When Is A Divebomb Merely A "Racing Incident"?

By Winding Road Staff

February 01, 2017

As you probably know, the 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona had an exciting ending in the Prototype class. With 7 minutes to go, Ricky Taylor (Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi) was running P2 behind Felipe Albuquerque (Action Express Cadillac DPi). Taylor made an aggressive passing move in turn 1. Albuquerque and Taylor touched, Albuquerque spun and Taylor and team won the race. Here is a video clip if you didn't see it or want to refresh your memory:

IMSA issued no penalty to either team for this, thus it would seem that IMSA classed it as a "racing incident". In situations like this, you can play Monday morning quarterback and try to figure out who is right and who is wrong. The IMSA Weathertech series rules don't do much to help you, though:

30.3. PASSING. It is the responsibility of both the overtaking Driver and the Driver being overtaken to assure safe overtaking. Where two Cars are reasonably alongside each other, each must permit the other racing room. A Car traveling alone may use the full width of the racetrack. Overtaking may be either right or left depending on prevailing conditions.

Did both drivers assure "safe overtaking"? You'd have to say no. Was Taylor "reasonably alongside"? That's more debatable, but most club racers would say no, although the IMSA rules don't tell you.

Our point here, for racing drivers, is that taking a legalistic approach is going to bite you more than help you. Imagine you are Albuquerque. What do you do? Well, first you might think "hey, I should be expecting a pass from Ricky around now -- this is the biggest road race in North America and I'm in the lead and he is right behind me." You know that the officials know that too, so they expect you to see Ricky coming. Next, Taylor actually comes down the inside. Now you face the critical decision: do I shut the door or leave him room? We'd say leave him room, for two reasons: first, since he is way back there, you might spin if you close the door and hit him, and second, strategically staying a little wide in Daytona T1 doesn't harm your cornering velocity much at all and puts you in a reasonable position for T2 and T3.

With all of that in mind, the stewards probably aren't going to save you, so you drive in a way that is likely to put you ahead and avoid an incident. If you think your car is slower, maybe you try to close the door, but then if you spin, you should expect that the stewards won't rule in your favor because they can figure all of this out too (and IMSA has a blocking rule that could be used to penalize you). The idea is amplified in club and semi-pro racing because there are fewer officials and much less clear camera footage.

Doing this in real time, in a DPi car, at the end of a 24 hour race isn't so easy, of course.