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

Photo courtesy Land-Motorsport.de web site
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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.”