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The Rolex 24 from Daytona signaled the first race since the merger of the American Le Mans Series and the NASCAR-owned Grand Am series. While the homologation of the cars proved difficult indeed, the race control seems to have been all NASCAR.

With a handful of minutes left in the race, a pedestrian off from a Porsche prompted officials to throw a yellow flag for full-course caution. Not a local yellow, which is typical for this type of incident, but a full-course caution which can only been seen as a NASCAR-style “competition caution”. That may thrill fans at Talladega but for Sports Car fans, it’s a patronizing move and it’s a unfortunate way to complete a 24-hour grueling race regardless of the “excitement” of a “shootout”.

If that were the only heavy-handed move by race officials, perhaps fans could live with the thought that the first race post-merger was an eventful affair but that isn’t the end. Race officials decided, almost instantaneously, to penalize the GTD class winning Ferrari #555 from Level 5 Motorsports for avoidable contact with the Flying Lizard Audi #45…which is somewhat odd as there was no contact made between the two cars.

The rules may say that actual contact doesn’t have to take place for the avoidable contact penalty but fans were incensed by the call as they, and many drivers such as David Brabham, voiced their frustration on Twitter. It was an amazing response time for the penalty to occur which, quite honestly, was faster than I’ve seen from Formula 1, NASCAR or Le Mans. A shame to penalize Level 5 Motorsports for two professional drivers scrapping to the end. Isn’t that racing?

As it was, Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and  Sebastien Bourdais took the Prototype win in the Action Express racing Corvette and it can’t be ignored just how saturating the General Motors (GM) presence was at the race. It was almost the GM Corvette 24 hours at Daytona. I’m as excited as the next person to see GM involved but there were many story lines such as Mazda’s Diesel, Porsche’s new North American challenger, Audi’s increased approach to USC and the new Ford EcoBoost motor in the Ganassi team’s car.

The other challenge was the homologation which slowed the PC class cars down and made the Daytona Prototypes the class of the field and while they have come a long way, I would have liked to see some parity with these two classes. It’s difficult to find motivation if you are a PC class challenger when the GT Le Mans class cars are beating you.

In the end, the merger was successful, the racing had some of the best drivers in years and the GTD class was a lot of fun to watch. In all, the United Sportscar Championship would have been much better off if they had adopted the ALMS officiating and rule book as well. Applying NASCAR-style regulations, race control and penalty justification has left a sour taste in true sportscar fans mouths. If they wanted NASCAR, they’d watch NASCAR.

This series could be very popular as long as the NASCAR nuance remains muted. The teams, drivers and sport could use a new, combined officiating and regulatory system that perhaps IMSA could provide leaving NASCAR politics behind and placing real American road racing at the forefront.

Will fans continue to watch? Sure, but when it starts to feel and act like a NASCAR version of road racing, they may be looking for the ALMS again. Oh, could someone enlighten me as to what April Rose actually does during race weekends and what insight does she bring to the race or broadcast? A women parading around the paddock in a skin-tight spandex suit with cleavage for days smiling and waving for the camera is about as patronizing as the penalty for Level 5 Motorsports and the “competition caution”. I’m sure she’s a delightful woman but come on…

There were some great moments in the race but also some very scary moments and for this, I commend USC for their quick action. An early crash between Memo Gidley and Matteo Malucelli. Gidley suffered a broken back and has had surgery on his arm and leg. Both drivers were awake and communicative so the signs are good but it was a very scary moment indeed as fans around the world held their collective breath.

Results:

Finish CLASS CAR CAR TYPE LAPS COMP BEHIND LEADER BEHIND NEXT IN CLASS
1 P 5 CORVETTE DP 695 – – – – – –
2 P 10 CORVETTE DP 695 1.461 1.461
3 P 9 CORVETTE DP 695 19.489 18.028
4 P 90 CORVETTE DP 693 2 LAPS 2 LAPS
5 P 6 NISSAN ORECA 692 3 LAPS 1 LAPS
6 GTLM 911 PORSCHE 911 RSR 679 16 LAPS – – –
7 GTLM 55 BMW Z4 GTE 679 16 LAPS 2.838
8 P 42 NISSAN MORGAN 678 17 LAPS 14 LAPS
9 PC 54 ORECA FLM09 678 17 LAPS – – –
10 PC 25 ORECA FLM09 677 18 LAPS 1 LAPS
11 P 2 HPD ARX-03B 676 19 LAPS 2 LAPS
12 GTLM 91 SRT VIPER GTS-R 675 20 LAPS 4 LAPS
13 PC 38 ORECA FLM09 669 26 LAPS 8 LAPS
14 GTLM 56 BMW Z4 GTE 668 27 LAPS 7 LAPS
15 P 02 FORD ECOBOOST/RILEY 667 28 LAPS 9 LAPS
16 GTLM 4 CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R 666 29 LAPS 2 LAPS
17 PC 52 ORECA FLM09 662 33 LAPS 7 LAPS
18 GTD 555 FERRARI 458 ITALIA 662 33 LAPS – – – penalty for contact
19 GTD 45 AUDI R8 LMS 662 33 LAPS 1.293
20 GTD 58 PORSCHE 911 GT AMERICA 662 33 LAPS 0.159
21 GTD 72 FERRARI 458 ITALIA 662 33 LAPS 13.760
22 GTD 35 AUDI R8 LMS 661 34 LAPS 1 LAPS
23 GTD 556 FERRARI 458 ITALIA 661 34 LAPS 3.061
24 PC 8 ORECA FLM09 659 36 LAPS 3 LAPS
25 GTD 94 BMW Z4 659 36 LAPS 2 LAPS
26 GTD 22 PORSCHE 911 GT AMERICA 656 39 LAPS 3 LAPS
27 GTLM 93 SRT VIPER GTS-R 653 42 LAPS 13 LAPS
28 GTD 30 PORSCHE 911 GT AMERICA 652 43 LAPS 4 LAPS
29 GTD 65 FERRARI 458 ITALIA 649 46 LAPS 3 LAPS
30 GTD 63 FERRARI 458 ITALIA 647 48 LAPS 2 LAPS
31 GTD 44 PORSCHE 911 GT AMERICA 645 50 LAPS 2 LAPS
32 GTD 73 PORSCHE 911 GT AMERICA 645 50 LAPS 31.014
33 GTD 64 FERRARI 458 ITALIA 645 50 LAPS 25.084
34 GTD 23 PORSCHE 911 GT AMERICA 639 56 LAPS 6 LAPS
35 P 50 DINAN/RILEY 631 64 LAPS 36 LAPS
36 GTD 48 AUDI R8 LMS 626 69 LAPS 13 LAPS
37 GTLM 57 FERRARI F458 ITALIA 625 70 LAPS 28 LAPS
38 GTD 51 FERRARI 458 ITALIA 620 75 LAPS 6 LAPS
39 GTD 49 FERRARI 458 ITALIA 618 77 LAPS 2 LAPS
40 GTD 33 SRT VIPER GT3-R 615 80 LAPS 3 LAPS
41 P 31 CORVETTE DP 613 82 LAPS 18 LAPS
42 PC 7 ORECA FLM09 612 83 LAPS 47 LAPS
43 P 01 FORD ECOBOOST/RILEY 610 85 LAPS 3 LAPS
44 GTLM 97 ASTON MARTIN VANTAGE V8 610 85 LAPS 15 LAPS
45 GTD 19 PORSCHE 911 GT AMERICA 603 92 LAPS 12 LAPS
46 GTD 28 PORSCHE 911 GT AMERICA 601 94 LAPS 2 LAPS
47 P 60 FORD ECOBOOST/RILEY 599 96 LAPS 11 LAPS
48 GTD 007 ASTON MARTIN V12 VANTAGE 580 115 LAPS 21 LAPS
49 GTD 71 PORSCHE 911 GT AMERICA 566 129 LAPS 14 LAPS
50 GTD 27 PORSCHE 911 GT AMERICA 566 129 LAPS 13.590
51 GTD 81 PORSCHE 911 GT AMERICA 560 135 LAPS 6 LAPS
52 GTD 009 ASTON MARTIN V12 VANTAGE 516 179 LAPS 44 LAPS
53 GTD 18 PORSCHE 911 GT AMERICA 492 203 LAPS 24 LAPS
54 GTLM 912 PORSCHE 911 RSR 489 206 LAPS 121 LAPS
55 PC 87 ORECA FLM09 460 235 LAPS 152 LAPS
56 P 07 MAZDA SKYACTIV-D 445 250 LAPS 154 LAPS
57 P 70 MAZDA SKYACTIV-D 369 326 LAPS 76 LAPS
58 PC 08 ORECA FLM09 361 334 LAPS 99 LAPS
59 P 1 HPD ARX-03B 359 336 LAPS 10 LAPS
60 GTLM 3 CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R 329 366 LAPS 160 LAPS
61 P 0 DELTAWING DWC13 288 407 LAPS 71 LAPS
62 P 78 DINAN/RILEY 238 457 LAPS 50 LAPS
63 PC 09 ORECA FLM09 177 518 LAPS 184 LAPS
64 GTD 32 AUDI R8 LMS 151 544 LAPS 341 LAPS
65 P 99 CORVETTE DP 92 603 LAPS 146 LAPS
66 GTLM 62 FERRARI F458 ITALIA 88 607 LAPS 241 LAPS
67 GTD 46 AUDI R8 LMS 5 690 LAPS 146 LAPS
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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • Tom Firth

    I’ve got to agree entirely with what your saying , It’s a shame that the race ended the way it did because as an event, It was interesting and a success although I can’t help but feel the coverage was a little let down overall. I would of liked some live online streaming as the ALMS had, It’s rather awkward trying to watch 16+ hours of coverage without it and today with most other sportscar series worldwide offering this service, it would make sense for TUSCC to do so.

