SMITH: Setting Things Straight from Monza

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

Last Sunday, Bentley Team M-Sport raced at Monza. In the opening laps, a series of events took place that resulted in our No. 7 car being disqualified from race.

As might be expected, we’ve had a lot criticism thrown our way as the facts of the situation weren’t clear on the TV broadcast.

Now the dust has settled, I’d like to let Sportscar365 readers know what really happened in that lap one incident, why Bentley Team M-Sport didn’t pit sooner and how I’m disappointed that so many fans and media were quick to jump to conclusions.

It’s easiest if I start with the incident. We had qualified well and were on the grid in fourth. The start was a bit messy, to be honest. The control car perhaps didn’t make it the smoothest of starts and, with 50+ cars piling into Monza’s turn one, this affected everyone’s rhythm.

So, we’ve come through the Parabolica at the end of the formation lap and we’re all packed really closely together. I have clear space ahead of me – I just need to push along the straight as the lights go green and see how much ground I can make up.

I have a green Lamborghini to my left and a yellow Ferrari to my right. As the race starts, I get the jump on the green Lamborghini to my left, which is then in my blindspot and very close to me.

He has room to his left that he could have moved into but that was his choice. The yellow Ferrari to my right moved towards me and I shadowed his movement.

My rear left wheel made contact with the front right wheel arch of the Lamborghini as I moved to miss the Ferrari and correct a small oversteer, so that no more cars were affected, but unfortunately the Lambo went on to the grass, braked and span. The rest, well, you know.

The race was red flagged and I radioed my team to ask if everyone involved was okay. They said they would let me know if anyone had been injured.

It was then that I was informed that our team manager Matthew Wilson had been called to race control.

Soon after the race restarted, I received a 15-second stop-and-go penalty for causing the incident. Before taking the penalty, Matthew ran back up to the stewards to say that on-board from the cars behind would show I wasn’t at fault.

At this point, it’s not so much about the penalty or race result, it’s a team manager wanting justice for his team and driver. We all feel passionate about looking after each other in these situations.

At first, the stewards didn’t want to listen to Matthew, who had asked for the penalty to be reviewed post-race (when he could have presented data from our logger and on-board footage from the cars behind).

The chief steward agreed that the incident would be reviewed once the race was over. All the time, I was told to continue circulating until they had reached an agreement.

Finally, under the guidance of the stewards, we agreed to take the penalty and Matthew returned to the garage to fill in the post-race appeal form. I was told to pit so take the penalty, and that there would be an official waiting in the right place to wave me in and time the stop-and-go penalty.

However, when I pitted, the pit lane was empty – the penalty box was empty.

I carried on moving so as not to block the pitlane or another garage and, in the confusion, continued past our garage and back on track. I was then told that before I pitted a black flag had been waved, so that’s why no one was in the penalty box. I was told to return to the pits and park the car in the garage.

Having had reassurance from the stewards that the issue was being discussed, our team hadn’t for a moment thought that we would be black flagged. We had followed the procedure and been in constant communication with them.

We were still racing under the proviso that the penalty would be discussed after the race and didn’t need to be served immediately.

I guess the stewards and race control hadn’t been communicating and the latter assumed that we were just ignoring them. This is certainly not the case.

I have been racing for more than 20 years and have nothing but respect for event organizers, race officials and the team manager that I am racing for. I followed the instructions of my team, who were under the guidance of the stewards.

I’ve seen the TV footage of the events and we looked disrespectful and disorganized – but I want to give you my word that we pride ourselves on our team management and our cooperative, constructive relationship with the race officials and the SRO.

As for the team, they have been misrepresented by the media massively (many of whom didn’t even ask for our side of the story). Luckily there are outlets like Sportscar365 that will give teams and drivers the opportunity to explain themselves.

All-in-all it was a very unfortunate mess, but it’s important to remember that we were all simply trying our hardest to secure a great result with a car that we knew was on the pace.

