After running an impeccable Le Mans 24 hour race, the gorgeous throwback Wynn’s liveried customer-entered Ford GT of Keating Motorsports won the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Then, on Monday, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile struck the car from the race altogether for breaking two different fuel refilling regulations. The first, filling the tank too quickly, and the second, carrying too much fuel for what the car was allocated.
This type of shit happens all the time. Last year it was a post-race penalty for the LMP2 victors. This year, it’s the GTE Am class winners. A similar penalty precluded the Dempsey Proton Porsche team from winning a FIA WEC GTE Am championship earlier this season.
The minutiae of the rulebook has bogged down a few efforts in the past, and with changes happening right up to the day before the race. This was the case with the Aston Martin team receiving a balance of performance change dropping the Vantage’s horsepower following their pole position. There is hardly a solid way of keeping up with the rules as a competitor, let alone as a fan.
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So, what exactly were Keating Motorsports excluded for? According to FIA records, their minimum pit stop refueling was supposed to be set at 45 seconds, but the team consistently fueled in 44.4 seconds. The team was also deemed to be carrying 0.1 liters more than their mandated 96 liters.
The FIA initially awarded the team a 55.2 second time penalty, which amounts to quadruple the amount of time the team won on pit lane by fueling quicker than the minimum. This would have lost the team its victory, but only just, and relegated them to second in class. When the max fuel discrepancy was discovered, however, the team was disqualified altogether.
According to sportscar365.com, team boss Bill Riley does not plan to appeal the FIA’s ruling.
The #68 Ford GT was also disqualified from its 4th place finish in the GTE Pro class for exceeding allotted fuel capacity.
This ruling does suck a lot, because I liked watching the Keating car take that win, but the team did break the rules, whether intentionally or not. They certainly didn’t break the rules enough that it would have changed the outcome, I don’t think, but rules are rules, I guess.
It does seem a bit petty to me of the FIA to beat up a team like that, however. This was Ford’s last race in the WEC, and it may have been a way for the sanctioning body to promote the cars that are committed to continuing racing in the series next year. You’ll notice that this promotes the Project 1 Porsche to the GTE Am victory, and that is a team that just last week announced it would be adding a second car to its efforts for the 2019/2020 season. Maybe I’m wearing a tin-foil hat?