Rebellion Racing finished just six seconds behind the race winner in their first visit to Laguna Seca as part of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) on Sunday.
The four hour race saw drivers Nick Heidfeld and Neel Jani fight all the way through to take a popular podium finish.
Heidfeld started for the team and his stint saw multiple passing attempts from Klaus Graf in the Muscle Milk car, but the Rebellion driver managed to hold the class lead. At the first pit-stop the former Formula 1 star handed over to Jani and after a quick stop by the team the Rebellion machine re-emerged in the lead.
Jani resumed the battle with the Muscle Milk car, now driven by Lucas Luhr, and there were a number of changes for the lead. However, with less than fourty minutes of the race to go, the two cars touched and the Rebellion car suffered a puncture.
An unplanned pitstop to change the punctured tyre left Jani in second, over 36 seconds behind Luhr. However, pushing the Lola-Toyota Rebellion car to the limit, Jani cut the deficit over the remaining laps and at the finish was just six seconds behind the victorious Luhr.
Heidfeld said: “It was the most fun race I have had in a long time. Unfortunately we only came second, but it’s still a good result for the team. I had a good fight in the beginning with Klaus [Graf] and could open up a good gap. I really enjoyed the fight with the Muscle Milk team today. I think it would be really nice if those guys would come over to Europe to race with us.”
Jani said: “Today was definitely my toughest endurance race ever. It was a great race, a really great fight with a lot of hot moments, a lot of touching, and sometimes even heavy contact which in the end probably cost us the race.”
Of the race-deciding incident, he said: “I got a puncture from the last contact that I had with the Muscle Milk and that’s when we lost the lead again and we basically lost the race there. Nevertheless, it was a very exciting race; definitely one of the most exciting races I have had.”
Meanwhile team manager Bart Hayden said: “We came to Laguna Seca with only one objective in mind, to win the race. It was a really great battle today with the Muscle Milk team, but ultimately they triumphed. It was exciting from the first lap until the last and it was a great advert for endurance racing.”
He continued: “As a team we performed at a very high level today, the pit work and strategy calls were all top notch and the drivers fought hard through the traffic, and we’re a bit disappointed not to have won. Now we’ll go back to Europe and focus on the biggest race of the year, the 24 Hours of Le Mans.”