Miscommunications happen, especially in the heat of the moment. The team and I aren’t pointing fingers at anyone – it’s racing and we all want the same thing.

However, when the facts are not obvious, it’s always better if people find out the full story before making a rash judgement.

We’ve learnt our lessons as a team. We’ve had a long, constructive and collaborative conversation with the SRO, who have apologized for their communications issues, and I’m confident that our great relationship with them is still maintained.

We are working closely with them on how we can both improve. We race on – next up is Silverstone in just over two weeks’ time and I can’t wait to get racing again.

30 Comments

  1. Tired of drivers whining every race

    April 27, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    As the race starts, I get the jump on the green Lamborghini to my left, which is then in my blindspot and very close to me.

    He has room to his left that he could have moved into but that was his choice. The yellow Ferrari to my right moved towards me and I shadowed his movement.

    My rear left wheel made contact with the front right wheel arch of the Lamborghini as I moved to miss the Ferrari and correct a small oversteer, so that no more cars were affected, but unfortunately the Lambo went on to the grass, braked and span. The rest, well, you know.

    Nope, not at all his fault??? Have we heard anything from race control or stewards? All I’ve heard is M-Sport blaming everyone else.

    • Mike S.

      April 27, 2017 at 2:45 pm

      Uh I don’t see it as blaming anyone or whining at all. He takes responsibility. I haven’t seen any of the pit footage or team footage post incident. He moved over and the Lambo which was behind him was there. Gees. Armchair quarterback. If one car just spun and no other cars were affected would this even be an issue? Probably not. But because of the carnage there needs to be a scapegoat I guess. Not a Bentley or Smith lover just not seeing blame on this post. And this wasn’t deliberate so the whole penalty thing should never of happened… Racing.

  2. If pros blame themselves everytime, we won't be pros for long

    April 27, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    do you think the stewards are going to come out and say “ooops, we messed up?”

  3. Issac

    April 27, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    My question is why didn’t he say this when he was interviewed on the grid during the red flag. He didn’t mention anything about getting hit or making contact. He seemed clueless as to what happened. My next question is wwhether he is saying this genuinely or if he is reading a PR script?

  4. Guy

    April 27, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    Hi Issac thanks for your comments, honestly I had no idea that it had triggered the crash, when Dakota interviewed me I didn’t know what she was talking about yes I felt the hit but had no idea what happened afterwards.
    I am very sorry to all the teams and drivers for what happens and they have every right to be mad but honestly I would never do something on purpose trust me I have family and I don’t want to get hurt let alone but other people in danger. As for the penalty it was just a massive communication error. I support my team 100%
    I can’t make it right but I hope you can understand from my side.

  5. Swoodwad

    April 27, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    The only way this doesnt look like he boldly shoved the Lamborghini onto the grass is if he was hit from behind. Guy mentions nothing like this and a review of the broadcast shows no lateral movement from the ferrari. Disappointing

    • Guy

      April 27, 2017 at 2:31 pm

      Swoodwad

      I’m sorry you see it that way and your free to give your opinion, I was in the car and I have given mine, I’m not blaming any other driver but it was not intentional on my part.
      I know that people will always judge me but that’s the way it is.

      • Swoodwad

        April 27, 2017 at 2:40 pm

        It’s surreal to chat with you under these circumstances. I was just getting into Sportscar racing at the time Bentley won Le Mans. The EXP Speed 8 is one of my all time favorite cars. I’m still blown away by an article I read in a now defunct magazine on Le Mans and Sportscars that talked about how the Speed 8’s cabin fogged up and the driver had to count light poles in order to break at the end of Mulsanne. Incredible…

        You 100% had a closer view than I did. Best of luck for the rest of the Season!

        • Guy

          April 27, 2017 at 3:01 pm

          Thanks, Swoodwad!

  6. Jose Balbiani

    April 27, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    Sorry Guy. Didnt you saw the black flag with number 7?
    For me is like ignoring a red card mate, whether is fair or not.

