Rebel Rock Racing is set to “Rock The Grid” at Sebring International Raceway, as the Florida-based team owned by Grammy Award-winning producer Jim Jonsin begins its fifth season in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.
The team will campaign three cars for 2016, including a Porsche 911 in Grand Sport (GS) and a pair of Porsche Caymans in Street Tuner (ST). Rebel Rock also has a new driver lineup, including 2015 GS champion Robin Liddell and 2015 Porsche GT3 Cup champion Elliott Skeer, who opened the season with a third-place finish in ST at Daytona.
The team has continued to evolve for 2016, partnering with DeLand, Florida-based Blackforest Motorsports. Team COO Tom Fitzgerald took time during the recent Continental Tire Challenge test at Sebring to talk about the revitalized team.
Tom, what are the biggest changes at Rebel Rock Racing this year?
“We’ve got a whole new crew and new people added to the management. Basically, we started with the old cars, tore them down to bare tubs, and pretty much started over. We re-engineered a lot of things, and were fortunate to do a lot of testing to learn a lot more about the cars and the setup. We got a number of different drivers to help with their input. Ian James was a big help, Terry Borcheller was a huge help, and we also brought back a number of the team’s former drivers, and they are real excited. I’m excited for the team.”
Where is the team based?
“We moved the team [from Coconut Creek] to DeLand. It was an opportunity for a bigger shop. I met [Blackforest Motorsports owner] Chris [Nott] last year. He’s a real smart guy and he’s fun to work with. Chris is running the team for Rebel Rock, he took over as team manager. They all live up there, so it was a logical place to move. Originally I was thinking of going to Sarasota – which is where my house is – but I wound up in DeLand. So we’re going to move up there and see how it works.”
What is your role with the team as COO, and what will Jim Jonsin be doing?
“I’m laying out our team’s three-year future. My main job is working on the 2017 season. Jim doesn’t have a lot of time, but he likes coming to the track and wants to run a few races. He’s trying to get the Rock The Grid concert program going – that starts at Sebring – but mainly he’s been working more on his music. It was easier for him to show up on Friday and leave on Sunday.”
The team has experienced highs and lows over its four-year history. How will your turn that around?
“We’ve turned it around. They did struggle a bit last year. I did a couple races – COTA and VIR – to watch and get a handle on the team and how they operated. Now we’ve got to show it’s cleaned up. We saw an opportunity. Chris had a handle on it, but he didn’t have the means to do what the team needed. With us stepping in and tearing everything down to start over, we look at it as the new Rebel Rock. We had a great run at Daytona, we’ve got Robin and Elliott, so we’ll just keep pushing forward. We’re trying to get there, one step at a time. We first wanted to get a real good handle on the (ST) Caymans, and I think we’ve conquered that. Next we’ll care of the Porsche 997 . Mid-season, we’re looking at possibly moving over to the [Porsche Cayman] GT4 [Clubsport].”
How does having champions like Robin Liddell and Elliott Skeer help the team?
“They have their reputations to protect. Obviously, if they didn’t see a future, and they didn’t see it was a new team with a solid future, they wouldn’t be here. The last thing they want is to be running around mid-pack. This is a tough business. There are a lot of people watching this team from the sidelines, making sure it’s cleaned up. But everything’s good and solid with it.”