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Indy Lights team suspension confirmed

15 July 2011

IndyCar - the organising body of the Firestone Indy Lights Series as well as the senior IZOD IndyCar Series - has rejected a protest from O2 Racing Technology and its team owner Mark Olson against the penalty imposed on them for allegedly trying to organise a boycott of the series event at Milwaukee last month.

Olson was protesting the finding in the original ruling that "you encouraged team owners to boycott the [Milwaukee] event", with the team describing this finding as "simply false."

In a press release after the latest ruling, O2 Racing Technology said: "At the hearing, IndyCar admitted that it had conducted an investigation that failed to find a single person who claimed to have been encouraged to boycott the Milwaukee event by Olson.

"However, IndyCar maintained that the burden rested on Olson to prove a negative, i.e. that Olson did not encourage a boycott. Despite Olson's testimony to his innocence and personal team owner letters supporting Olson's position, IndyCar denied the appeal and ruled that there was insufficient evidence to reverse the penalty and suspension."

"I am very disappointed with the outcome of the protest," said Mark Olson. "I strongly disagree with the ruling. The penalty notice accusations are simply untrue. After yesterday's hearing, I'm more convinced than ever that IndyCar knew that the accusations are untrue.

"I don't understand why they won't just admit their mistake and attempt to undo the damage done not only to me personally, but also to the O2 Racing team and its sponsors and supporters."

The sponsors of the team had already pulled out prior to the original ruling, leading to the team announcing that it was withdrawing from all remaining races in 2011 as a result. That left its drivers, Mikael Grenier and Peter Dempsey, without a ride for the rest of the year.

However, Dempsey - from Ashbourne, County Meath in Ireland - was picked up for a one-off appearance with Andretti Autosport in the Indy Lights race in Toronto and duly came second in a team one-two alongside regular driver Stefan Wilson who claimed his maiden series win. Wilson is the younger brother of former F1 and current IndyCar Series driver Justin Wilson, and winner of the 2007 McLaren Autosport BRDC Award for promising young British drivers.

It's not clear whether Dempsey will get a second outing with Andretti Autosport at the next Canadian event in Edmonton next weekend.

IndyCar handed down the original decision to exclude both the O2 Racing Technology team and Mark Olson himself from competition until December 31, 2012 at the end of June. The team duly protested the penalty, leading to the formal hearing in Indianapolis on July 14 which has now ruled against the team and confirmed the exclusion. This week's hearing was chaired by race director Tony Cotman. The team still has the right to appeal the decision.

The row started when two Sam Schmidt Motorsports cars failed technical inspection following Indy Lights qualifying for the David Hobbs 100 at the Milwaukee Mile, but were subsequently reinstated. That infuriated Olson who said that as a result, the competition had an "integrity issue."

It's alleged that Olson and his team then tried to organise a boycott of the race among the rest of the teams, although in the end only the O2 Racing Technology team actually pulled out and the event went ahead with the remaining entrants.

"The mere act of attempting to impede the conduct of the event is something we will not tolerate," said Indy Lights executive director Roger Bailey in June. "We must maintain the integrity of our series." As a result, O2 was excluded "for attempting to impede the conduct of the event by encouraging others to breach contracts with IndyCar."


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