    • Guy

      April 27, 2017 at 2:28 pm

      Jose, we were told we could race on by the steward and I was told to continue, that’s were there was a mis communication in race control.
      True if we had been told we couldn’t continue you absolutely must take the penalty I’m not disputing that. T

      • Jose Balbiani

        April 27, 2017 at 2:53 pm

        Guy, black flag waved to a driver, even if team holds you out, has to be respected. Forget team, forget accident.. Fcs, u r Le Mans winner, u r an icon mate and im one of the guys that admired you and whos race ended before the first corner. Whether the position of bentley is fair or not, i would like to hear an honest apologize in Silverstone briefing

        • Guy

          April 27, 2017 at 3:06 pm

          Jose if you are one of the drivers involved or it was your car I cannot apologise enough for what happened do you really think I would do anything on purpose to cause an accident? I would love to come and see you at Silverstone and discuss it I have no problem at all.

          • Jose Manuel Balbiani

            April 27, 2017 at 3:28 pm

            Guy. I totally believe it was not on purpose, otherwise then u r an idiot.

            But anyone can make a mistake by underestimate the situation. None of us is perfect and Monza 1st corner approach is not easy.

            Ill be really happy to have a chat with you and hear your point, which im sure you have and we sure it didnt went as expected.

  7. daedalus

    April 27, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    To be fair these start problems are due to too many cars in too little space. The starts need to be faster so the field is more strung out with a cars length gap between the rows a bit like NASCAR starts, so you don’t end up with 4 wide situations.

    The safety car bunching all the cars together is a recipe for disaster as the last two races have shown. Best to do away with the safety car at the start and just let the leader dictate the pace as has been done in the past.

    These communication mess ups could be solved by having the race director transmit directly to the drivers like the ACO does rather than relying on the teams.

    • Mike S.

      April 27, 2017 at 6:36 pm

      Yeah agreed the race was fubared from the overly bunched up field. They needed more spacing. The spacing might not of completely stopped an initial crash but maybe several cars might of been able to avoid the spin up front and continue after the red flag.

  8. Phil H

    April 27, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    Guy, thank you for sharing your side of the story. It speaks well of your integrity that you are here responding respectfully to comments. I’m American, but always happy to see British Racing Green performing well at the front of the grid. May things go better for Team M-Sport at Silverstone!

  9. Bob

    April 27, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    I might be in the minority but the way he tells what happened is exactly how I called it at them time. Maybe it’s because I’ve quite some year of racing experience myself but the by way the Bentley swerved left it was pretty obvious to me it got a tap on the rear. A car on a straight, on full throttle won’t make a swerve like that through input from the driver, it can only swerve like that when the rear started the turning and not the front.

    It was a racing incident, the Bentley didn’t deserve the penalty nor all the criticism they got.

  10. gtgianlu

    April 27, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    I was there,I was at the Parabolica braking point,and the cars were way too packed. Last year the middle of the pack wasn’t even lined up at the Parabolica and the race was started.May be Lathouras,the pace maker after the SC pulled out,was too slow or the red light remained too long,you have to free the cars up as soon as possible,minding the first chicane which is very narrow and slow.And we can’t put apart that Lathouras and Perez Companc aren’t old hands or experienced,as Guy is…

  11. Apos J

    April 27, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    I think we have 2 really different points here:
    – responsability on the race start shunt
    – ignoring the communications from race control (stop and go penalty first, then the black flag)

    About the incident itself for sure no one caused it on purpose, the pack was too tight and the green was given too late. There was a number of factors causing it and, how someone already pointed out, wasn’t it for the big mess it created (taking 1/5 of the grid off the race) maybe the stewards wouldn’t have felt the need to give an exemplary punishment.

    But for the second point there’s little to be said imho.
    A stop and go or a drive through penalty are UNAPPEALABLE, which means that once the race control has communicated the penalty to the driver by means of a board with the race number of the car (and to the team by means of the timing screens and race control radio) there’s nothing do discuss, the driver MUST serve the penalty in 3 laps time. Period.

