by Lynne Huntting

Champ Car race director Tony Cotman has hit back at series champion Sebastien Bourdais, after the Frenchman suggested that he had been unfairly penalised prior to the final round in Mexico City.

Both Bourdais and Newman/Haas/Lanigan team-mate Graham Rahal was accused of laying down rubber on their grid slots during extra standing start practice, and were docked 22 seconds of power to pass as a punishment, but the four-time champion claimed that the penalty was 'bullsh*t'.

Bourdais said that he had dropped the clutch while rolling through his grid box, but did not do a standing start as was alleged. Cotman, however, disagreed. He
had wanted to give the drivers extra standing start practice at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez because there is significantly less power available because of the high altitude, but the teams were specifically told not to use their grid boxes.

"I obviously didn't see it that way," he said of Bourdais' claim, "The practice is discussed in every drivers' meeting at every race, and 15 other drivers had no problem.

"We obviously had a lot of people spotting, and race officials on the wall reported it. I was looking out the window watching right in front of me, and it was on video. We also took data from the cars. In my opinion, it was a no brainer."

Bourdais had said in an earlier press conference that the rule, as written, didn't forbid what he did, but Cotman again countered the claim.

"It is written - do not use your grid box - as discussed all years," he said, "There is no excuse. Bourdais can either take responsibility or not. The team gets penalised.

"To be quite honest, the penalty is discretionary. I could have stuck him in the back of the pack. I was ticked off and it was blatant. The team was blas?. We not only told them and warned them, but Rahal's pit board guy was told to warn the team not to light up its tyres. It was very clear to the team. I feel, honestly, that the penalty was pretty light."

Cotman also admitted that he didn't feel that the penalty for the infraction should be in the rule book. From his point of view, there are too many variables.

The penalty came hours after an emotional tribute to Bourdais at Saturday's drivers' meeting, but Cotman admitted that that had not clouded his judgement when it came to punishing the Frenchman.

"Bourdais is an incredible talent, [and] it's the least we can do to pay honour his achievements," he said, "But it doesn't matter who you are when it comes to a penalty. You can be disappointed or disagree. My job is sometimes judgmental, [but] I try to be fair and review the evidence before I have a potential outcome. NHLR is a good team. Bourdais is an awesome driver and he didn't even use all of his power to pass today."

 

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