|Heidfeld/Jani/Prost triumph at Le Mans 24 hours|
|Tuesday, 19 June 2012 11:52|
The Lola-Toyota #12 driven by Nick Heidfeld, Neel Jani and Nicolas Prot and #13 sister car driven by Andrea Belicchi, Harold Primat and Jeroen Bleekemolen were never out the top 8 (including the six Audi and Toyota factory cars) during the first four hours of the race.
With mechanical and traffic issues for the factory cars, the two iconic black and gold livered Lola-Toyota coupés were strongly positionned in the top 6 from the sixth hour. After the early retirement of both factory Toyota TS030 Hybrid from Toyota Racing Rebellion Racing with team’s two Lola-Toyota petrol powered coupés was the only team to break the Audi stanglehold with car #12 running 4th from the seventh hour.
The night was trouble free for both team’s Lola-Toyota cars, the drivers were able to deliver strong and long stints. When the sun was shinning back on the famous Le Mans circuit car #12 was still firmly holding the fourth place overall resisting to the assault from the recovering #3 Audi R18 Ultra. Sister car #13 had to let pass the #3 Audi during the night, starting to have clutch issues. The Lola-Toyota #13 was fifth overall from the seventh hour of the race.
With seven hours and nine minutes reamaining in the race the #3 Audi finally overtook the #12 Lola-Toyota. Both Lola-Toyota team’s cars could have ended the race in fith and sixth place but more drama will highlight hte sunday race morning.
With five hours to go, the Lola-Toyota #13 car was pushed back into the garage, the team was forced to replace the clutch, requiring the desassambly of all the rear of the car and gearbox. Only 37 minutes later the car was send back on the track P11 overall, fourth petrol/privateer.
At the 21 hour mark, the #3 Audi R18 Ultra shunted for the second time in the race at the first chicane, then a minute later the #2 Audi E-Tron crashed in the barriers in the Porsche curves forcing both cars to be repaired in thei respective boxes.
The final two hours of the race were intense for the Swiss team. Lola-Toyota #13 with Harold Primat and Andrea Belicchi shceduled for the last stints were able to recover and climbed on the FIA WEC Privateer Trophy podium over the #21 HPD-Honda.
The final hours saw a strong battle between #3 Audi R18 Ultra and #12 Lola-Toyota. The Audi camp looking for a total Le Mans 24 domination asked #3 drivers to push in order to have their four cars at the four first positions. Géné and Duval posted fastest intermediates and fastest laps with Duval setting the fastest race laptime but Neel Jani has replied by lapping in the same mode and beating fastest previous figues and his own qualifying laptime ! Nicolas Prost relayed Neel for the last stint and with determination secured fourth place under the checkered flag.
Repeating 2011’s result was a minimum targe for REBELLION Racing, the team have done better with 4th place overall (6th place in 2011).
When REBELLION Racing entered into their partnership with Toyota Motorsport GmbH the team took a significant step forward. The performance and reliability of the Toyota RV8KLM engine is a major asset in the team’s recent results and at this year edition of Le Mans 24 Hours.
Michelin have been an invaluable partner for us and our cars have benefitted from using their tyres alowing strong and long stints in changing conditions..
At this time of celebration in a hard earned result and historic one for Lola Cars, the whole team also have deep thoughs for our former Lola friends who were in charge of designing and building the cars of the team.
Bart Hayden, REBELLION Racing Team Manager: « REBELLION Racing have been on an evolving journey since those early days in 2008 and to secured 4th place overall at Le Mans 24 Hours among Audi factory cars is just reward for the immense effort, contribution, dedication and determination of each and every member of our Team. I am deeply proud of what we have achieved as a team. As annouced before the season our aim was to repeat 2011 result at Le Mans and win the FIA WEC Trophy for best Privateer. We are now in a good position to secure both of them after Le Mans result that help us to extend our lead in the FIA WEC Trophy.»