While accepting the findings of IMSA's investigation into the penalty levied against it - at the cost of victory - in Long Beach, Patrón Highcroft Racing has admitted that it is keen to see some clarification of the rules regarding appropriate attire for pit crews.
The Acura outfit was assessed a stop-go penalty when race stewards decreed that a member of its refuelling team was not properly equipped, allowing rival de Ferran Motorsports to steal the win in round three of the series, but IMSA has admitted that there were circumstances beyond the team's control that may have contributed to the penalty being applied. The sanctioning body was unable to rescind the punishment, or alter the result, however.
"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 has since admitted that there had been flaws in its pre-race checking procedure for pit equipment, which may have led to the Highcroft team believing that it was okay to proceed with the kit that it had [see separate story HERE
Despite accepting the findings of the post-race investigation, the team took the opportunity to point out potential areas of confusion in the regulations.
"The team was alleged to have violated Art. 22.214.171.124 of the Standing Supplementary Regulations of the American Le Mans Series - stating fire-bottle person must wear 'a full coverage helmet with face shield that is positioned down'," it pointed out in an official statement, "Our fire bottle crew member was equipped with a motocross-style helmet with chin guard, fire retardant balaclava (head sock) and face shield goggles. Our fire bottle crew member had his goggles (face shield) in place during the Long Beach pit-stop.
"The wording of Art 126.96.36.199. differs from that which is applied to refuellers from Art. 17.6.2 (b) 'helmet with a closed visor' in regards the equipment required by 'fuel attendants'. Our refueller is equipped with a full-face helmet and fire retardant balaclava at every round of the American Le Mans Series including Long Beach."
The points raised by the statement also claimed that the team's telemetry 'indicates our car was held in excess of the 20-second penalty applied', again suggesting that errors contributed to the loss of victory.
However, despite the disappointment of learning that its protest would not be heard, in accordance with the rulebook, Highcroft expressed it appreciation to IMSA for 'the efforts applied to the post-event examination of the penalty', and said that it looked forward to seeing the rulebook confusion cleared up ahead of forthcoming races.