Dries Vanthoor believes a “big question mark” hangs over the drive-through penalty he received in the final hour of the Indianapolis 8 Hour presented by AWS, which ended up costing Audi Sport Team WRT a potential race win.
Vanthoor was handed a penalty for ‘disobeying instructions from the race director’ during a safety car period.
At the time WRT had taken the lead by taking fuel only at its final pit stop, vaulting the No. 32 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo ahead of the Sainteloc Audi driven by Patric Niederhauser.
However, Vanthoor’s costly trip down the Indianapolis Motor Speedway pit lane relegated the car that he shared with Charles Weerts and Christopher Mies to fifth in the final classification.
A stewards’ report of the infraction stated that Vanthoor “ignored instructions from race control to slow down to [the] safety car speed.”
Safety cars in the Indianapolis 8 Hour were preceded by brief Full Course Yellow periods, during which drivers were expected to slow down but not to a maximum speed.
Article 46.4 of the event sporting regulations states that during an FCY period “cars must slow down and no overtaking is allowed.”
A frustrated Vanthoor said on pit lane afterward that he felt his driving behavior during the final-hour safety cars was not out of line with his understanding of the regulations.
“We followed all the rules,” the Belgian driver told Sportscar365. “For me it was a question mark why they give us a penalty.
“It’s the biggest nonsense I’ve heard so far in my career that I went too quick on a Full Course Yellow signal, even though in the briefing they said that when it’s Full Course Yellow you can still go quick, like over 150 km/h.
“But you can’t improve your sector and you can’t do anything dangerous.
“I was between 100-110 km/h and the second time I was doing 130, so both times I stayed under the speed limit.
“So for me it’s a big, big question mark why we got a penalty. I don’t think anyone knows. That’s the worst part.”
Vanthoor suggested that his options were limited when he came in to approach the safety car.
“I was doing 130 km/h on the last corner and then I got caught by the safety car at Turn 1,” he said.
“So I had no time or even the possibility to do something. I don’t even know what I did wrong. I don’t know what to say about it. It’s very strange.
“Again, like in Spa, we got it robbed again from us.
“We did a great strategy to double stint the tires and do a short fuel, and then we were still leading. At the end I was really struggling with the tires.
“But for me I would really like to know if I did something wrong: in my eyes I didn’t. I really would like to know what it is.”
The Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS combined and Sprint champion expects his team to engage in dialogue with the race organizers in order to figure out the background to WRT’s drive-through.
Sportscar365 has contacted SRO Motorsports Group for clarification on the FCY guidelines that were deployed at the Indianapolis 8 Hour.
“It’s just a shame that they always have to happen to us,” said Vanthoor. “That’s why we have to search it out and see if we did something wrong.
“If I do something wrong, I can admit it. I am open and fair enough to say that, but in my eyes I followed the rules like they were explained and still got a penalty. It’s very weird.”
The final-hour penalty was the No. 32 Audi’s second of the race, after Weerts was given a drive-through for tapping Maro Engel’s Craft-Bamboo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo into a spin during an early battle for second.
Mies Explains Pit Entry Incident
Another notable episode for the No. 32 Audi was a collision between Mies and the EBM Giga Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R upon entry to the pit lane.
With four and a half hours completed, Mies joined the pit entry road and passed a GT4-class BMW before the entry line. As he prepared to enter the pits, he bumped into the rear of the Porsche which caused front-end damage to his Audi.
“I thought [the BMW] had an issue because they were going quite slow,” Mies told Sportscar365.
“I already saw them ahead and they were maybe doing 30 or 40 km/h. I thought they had an issue and collided; I saw the Porsche had some front-left damage.
“I don’t know all the rules in America, but in Europe if there is a car going really slow [on pit entry] and even under safety car, you are allowed to pass them carefully like I did with the BMW.
“And then suddenly the Porsche just slammed the brakes. I don’t know why. I spoke to the team and they believed that their driver was looking at the speed limiter because the steering wheel was broken.
“He was looking for the limiter and at the same time was standing on the brakes, so he just slowed down.
“I wasn’t expecting that, so I slammed in there and damaged the front-left, which was quite frustrating because until then the car was in good shape. It probably robbed us of winning that race, but in the end we also had the penalty.”
Mies added that the collision impacted the No. 32 Audi’s performance for the remaining three and a half hours. The German driver was not penalized for the incident.
“We had a bit more drag and were slower on top speed,” he explained.
“We also picked up a bit more understeer, so we lost about half a second in lap time.
“But still, I think the right car won. The No. 25 did a perfect job all weekend long and were the fastest Audi all week, so I think they really deserved it.”