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Level 5 Awarded Victory After Penalty Overturned

Penalty overturned, moving Level 5 to Rolex 24 GTD class win…

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

IMSA has reversed the stop-and-hold plus 75 second penalty issued to Level 5 Motorsports on the last lap of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, thus making the No. 555 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 the new GT Daytona class winner.

IMSA officials reviewed the situation after the race. IMSA’s Scot Elkins, VP of Competition and Technical Regulations, came into the media center more than three hours after the checkered flag to release a statement.

Here is the official statement: “A full post-race review of the incident on the last lap of the 52nd Rolex 24 At Daytona was completed by IMSA Supervisory Officials. The decision has been made to reverse the decision by the race director, rescind the penalty against the No. 555 Level 5 Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia team, and reinstate drivers Scott Tucker, Bill Sweedler, Townsend Bell, Jeff Segal and Alessandro Pier Giuidi as the GT Daytona class winners. We regret the confusion following the race, and appreciate the patience by our fans, drivers, teams and the media so we could properly review and subsequently report this decision.”

Elkins expanded on that official statement shortly thereafter:

“The uniqueness of this was that it was on the last lap of a 24‑hour race, and so the race director was doing exactly what he is expected to do, which is to make a decision and try to have some finality prior to the end, and that’s what he did,” he said. “The process worked.  If you’re asking could we have done it differently, I don’t think so.”

Both teams were notified personally by Elkins, and he confirmed that this was not an item that could be protested or appealed.

Sweedler, who also co-drove with Bell to victory in the American Le Mans Series’ GTC class in the 2012 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, spoke for four of the five drivers who attended a media session (Tucker was not present).

“It’s bittersweet that we were not part of the podium ceremony, but frankly, it is exciting that IMSA really took a look at what actually happened, which was incredible racing in the last five minutes of this race,” Sweedler said. “Alessandro, you drove not only an incredibly clean race, but you didn’t give up. That’s what I believe IMSA and the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship is going to be all about as we go forward.

“The fact is the winning team is now declared the winner, and I think that’s the right thing that needs to happen.”

It took the penalty being overturned for Level 5 to officially win, but the fact was the car was solid enough on pace to win its class on the road without any additional help.

The No. 555 entry led at the end of hours 18, 19, 21 and 23, and was second at the end of hours 20 and 22, with that on-track pace and presence building to the crescendo of a potential victory.

But what happened at the end of the race will no doubt be a discussion point for days, if not weeks, to come.

Pier Guidi held the lead against Markus Winkelhock, in the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS. Pier Guidi defended his position as Winkelhock attempted to pass to his outside of the left-handed kink in the infield.

However, Winkelhock ran wide on exit, into the grass, losing momentum and losing track position to Pier Guidi. The Italian was able to bring the car home to the checkered flag to take the victory on the road.

That stood for less than a minute before IMSA announced a stop-and-hold plus 75 second penalty for the No. 555, which took the win away and ultimately dropped the car to fourth in class unofficially.

“There was absolutely no contact. It was the last lap of the race,” Pier Guidi’s co-driver, Bell, told FOX Sports immediately after the race. “I’m gutted for him and the entire team. I just don’t understand the logic. The fans want a blunt answer for how a call comes through like that when the evidence is so obvious. I feel like we deserve this win.”

IMSA’s rule against avoidable contact is outlined in Article 48.3 of the 2014 official rulebook:

48.3 AVOIDABLE CONTACT. Any Driver who, in the sole opinion of the Race Director, initiates avoidable contact with another competitor, whether or not such contact interrupts the other competitor’s lap times, track position or damages other competitor’s Cars, and whether or not such actions result in actual contact, may be warned or penalized pursuant to Art. 60 of the RULES. In accordance with Art. 62.2.1.B, any action or decision (or any alleged inaction or non-decision) taken by or imposed by the Race Director, Supervisory Officials or IMSA Officials in this regard is conclusive.

Visual evidence and initial TV replays did not show contact between Winkelhock and Per Guidi, and a social media firestorm erupted over the call.

Winkelhock called the penalty a “fair decision” in the post-race press conference.

Further meetings then took place between the Level 5 team and IMSA officials, to discuss and evaluate the result. Ultimately, this is the outcome.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno) is Sportscar365's North American Editor, focusing on coverage of the IMSA-sanctioned championships as well as Pirelli World Challenge. DiZinno also contributes to and other motorsports outlets. Contact Tony



  1. pdxracefan

    January 26, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    Good call on the penalty that wasn’t. Not really impressed with the ‘Never admit you were wrong even though you were’ mentality though.

