The 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans started on June 17 and ended June 18, nearly four months ago. On Oct. 2, Le Mans organizers announced the official finishing order of the race. A drawn-out penalty appeal left a group of class winners unaware of whether they’d actually won for four months. And now we know, so that’s good.
The appeal finally ended after four months, when Le Mans organizers published the final results with the No. 36 of André Negrão, Nicolas Lapierre and Pierre Thiriet on top in the second-tier Le Mans Prototype 2 class. That car originally finished second in the LMP2 class in the second World Endurance Championship race of the season, two laps, or 17 miles, behind the G-Drive Racing No. 26 car of Roman Rusinov, Andrea Pizzitola and Jean-Éric Vergne.
Le Mans officials disqualified the No. 26 that crossed the line first, for what they ruled to be an illegal device to speed up pit stops. The original disqualification announcement from Le Mans dinged the No. 26 team for “non-compliance of a part in the fuel restrictor,” meaning the No. 36 got the win.
But a Le Mans win is up there with a Monaco Grand Prix or Indianapolis 500 win, and the G-Drive group wasn’t about to let that one go so easily. The No. 36 car topped the unofficial results for months as an appeal from G-Drive went on and on, with dailysportscar.com and Racer writing last month:
The exclusion saw the #36 Signatech Alpine team elevated to the win with Team Principal Philippe Sinault telling leberry.fr:
“Judges apparently want to take their time before reaching a verdict. My lawyer is now telling me that we may have to wait up to another week before a decision is released”.
Sinault added “It’s really a pity. This has been going on for a while now; it’s detrimental to what we do and to the image of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s a pity. I am surprised, a little disenchanted and disappointed. For sure I was already disappointed [before today’s events]: I thought that September 18 was already far from the race week-end (June 16/17). It’s ruining the party.”
“It should be fairly straightforward to rule this case. It is never a good thing to leave things unsettled like this. But as we always said, we won’t go against the work done by this institution [the FIA]. We trust them”
Autosport reports that the the FIA International Court of Appeal ultimately upheld the Le Mans stewards’ decision, saying the two G-Drive cars with the device were able to refuel “significantly faster” than other cars in their class. Here are details on what happened between the team and court, via Autosport:
The court stated that refuelling of the two [G-Drive] TDS-run cars was approximately 25 percent faster than the other cars in class, which constituted a gain of six to 10 seconds per pitstop.
TDS had modified the refuelling rigs with an additional component that fitted between the dead man cut-off valve and the flow restrictor, which limits the rate of refuelling.
The French team argued that this component was a “commendable technical innovation”, according to a statement from the court, and that there was no specific regulation regarding any fittings between the fuel flow restrictor and the dead man valve.
After the announcement that G-Drive lost the appeal on Tuesday morning, the Le Mans Twitter account posted, verbatim, “#Congrats to @SignatechAlpine for the LMP2 victory !” as if the race just ended. (The race ended a long time ago.)
But, of course, important decisions take time. As my husband said almost immediately after I told him about this one: “Well, it is endurance racing. Sometimes it takes a few months.”