivable for 24 hours. As a result of the focus, the team's times, comparatively, were quite a bit slower. Of course, the times wouldn't be all that good should the cars struggle with other problems.
The number 12 Lola would end up being the fastest of the team's cars. However, the car would not set a time during the first day of qualifying. Their best time would come on the second day in wet conditions. Their best lap around the circuit was three minutes and thirty-three seconds. This was much slower than the fastest lap the car managed to turn in practice earlier on in the week because of the wet conditions. Though the car went faster in practice earlier on, the car was in the race in 16th overall and 15th in category.
The number 13 car would also have to deal with the wet conditions on the second day in order to get into the field. This was because their time on the first day was thrown out by the officials as penalty when Boullion passed under red flag conditions. The time on the second day was over four seconds slower than its sister-car. This caused the car to be positioned down amongst the top qualifiers for LMP2. The car's time meant it would start 19th overall and 17th in category. During the qualifying session Boullion would crash the car heavily. The team sent the car away to be rebuilt. On Friday, the car returned as good as new. The team then had the task of quickly preparing it again for the race.
The field pulled away on its pace lap prior to the start of the race. The field, weaving back and forth trying to induce heat into their tires passed corner workers waving flags as part of the pre-race ceremonies. Finally, through the Ford chicanes, the safety car pulled into the pits. To an incredible roar of fifty-six cars, and the waving of the French flag, the 78th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans was underway. The cars swept around the climbing right-hand Dunlop curve.
Down the Mulsanne for the first time, the diesel-powered Peugeots began to pull away from the Audis. Rebellion Racing's two cars ran down at the end of the LMP1 category trying to settle into a comfortable pace. McNish, in his Audi R15, was locked in an early battle with Team Oreca and their Peugeot 908. Meanwhile, Rebellion Racing hooked up and was running together on the track.
At the conclusion of the first lap of the race, Team Peugeot was running one-two-three. Team Oreca Matmut was running 4th. Audi ran 5th through 7th. Rebellion Racing was running nose-to-tail on the track. Car 12 was leading the way in 15th and was followed by its sister-car in 16th.
The field was slow after an early safety car period due to Nigel Mansell crashing out of the race in his Ginetta-Zytek. Many teams elected to make pitstops during the safety car period. This helped Rebellion's cars move up the grid slightly. They were still running together in 13th and 14th.
One hour into the race, Rebellion's cars had become separated from each other. However, car number 13 was looking in pretty good shape. The car continued to move forward from where it started the race. When 17 laps were completed, car 13 was running in 11th. The number 12 Rebellion Lola was running 14th.
Rebellion's cars continued to improve. Three hours into the race, the number 13 Lola-Rebellion was running inside the top-ten. The car of Boullion, Belicchi and Smith were running 9th. Unfortunately, their sister-car was stuck further back in the field; back near where it started the race. Prost, Jani and Andretti were running 15th overall.
Only a few laps into the third hour of the race, trouble started to arise for Rebellion. While the number 13 car continued to run inside the top-ten, the number 12 car began to slip down the order. The car had made contact with a GT1 car. The hit didn't appear all that bad but it was clear that it had damaged the gearbox oil line. Extensive time in the pits to repair the damage cost the number 12. On the 61st lap of the race, the number 12 car was running 18th overall. Twenty laps later, the car was mired well down in the field. The car was 36th overall and struggling to continue.
Throughout the time the number 12 was struggling, the other Rebellion Lola was continuing to run around the top-ten. However, only a few laps later, the car began to slip down the order. The car would stabilize and run a good number of laps right around 11th place overall. At the same time, the number 12 car had been able to circulate and had managed to climb up to 33rd overall.
On the 143rd lap, or what was about the eighth hour of the race, the number 12 Rebellion was down in 26th overall and slowly making its way back up the order after earlier troubles. The number 13 Lola; however, was running 10th overall and eight laps behind the leading Peugeots. Things were looking good for the number 13 car, until lap 144.
On the 144th lap of the race, troubles struck the number 13 Rebellion Lola. The field had been under the control of the safety car due to a car stopped out on the track. This took a couple of laps. Unfortunately, under such conditions, the tires cooled down and lost some of their grip. As the field went back to green flag racing, Boullion lost control of the car going through the Porsche curves. He had been trying to pass a GT car on the outside and got in an area with no grip. Boullion hit the barrier hard, so hard the car was damaged beyond repair. The 78th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans was over for the number 13 Rebellion. This was an absolute shame for the team since it was the faster of the two cars and had been running right around the top-ten at the time of the accident.
