Tuesday, March 19, 2013

American Le Mans penalties

While watching the 12hrs of Sebring it reminded us of one of our gripes about the ALMS. We have always thought their penalties have almost always been harsher than required. This is really a practice in cruel and unjust punishment.

Allan McNish driving the #2 Audi was given a stop and hold penalty for bumping one of the LMPC cars off the road. But in reality a trained eye would have noticed that he was being shoved off the road. As a racer it is assumed that he will aim to keep his vehicle on the race track, because going off track slows you down and causes you to have an accident. So whether an LMPC driver sees him coming or not McNish's primary aim is to stay on track. It's the responsiblity of the LMPC driver to be aware of his surroundings, and judge the closing rates of different vehicles. That was purely a racing incident.

The ALMS has a penchant for resorting to a "stop and hold" penalty for everything. The logic behind that is probably that it gives the victim some kind of solace from seeing their aggressor's race also hampered.

But penalties are supposed to be given depending on how dangerous and flagrant they appear. Here are the in-race penalties we know off:

-A warning which is really not a penalty
-A drive through penalty: the driver comes into the pit lane and drives through the pit lane at pit speed  and exits back on the track without stopping for service.
-A stop and go penalty: the driver comes to the pit lane stops at his pit stall (or at the official's area in the pit lane) comes to a complete stop, turns off the engine, then is let back out again without any servicing done.
-The stop and hold penalties: these can have different lengths. 10 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 min, 3 min, 5min depending on the severity of the offense.
-Exclusion of a particular driver: we have only seen this at Le Mans. Teams spend fortunes just to get there, the ACO doesn't want to make them regret their investment by declaring the whole squad ineligible.
-The black flag: the entire team is no longer scored and their result is null and void. It's as if they never competed in the race. We can't recall ever seeing this, and we hope to never have to. However we have seen the black flag used to warn a certain Allan McNish in the ALMS during the Audi R10 days.

Keep in mind we stand by the logic that a penalty should only be assessed if a driver had the opportunity of wat lawyers would call "last clear chance". Meaning the driver at fault had a final chance to avoid the whole deal.

Just like anything left to judgement there will be differing opinions and case by case situations, but any stop and hold over 1 minute, should only be applied when a driver commits a flagrant offense