You were leading a race, but after you spun, you’ll be restarting the final lap of the event down in sixth place. It’s going to take one hell of an effort to push you up to the front of the pack again with just a few turns remaining in the event. What’s your strategy? What do you do?
If you’re Chip Robinson, you hit pit road at speed and pass five cars.
Robinson’s drastic move took place during an IMSA event at Florida State Fairgrounds, a 1.9-mile course near Tampa, Florida that hosted two IMSA events. This particular event took place on October 1, 1989, and you can watch the chaos of the last lap below:
The Orlando Sentinel newspaper reported that Robinson spun near the end of the Florida event after hitting the gas just a little too hard. Price Cobb — a name that does not sound real but is somehow perfectly fitting of an IMSA sports car driver of the late 1980s — cruised past into the lead as the yellow flag waved.
“When the green flag waved for the final lap, Robinson bolted down the pit lane to bypass the slower cars and exited just behind Cobb as the two sped away from the pack to stage a one-lap sprint to the finish line,” Beth Rhodes, a Sentinel writer reported. “Cobb [held] off Robinson by 0.281 seconds.”
As you can imagine, IMSA wasn’t exactly impressed with Robinson’s slick bypassing of the rules. They handed him two different penalties: one for passing during a caution and one for violating a code of conduct for driving too fast down pit lane.
Stunningly, Robinson’s penalty only dropped him from second place to fourth in the final race standings. Pass the field by speeding down the pit lane today, and you’ll be slapped with a pretty serious penalty. Lucas di Grassi tried something similar during this season of Formula E, and he was disqualified.
But perhaps even more stunning was Robinson’s explanation of the event: “I didn’t see the yellow flags when they flew and I passed the No. 68 car, it certainly wasn’t intentional. It was under green, and Price Cobb had the field stopped. I need to get around so I drove down the pit lane.”
“It was a spur of the moment thing,” he continued in The Tampa Tribune. “I took a chance. We were coming out of the corner of the pace lap so slowly, I practically came to a stop. So I saw the pit entrance and decided that was the best way to go. Price was applying some good race tactics, keeping the pace lap slow, so I couldn’t get as much boost on the restart.”
All I can say is: the audacity of this man.