The team's hopes for a Le Mans finish rested with the troubled number 12 car. Midway through the race, the number 12 was up to 18th overall and 12th in LMP1. As the clock struck twelve, the ball would come to an end for Rebellion Racing's other car, number 12. As Neel Jani was pushing the car further up the order, the car came to a rest at the side of the road. The earlier damage had cost the team and the car the race.
Rebellion wouldn't be the only LMP1 team to totally fall out of the race. Every one of the Peugeot 908s would self-destruct in its last appearance at the famed race. This virtually handed Audi a dominant one-two-three finish and a return to its former glory.
After the double-failure at Le Mans, Rebellion Racing had to switch its focus back to the Le Mans Series Championship. One month after the failed attempt at Le Mans, Rebellion Racing had made its way to the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve in Portimao, Portugal. The Portimao Circuit was home to the third round of the Le Mans Series Championship, the 1000km of Algarve.
With the exception of Team Oreca Matmut, Rebellion Racing had to be considered one of the favorites coming into the race. Only a little over a month after Le Mans, the field was rather small. Neither Peugeot nor Audi would enter the race. Team Oreca's Peugeot 908 was the sole diesel-powered car in the entire field.
Rebellion would enter its two cars as usual. Nicolas Prost and Neel Jani were co-driving the number 12, while Jean-Christophe Boullion and Andrea Belicchi piloted the number 13 chassis.
Throughout each of the practice sessions, the number 12 Rebellion was the second-fastest car on the track behind the Peugeot of Oreca. While fast at times, the number 13 car would be off the pace of the number 12 for most of the practice sessions. Rebellion would continue to impress going into qualifying.
In qualifying, Team Oreca Matmut would set the pace around the modern 2.91 mile circuit. Nicolas Lapierre would record a lap record for the Le Mans Series at Algarve when he turned a lap of one minute and thirty seconds.
Neel Jani would prove the Peugeot wouldn't out-perform the Rebellion Lola by all that much when he turned in a fastest lap of one minute and thirty seconds as well. However, Jani's time was three tenths slower than Lapierre's time. This was a tremendous performance by the Rebellion Racing team. What a wonderful sight for the team to start on the front row with a Peugeot 908. Rebellion Racing's number 13 would end up not that far down on the starting grid when Belicchi would turn in a lap of one minute and thirty-one seconds. This put the number 13 car on the second row in 4th place overall and in LMP1. These wonderful starting positions would all be lost, however.
Both of Rebellion's cars would end up being sent to the back of the grid. The number 12 Rebellion Lola showed excessive wear to its floor. The number 13 had two damaged tires from qualifying and had to change out its tires. Cars are meant to start the race on the tires in which they used during qualifying. Because of the tire change, the number 13 car would join its sister-car, number 12, on the last row of the starting grid.
Team Oreca led the way at the start of the race. Both of the Rebellion cars were rapidly making up places after starting from the back of the field. The pace of the two cars was such that it took less than 10 laps before both cars were running inside the top-six.
After two hours, the number 12 and 13 Rebellion cars were running 2nd and 3rd out on the course. This would be as good as it got for the number 13 car, however. At the mid-point of the race, problems arose with the number 13. It took some time, but the crew found a leak in the oil system. This sent the car to the back of the LMP1 field.
The number 12 car was looking really good, albeit it over three laps down to the Oreca Peugeot. Being far enough back not to have any chance unless the Peugeot had problems, Prost and Jani began to focus on conserving their 2nd place position.
At the end of the 1000km race, Team Oreca Matmut would score the victory by five laps over Rebellion Racing's car number 12. This was a tremendous result for the 12 car and the team. It made it two races, out of three, in which a Rebellion Lola had a car finish on the podium.
The leak in the oil system truly hurt the number 13 Rebellion Lola. Belicchi and Boullion would complete 186 laps and would finish 4th in LMP1, but 20th overall. Because there were only four LMP1 entries for the race, the number 13 car was able to score at least some more points toward the Le Mans Series Championship.
As a team, Rebellion Racing would leave Algarve with 24 points between the two cars. The team's number 12 car earned 15 points toward the championship. Car number 13 would end up salvaging its race and would earn 9 points toward its championship tally.
The strong result at Algarve kept Rebellion Racing in the Le Mans Series Championship fight with Team Oreca Matmut and Signature Plus Lola-Aston Martin. The team's next chance to improve would come at a truly historic event.
Rebellion Racing travelled all the way to Mogyorod, Hungary for the 1000km of Hungaroring. This would be the first time the Le Mans Series would visit the 2.72 mile Hungaroring. Many of the teams would be incredibly happy to leave as well.