    • P3TROSKI

      January 26, 2014 at 9:36 pm

      Fortunately the race officials didn’t take the “Never admit you were wrong even though you were” approach.

  2. Ken Graham

    January 26, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    Typical NASCAR screw up !!..time for new race director ! if thousands of fans are screaming because of his call, Just sayin; 🙂
    Oh, yeah, I won’t rant about the long yellows 🙁

    Great way to start the season !!

    • BB

      January 26, 2014 at 11:29 pm

      The race director is the former ALMS race director Paul Walter. Not a NASCAR guy.

    • Doug Scott

      January 27, 2014 at 6:53 pm

      NASCAR? This was not a NASCAR race. I thought the race director was Paul Walter. He has no presence in NASCAR.

  3. Wanker Spanker

    January 26, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    That was a great race until the Race Director (who apparently is nothing more than a drooling moron) decided to interject his stupidity and partisan BS into the race (hello big bucks Audi!).

    That was an impossible pass to attempt. It cannot be made in two cars that close in performance. If Winklehock (sp) took that line through the kink without a car on the inside, he still would have ended up in the grass. If you are not on true line, i.e. inside, there is nothing but marbles and no grip. Winklehock should have been called in for even attempting that pass.

    I was at Daytona on Friday and watched at least 10 hours of the big race on TV. Based on that stupid call, that will be the second to last (penultimate) sports car race I watch this year.

    I have two spots on turn one at Sebring and they will not be renewed. I’d cancel them right now if I could get half of my money back. It’s six hours after the end of the Daytona race and I’m still pissed even though the stupidity was overturned.

    Moving forward I’m not going to invest my time and money into a racing series that is run by morons.

    Dr. Panoz, can you please come back?

    • Robin T

      January 27, 2014 at 8:45 am

      Spot on. As a former ALMS participant (from the safe side of the armco) I pretty much lost interest in the series when Big Bucks took total control of everything.
      Listening to the TV talking heads going on and on last year about how many races Muscle Milk had won and so on. Won against who? They were running against themselves. There was no competition to speak of. Even Guy Smith had enough and stayed home. So I’m with you. Sebring and be done. May watch a few laps of Le Mans to see how the new Porker does. Be interesting to see if politics plays into that too. the return of the Prince of Le Mans. Out with the Audi usurper : ) I suppose!

    • pdxracefan

      January 27, 2014 at 3:52 pm

      How much?

  4. apfpilot

    January 26, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    They shouldn’t have made the call in the first place since it was a judgement call, but according to the rules they could have imposed a penalty for avoidable contact in that spot. However once the penalty was imposed according to the rule book: In accordance with Art. 62.2.1.B, any action or decision (or any alleged inaction or non-decision) taken by or imposed by the Race Director, Supervisory Officials or IMSA Officials in this regard is conclusive.

    It should have been final: The rulebook define conclusive as: 1.8. Conclusive means that such action, inaction and/or decision are final and not subject to protest, appeal and/or litigation.

    • Doug Scott

      January 27, 2014 at 7:00 pm

      I agree, the rulebook needs to looked at, and drop rules that effectively say that anyone close to another car can be penalized under rule 48.3 AVOIDABLE CONTACT.

      As for the Art. 62.2.1.B part, it does not say that IMSA cannot look into it on their own. All IMSA has to say is they did not react to any appeal. Notice in IMSA statement they clearly state that it cannot be appealed now.

  5. Joe

    January 26, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    I don’t claim to understand what the rulebook states, but based on what I saw I think the 555 should have been penalized for what is a unsportsmanlike move deliberate or not. The 555 used the full width of the racetrack despite the fact that the 45 was well established on the outside line. Maybe the rules don’t give the 45 the right to the corner in that situation but he sure looked like he had earned his line to me. The only reason there was not contact is because the 45 either made an evasive maneuver or ran wide. Its really a judgement call, and I guess we’ll never no for sure if the 45 could have remained on track if the 555 gave him the room. But it seems pretty clear that the 555 did not give the 45 a whole lot of room to work with despite the fact the 45 had edged slightly in front just prior to the incident and should have been in clear view.

    • ETM

      January 26, 2014 at 10:01 pm

      The Audi might have the right to use the outside line but he does not own the line. What I mean is that if he does not actually use the outside line the inside car can use that space to improve his exit speed. Without contact Ferrari would argue that the Audi was running too wide and the inside car has the right to take the abandoned lane.

      Did the Ferrari go in too hot and need to run wide? Was the Audi ever going to keep all four wheels on the track at the exit? We don’t really know because the Audi didn’t call the Ferrari’s bluff, he folded.

