The reasons for a charge of breach of team orders rules against DJR Team Penske has been released in the final stewards summary from the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.
DJRTP, which was victorious through its #17 Mustang of Scott McLaughlin/Alexandre Premat, now faces a hearing to determine whether instructions to Fabian Coulthard to slow the sister #12 Mustang under a Safety Car amounted to a contravention of Rule D24.1 of the Supercars Operations Manual.
The stewards summary cites the response of Shell V-Power Racing Team managing director Ryan Story during an in-race television interview, as well as the “extraordinary increase” in the margin between Cars #17 and #12 between the time the Safety Car was called and their arrival at pit lane, as reasons for stewards’ suspicions to be raised.
The Red Bull Holden Racing Team’s Jamie Whincup was leading the race at the time, with McLaughlin second in the #17 Shell V-Power car and Coulthard third in Car #12.
Timing data shows that Car #12 completed the lap in question, Lap 135, in a time of 2:54.0001s and Car #17, which appeared to continue at or close to racing speed, in a time of 2:08.3199s.
That led to a hearing in the hours after race finish, during which time radio communication between the team and Car #12 was reviewed, and interviews conducted of Story, Coulthard, and Coulthard’s engineer.
Another hearing will be held to determine the matter before track activity begins at the Vodafone Gold Coast 600, the next event (October 25-27), in order to allow DJRTP and the Deputy Race Director to compile further evidence.
Coulthard was penalised for a breach of Safety Car procedures during the race, and served the drive-through penalty shortly after it was handed down.
He went on to finish the race in sixth position, although results remain provisional.
Speedcafe.com understands that, if the charge is upheld, penalties could range from a loss of teams’ championship points and a fine.
However, penalties could be more severe depending on evidence tendered in the hearing.
See below for interview transcript
Stewards summary: Regarding DJRTP charge
After the Race the Stewards determined to conduct an inquiry into the incident on Laps 134-135 during the Safety Car deployment when the gap between Cars #17 and #12 increased significantly to the disadvantage of all Cars behind Car #12 because they were concerned that the incident may have been the result of Racing Team (Aust) Pty Ltd having issued an instruction to the Driver of Car #12 to slow and create an unwarranted large gap between Cars #17 and Car #12 for tactical reasons.
Rule D24.1 prohibits Team Orders and provides that an instruction to a Driver or Team member, either verbal or otherwise the effect of which may interfere with a race result is a Team Order.
After the Race Director announced the Pit Lane drive through Penalty on Car #12, the Stewards noted on broadcast footage an interview by a Supercars Media commentator of the Authorised Representative of Racing Team (Aust) Pty Ltd, Mr Story, during which Mr Story was invited to explain the reason why the gap between Cars #17 and #12 had been so large and whether it was the result of a ‘plan’. While denying that suggestion, the response of Mr Story and the extraordinary increase in the gap between Cars #17 and #12 during the SC deployment caused the Stewards to hold concerns that Rule D24.1 may have been breached.
Following the Race the Stewards summonsed the Authorised Representative of Racing Team (Aust) Pty Ltd, the Driver of Car #12 and Car #12’s engineer to a Hearing and requested that the DRD obtain a recording of the radio communications between Car #12 and Car #12’s engineer during the SC deployment. That Hearing commenced at 2000hrs on Sunday 13 October. After interviewing Mr Story, the Driver of Car #12 and Car #12’s engineer, and reviewing Hawk Eye footage of the incident, including in-Car footage from Car #12, the interview of Mr Story and Supercars telemetry data for Car #12, the Stewards, while making no findings, determined that the evidence was sufficient to call upon Racing Team (Aust) Pty Ltd to answer whether it breached Rule D24.1 and recommended to the DRD that he consider laying a charge of a breach of that Rule. The DRD having determined to lay such a charge, and the Authorised Representative of Racing Team (Aust) Pty Ltd having explained that he required an opportunity gather and present evidence in defence of that charge and the DRD having sought an opportunity to secure further evidence, the Stewards closed the Inquiry at 2210hrs. The charge will be heard by a panel of Stewards prior to the commencement of track activities at the forthcoming Gold Coast 600. In the circumstances, the Classifications for Race 25 remain Provisional.
The Stewards re-iterate that no findings have been made against Racing Team (Aust) Pty Ltd at this stage and the Driver of Car #12 is not accused of any breach of the Rules beyond the breach of Rule D10.2.2.3 for which a Pit Lane drive through Penalty was issued during the Race and was served.
The following interview took place on the television broadcast on the same lap (Lap 138) as the Race Director was heard on broadcast issuing notification of the drive-through penalty, and corresponding graphic displayed on screen.
Greg Murphy, pit reporter: Ryan Story, news has just come through; black flag for Car 12. What was the situation there? We know he had an overheating problem, you had to put water in the car, but he did drop back a long way and wasn’t having any trouble before the Safety Car, so what was the story?
Ryan Story, DJR Team Penske managing director: Well, it’s one of those things isn’t it?
Murphy: Okay then. So a bit of plan?
Story: Oh, I wouldn’t… I wouldn’t… I wouldn’t go so far as that. We were… Look, we were genuinely having overheating issues with the car and where-en (sic) it was worse it was under Safety Car when you’re not getting a lot of the air go through the car, so yeah, not ideal, but we’re paying the price.
Interview continues with questions about fuel situation for Car #17; no further questions regarding Car #12 slowing.