    It happened many times that the penalty proved to be wrong after the race and maybe the driver gets a “sorry” from the stewards if he’s lucky… that’s why in recent years if the responsability of the incident is not 100% clear the race director prefers to “review the incident after the race”, not to ruin someone’s race for nothing.

    In Monza the team manager was called to race control during the red flag, as Guy mentions, and after that it took quite a while before the stop and go penalty was notified. So it seems that the discussion between team manager and race control went on for a while, or at least the stewards had a lot of thought before deciding to give the penalty.
    In any case the result was the notification of the penalty and once it’s out there’s nothing you can do, you have to serve the penalty. This is racing ABC, anyone remembers 1994 Silverstone F1 and what happened next?
    Even if that was a wrong call by the stewards it had to be respected. I understand it’s difficult for a driver to go through the regulations while he’s driving, he will do what the team tells him. Team managers are there for this.
    So I don’t totally blame Guy for not serving the penalty, but I think the team could have managed the situation a lot better.

    Just my own two pence

    • Hugo

      April 28, 2017 at 2:44 am

      Agree 100%. The red flag lasted about 25 minutes, during which time discussion presumably took place about the incident. That’s plenty of time and more than you’d get without a red flag. Once the race got going again and the penalty was applied, there’s no discussing anymore, it has to be taken, fair or not. The team must have known that telling Guy to stay out was pointless, especially after the black flag message was shown. I’m sure communication from race control could/should have been better, but bottom line is you can’t ignore a clear instruction from the race director.

  12. Bjones

    April 27, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    Guy I will stand beside you all day long. If anyone on this blog ever noticed, how many drivers get on a blog and explain themselves. Sorry mates Guy is a true professional and a human. Here lies the problem when you put pros against amateurs. As for not stopping , every pro driver will tell you, you do not stop until the team tells you to. As for the whiner who mentioned “pros won;t be pros long if” I have heard a many pro driver apologize when they screw up, I promise you Guy was doing what he is paid to do and drive, did he crash? Guy you are a man and proved it I will stand by you and well it is what it is, put on your big boy pants when you race against the big boys. Friend from Sebring.

  13. Watcher

    April 27, 2017 at 9:10 pm

    Guy, awesome explaining. Please don’t take the criticism on the Internet too serious. Everyone is a pro team manager here.
    I can totally understand your point and hope you will brush the media outburst off before the next race in Silverstone. Hope to see you at the top. Hang in man. I applause you.

  14. Issac

    April 28, 2017 at 7:42 am

    Not really a fan of people assuming guy is faultless because he is well liked. I don’t like to see decisions for who was at fault for an incident being decided by a popularity contest. I’ll ask this question if Gustavo Yacaman had been in guys place would any defend him and blame the stewards?

    Also no driver is perfect regardless of how much experience they have. can conceive of why guy didn’t mention the contact he had with the lambo during his interview, if he knew he had contact saying so would have something to let be known. In the end he put himself in that position trying to go there wide into turn 1 in the middle. The old adage that you can’t win the race at the first turn but you can lose it applies here.

  15. peter paul

    April 28, 2017 at 9:55 am

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHgcWI7vUdo&feature=youtu.be

    just look at this and no further questions

  16. JD

    April 28, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    Guy you say before you pitted a black flag was waved, & so the team would have clearly seen this.., yet you drive past your garage after you pitted, so neither you nor the team knew there was a black flag, really?, but lest say OK….., but then you pass the pits, now 100% knowing there is a black flag, & you stay out under black flag for several laps racing & overtaking other cars (racing them, you could have destroy someone’s race with an incident, not that the first incident that damaged 16 cars was not enough) & then you finally pit, how do you one explain this?

