Following this weekend’s messy Pirelli World Challenge race, twenty separate racing incidents were under investigation by the stewards. The penalties assessed are now live on the series website, and twenty of the forty drivers participating will lose points, money or grid positions over the Long Beach race.
Sportscar365 broke down the penalties into a more digestible list complete with drivers’ names and cars. At first glance, it almost looks like they’ve adopted the 24 Hours of LeMons’ “everyone is guilty” approach to contact and inappropriate passing, even though these twenty different drivers were penalized for a total of twenty incidents. There are a surprising number of amateur moves like jumping the start and passing under yellow on the list that are getting penalized for obvious reasons as well. Outside of those, however, the list isn’t very descriptive as to what incident or action prompted the penalty, with items like “unsportsmanlike conduct” and “driver conduct” going unexplained.
Effort Racing’s Ryan Dalziel, for one, will be asking series officials where his 20-point penalty for “unsportsmanlike conduct” came from. Dalziel walked off the podium when the competitors were handed bottles of champagne in a show of frustration as to how the race went, but admits that he doesn’t know yet if that was the source of the penalty or not.
Always Evolving Nissan GT Academy driver Bryan Heitkotter may also be looking for additional explanation, as he received penalties after the race on top of the drive through penalty for contact that he took during the race. After the series’ review of all the race incidents, he received a $5,000 fine and a loss of 20 driver’s points for driver conduct as well as a loss of two grid positions at the next race for jumping the start at Long Beach. Was this fine and loss of points for a different, yet-unpunished incident or the same one he already took a drive through for?
Some believe the penalties weren’t harsh enough, as none of the results for the race were affected. Only driver championship points took a hit. Per Article 1.10 of the series rule book, harsher penalties, including disqualification, probation and suspension were available. R. Ferri Motorsport driver and race winner Olivier Beretta netted the most penalties (3 in total), yet received no probation or suspension on top of that number of penalties.
Others criticized the amounts and targets of the penalties. Beretta was one of the names most called out by other competitors over his driving during the race. However, he only netted $4,000 in fines and a loss of 50 driver’s points for two separate driving conduct violations, where one pass under yellow netted many competitors a $5,000 fine and loss of 20 points. The only larger fine for a single instance of driver conduct was given to Heitkotter ($5,000 and 20 points).
Furthermore, it appears as though everyone involved in the three-wide smasharoo where Beretta pushed Kévin Estre’s McLaren into Johnny O’Connell’s Cadillac ended up on the penalty list for driver conduct. However, without explanation, it’s hard to say if that was the incident which resulted in penalties for all three drivers.
Several drivers in the aftermath of this weekend’s controversial race reiterated that it’s up to the drivers themselves to put on the kind of race that everyone wants to be a part of.
“Had the drivers done their jobs and had they been respectful of their competitors, it would have been a good clean race and the fans would have loved every second of it,” explained Cadillac driver Johnny O’Connell in his recap on Racer.
Regardless, it will be interesting to hear any further explanations as to why which drivers received which penalties.
Are twenty drivers receiving penalties after the race too much? The point of a penalty is to discourage bad behavior. If it’s not too inconvenient for a team to eat a fine or some championship points, I’m not convinced that these will set enough of an example. When all is said and done, the driver who netted the most number of penalties still gets to say he won this race.
Moreover, were the penalties all appropriate and necessary? Obviously, the penalty list gives too little detail to make that call right now. Should competitors feel unfairly punished by The Man, however, there is a process for appeals outlined in Article 1.12 of the rules. I suspect we’ll see a few of those pop up in the next few days.
What about the future? Even many of the most outspoken critics have some faith in World Challenge’s ability to turn things around and are encouraging fans not to give up on the series accordingly. There’s far too much going well for PWC this year to abandon ship over two crashy street course races. Car-wise, it’s probably the most impressive field in America at the moment. The next race is at Barber Motorsports Park, and while some feel as if it may be hard to pass there, at least it isn’t another narrow walled street circuit like Long Beach. Hopefully it’s the right place to get the series back on track.
Perhaps Ryan Dalziel summed up this sentiment best:
Update: Here’s one of the letters that was received with the penalty, posted by Mike Hedlund yesterday:
It didn’t include an explanation of where Hedlund’s contact was (he tapped #08’s rear in a turn), although officials were quick to provide that information when he asked about it. Perhaps for expediency’s sake, the exact moment that’s being penalized needs to be specified in these letters so there’s not potentially 20 different requests for that info sent back next time?
As for Dalziel, myth confirmed (update: written confirmation was received Saturday). The “unsportsmanlike conduct” penalty was for not spraying champagne. Just to clarify, he did stick it out through all of the photo-ops for the series, the media and its sponsors on the podium. All he did was walk off at the very end when they were spraying champagne.
Something else worth nothing that we didn’t earlier: Turner Motorsport driver Bret Curtis’s drive train broke at the start, which is why he stalled there. Unfortunately, he’s being penalized for a stall on the standing start despite the fact that it was out of his control and his car went immediately behind the wall afterwards for a fix. If the penalty stands, he has to work in three standing start practices before the next race and start the race itself from pit lane. Starting from pit lane is the kind of penalty that hits a racer where it hurts—it affects their shot at the win. How a mechanical failure gets a pit lane start and how bad driving doesn’t is a little baffling.
Fines or appeals were due upon receipt of yesterday’s notices.
Update #2: WC Vision (the entity that manages Pirelli World Challenge) released a statement on the record amount of fines collected today, expressing their disappointment at the level of driving and announcing that all fines will go to driving-related charities.
WC Vision President and CEO Scott Bove had this to say:
Since the completion of Sunday’s race, Pirelli World Challenge’s Competition Board has worked around the clock to review incidents from the Round 5 race. The series will not tolerate behavior such as was exhibited at our Long Beach race. There is no one more disappointed in the on track product we delivered than I am. We can do better and commit to our partners, teams, drivers and fans and that we will. I appreciate the support from the drivers that have emailed me privately accepting responsibility for their actions and already paid their fines. The drivers that are not accepting responsibility for their on track behavior and for the poor product they delivered will either change their behavior or not race with us. It is that simple. We have unfortunately posted a record number of penalties, fines and probation notices with the hope that the clear message is received by our competitors that the series will enforce the standards of on track behavior required to compete in PWC. Racing is a very dangerous sport, passing under yellow, avoidable contact and unsportsmanlike conduct will not be tolerated.
The drivers put on probation by the series per the final results are Bryan Heitkotter (for two races) and Robert Thorne (for two races). The final results sheet also lists the specific incidents that caused each penalty.
Photo credit: Porsche
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.