My fondest Rebellion Racing memory – What’s yours?
The fan-favourite privateer team has run its last race in the FIA WEC. Let’s celebrate this iconic outfit by reflecting on its past.
News broke out over the summer that Rebellion Racing, a Swiss race team known for its ruthless battles against the better-funded Toyota in the top class of the FIA WEC, would leave the championship at the end of the year. However, as we came closer to last week’s Le Mans 24 Hour race, it became clearer that the privateer entry would bow out right after the endurance classic and, more importantly, without competing in the championship’s final round in Bahrain.
So that’s it. No longer will we see the low budget privateer underdog challenge the high rollers of Toyota and its hybrid TS050 LMP1 car. As way of celebrating the brilliant team and I’ll admit it, recall five of the most manic and memorable minutes of my life, I’m going to tell the story of my favourite Rebellion memory.
Having already been in the Le Mans area since the Monday of the 2019 race week, I had now made it to Friday without totally collapsing from exhaustion. In usual editions of the race, like this one, the day preceding the race is used as a way to recharge the batteries and get ready for an entire day of racing beginning on the Saturday. However, that rest time is seemingly only for the cars and drivers as fans are faced with a plethora of events all condensed into the day missing on-track running. This means that to get the entire race week experience, one has to spend hours on the road travelling from village to village surrounding the track.
This particular year, I had decided to take it easy by attending the pit walk at the circuit and a car meet called the British Welcome before making my way to the Le Mans city centre where the traditional drivers’ parade takes place in the evening. This is where the thrill of Le Mans really hit hard.
Thousands of people lined a designated route on which drivers would hitch a lift in beautiful, unique or even odd vehicles. Most teams simply use this as an opportunity to throw apparel at the crowd and promote their sponsors, but Rebellion would had already had quite the festive week after revealing a new livery were in the mood for more than just T-shirt cannons.
Having observed the route online, I chose to stand on the outside of a roundabout towards the end of the parade, and that choice soon turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made. After a stream of Ferrari models had come by celebrating one of the company’s many forgettable anniversaries, it was Rebellion’s time to party.
At first, the Swiss celebration seemed about as exciting as well, what one would expect a Swiss celebration to be. However, a keen observer soon pointed out that the drivers weren’t onboard the little buggies bearing the team’s motto for 2019 “because we are rebels”. It’s at this point that those around the course’s final roundabout realised there was more to the show than a simple drive-by. Within moments, a massive Mercedes 600 Grosser emerged from behind a buggy which was towing it round the parade. The classic icon was covered in paint splodges in similar fashion to the team’s racecars of that year and, just like the buggies, proudly displayed the team motto. It was next the turn of the then all-new McLaren 600LT to make an appearance with once again similar decals to the Grosser only adapted to its much smaller body shape. Finally, a large open-top truck parked in the middle of the small roundabout with flares and a raging party bursting out the roof.
After grid-locking the final part, and therefore, the entirety of the route, the team began setting off multi-coloured flares, smoke bombs and lights whilst playing some rather head-bop inducing music. Bottles of champagne began firing off like a Lewis Hamilton podium and the whole thing felt like I was an extra in a rap music video. To this day, simply thinking about the experience puts goosebumps on my arms, sends the hairs on the back of my neck into action and fills my nose with the electrifying, and probably unhealthy smell of flare smoke.
The bit they don’t show you in rap videos in when they have to tow the beautiful but unreliable classic car off the set with a spluttering quad bike which made for the perfect comedic end to such a fond memory.
Unfortunately, with this year’s driver’s parade being cancelled, we will never know what Rebellion Racing had planned for its send off that could have beaten the wild fiesta of last June. That being said, thanks to Alpine’s comeback to the top class of the WEC we will get to see the R13 LMP1 car compete one last time against the Toyota big boys, though the Oreca-built model will surely be named differently in line with its A470 LMP2 challenger.
Now that you’ve found your way to the bottom of this story, I look forward to reading your favourite memory of the Rebellion team in the comments. Be it on-or-off-track, the team has surely impacted most endurance racing fans in different ways and would love to hear how the team has shaped you.
What is your fondest Rebellion Racing moment?