American Le Mans Series overseer IMSA has confirmed that there is no case to answer following Patron Highcroft Racing's objection to the penalty it suffered in Long Beach.
David Brabham and Scott Sharp appeared on course for a second street circuit success at the wheel of the #9 LMP1 class Acura when the Highcroft team was assessed a penalty for a pit-lane infraction. That resulted in the car dropping behind the similar entry of de Ferran Motorsports, which went on to claim a maiden ALMS LMP1 victory.
The race stewards found that, in accordance with the rules, the issue was not protestable and communicated this to the team, but the race director, stewards and IMSA management still conducted a thorough investigation into the issues raised by Highcroft resulting from the incident.
"The penalty stemmed from the use of a motocross-style helmet, as opposed to a 'full coverage helmet with face shield that is positioned down' by the over-the-wall fire-bottle attendant of the #9 car during the pit-stop," an official IMSA statement revealed, "This is a violation of Art. 18.104.22.168 of the Standing Supplementary Regulations of the American Le Mans Series. From this standpoint the call of the pit official was correct, and the rules call for a standard penalty of a 20-second hold, which was correctly applied by the race director."
The body, however, admitted that there had been flaws in its procedures that may have allowed Highcroft's equipment to slip through the net when it came to being checked prior to the Long Beach event.
"IMSA inspects certain pit crew fire resistant clothing as part of its pre-race inspection process," the statement continued, "In 2008, the rule did not require a helmet with visor for fire-bottle attendants, only balaclava and goggles. For 2009, the rule was changed. At Sebring, the #9 team wore the 2008 configuration, as did many teams. At St Petersburg, the team added a helmet for the fire-bottle attendant, but without a visor.
"At Long Beach, IMSA's technical staff discovered that they had not been correctly inspecting the teams' equipment. However, rather than re-inspecting every team's equipment, only the teams that didn't have a helmet indicated on the Long Beach inspection sheet had their equipment re-inspected and adjustments made. While the #9 team had presented their helmet during pre-race technical inspection, there was no notation about the visor, and consequently the team was not given the opportunity to make a change before the race.
"Therefore, while the team violated the rule and suffered the consequences, had IMSA's inspection procedures not broken down, the violation would probably not have occurred in the first place. An extensive investigation and report has occurred and is being shared with the team. The report contains several recommendations which IMSA intends to follow up on to prevent re-occurrence of this incident."
The findings of the investigation determined that the alleged infraction - as reported to race control by the IMSA pit marshal - did
occur and the penalty assessed by the race director was correct insofar as it followed the 'standard penalties' as listed in the IMSA rulebook, and that the comment made to Highcroft by the pit-lane supervisor - allegedly suggesting that 'the penalty was not a good call' was not correct in that the official in question 'was not aware of the entire situation before his opinion was offered'.
IMSA has emphasised that matters not subject to protest are also not subject to appeal and confirmed that, as a result, the team has elected not to file an appeal. Therefore, from a rules standpoint, the sanctioning body considers the matter closed, even though an investigation of the circumstances is still being completed.