  6. Lewis

    January 26, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    NASCAR Sportscar racing brought this whole mess on themselves by that last caution with 12 min. to go.
    There was absolutely no reason for that flag. Seems like they wait hoping for something like the off course that happened so the field can be bunched up for an “exciting finish”. If they would have waited just a few seconds later to see if he would re-start or continue, as he did, then no flag. And then, with time clicking down, the caution goes on and on and on. …..just like in they do in the stock car races under similar circumstances. Very frustrating, especially if you are there in person. We go to see racing, not unnecessary long for no reason cautions at the end like what happened here today.

  7. Scott

    January 26, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    Previous poster got it right. The reversal is basically telling us they don’t believe either driver could have held their line. Both drifted right. Ferrari into Audi’s lane and Audi into dirt lane. The question we’ll never know is whether Audi could have held the outside lane, but doesn’t matter, IMSA thinks the answer is no. From current rules perspective I think the penalty should have remained as called.

    From a fans perspective, let’s clean up that rule. Let’s create some language to allow a bit of more “racing” to take place without having avoidable contact called every time somebody touches another car. Let’s not go all NASCAR with this, but these were two guys going for the win of their Superbowl. The rules should be worded in such a way that makes what we witnessed at the end of the race ok with no worry of potential officiating getting involved. It was racing.

  8. jc

    January 26, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    the call could have been worse like level 5 vs esm at lime rock. That was bad all the way around.

    With this one, the penalty was the wrong call, they got a protest filed, the call was reviewed by the senior management and the correct revision was made. I dont have a problem with the outcome. they sorted it out correctly and hopefully the race director has learned something through this situation. time to move on.

    Some things for the series to work on IMHO:
    1) They cannot have a 20 minute full course caution complete with wave arounds for every single instance of debris or a car pulling off course. it was beyond ridiculous. seriously. a crash warrants an extended caution, a delaminated tire cap does not. Once a car that has been removed from the course either by its own power or with a tow and has left no liquids or debris, the field should be released immediately. If you had decided to pit, too bad. such is chance and the fickle nature of fate. I give the yellow flag abuse a serious D-.

    2) Turn off some of the track lights. The pendulum has swung too far into quasi-daylight and the mystique (or whatever you want to call it) of the “majority of the race being run in the dark” doesn’t fly any longer. That track was not dark anywhere. It is a night race and there needs to be a dark section of the track at some point. This rates a D.

    3) IMSA needs to put the MRN crew into a serious immersion course regarding the current sportscars, the current drivers, their resumes, the correct way to refer to the various classes, the history of sportscar racing (at least IMSA, ALMS, WEC and Grand Am), and virtually everything else to break the circle track central focus of their broadcast. The pain of hearing them continually mis-identify cars, drivers, classes was really embarrassing, but the seeming disinterest and lack of knowledge of sportscar/non-nascar racing in general (esp. the late night team) forced me to turn down the sound. The MRN broadcast was a woeful F.

    None of the rest of it was so horribly bad in my eyes. Some of it is a bit rough and just needs some shaking out.

    Oh, one last thing. With such a huge field (nearly 70 cars starting and 60 finishing) and a narrow track, it is time to reconsider the practice of towing dead or otherwise wrecked cars back into the pits to repair and get back in the race. My feeling: if your ride conks out or is KOed on the course and needs a tow, the car should be taken to the nearest safe station and parked in place. If the driver isn’t able to repair it there and get it back to the pits on its own power, their race is done. It will thin the herd of the nonsensical backmarkers and make the racing better in the last part of the race.

    Overall I was entertained and look foreward to sebring and the rest of the races.

  9. Wanker Spanker

    January 26, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    Am I the only one that has watched this race, watched other Daytona Sports Car races, and raced there myself?

    When you go through that kink flat out, on the preferred line, you have no choice, the car will drift to the right side edge of the track, that’s physics. The Ferrari had no choice, and he did a heck of a job to give the Audi the little bit of room that he got. The Audi had no business being there.

    I would think a Race Director would understand this situation, and rule accordingly. That would be do nothing, keep your hands in your pockets, don’t ruin an otherwise good race, and let the drivers do what they are paid to do.

    Based on the original ruling (Ferrari penalized), I have to believe this is the first race the Grand Am Race Director has ever been privy to.

    I quite watching football several years ago because I was tired of getting emotionally involved in a game only to have an official throw a flag and change the outcome of a game on a whimsical call. This is now the norm in Sports Car racing. If anybody has been paying attention, this started getting out of hand about the middle of last years schedule. I can’t remember the specific situations, but there was a bunch of baloney calls at Lime Rock last year.