Used by Formula One throughout the years since 1986, the Hungaroring has had the fortune of being the setting for some amazing moments in Formula One history. It was the scene of Nigel Mansell's lost wheel and World Championship triumph in 1987 and 1992. The bumpy nature of the track has made the track known for difficult overtaking. However, it was the backdrop for Mansell's dramatic pass on Ayrton Senna in 1989. Undoubtedly, the Hungaroring has been the scene of many memorable moments in Formula One. Well, in 2010, it would provide one of the most amazing moments in Le Mans Series Championship racing, and it would involve Mansell yet again.
As with Algarve the LMP1 field was rather small. Only five cars would be entered in the race by four different teams. Two of the five would be entered by Rebellion Racing. The only diesel engine in the race would again belong to Team Oreca Matmut.
In practice, the LMP2 team Strakka Racing was right up at the top amongst the diesel of Team Oreca and the Lola-Rebellions of Rebellion Racing. Then, in the third, and final, practice session the two Rebellion cars topped the charts. It was obvious the Rebellion team was on the verge on a good starting position on the grid.
To the surprise of practically everybody, Strakka Racing would end up setting the pace during qualifying. The incredibly fast Briton Danny Watts would end up earning the overall pole in his LMP2 Strakka Racing HPD ARX-01 after he set a time of one minute and thirty-two seconds around the undulating 2.72 mile circuit. What was most impressive about this pole time was that Watts had even beat out the Peugeot 908 of Team Oreca. Watts would be joined on the front row by another surprise.
Jean-Christophe Boullion would greatly impress in the number 13 Lola-Rebellion. He would end up brining his team pride as he was able to set the second-fastest time with a lap only four tenths slower than Watts. Celebrations broke out at Rebellion when Neel Jani was able to take the number 12 Lola-Rebellion to 3rd place on the starting grid. Both of the team's cars managed to out-qualify the Peugeot 908 of Team Oreca! What was more amazing was the fact the lap time gaps were significant. The 3rd place number 12 Rebellion Lola had a qualifying time well over a half a second faster than Olivier Panis in the Peugeot 908.
If qualifying wasn't something of special note, then the race would be truly mesmerizing and awe-inspiring. The race got underway at four in the afternoon. The start of the race saw nature order return to the field. The LMP1 cars ran up at front, but it wasn't the Peugeot leading the way. Andrea Belicchi managed to take the lead in his number 13 Rebellion Lola B10/60 going into the first corner. Neel Jani was running 3rd in the number 12 sister-car.
Ten laps into the race, Belicchi began to inch away from the Oreca Peugeot. His lead was almost five seconds on Stephane Sarrazin. Neel Jani continued running in 3rd place in the Rebellion Lola, down over nine seconds to Belicchi. The running order remained unchanged until the first round of pitstops occurred 33 laps into the race.
After the first round of pitstops, Oreca managed to take the lead of the race. Rebellion Racing's two cars had both decided to make driver changes. This led to the two cars trailing behind the Oreca Peugeot. Boullion was less than two seconds behind, while Prost was over twenty-two seconds behind.
In the chase after the Peugeot, Boullion would make contact with some slower traffic. The damage was light. However, one of the car's tires had received a puncture and was slowly leaking. This led to Boullion coming into the pits for an unscheduled stop to change the tires and check the car over. Belicchi would end up strapping back in behind the wheel of the car.
Prior to Boullion's troubles, Rebellion Racing's car number 12 was almost retired from the race. A hose burst on the car and splashed coolant on the rear tire just before braking for turn 10. This led to Prost spinning the car. Thankfully for the team, Prost managed to keep the car off the tire barrier and made his way to the pits. The team would go to work trying to rectify the situation. The repairs would take twenty minutes to make. Prost re-entered the race well down in the field in 32nd overall.
Upon changing tires and being checked over for damage, the number 13 Rebellion Lola would run into real problems. Belicchi was headed into turn one when his rear end locked up all of a sudden. This left the car stranded on the outside of the turn. Despite many efforts, Belicchi could not get drive in the car. With no other option available, Rebellion had to retire its number 13 car from the race.
Rebellion's troubles kicked off a whole chain of events that would practically sideline the whole of the LMP1 category. Team Oreca would end up retiring from the race after completing 146 laps. This enabled the LMP2 prototypes to come up and run inside the top-five overall. The LMP2 competitors were led by the same team that had managed to surprise the LMP1 teams throughout the weekend, Strakka Racing.
