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.