    Overall though a good start to the new championship , The intrigue as the season goes on will be on which tracks favour the powerful but more ill handling DP’s and the precise however slower straight line P2’s.

    I hope Matteo Malucelli and Memo Gidley make a full recovery.

    • There was live streaming. They were using a sports car channel feed, alternating with Fox, and three on-board cameras. The link was provided by Speed (Fox) on their live race blog.

      • Tom Firth

        The overnight and the onboards worked fine on IMSA.com and the FOX minisite and throughout but the rest of the race at least I couldn’t find a direct simulcast of the FOX broadcast, Although maybe its because of being outside of the USA, In which case, I apologise.

  • BadCaptain

    If only they actually used NASCAR style officiating regarding the “contact” between the 555 Ferrari and the 45 Audi. When was the last time NASCAR gave out an avoidable contact penalty during a cup race? In fact when was the last time NASCAR gave out any kind of penalty during a cup race? Isn’t it their policy to let the drivers police themselves?

  • @_Canuck_

    At time F1 is like this with penalties and cations so i am not surprised afterall they or on a roaval.

  • @_Canuck_

    At time F1 is like this with penalties and cations so i am not surprised afterall they are on a roaval.

  • Just wanted to add that I do see a lot of Twitter traffic berating some for being upset with the call and suggesting they should read the rule book and that the penalty is justified under the rules regarding contact. For my part, I couldn’t care less if the rule could or couldn’t be justified for a lack of contact, what I object to is the penalty and need for any justification at all. It was a racing incident and barely and incident at that. In F1 terms, Alonso and Vettel would have been penalized at Monza for two years on the trot for their moves. At Le Mans, this kind of stuff happens every other lap.

    Twitter is ripe with apologists for the penalty and quickly have consulted the regulations and are using that as a bludgeoning weapon but they could be missing the point, the penalty isn’t justified because, in my mind, it was simply two really good drivers racing for the win. Didn’t these two cars bump a lap or two earlier causing the Audi to get heavy steering? Why no penalty then when they actually touched in the chicane? I smell politics of NASCAR proportions.

    • Tom Firth

      I completely agree, if anything it was a racing incident. It feels so politically charged for the whole of the last 30 minutes and I find it very disappointing that after 23 and a half hours of racing, the last half hour of this race has completely overshadowed it.

      Yes the two did bump each other previously and it seemed that both where carrying minor damage as a result. IMSA seemed to see that as a racing accident however, judging by how no action was taken and I don’t understand how that is and this isn’t.

      Apparently a statement is due from IMSA rather soon on a ruling.

  • Rapierman

    Saw a tweet where IMSA was in meetings to discuss the penalty at the end of the race. This may not be set in stone after all.

    • Rapierman

      UPDATE: Call reversed by IMSA! Race finishes as it stood before the incident!

  • Alianora La Canta

    The “avoidable contact” penalty for avoided contact has been reversed.

    Looks like Rolex 24 can outrun NASCAR’s heavy hand on a photo finish…

    • Still can’t outrun the “competition caution” silliness. :)

  • Tim

    What I think is impressive is that IMSA can re-look at a situation, evaluate it carefully, and come to the correct decision. The tragedy would have been if they let the penalty stand. So . . . I’m ok with this part of the race. Now, the yellow flag, that’s a whole other story. That was just silly. A local yellow would have been fine, but a full course caution for a spin . . . come on. The car didn’t hit anything and was able to keep going. That’s what fans should be outraged about. The correct use of the yellow flag for over 23 hours and then that call. That’s on par with some of the calls in F1 last year. The officials need to look in the dictionary and see what consistency means.

  • GaryKPDX

    Agree entirely with your analysis. After investing several hours watching an endurance race with all the subtleties that come into play, we are treated to a stupid NASCAR shootout and an arbitrary penalty. On the coverage side, I was simply unable to get the Fox stream. I don’t know if it was overloaded, needed Java to run or what. Maybe I have a Mac and Fox is a PC shop. I had tennis and cycling to watch so i was not very persistent with the streaming.