On Wednesday evening (European time), REBELLION Racing announced its intentions to compete in the four race Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup, the series within a series that covers the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s four biggest races (Rolex 24 at Daytona, Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen and Petit Le Mans). The team will field one Gibson-powered ORECA 07 chassis with the all-star driving lineup of Sebastien Buemi, Nick Heidfeld and Neel Jani.
REBELLION Racing is very happy to make their return to regular racing in the United States.
“After our success in American Le Mans Series races in 2012 and 2013, we always wanted to find a way back to competing in the USA,” said Bart Hayden, REBELLION Racing’s Team Manager. “We are very excited to be able to return with a new prototype and to race in the North American Endurance Cup in 2017. Reuniting Nick with Neel and adding Seb gives us a top line driver lineup and signals our intention, which is to compete at the highest level and hopefully to win again in the USA.”
The driving lineup for the team is top-notch. Both Heidfeld and Buemi have experience in Formula 1 (Heidfeld has 182 career starts with Prost, Sauber, Williams and Jordan from 2000-2011; Buemi has 55 starts with Scuderia Toro Rosso from 2009-2011). Heidfeld drove for REBELLION Racing until the team parked the No. 12 entry in the WEC earlier this season. Jani is the current co-World Endurance drivers’ champion along with teammates Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb for Porsche Team. Jani will likely be back in the WEC with Porsche next year, but none of the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup events conflict with the WEC schedule.
Buemi is a factory LMP1 racer for Toyota Gazoo Racing. The team struggled for much of the year, but nearly took overall victory at Le Mans before a turbo failure in the final minutes resulted in the team not being classified due to taking approximately six minutes too long to complete the final lap of the race.
For REBELLION Racing, this move marks a return of sorts to the United States. Prior to the full ALMS/Grand-AM merger, REBELLION Racing competed part-time in the American Le Mans Series’ P1-class. Running a Lola B12/60 chassis with a Toyota engine, REBELLION Racing won Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in both 2012 and 2013. They had a number of drivers take the wheel of their No. 12, but Heidfeld and Jani were constants with the team.
Since the ALMS/Grand-AM merger, REBELLION Racing has been a constant presence in the FIA World Endurance Championship in the P1 class. At first, the team continued to race the Lola B12/60-Toyota against the factory outfits. Later on, they developed their own chassis, the REBELLION R-One (pictured above at Circuit Spa-Francochamps in Belgium back in April) to run in the then-new LMP1-L class for privateers. Since then, the team has effectively only been racing against one other team, ByKolles Racing Team. They have effectively trounced ByKolles for the last two years.
However, the team chose to cut down from two cars to one after Le Mans in June. The idea was to devote time towards further development of the R-One. Toward the end of the season, the team announced a switch to the LMP2 class in 2017. At the time, a statement indicated that they craved competition and the 2017-spec LMP2 class looked very promising to them. In addition, there did not appear to be any long-term changes in the WEC that would have provided REBELLION Racing (or any other LMP1-L team for that matter) the ability to be remotely competitive with the LMP1-H factory programs.
REBELLION Racing’s best finishes in 2016 were a pair of third-place finishes in the first two races of the year (Silverstone and Spa-Francochamps) for the team’s No. 13 entry for Alexandre Imperatori, Dominik Kraihamer and Matteo Tuscher. Both of those races were marked by significant attrition among the factory LMP1-H teams. In the LMP1-L class, REBELLION Racing won every race except for Shanghai. The No. 13 won seven times, while the No. 12 won at Le Mans after both the No. 13 and the ByKolles Racing Team No. 4 retired.