Rebellion's 2016 car signs off next week. Photo: Getty Images

Sports cars: Rebellion, Visit Florida teams confirm 2017 packages

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A pair of prototype teams – one in the FIA World Endurance Championship and one in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – have firmed up their packages for their respective 2017 campaigns.

Both Rebellion Racing and Visit Florida Racing will be moving from different categories into the aligned LMP2-spec type of car in 2017 after running in LMP1 non-hybrid (privateer) and Prototype (with Daytona Prototype) configurations this year.

Photo: Rebellion Racing
Photo: Rebellion Racing

Rebellion, which announced last month it would not be running in LMP1 in 2017 and would instead switch to LMP2, has confirmed a move to the Oreca 07 chassis coupe. The team has ordered two chassis for next season. This replaces the outgoing Rebellion R-ONE AERs which ran in LMP1 in the WEC this year, with the team having cut back from two cars to one after the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“The 2017 LMP2 races are going to be ultra competitive and that makes choosing the right chassis partner very important,” said Rebellion team manager Bart Hayden. “With the R-Ones, we have appreciated the skill of the ORECA designers and we have witnessed the success of their “05” LMP2 chassis, so it was almost a logical choice for us to continue our association together.  We are excited by this new challenge and are looking forward to getting our hands on the first of our new cars.”

Photo: Visit Florida Racing
Photo: Visit Florida Racing

Back Stateside in IMSA, the Visit Florida team has confirmed the purchase of a Riley Technologies Mk 30 chassis with the Gibson engine. As IMSA prepares for the new Daytona Prototype international (DPi) direction, Visit Florida shifts away from the GM presence it’s had for years to the new global LMP2-spec platform. The Troy Flis-led team had been a stalwart with the Corvette DP car for the last five years.

“I’m really happy to have these big elements of our program finalized,” Flis said. “We did our homework about all the options, and we are very excited to be going this direction. Bill and Bob Riley have an incredible record of success, and the partnership they’ve established with Multimatic for this project only adds to what they are capable of.

“Having the Gibson and the WEC bodywork means that we’ve got a lot of options as this class comes to fruition and starts to develop. This is an exciting time for everyone in IMSA, and we are very happy to be this much closer to the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona.”

Visit Florida did not confirm its driver lineup within this release. Although with Tequila Patron ESM coming back to IMSA with a Nissan DPi program and Ryan Dalziel having driven for both teams this year – Visit Florida in IMSA and ESM in the WEC – he’ll be unable to drive for both again in 2017.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.