Team quits Grand-Am over biased officiating and rules
Having earned class wins at the Twelve Hours of Sebring, 24 Hours of Le Mans along with the overall victory at the Brickyard Grand Prix and the inaugural North American Endurance Championship, Starworks Motorsport has no doubt been one of the hottest teams in the sports car racing world this year.
Despite their dream season, though, everything hasn’t been all rosy for the Peter Baron-led organization, particularly in its GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series program, where a series of events has led to its lead driver pulling the plug on his championship attack, with four races still to go.
SPEED.com has learned that Enzo Potolicchio has withdrawn from the series with immediate effect. Potolicchio, along with Ryan Dalziel, currently sit second in the title race, only 11 points out of the lead.
According to the Venezuelan driver, his pull-out is due to recent inconsistencies in the officiating by GRAND-AM. We came into this season with the expressed intent of being a serious championship contender,” Potolicchio said. “We have invested a significant amount of money, time and effort to achieve that goal.
“However, it has become painfully apparent, as the season has progressed, that the disparity between the GRAND-AM approved bodywork of the Corvettes and all others is insurmountable at high downforce tracks such as Barber, Detroit and the final two races at Laguna Seca and Lime Rock; and that series officials, while acknowledging the facts, are not prepared to do anything about the situation.
“Add to this, the ridiculous inconsistencies and preferential treatments that have become a routine part of the race control and administration process, it has just got the point where we have said, ‘enough is enough’ and decided to focus our energy, and our investment, where we can participate on a level playing ground.”
Potolicchio says the final straw came at the Brickyard two weeks ago, when Juan Pablo Montoya, making a one-off appearance in a second Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-BMW, made contact with his co-driver Dalziel while battling for third in the final 15 minutes of the race.
The incident sent Dalziel into the gravel and en route to a seventh place finish. No penalty was issued by GRAND-AM for the contact.
"Most of the general public were making their own comments not knowing it was yellow,” Baron told SPEED.com. “We wanted GRAND-AM to acknowledge that they made a mistake, it was a yellow and there was a problem with race control.
"We definitely presented to them with different videos that there was a yellow in the corner. They didn't have a copy of the yellow in the race log. According to them, there's no official record of the [No.] 88 and the 56 cars coming together with 14 minutes and 40 seconds left in the race. If it didn't happen in the records keeping book before the race ended, there's no way it can be amended.
"They said they reviewed it a lot but the way the rules are written, there's nothing that they can do about it. They wouldn't comment if it was yellow or green or anything. They just said they spent well over 100 man hours reviewing it, but the ruling still stands since nothing can be adjusted post-checkered flag. That's the way the rules are.” Richard Buck, who assumed the role of GRAND-AM’s Managing Director of Competition just prior to the Indianapolis round, issued the following statement to SPEED.com regarding the situation.
"First and foremost, I and everyone in GRAND-AM's competition department understand the gravity of the situation that occurred in the Brickyard Grand Prix and we respect Peter Baron's opinion -- as we respect the opinions of all our competitors.
“Suffice to say we've taken this matter very seriously. Approximately 100 collective man hours went into reviewing the incident between the No. 02 car and the No. 8 car. "During races we use all available resources in Race Control to make Race Procedure calls. It's important to note that Race Control at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is state of the art, embraced by F1, NASCAR, GRAND-AM, IndyCar and Moto GP.
"On judgment calls we have a minimum of three officials weigh in on the calls. If the incident is deemed non-conclusive/non-definitive by the majority -- then there is no call; it's deemed a racing incident.
"We reviewed the data from all our resources in Race Control at Indianapolis and beyond and came to the same conclusion -- that the contact between the No., 02 and No. 8 was a ‘Racing Incident’ and found no indication of intentional contact.
"After reviewing all (including post race) data we unanimously concluded that it was a Racing Incident and the Race Procedure call was correct.
"Additionally, per the GRAND-AM rule book – Race Procedure calls are not protestable." More at Speed.com