    I’ve seen this trend coming and now racing is about as legitimate as Pro Wrestling.

    • Bob

      January 26, 2014 at 10:50 pm

      BINGO W.S.!
      It is PHYSICS!! Coming out of 3 hitting the apex rumble strip in turn 4, the track kinks to the left. Its a one line section of track! Period. The car carries a lot of speed into & thru that section. If Winkledinkle in the Audi wanted to go 2 wide thru that section to go for the GTD win, that was his choice. Marbles, dirt & his momentum shot him off the track. Not the Ferrari! You cant penalize the Ferrari for driving the line perfectly! That’s ridiculous! You couldn’t have driven that more perfectly! Glad to see the stupid penalty overturned. Congrats to the true GTD winners.

    • Dave

      January 27, 2014 at 8:55 am

      I like how upset you are about a sport you say you won’t watch anymore. 🙂

  10. BB

    January 26, 2014 at 11:32 pm

    People get your facts straight before you write a dumb comment! The race director is former ALMS race director Paul Walter. Not a NASCAR crony.

  11. nickp91

    January 27, 2014 at 12:09 am

    There is Justice after all!

  12. Koos

    January 27, 2014 at 12:35 am

    Too many mistakes which started with qualification Makes the stewards look like a bunch of bungling idiots

  13. Bob Dompe

    January 27, 2014 at 1:37 am

    I’ve noted that over the last several years, sports car racing has moved to mostly full course yellows for any situation that does not clear itself in less than a minute (30 seconds, …). This used to be a NASCAR/INDYCAR approach but I see it now at Laguna Seca ALMS and GrandAM races. It has even moved partially into F1 racing. I assume it is all part of the move to make auto racing safer for the competitors. In the olden days, the corner crews would wave yellow and [if there was a non-race car on track] white flags and the drivers were expected to look out and drive accordingly. Now, not so much.

    On the other hand, several years ago I watched one of the F1 races at Long Beach. Clay Ragazzoni bailed out up the escape road at the Queens Hairpin. He impacted another car that had been parked up the escape road earlier in the race. After that, he was a wheel chair driver. It might have taken a full course yellow to remove that other car and return the escape road to full function. Back then, F1 didn’t have such an approach.

    I think that the balance on this may have moved too far to using full course yellows for any obstructions, even very short term ones.

  14. Rick Baker

    January 27, 2014 at 6:34 am

    It was a close call because the Audi did have its front end ahead of the Ferrari so it had the right of way. Had there been contact, the Ferrari would have been guilty of an “avoidable contact” infraction. However, the replays showed there was no contact. The race officials may not have had instant access to the same replays we saw on television, so it took time to make a thorough review, but in the end, they made the right call. Good job IMSA. Overall, you seem to be slow at making difficult decisions, but on balance you seem to have made some fair ones.

  15. (The Real) JT

    January 27, 2014 at 11:18 am

    You guys crack me up. ALMS is gone… forever. Time to move on.

  16. RaceFan

    January 27, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    Just a note according to the rules as stated above – you do not need to have contact to be charged with avoidable contact.
    At the end of the day – the right call was made – time to move on.
    If the drivers and teams are moving on – maybe you can too?!

    Oh and for those that are not renewing your seats and leaving the series – I am interested in taking them! Where are they again?!?
    Guess we wont see you posting anymore since you wont be watching – right??
    Will agree with the endless cautions – necessary and waste of time – the last one was totally for dramatic effect. The 22 was underway very quickly. Brief local yellow was all that was needed.

    • Lewis

      January 27, 2014 at 1:13 pm

      In this case at the end of the race, NO full course caution was needed, except for a brief LOCAL caution for only a few seconds.
      Just nascar hype at the end which usually results in torn up cars upset fans, drivers, & owners. this sort of stuff costs people a lot of money to fix cars that were damaged. In the he end no money out of nascar’s pocket – but it was a good show and makes good highlights on ESPN!

      It’s all about the show now……

      • Toby

        January 27, 2014 at 5:19 pm

        I think it follows the WWF business model that Nascar copied which is that controversy gets more ink, people are talking about the racing at the end of the Daytona 24 hours which has to be popular with the money people.

        • Lewis

          January 27, 2014 at 7:06 pm

          Now you’re catching on! It wouldn’t have mattered to the suits if 10 cars were destroyed at the finish line from the late race caution. Owners would be the only ones that would suffer, while they say “look at that finish, unbelievable”

  17. Eric Behrens

    January 28, 2014 at 9:32 am

    No further comment from the Lizards?

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