Several Pirelli World Challenge drivers have expressed concerns over officiating track limits ahead of the final three SprintX races of the season this weekend at Circuit of The Americas.
The topic is a recurring one at the Austin circuit, and drivers took to social media to express confusion and frustration following the drivers’ meeting on Thursday due to changes made to curb abuse of the track limits this weekend.
In a departure from the protocol used earlier in the season, PWC officials will not be verbally notifying teams via radio the first two times their drivers are deemed to have exceeded track limits.
This is a continuation of the policy that Race Director Dorsey Schroeder says was first implemented in the last round at Utah Motorsports Campus, another track at which track limits have proved problematic, because the regularity of violations at these specific circuits causes a high level of radio chatter that cluttered communications.
Any abuse of track limits will cause that lap to not be timed in practice and qualifying, and teams will have to monitor this information on Timing and Scoring to determine if their driver has incurred an infraction.
Previous to the race at Utah, radio communications indicated in which corner the infraction occurred, information which will no longer be available to the teams in real time but may still be passed along to them via officials in pit lane when deemed necessary.
Subsequent infractions will result in the display of a sportsmanship flag for the third offense, with the fourth offense leading to a drive-through with the possibility for more at the discretion of the stewards.
Multiple drivers expressed uncertainty over the specifics of the rules and how they would be enforced.
Cadillac Racing driver Michael Cooper said consistency is his main area of concern with any rule and how it is implemented, and added that track limits have been especially difficult to administer especially under race conditions.
“I’d like to see it policed how they say it’s going to be policed at the drivers’ meeting, and I don’t feel like it has always been that way,” Cooper told Sportscar365. “They say they’re going to police it one way and it turns into: do whatever you want in the race.
“I don’t like putting my fate in the stewards’ hands so I always try to abide by what they say, and other guys are getting to take more and gaining an advantage more so than I am in the races because I don’t want to leave that up to the stewards.
“I want to see it policed how they say they are going to police it. However they want to do that is fine by me as long as they do what they say they’re going to do.”
Other drivers echoed that sentiment, with RealTime Racing’s Ryan Eversley adding his concerns that eliminating the verbal warning system for the first two infractions makes it difficult to adjust behind the wheel.
“Without a verbal warning, you do what you think isn’t a track limits breach but [the stewards] do, and you get the drive through, your race is over for a reason that is really pretty dumb,” he said.
“If it was because you wrecked someone, you’d better get a drive through. But going over an imaginary line? That seems like a dumb way to throw away a weekend. And now take out the knowing where the problem is?
“I got a track limits warning at [Utah Motorsports Campus] and they threw the lap away. They said track limits, Turn 13. I said, no, it was Turn 11 because I threw it off the road in Turn 11 big time and I knew in my head that I would get dinged for it, and nothing.
“Then two corners later I didn’t go off in 13 and I got the penalty. That’s with GT cars only for qualifying, not even racing.”
CRP Racing’s Ryan Dalziel’s concerns are rooted in whether or not the series has access to the requisite resources to enforce the track limits policy as it is written.
“In my opinion, we don’t have the manpower nor the resources to be making quick enough correct decisions on track limits,” Dalziel told Sportscar365.
“I understand COTA has lots of cameras, but you still need to have people looking at the cameras and deciding why the person went wide and if an advantage was gained. It’s a lot of stuff that has to be reviewed before determining a drive through penalty.
“The way I understand the rule is the first few incidents are going to go unknown to us, the third will be a sportsmanship flag, and the fourth will be a drive-through penalty.
“Realistically, we get one opportunity to correct it and if it happens from one lap to the next we have no time to correct it.
“That being said, at Utah in the race they did a good job of letting things run if no advantage was gained. If no position is gained, no time was gained, then track limits shouldn’t be a thing.
“I’d rather just let it run at this point, at least for the race. It’s probably too late to change it on a Friday but some clarification on what the procedure is going to be and why we’re doing it would help.”
Drivers offered a wide array of solutions, ranging from eliminating track limits rules altogether to a more strict definition of what defines a breach of the rules.
Chief Driver Steward Brian Till said the rules were clearly outlined in the drivers’ and crew chiefs’ meetings and added that his door was open to any competitor who needed clarification.
“Leaving myself out of it, I don’t know of a more open stewardship as far as having a conversation goes,” Till told Sportscar365. “I would say we’re every bit as open as any.
“Every crew chief in the crew chief meeting and every driver in the drivers’ meeting was told this: the lap time will go away, you won’t be told what corner, you won’t be told anything, they will simply go away.
“The third time you will get a sportsmanship flag, the fourth time you will get a drive through. I don’t know where the confusion comes in because they were all told.”