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Le Mans: Amid Multiple Protests GTE-Pro Race Still Not Decided

In addition to being Father’s Day, Sunday was an epic sports day. Game 7 of the NBA Finals, the Final Round of the US Open and the European Grand Prix. For us though, the big event was the first to end, Le Mans. What we should be talking about this morning is the epic finish for overall honors. All Toyota needed to do was complete 2 more laps under power. They started to lose power on the 2nd to last lap, and came to a stop on the main straight mere moments after crossing the start/finish line. So close and yet so far.

Toyota’s woes handed victory to the #2 Porsche, proving the oldest adage in motor-racing, “To finish first, you must first finish.”

However what we are talking about is GTE-Pro. Not Ford’s triumphant return to Le Mans, but penalties and complaints and a whole shit ton of BS that could have been easily been avoided if the ACO had its act together.

There is no other way to say it, the ACO botched GTE-Pro. It started with the original Balance of Performance (BoP) which wasn’t even close. This led to the nearly unprecedented move of adjusting the BoP the day before the race. This was a veiled attempt to try to fix their mistakes. Then there was the post race protests and penalties. Ford got the ball rolling by correctly pointing out that the 2nd in class #82 Ferrari never served a penalty for not fixing their leader light system. These are the 3 lights on the side of the car that indicate the car’s position if it is in the top 3. Seems like a stupid thing to be penalized for, but cars were getting penalties all race long for the leader lights and the number panels not being illuminated. The #82 car did nothing and then the ACO did nothing. Somewhat forcing Ford’s hand.

Not to be outdone, The #82 Ferrari launched its own successful protest against the class winning #68 Ford GT. They correctly pointed out that the Ford was not penalized for speeding during one of the slow zones. Slow zones are like local cautions but it is up to the drivers to police themselves on speed. Get caught speeding, serve a penalty.

For their infractions the #82 Risi Ferrari were assessed a 20 second penalty and a €5,000 fine for not adhering to the black and orange flag. Those 20 seconds would become huge as the Class winning Ford was assessed a 50 second penalty for speeding in a slow zone. In addition they were found to have a faulty wheel speed sensors and docked another 20 seconds. Ford was penalized a total of 70 seconds, while their margin of victory was only 60.200 seconds. Risi would have been given the race win had it not been for their own penalty.

Ford’s win is still not official more than a day after the checkered flag waved. Ferrari led a joint protest against Ford. They claimed the GT’s were too fast and outside of the GTE-Pro performance window. The so-called “7 Percent Rule” enforces a 7 percent performance gap between classes, which the manufacturers have alleged Ford broke during the race. Come on guys, Really? The ACO should be ashamed of itself for letting it get to this point. No word as of yet on the status of the protest, we will keep you apprised of the situation.

All told the entire situation was one heap of a mess. By not forcing these teams to serve their penalties during the race they created needless post race drama that nobody likes. Force the teams to serve penalties. Like you did all race long.

Post race penalties are not completely uncommon. We saw a post race decision hand victory to the Level 5 Ferrari in the GTD class at the Daytona 24 back in 2014. What makes these post race decisions feel different? Throw in the BoP fiasco with these protests and it feels like the ACO is letting the lunatics run the asylum. It feels like they have zero credibility within their own membership. Which is a complete shame. We should be celebrating Ford’s win, not clouding it with protests or tainting it with apparent BoP favoritism. Other series have methods to equalize performance and have rules in place for sandbagging. It’s high time the ACO got with the program.

About Chad Kennedy

Chad burst from the womb wearing a racing suit and a helmet. Chad's passion for cars is in his very DNA. His father was a gear head and passed on the tradition through owning such classics as a '66 Mustang and a '59 Corvette all while taking him to various race tracks in the area. Chad likes to wrench on his rides whenever possible, forgoing the stealership. Chad is an avid motorsports fan with particular interest in endurance/sports car racing. When not online writing for Shifting Lanes, you can find him working at the local golf course teaching people how to swing or hooning a golf cart at impossible speeds.

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