Troubles absolutely decimated the LMP1 field. Though not out of the race, those remaining would concern themselves with finishing more than with being fast. This allowed Strakka Racing to complete 206 laps and take the overall victory. Quifel ASM, another LMP2 team, would end the race a lap down to Strakka, but 2nd overall. Third place on the overall podium would also be occupied by an LMP2 team. OAK Racing's number 24 would finish two laps down to Strakka in 3rd.
The first LMP1 finisher would be Beechdean-Mansell (Nigel Mansell's team). They would end up seven laps down, having completed 199 laps, and would finish 7th overall. Despite the burst hose and spin earlier in the race, the number 12 Rebellion Racing Lola B10/60 would complete 193 laps, six less than Beechdean-Mansell, and would finish 8th overall and 2nd in category. While Rebellion's car 13 would leave Hungaroring with a single point for setting the pole in LMP1, the number 12 car would leave Hungary with more a consolation gift. Although finishing 8th overall, Rebellion Racing's number 12 Lola B10/60 would leave in 2nd place in LMP1. This would garner 14 points for the 12 car.
The 1000km of Hungaroring took place on the 22nd of August. Rebellion Racing would wait until early September before it headed off for its next race. The next race on Rebellion's calendar was the fifth, and final, round of the Le Mans Series Championship.
In early September, the team travelled across the English Channel to Silverstone in England for the 1000km of Silverstone, held on the 12th of September. New to 2010, Silverstone was the first round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup Championship. This constituted an effort by the organizers to help Le Mans Series racing go global. The fledgling series was comprised of only three rounds for 2010. The first round was Silverstone. The second round was across the 'Pond' in the United States at the Petit Le Mans. The third, and final, round was halfway around the world in Zhuhai, China.
As a result of the new Intercontinental Le Mans Cup Championship, the field was inclusive of Team Peugeot and Audi Sport. In addition to the top diesel teams, Drayson Racing was over from the United States and the American Le Mans Series to take part in the first round of the ILMC as well.
Rebellion Racing was not concerned about the ILMC, but were concerned about another championship. If the team earned a good result at Silverstone, the team stood a good chance on ending up on the podium for the Le Mans Series Championship, let alone the race.
Silverstone would offer the competitors another 'first'. 2010 marked the first time the Le Mans Series would compete on the new 'Arena' configuration. The Arena circuit utilized a new portion of track that wound down in the infield section of the Silverstone Circuit. This extra portion of track added a half of a mile over the previous 'Bridge' Circuit length. The overall length of the Arena Circuit increased to 3.66 miles and 18 turns.
Rebellion Racing was focused on the podium in the championship. This was evident from the time the cars were unloaded at the track. In the first practice session, Neel Jani would end up third-fastest in the number 12 Lola B10/60-Rebellion. His best lap was only three tenths slower than Anthony Davidson in the Peugeot 908 for Team Peugeot.
Two cars from Audi Sport and one for Team Peugeot were joined by two cars from Aston Martin Racing and one Peugeot 908 from Team Oreca Matmut. It would be a real achievement to have a time inside the top-ten for the petrol-powered Rebellion Racing team. Things looked good again after the final practice session. Andrea Belicchi would take his number 13 Rebellion Lola and would turn the fourth-fastest lap in practice. Neel Jani would also push the number 12 Rebellion Lola. He would turn a lap that was fastest enough to end the final practice session sixth-fastest.
Allan McNish would lap the new track the fastest. He would turn in a lap of one minute and forty-three seconds and would take the pole as a result. Timo Bernhard, driving the Audi Sport sister-car, would end up second-fastest after turning a lap six-tenths slower than McNish. The two Peugeot 908s of Team Peugeot and Team Oreca would occupy the second row.
In qualifying, Rebellion made its intentions known. It wanted the podium in the final championship results. Andrea Belicchi would turn in the fastest lap of all the petrol-powered LMP1 prototypes. His best lap was one minutes and forty-five seconds. His time was over two seconds slower than McNish on the pole. However, Rebellion Racing's number 13 would start the race from the third row in 5th. Neel Jani would record a lap seven-tenths slower than his Rebellion teammate and would start the race on the fourth row in 8th overall.
The race began with McNish leading the way at the front in the Audi R15 Plus. He was chased by all of the other diesel-powered cars. Neel Jani made a good start and was amongst the lead group of petrol-powered LMP1 chassis. Belicchi was looking even better in the number 13 Rebellion Lola. He had managed to come up and take the lead amongst the petrol-powered LMP1 chassis.
