Why Lexus team escaped penalty for safety car pitstop
SUPER GT has explained why the race winning-LeMans Lexus team escaped a penalty for making a pitstop just as the safety car was deployed in last weekend’s Fuji 500-mile race.
A safety car was called soon after, bunching up the pack and leaving the remaining teams - who were yet to complete their stops - at a massive disadvantage to the LeMans Lexus LC500.
When all leading cars were finally able to pit after the SC period ended, the #6 crew of Yamashita and Kazuya Oshima was left with over a minute advantage out at front, allowing it to cruise to back-to-back victories and extend its lead at the top of the championship.
Although the pitstop in question was never investigated by the stewards, footage from the race appears to show Yamashita diving into the pits after the digital board on the start/finish straight had shown the safety car sign [refer to video above]. SUPER GT does not allow pit work under the safety car, with a one-minute time penalty the usual punishment for offenders.
SUPER GT series race director Naoki Hattori has moved to clarify why the #6 car's pitstop was legal, albeit only just.
Firstly, cars are judged to have either respected or violated the rule based on the first safety car line, which is located at the last corner, near the pit entrance.
Post-race video investigation proved that Yamashita had crossed the safety car line before the safety car was deployed, rendering the pitstop legal.
"If you watch the broadcast, it looks like that the #6 car pitted after SC came out," Hattori explained.
"For sure, the #6 car was out of Safety Car Line when there was 'SC' sign on display board. But the 'SC' sign informed by flag marshal and board [came] after the #6 car crossed the safety car line."
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Secondly, the digital displays at each marshal post are merely for the purpose of passing information to the drivers. As far as stewarding is concerned, only flags and sign boards shown by marshals are taken into consideration.
Since the digital display system is centrally controlled while marshals rely on a separate wireless communication channel, there exists a possibility of gap between when the digital boards show the 'SC' sign and when marshals show the corresponding flag or board.
Hattori admitted that there was a two-second delay in this regard during the SC intervention, and the marshals’ SC board was taken into account to clear the #6 crew of any wrongdoing.
“This is what we said in briefing [that] the digital flag is only for 'information' and when making a decision, we will make a decision based on the flag and SC board presented at each post,” Hattori explained.
“Looking at the #6 car, it crossed the safety car line [before the SC board was shown] and as a rule the pit stop was safe without problems.''
The LeMans team revealed that it was cautious about a potential safety car intervention, with team engineer Kazuya Abe revealing that he asked Yamashita to “check if the pitlane is closed before entering the pits.”
Yamashita subsequently confirmed that no safety car was board was out at the marshal post before going ahead with the pitstop that won he and Oshima the race.
Race winners: #6 LeMans Lexus: Kazuya Oshima, Kenta Yamashita
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
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