Strong race but no glory for Rebellion at Sebring

Nicolas Prost, Neel Jani and Nick Heidfeld in the #12 Lola-Toyota drove strongly during the whole race, avoiding getting involved with traffic, helped by good strategy. They were always part of the fight for a podium finish, the #12 Lola-Toyota was third at half distance and would have been able to improve on that result.

With just an hour to go, the #12 Lola-Toyota was scheduled to pit for driver change, as Nick Heidfeld was ready to finish his first Sebring 12 hours race at the wheel, but in the last lap of his double stint, Nicolas Prost was forced to stop the car on the back straight of the Florida track.A misfunctionning sensor, did not allow the car to get back to the pit. The car was towed to the paddock where the crew were able to fix the car to rejoin the race in order to take the chequered flag. In the same final hour of the race there were some other dramas with Audi and Honda cars that were in front of the Lola-Toyota #12 before it had its problem. Whithout that misfortune, Nicolas Prost, Neel Jani and Nick Heidfeld and the whole REBELLION Racing team would have secured a historical second place finish in the 60th edition of the 12 Hours of Sebring.

The sister #13 Lola-Toyota suffered gear shifting problems early in the race caused by the failure of the gearbox blipper. With 28 laps down to the leaders the only aim for Andrea Belicchi, Harold Primat and Jeroen Bleekemolen was then to get to the end of the race. The #13 Lola-Toyota's driving trio added style by providing strong and consistent lap times. Their pace was at the same level as the other petrol LMP1s at the front of the race, with a fastest race laptime of 1:49.477, the fastest of the petrol LMP1 FIA WEC field.

Despite some set-backs, the team takes many positives from its Sebring campaign. The pace of the two «2011» Lola-Toyota coupés compared to the 2012 LMP1 competitors has given more confidence to the team for the races to come. Their new 2012 cars will be racing at the next round in Spa,  increasing the competitivness of the team in the FIA WEC.

Neel Jani, #12 Lola-Toyota : « There is not a lot to say. We have missed a huge opportunity for success. We had the opportunity to finish on the podium in the overall classification at Sebring. We missed it with only an hour to go. I have no words to say how disappointed I am... »

Nicolas Prost, #12 Lola-Toyota : « My main feeling is huge disappointment. We were fast and safe on the track today with good strategy, but a technical glitch denied us a great result in one of the most demanding endurance races in the world. We must now address some issues with our technical partners to avoid jeopardising potential podiums or even wins. With the new car we will have from Spa I am confident that we will have other opportunities of success. »

Nick Heidfeld, #12 Lola-Toyota : « Of course it’s a shame to end the race this way. It’s always disapointing to miss a good result. On the other hand, there are some positive sides. I'm happy to have driven the Lola-Toyota car and to race with the Rebellion Racing team ! The team is pro and well organized. Here at Sebring, I have experienced a new car, a new track and a new way of racing with massive traffic. I think that it will be easier at Le Mans because the track is longer, there are more straight lines... and less cars. »

Andrea Belicchi, #13 Lola-Toyota : « We had a really very good car today. Without the early problem with the blipper, we would have a chance to secure a podium finish. I'm really impressed by Harold's pace, especially in the night : he was like a cat in the night. Jeroen had also very strong stints in the car. I'm pleased to have him in car 13 with us at Le Mans. The addition of John Gentry as our racing engineer has helped us to raise our understanding and development of the car. This is all very encouraging for the races to come. I can't wait to be in Spa with the new car. »

Harold Primat, #13 Lola-Toyota : « This first race was for me the opportunity to know more about the team, to learn about its way of working and to spend more time with my teammates Andrea and Jeroen. After a few days spent together, we are already a good group ! They share their experience with me. It's helped me to improve my own driving. The Engineers and mechanics are doing a good job. The Lola Rebellion is not so far from my previous car but I have to adapt to the behaviour of the car which has some differences : more aero on the front and a smaller engine in the back that means less weight. I had to adapt my way of driving, the help of Andrea was really useful for that.  I am pleased with the pace I was able to provide today in race conditions, despite the problem we had in the early stages of the race there are positive elements to work on for the future.

Jeroen Bleekmolen, #13 Lola-Toyota : « We had a really good pace today. Without our problem of gear shifting, we could have had a podium finish. Despite that issue, it is really encouraging for the forthcoming race. With Harold and Andrea we have a nice team and we spent good time together this week. I'm looking forward to Le Mans 24 Hours where we could achieve another good result. »

Bart Hayden, REBELLION Racing Team Manager : « Sebring is a tough race and possibly even harder on the cars than Le Mans.  We've had some issues today which have robbed us of a podium, so it's hard to feel anything but extremely dissapointed.  However, there are positives to be had; we earned points for fourth place in the LMP1 FIA Endurance trophy and the new drivers and team members have settled in well to the team. Our pace with the « old » car was very good, so we are optimistic for where we will be with the « new » ones from Spa onwards.  We will improve the areas that caused us problems here and will go forward stronger and more determined to do well.

I want to thank the guys that have given everything over the winter to put us in a good position before coming into this race, I'm sorry for them that they didn't see the rewards for their efforts, but those rewards will come and we will be striving hard to achieve them at Spa. »