A fantastic run by the DeltaWing gave fans hope. It’s quick today! It’s holding together! Maybe today’s Rolex 24 at Daytona will be the race where it finally has a chance at the overall win! Sadly, DeltaWing driver Andy Meyrick rear-ended a stopped car on track that wasn’t signaled with a full-course yellow flag.
Everyone had high hopes for the two new Ford GTs for repping the red, white and blue (literally—I mean, look at them) at today’s 24 Hours of Daytona, but surprisingly, it was a British woman who waved the American flag out in front at the start of the race, as it was the livery of none other than the DeltaWing.
Driver Katherine Legge owned the first two hours of this race, stealing the show by driving from a last-place qualifying position to the lead in the Prototype class. The team didn’t go out to qualify due to the poor, wet conditions during the qualifying session.
Because it’s not soaking wet today, Prototypes are out in front of the race. That’s right: in the semi-official end of America’s racing offseason, we’ve seen a uniquely American creation out in front thanks to some fantastic driving from Legge. God bless America, indeed.
The DeltaWing has had an unfortunate history of early retirements and mechanical issues in the past, but today, it was a rocketship. Legge not only put it out in front, but she was able to climb back into the lead after a longer than usual pit stop. The DeltaWing stalled in the pits when Legge tried to restart it, but eventually got going again, and Legge cut back through to the lead in no time.
According to NASportsCar, Legge believes that there may have been an issue with the clutch. The gearbox has been strengthened based on prior issues with it, and now Legge says that the clutch behavior has changed, forcing drivers to pull away a bit more brutally than usual.
The DeltaWing received a drive-thru penalty for having its wheels spin during a pit stop as the car was jacked into the air. Meyrick told NASportscar that his foot was on the clutch during the stop, so he was confused as to how the wheels could still be spinning in mid-air.
After the penalty, the car continued making up time through the field until Meyrick rear-ended the stopped No. 8 Starworks Motorsport PC car of Chris Cumming in turn 1.
A full-course yellow flag wasn’t called until after the crash, which many fans called foul over. Although IMSA tends to wait for accidents to self-clear before going to a full-course yellow, a car stopped in a difficult to see location is a pretty hairy situation. Thus, it’s surprising that the series didn’t call for a full-course yellow immediately upon the No. 8 stopping in the center of the track there. There was a waving yellow flag at Turn 1, but no yellow signal light for Meyrick to spot from further away.
For those of you unfamiliar with racing flags, yellow flags slow people down, and a full-course yellow will get drivers’ attention long before a single yellow flag thrown just ahead of the incident. You don’t want to meet a car stopped on track at full speed because that’s when crashes like this happen.
DeltaWing race engineer Catherine Crawford told the IMSA broadcast that a spotter tried to radio over to Meyrick that the No. 8 car was stopped on track, but Meyrick claimed that he couldn’t hear the spotter’s warning over the radio.
Fortunately, Meyrick and Cumming are both okay, per Sportscar365. AP reporter Jenna Fryer tweeted that Cumming was treated and released from the infield care center, but not cleared to resume racing. Likewise, NASportscar tweeted that Meyrick was also treated and relased by the care center following the crash.
The team, predictably, is gutted by the incident. The heavily damaged DeltaWing was pulled back into the garage, but no word has been released as to whether this will be repairable or not. [Update: the team reports that they have officially retired due to tub damage.]
According to Frontstretch, Starworks is rushing to repair the No. 8 car’s right rear side in hopes of getting back on track at some point. The team estimates that the fix will set them back 90 minutes.
This is likely the DeltaWing’s last season in the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship’s Prototype class, as planned 2017 regulations standardize the cars to be closer to the worldwide LMP2 spec. Seeing the series’ most unique car head back into the garages and out of contention over an incident like this is extremely heartbreaking.
UPDATE: The Starworks car is back out in the race.
UPDATE #2: If anything, IMSA’s officiating seems to be consistent, as other stopped cars have sat for a little while before a yellow is called.
UPDATE #3: We reached out to IMSA for an explanation of this incident. According to an IMSA representative, the information they had at the time indicated that the engine in the No. 8 Starworks car was still running, so they believed that it would be able to turn around and rejoin the race shortly. Thus, the series did not call for a full-course caution.
To contrast, when another PC-class car stalled and its driver motioned with his arms that the car was without power, the series immediately called for a full-course caution. Whether the series believes that the car can move out of harm’s way under its own power was the deciding factor in both of these incidents.
Photo credit: DeltaWing Racing
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