    • Guy

      April 28, 2017 at 2:06 pm

      JD

      We were told to pit for a stop and go once we were told we could not appeal and when I came in there was no marshal to execute the stop and go penalty as apparently we had already had the black flag, I didn’t know what I should do at this point as there was total confusion so I rejoined and then we got the message that I had the black flag.
      So we stopped immediately. All I can do is put my side of the story across I have started every race for the last 4 years and never had a problem, look at my 26 year career and show me an incident caused on purpose? its close racing and contact happens 99% of the time nothing happens unfortunatley this time it did and Im sorry for that but as I said it wasn’t on purpose, I know some people won’t believe me but everyone is entitled to there opinion.

  17. JD

    April 28, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    Thanks for your prompt reply.., personally not big on condemning re the first incident, but everything subsequent was ridiculous, & you explain a lot of it, correct or not, as its open to different interpretations.., but what is probably not is.., during & immediately after driving through the pits, you, the team, & the whole of Monza knew you had a black flag, & in your article you agree this…., but you did not come in immediately, you stayed out at least a lap or 2 racing other cars, so im still confused? Thanks

  18. peter paul

    April 29, 2017 at 4:35 am

    Guy, can you please stop trying to make a complete arrogant behaviour on your and your team behalf sounding less serious
    in your 26 years of racing, do you noot know the meaning of a Black Flag? how did you pass the mandatory Sean Edwards Test with SRO?
    if you dont know the basics of the FIA Sporting Code!!
    “We were told to pit for a stop and go once we were told we could not appeal”
    there is no appeal for stop/go, and never has been in all the 25 years of your racing! So there is no need to be “told”, maybe you shoud read the FIA sporting regulations(they even apply for Bentley Boys and Rallye Teams) just to be sure, here is the link http://www.fia.com/regulation/category/123 good reading stuff and if you and your team find time it is recommended to point out 12.2.4 Penalties of drive‐through or stopping in pit lanes,together with certain penalties specified in the applicable sporting regulations where this is expressly stated, are not susceptible to appeal

    so lets get real and cut out all of this bull…t you been instructed by your employer how to handle the stop7go and black flag!

    but instead of telling fairytales here you should say “sorry I made a complete mess, been instructed by my employers to do so, I personal know the meaning of a black flag (i hope so) I was under instruction” and than let the organizers deal with it I hope they will anyway as even a 7 times F1 champion got a 2 race ban in 1994 for ignoring a black flag

  19. Nino Rainier

    April 29, 2017 at 10:32 pm

    It was very unfortunatelly what happened last Sunday really. Because the things were not really explaing to us viwers in all categories in the world we have to made our own conclusions and we don’t know the full details. It was clear for me that something strange happened because it’s not an usual thing.
    First let’s go to the incident: the ideal situation i think that it should be when you have on your left and right and one or even both of them in a blind spot is you have to assume then if you move your car you may hit the other. Like it is a general rule for a racing. That have been said, in the heat of the battle, or you don’t know with who you are battling with so the guy can hit you and you collect the other one and this is it. I mean, how many footage we have this on the internet. So, (i don’t like to say this, because i really like you and have respect for you) the crash may have been your fault unfortunatelly you couldn’t see the Lamborghini at all so it’s one of those things.
    Penalty/Black Flag: Watching the race looks like the team keep appealing for too long and once the race director lost his patience and you (as a team) didn’t stop, unfortunatelly came the black flag. We even especulate if there is a radio problem because of the messages on the dashboard of your car. Now that you explain makes a lot more sense. I even suggest a few days ago on the GTWorld channel on the video “The Temple Of Speed” then they should clearify what really happened because i think a lot of bad things were said about you and the team and thats was not the case. There was a miscommunication problem between the race control and the stewards making this huge cluster of events.
    Great that they recognize their fault on that, and i hope that you guys have a great home race at Silverstone. Thank you for clear the things up. And a lot of people that don’t understand or understand but they are arrogant they still being annoying and will say bad thing about you and the team, unfortunatelly. Try not to give to much important to that. Keep pushing. Cheers from Brazil.

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