Toyota drivers baffled by Rebellion's qualifying pace
Toyota drivers Brendon Hartley and Jose Maria Lopez have expressed surprise at Rebellion Racing's lack of pace in qualifying for this weekend's Fuji FIA World Endurance Championship round.
The Rebellion R-13 shared by Gustavo Menezes and Norman Nato only managed an average time of 1m26.163s during Saturday afternoon's pole shootout, leaving them 1.150s down on the #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid of Hartley and Kazuki Nakajima.
It was also almost two seconds slower than the 1m24.359s average time set by the quickest Rebellion during qualifying for last year's Fuji round.
Ex-Formula 1 driver Hartley admitted that based on Rebellion's 2018 times he was heading into qualifying unsure whether either of the Toyotas would take pole.
"We still had quite a decent margin, which was a surprise," said Hartley. "We thought particularly the Rebellion would be a lot closer with the new success ballast, considering the laptimes they did last year.
"It was a surprise that today was not more of a fight. Our car is 50kg heavier than last year, we are definitely a lot slower. Honestly, we weren’t sure if they were hiding performance, particularly when you look at last year."
Lopez echoed Hartley's comments, highlighting that the Rebellion was not significantly penalised under the new championship points-based LMP1 handicap system that is being implemented for the first time this weekend.
By contrast, the Silverstone-winning #7 Toyota and the sister #8 car have been slowed to the tune of 1.4s and 1s per lap respectively at Fuji.
"What is strange is we keep getting slower every race, but somehow the Rebellion is two seconds slower than last year, with a better car," Lopez told Motorsport.com.
"Our car is much heavier, it is 1.4s slower than Silverstone. If you look at the laptimes, the LMP2 are the same or even faster this year, and the Rebellion is two seconds slower than last year. It’s difficult to know what they are doing."
Asked to explain why Rebellion was so much slower this year, Menezes pointed to the cooler temperatures of 2018 and the R-13 suffering from a general lack of grip.
"We know this track doesn’t suit our car and that already makes it difficult," the American driver told Motorsport.com. "Obviously the EoT did slow [Toyota] down, you can see in comparison with the laptimes from last year.
"But it’s hard to compare because last year it was 20 degrees colder. On this track the tyres were well over the edge of the window, especially for a rear-wheel drive car.
"For sure we hoped to be closer, but there’s nothing we can do. And with Toyota, it’s hard to know where they are until qualifying. They are the king of playing games.
"It doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be where they are, but it’s hard to judge."
#8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050: Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, Brendon Hartley
Photo by: JEP / LAT Images
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