Robert Alon overachieved in his first full season in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship last year in the Prototype Challenge class, winning several poles and a couple races with the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports team.
But as a rookie within the intensely competitive and deep GT Daytona class, Alon made a rookie mistake on the final lap of Saturday’s 100-minute BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach.
Alon, in the No. 15 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3, misjudged his braking point in a three-wide passing attempt that triggered a three-car accident with further ramifications for others within both GT classes.
The GTD results changed and additionally, the GT Le Mans class results got switched when the then-class leading No. 3 Corvette C7.R was blocked in at the hairpin, and unable to get out.
As Alon’s car contacted Jeff Segal’s No. 86 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 and Jens Klingmann’s No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 in a battle for fifth in class, Alon speared into both of them, which put Klingmann’s BMW hard into the wall and Segal’s car the meat in the sandwich. The BMW, Acura and Lexus were classified a lap down in ninth, 10th and 11th in GTD.
IMSA has on Tuesday placed Alon on probation for the accident, a statement of which is below:
No. 15 GTD driver Robert Alon has been placed on probation for the next three IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship events for his role in an incident in Turn 11 on the last lap of the April 8 race in Long Beach, California.
Alon was determined to have violated Rule 30.6 (unjustifiable risk) of the 2017 IMSA Sporting Regulations & Series Supplementary Regulations for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The chain-reaction incident promoted the sister Lexus, the No. 14 car started by Scott Pruett and finished by Sage Karam, up to sixth in class. That car had been rebuilt following Pruett’s accident in Friday practice and started from the rear of the field.
Karam had been fighting TRG driver Wolf Henzler for seventh in class, defending against the German Porsche factory driver, behind the three drivers that crashed at the hairpin. The Karam/Henzler battle inadvertently affected the overall leader as Ryan Dalziel was boxed in trying to lap them within the final six minutes. Dalziel lost the lead as Jordan Taylor seized his opportunity to go around to the outside of the GT traffic, then cross over the track to pass Dalziel on the outside.
Lexus did not release a quote from Alon after the race. Karam described his view of the hairpin mess from his spot:
“On the last lap I came to the hairpin and there was a big jam and I guess our sister car, the 15 (Robert Alon), got in an accident up there,” Karam explained. “I went through and the safety guy was just casually waving the yellow flag and I didn’t know how bad it was. I didn’t know where the cars were and it was on the outside and I didn’t have enough steering to get through, so I ended up running into the back of Rob (Alon). Then the Acura runs into the back of me and pushes me over Rob and I kept going and that’s how we got to the finish. If I didn’t get hit, I probably would’ve been in that jam as well. Overall sixth place is a good result for the team so we’ll take it and move on to Texas.”
Segal came up to Alon after the race and was less than pleased, if still diplomatic afterwards.
“We were just chipping away and picking off positions and were looking at a top-five [finish], and I was pretty content to take those [championship] points,” Segal said in a team release. “I’m just gutted for the team. We have a torn-up race car and nothing to show for it. I don’t understand the [other driver’s] decision-making process, to wipe out three perfectly good cars for sixth place. Someone from the other team will have to explain that to me, but we’ll focus forward on the next one.”
Meanwhile Karam and Sean Rayhall, another young American driving talent, got into a Twitter spat Monday afternoon as Karam attempted to defend his teammate, Alon, after the hairpin incident. Karam later deleted all tweets except one to summarize his thoughts, while Rayhall posted his version of a “walk-off” tweet.