Despite their strong start, both of the Rebellion Lolas would have a difficult race. The mention of 'Drayson Racing' would end up causing the team to shake and tremble with great fear.
Belicchi was looking good early on. However, he would be hit in the rear by Drayson Racing's Lola. This damaged the car's left bodywork. Belicchi pitted to have the car worked on. It would end up taking over a minute to rectify and would drop Boullion, who had taken over for Belicchi, well down in the field.
The number 12 Rebellion Lola would continue on throughout the first stint without issue. During the first pitstop, Nicolas Prost would take over behind the wheel for Jani. Upon returning to the race, Prost would find himself tangled with Drayson Racing's Lola. During the battle that ensued between them, the Drayson Racing car touched Prost in the rear causing Nicolas to spin the car. He would lose some twenty seconds in the incident and would fall down the order.
Things were not going all that smooth amongst the leading diesels either. McNish would end up losing the lead to Team Peugeot and would soon end up parking the car totally with a failure to the R15 Plus.
Boullion was hoping the troubles were over after the incident with the Drayson Racing Lola, but they were not. Toward the end of Boullion's time behind the wheel of the car, the gearbox was giving the team troubles. Before Belicchi could get back out on the track, he would have to wait for the crew to bleed the transmission's hydraulics. This was just the start of the troubles the gearbox would give the team.
As the race neared its end, the number 13 Rebellion Lola was back in the garage with gearbox issues once again. The problems caused the team to have to replace the slave cylinder and reattach the gearbox/bellhousing to the rear of the car. The work was done just in time for the car to finish the race.
Audi Sport's retirement handed the lead to Team Peugeot. They would not look back from that point on. Followed by their Oreca cousin, Team Peugeot had a buffer between itself and the sole remaining Audi Sport R15 in the race. Team Peugeot would use the buffer to great effect as they would go on to complete 170 laps and win the 1000km of Silverstone. Team Oreca Matmut would finish down forty-two seconds in 2nd. Almost a lap behind, Audi Sport's number 8, would finish the race 3rd.
Despite the spin earlier in the race, Rebellion Racing's car 12 would have a relatively trouble-free run and would finish the race five laps down in 5th overall and in category. Rebellion's other car, number 13, would limp across the finish having completed 133 laps, but down in 38th overall.
The 5th place result for the number 12 Rebellion Racing Lola would enable it to finish the Le Mans Series Championship on the podium in 3rd. This was an amazing result for the number 12 Rebellion Racing team as it was the number 13 car that had the better position in the championship standings after the 3rd place finish at Le Castellet all the way back at the start of the season. Amongst different manufacturer makes, Rebellion Racing would end up finishing 2nd with Aston Martin Racing team that also used a Lola chassis.
Though a bitter disappointment concerning how the season had started for the number 13 Rebellion Racing team, the team would still finish the Le Mans Series Championship in 5th. This meant each one of Rebellion Racing's team cars finished the championship in the top-five!
In its first season strictly in LMP1, Rebellion Racing proved it was more than capable of fighting in the Le Mans Series Championship. This was particularly impressive considering the team was comprised of basically customer-ready components. Even the engine, though under their own name, was based upon Judd's customer V10. Should the ACO make things closer amongst the diesels and the petrol-powered cars, Rebellion Racing had proven it was ready, and capable, of taking advantage.
In early December, an important piece to Rebellion's challenge amongst the LMP1 competitors received an important lift. Rebellion Racing had come to an agreement with Toyota Motorsport. Toyota agreed to provide the team with engines for the 2011 season. As Alexandre Pesci, Rebellion Racing Team Principal would state: 'This agreement is the cornerstone of Rebellion's challenge for the forthcoming season.'
Rebellion Racing Team Manager, Bart Hayden, would go on to say: 'We are delighted to become a partner of Toyota Motorsport and are excited about working alongside a company with a Formula One background and a rich history at Le Mans. We look forward to establishing a strong and long term relationship with them.'
Armed with a new engine partnership with Toyota, Rebellion Racing then announced, in early January, it was expanding its 2011 racing schedule. In addition to the Le Mans Series and 24 Hours of Le Mans, Rebellion Racing would enter the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup. This means Rebellion Racing would go global in 2011.
The announced partnership with Toyota Motorsport seems sure to keep Rebellion Racing amongst the front-runners in the LMP1 category, and, a favorite amongst all of the petrol-powered prototype chassis. By taking part in the ILMC in addition to the Le Mans Series and 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world win see the white, gold and red Rebellion Racing streaking down the tracks of the world hopefully headed toward even greater success. Rebellion Racing