GRM wins appeal against Trans Am disqualification

James Moffat, pictured with team boss Barry Rogers, is back on top of the Trans Am Series standings after Garry Rogers Motorsport successfully appealed its Round 3 disqualification. Image: Supplied

James Moffat, pictured with team boss Barry Rogers, is back on top of the Trans Am Series standings after Garry Rogers Motorsport successfully appealed its Round 3 disqualification. Image: Supplied

Garry Rogers Motorsport has won its appeal against its disqualification from Round 3 of the Trans Am Series, meaning James Moffat has been restored as the series leader.

Moffat and Lochie Dalton had been disqualified from the Winton round over use of illegal modifications to the ‘pedal box’ by a Motorsport Australia Investigatory Tribunal.

The team had been found guilty of a breach of technical regulations in Round 3 due to installation of an unapproved throttle pedal support plate, but quickly announced its intent to appeal.

However, it has now been found that while the cars of the aforementioned GRM drivers raced with the unapproved part in Round 1 and 2, it was removed after practice at Round 3.

With Rounds 1 and 2 outside the statute of limitation (60 days before referral to the Investigatory Tribunal), and no breach in Round 3, the disqualification has been reversed.

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The Appeal Tribunal decision reads, in part, “we find that the modifications were not in GRM’s cars during qualifying and racing at Winton. It follows that GRM was not in breach of the regulations at that event.”

As such, “We set aside the finding that GRM was in breach of the regulations. We set aside the penalty of disqualification of car #34 (Moffat) and car #45 (Dalton). The original results for round 3 of the 2023 Trans Am Series are reinstated.”

The breach, and hence disqualification, had been predicated on a “rational inference” on the part of the tribunes that the modifications were fitted in Round 3, which GRM had not sought to deny during the original hearing.

However, GRM subsequently submitted, at the time that the penalty was being determined, that the Investigatory Tribunal had “incorrectly assumed” that as fact.

The Appeal Tribunal has now heard from Geoffrey Marshall, GRM’s head mechanic, who said that the modifications were removed after practice for Round 3 at Winton due to “paddock chatter”.

Furthermore, according to the Appeal Tribunal’s official findings, Moffat submitted that, “while he did not actually look to see what was beneath his feet, he could recall that the pedals felt different to how they had felt at Symmons Plains [Round 1] and at Phillip Island [Round 2],” and that, “He attributed this difference in feeling to the difference between the original parts and the modified parts.”

As for why GRM raised no issue with the tribunes’ presumption in the original hearing, that was put down to the inexperience in such settings of team manager Stefan Millard, who, according to the Appeal Tribunal’s report, “did his best by responding to the issues that appeared to be the ones that interested the tribunal rather than instigating issues for investigation himself.”

Dalton had won all three races at Winton while Moffat recorded finishes of sixth, third, and second, results which have now been reinstated.

The throttle pedal support plate, as well as modification to throttle pedal height by modifying the throttle stops, was made legal effective Round 4 by way of technical bulletins.

The use of the modifications in Rounds 1 and 2, although unpunished, is particularly sensitive for multiple reasons.

Motorsport Australia officials, Trans Am category management, and vehicle importer PBR were aware of the modification(s), but rivals were kept in the dark for the first three rounds of the series.

Furthermore, GRM is headed up by team Director Barry Rogers, who owns a 75 percent share in the Australian Racing Group, which in turn owns the Trans Am Series.

That much was not highlighted by the Investigatory Tribunal, but it previously observed in its official Findings & Recommendations dates August 30 that, “Even though the throttle plate was discussed in early February and raced by GRM at Symmons Plains on 24-26 February, another four months passed and three rounds of the Series were completed before other competitors and drivers were alerted. This was a failing and is against the spirit of the Series, one of which’s objectives is to ensure equality of equipment.”

Furthermore, there had been suggestions from aggrieved rivals that the modifications were performance-enhancing, given they enhanced the ease with which drivers could heel-and-toe.

Elliot Barbour had been promoted to the series lead as a result of the disqualifications but is now back to second in the standings.

Round 6 of the season at Sydney Motorsport Park is taking place this weekend.

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