Photo courtesy Land-Motorsport.de web site

Rolex 24 update: No. 29 GTD team assessed first-ever IMSA ‘nuclear penalty’

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This was an IMSA “first” that the No. 29 Monteplast by Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3 likely never wanted.

With driver Jeffrey Schmidt leading the GTD class with about 16:25 left in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona late Saturday night, IMSA lowered the boom on the No. 29.

IMSA ordered Schmidt into the pits to serve a five-minute stop penalty for what is being termed an alleged violation of balance of performance. The No. 29 had over a one-lap lead over the rest of the GTD field when it was penalized.

According to an explanation by The AssociatPress, “The rule implies that the car has exceeded the baseline performance that IMSA expected from the entry prior to the race.”

This was a major penalty. In fact, it was the first time IMSA has ever handed down the so-called “nuclear penalty” in competition either at the Rolex 24 or any other IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races.

The “nuclear penalty” has been in the IMSA rulebook for about three years. Teams have been warned several times in the past that it would be implemented, if IMSA officials believed a car was holding back and not giving its full effort and then suddenly gained an inexplicable advantage.

Monteplast by Land team principal Peter Baron explained his perception of the penalty when interviewed by FS1.

“We were doing pretty good,” Baron said. “It’s just unfortunate, it’s kind of how rules come out and everything. They gave us a new restrictor for the fuel rig, and the way our car is set up, they have a target for fuel flow and they determined in the race that our fuel flow was too fast for what they wanted to see going into the rig.

“Everything’s 100 percent legal, they never tested it, we couldn’t challenge it, we’re 100 percent legit. So we had to modify our fuel rig to make us fill slower, so once we got that sorted on the last few stops, we were within the window that IMSA wants.”

The penalty dropped the No. 29 from the GTD lead to 3 laps down, but it has since managed to regain one of those lost laps as Hour 11 drew to a close.

“We’re fine, it’s okay,” Baron told FS1. “Obviously, the car is good and we’ll lose a little bit of time on the pit stops now but that’s okay.”

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.