Rebel Rock Racing proved they’re the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge’s Comeback Kings as they again charged through the field to an ultra-strong result at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) to stay in the thick of the title fight.
The team from DeLand, FL, scored a fourth-place finish at the world famous ‘Brickyard’ aboard the #71 Urban Grid Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R thanks to its driver line-up of Frank DePew, Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell.
But such a result would not have been possible without the superb display of driving shown by all three, slick work in pitlane and clever thinking from the team strategists.
Coming off the back of consecutive wins at Road America and Virginia International Raceway, hopes were high of another strong finish on the IMS road course, which was being used for the first time by the series.
But a slow puncture sustained in qualifying did not allow starting driver, Frank Depew to maximize his performance and instead restricted him to 26th on the GS-class grid.
The Virginia-based racer did his job perfectly when the green flag waved, avoiding a number of early incidents to make up several positions through the opening stint of the race before handing over driving duties to Davis just beyond the 40-minute mark.
The 2015 series champion – who is competing for Rebel Rock in the longer IMPC races this year – continued DePew’s early progress, the driver from Lilburn, GA, making it as high as 10th during his stint.
But it was during the second half of the race, once Liddell – who shared that 2015 title with Davis – had climbed aboard #71, that the real drama began to unfold.
With several Full-Course-Yellow periods declared at inopportune times, teams were forced to think quickly about how to complete the race with the minimum number of fuel stops possible to protect vital track position.
The Rebel Rock crew did this to perfection, pitting Liddell for the final time with one hour and 20 minutes left as the Scotsman was briefed to save fuel and brakes wherever possible while maintaining a strong and consistent pace as night drew in.
Showing all his experience and guile, Liddell maintained a spot inside the top 10 throughout the final stint and charged through the darkness from seventh to fourth in the final five minutes as others were forced to slacken their pace severely or pit again to avoid running dry.
That result – just over eight seconds from victory – helped move full-season drivers DePew and Liddell up to second place in the Drivers’ Championship – just 60 points away from the series lead.
This latest milestone in a remarkable fightback from last place in the standings after the opening round at Daytona in January means DePew and Liddell are now in a three-way fight for the title with 350 points available from the Road Atlanta finale on October 11-13.
Frank DePew said: “It was a great result, particularly as the car wasn’t quite there in terms of performance, and another strong team performance. The execution by the crew during the stops and the team on the pit stand was superb and ultimately what gave us the result. The last caution period probably helped a couple of the cars stretch their fuel so we possibly could have been even higher without that. We did what we needed to do by being in front of the two cars we’re fighting for the championship with and we’re close now with one race to go.”
Andrew Davis said: “It was so nice being back with Rebel Rock Racing. It was also great to have a final go behind the wheel of the Chevy Camaro GT4.R before its final race. The race itself was action packed. Frank did a great job in his stint, which certainly made my job easier. I had some fun battles, but was able to focus on my task of bringing the #71 back in top form for Robin to finish things. The way this team works together with strategy is impressive, so it was no surprise that we climbed the order in the final minutes. I’m happy that we came away with a strong finish and are in a position to win it all at the finale.”
Robin Liddell said: “I’m delighted with the result. We aimed for the top 10 to make sure we could go to the last race with a shot of the title, but moving up to second in the points is even better and I’m proud of the team for putting us in this position. It was a tricky race and I had to be careful with the brakes because we had quite high wear as well as trying to save fuel to minimise the number of stops. It was a smart team performance that helped us maximise the package we had this weekend. We’ll now head to Road Atlanta with a clear goal to win the race. We have everything to gain and absolutely nothing to lose.”