Before today’s 6 Hours of Fuji, KCMG sat in the lead of the LMP2 class of the World Endurance Championship, ahead of G-Drive’s number 26 car. KCMG was on target for a podium finish at Fuji, but a punt from G-Drive’s number 28 car prevented KCMG from finishing, giving number 26 the championship lead.
While it was the number 28’s final punt that sealed the deal, both G-Drive cars were dicing it up with KCMG’s lone number 47 entry towards the end of the race.
With less than an hour to go, G-Drive’s number 26 car and KCMG were neck and neck for the lead of LMP2. KCMG driver Richard Bradley eventually muscled through to the lead, although number 26 driver Romain Rusinov took that lead back after bumping Bradley’s bumper. The KCMG car then ducked into the pits for its last fuel stop and went back out.
The collision left debris on the track, which caused a full-course yellow. Rusinov made his final fuel stop under this yellow flag and retained the lead in the process.
Number 26’s bump of KCMG raised the stewards’ eyebrows enough to merit investigation, but they ultimately decided that no further action would be taken. In the highlights video, it was described as a misjudgement by Rusinov, which was just part of the hard racing for the lead.
It was the sister G-Drive car — number 28 — that was more aggressive. After everyone’s final fuel stops, number 26 was in front, then KCMG, then number 28. When the race went green, Gustavo Yacaman in the number 28 car hit and spun the KCMG car, forcing them to pit for a new tire and denying them the chance to win.
Yacaman was a lap down from Bradley, so it was clearly inappropriate for it to be racing so close to a car it had no hopes of beating. This was the only way the number 28 would get a podium, though: by taking KCMG out of the picture.
This was not the end of G-Drive’s irresponsible on-track behavior — rather, the worst was yet to come. Despite the extra pit stop to fix their car, KCMG clawed their way back to third place with about ten minutes left in the race. Bradley put the KCMG car behind Signatech Alpine and ahead of the number 28 G-Drive car. Yacaman banged doors with Bradley down the pit straight. Then Yacaman punted the KCMG car out of the way, hard. The front left corner of the KCMG car was obliterated in the process, and there was no way the team could rebuild it in time to finish.
KCMG was classified as not having finished the race, and got no points. G-Drive’s number 26 and number 28 cars finished first and third on the podium, respectively. Number 26 gained a 12-point lead over KCMG in the LMP2 championship.
The stewards determined that the incidents between the number 28 and 47 cars would be investigated after the race, despite the fact that many fans saw Yacaman’s dangerous behavior as the kind of thing that needed to be punished by race officials immediately.
Even series commentator John Hindhaugh called out the series for being too lenient on G-Drive’s disgraceful behavior.
“Yacaman should be taken out of the race,” argued Hindhaugh on the broadcast.
However, the G-Drive cars were allowed to finish and take part in the podium ceremony. As of sportscar journalist John Dagys’ latest tweet, the stewards’ decision on the number 28 car is still pending.
Several notable wins came out of today. The overall win of the number 17 Porsche put its drivers one point ahead of the number 7 Audi drivers in the World Endurance Drivers’ Championship standings. Previously, the Audi team had been in the lead there.
AF Corse used the opportunity to catch up a little to GTE Pro class leaders Porsche Team Manthey in the standings. AF Corse’s number 51 car won the class, with its number 71 effort coming in third. Number 71 now only sits two points behind the championship leading number 91 Porsche Team Manthey car.
Proton-Dempsey Racing also scored their first-ever WEC win in the GTE Am class, a feat which has eluded Patrick Dempsey’s namesake squad until now. Not only is Dempsey living the dream, but he’s now got a win at it. It’s spectacular.
Unfortunately, these feats in an otherwise fantastic race were overshadowed by the uncertainty in the LMP2 class. Will G-Drive get busted for their sketchy behavior, or not? Will the number 28 G-Drive car be disqualified like the recent Audi Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters driver who punted a competitor out of his way? And most of all, why was Yacaman allowed to continue on track at all after such an obvious stunt?
We don’t know, and it’s a travesty that we don’t. Anyone who intentionally wrecks another competitor during a race deserves to be plucked from the race immediately. This one was obvious enough. Yacaman should have been brought in to the pits.
UPDATE: Bizarrely, stewards initially ruled KCMG at fault for the later crash where the number 28 car took them off the track. Upon review of the footage, stewards believed that Bradley braked 37 meters sooner than usual while defending his position from the number 28 G-Drive car when the crash occurred.
There’s good reason why the number 47 car would want to brake early on a damp track, but the stewards initially determined that Bradley braked so early that he was a danger on track.
According to the WEC statement published on Daily Sportscar, stewards reviewed video evidence and telemetry in determining that the number 28 car was not at fault. Richard Bradley was issued a reprimand as a result, which KCMG appealed.
Apparently the stewards didn’t review KCMG’s telemetry in the initial review. The WEC suspended their earlier decision after KCMG’s data showed that Bradley was at full throttle when he was punted from behind by Yacaman.
Their decision on this matter has been suspended until they examine further evidence.
UPDATE #2: The final ruling has been announced. After analyzing data from both cars, they ruled that the number 47 was at fault for the accident for slowing earlier than usual for the corner. Shifting to sixth gear, not braking, was determined as the cause for the slow-down.
I can understand that there may not have been enough evidence not to rule it as an intentional hit. That’s always extremely difficult to prove, even as sketchy as this series of events looked. However, to rule it the fault of a car that got hit when it’s always up to the passing car to make a clean pass—I have no idea how they came up with that one.
Per Sportscar365, this decision is effectively just a warning for KCMG. However, stewards will call KCMG in for a drive-through penalty during a future race should it happen again.
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