Rebel Rock Racing began a new chapter as an Aston Martin Racing partner in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with a top-10 finish at the opening round of the season at Daytona International Speedway that went well beyond the team’s expectations.
Drivers Frank DePew and Robin Liddell, series runners-up last year, after falling ten points shy of the title, were joined at Daytona by the experienced Andrew Davis and capitalised on many rival teams needing to make a late ‘splash-and-dash’ fuel stop to climb the order from 26th on the grid.
With the team’s Aston Martin Vantage GT4, dubbed ‘Marty’ in deference to the Zebra-style one-off camouflaged livery, limited in its running at the previous weekend’s ‘Roar before the 24’ test, sensible race targets were set by the team from nearby DeLand, FL.
After gathering information about the new Aston Martin during practice and qualifying, rather than aiming for headline-setting single-lap pace, the stage was set for a dramatic four-hour-long season opener.
DePew made up several places during his opening stint and by half-distance Davis had risen to 16th; recovering from a drive-through penalty that was given for a spinning wheel – due to a slight lack of understanding of the procedures required with the new car’s automatic transmission to hold the car steady in the pitstop with no wheel rotation – while the car was lifted off the ground for a tyre change.
He handed over to fellow former series champion Liddell shortly afterwards; the Scottish racer taking advantage of several Full-Course-Yellow periods and excellent pitwork by the Rebel Rock Racing mechanics during the third hour to storm through to eighth place.
But with another unfortunate drive-through penalty handed to #71 – for a similar reason as before – Liddell was dropped to 15th with less than 30 mins to go.
With smart calls from the Rebel Rock Racing pit stall by strategist Charlie Ping, Liddell drove cautiously to conserve fuel; a fact that paid off handsomely when many leading drivers were forced to pit for a top-up with minutes remaining.
Not only was the ninth-place result beyond the team’s expectations, it also marked the best IMPC finish at Daytona for the team whose DeLand, FL, headquarters is less than an hour’s drive away from the superspeedway.
The next round of the IMPC takes place at Michelin Raceway Sebring in support of the Michelin 12 Hours of Sebring.
Frank DePew, Team Owner/Driver, #71 Aston Martin Vantage GT4, said: “A top-10 result was unexpected and even without the penalties, ninth place was beyond our wildest dreams as we were aiming for mid-pack. I felt comfortable in the Aston Martin, considering I had turned less than 15 laps in the car prior to qualifying and my stint went according to plan apart from the penalty. When I turned the car off I just didn’t have enough brake pressure so the wheel spun and that was it. I have to give so much credit to the team for this result. Rebel Rock Racing can get in a jam and still get results because we have a ton of smart, capable people who can find their way through just about anything.”
Andrew Davis; Driver, #71 Aston Martin Vantage GT4, said: “I’m super-thankful to have another opportunity from Rebel Rock Racing to come and race with Frank and Robin and the endurance driver role here is one I take very seriously. The issues we had at The Roar meant I only had about 12 laps in the car to get acclimated, but I had a lot of fun, made some good passes and learnt a tremendous amount about the Aston Martin, all of which is going to bode very well going forwards. It’s just a shame I have to wait until Mid-Ohio in June to race it again. I’m sure we’ll do some testing between now and then, but for now, I just want to get back in.”
Robin Liddell; Driver, #71 Aston Martin Vantage GT4, said: “I’m delighted with ninth. Without the penalties we would have undoubtedly been higher, which is frustrating, but in the overall scheme of things we are very happy with a top ten finish on our debut. Because we had a sensible strategy, aimed at making the finish, we were able to climb up the order. Frank did a great job in the circumstances and so did Andrew; I just did my best to save fuel and pick up places where I could. The penalties were disappointing and were down to us not fully understanding the complete systems on the car; we won’t make the same mistakes again. Overall we’re very happy. A huge thank you to Aston Martin Racing, who have chosen us as a partner team for and who have been fantastic with their overall engagement and support.”