Datum: 23.12.2015 · 24h Le Mans
Review on the 25h of Thunderhill 2015
Pierre Ehrets participation in this years 14.th edition of the 25h of Thunderhill 2015 at the 5-6th december did end in an unpleasent way. After several contacts and subsequent penalties the team of Award Racing /Ehret Whinery retired their Porsche 911 Cup-car after about 9 hours in the race and 245 completed laps. In the wake of the incidents the team experienced an number of questionable decisions of the race officials which contributed to the retirement of the car.
Pierre Ehret explained his view on the events: "The weekend did start in a difficult way with a number of small technical problems on our Porsche, which had undergone some modifications compared to last years car. But our experienced squad and the lineup, which was fairly the same as last year, managed to overcome these issues. We had again ex Corvette-pilot Kelly Collins as pro on our car and were looking for a chance to finish on the podium, while for a run on the overall win we were not in a position to challenge the later winners of Flying Lizzard due to their superior lineup.
The real troubles started when Kelly had an accident with a Honda Civic with just 4 laps into qualifying. It turned out that the driver of the slower car hit us so we had a lot of work to do before the race. We started from 9th position on the 57 car grid, but surprisingly were given a 5 minutes penalty just short after the start, which we felt was a bit harsh for a incident like this. Needless to say that we were dead-last after the penalty.
Just at the end of the first stint we were running in 7th position overall with just faster cars before us, when the 2nd incident occured. After the accident where our car was collected during an overtaking manouvre we recieved the second 5 minutes stop&go. At race control I saw some inboard footage of the opponent car which clearly indicated that there was a misunderstanding between the other driver and our pilot which resulted in a manouvre that pushed us into another car. But the officials interpreted this in a different way, blaming our pilot for full responsibility of the incident. In their words just the pilot of the faster car had the full responsiblity of a safe performance of an overtaking manouver. After this discussion I decided not to take part in my planned stints and I gave back my license immediately.
We certainly know the conditions and problematics of multi-class racing and the handling the performance differencies during a race. Normaly this is solved like in the VLN or the IMSA- or ACO-series: that both involved parties have take attention during overtaking - that the faster cars & drivers have to perform their overtakings on suitable occasions with suitable safty-margins and the slower cars and drivers should keep their lines to be somehow predictible and to avoid misunderstandings. I missed such clear standards & statements by the NASA-officials in advance of the race this year. The discussion in race control revealed a problematic standpoint of the officials which also puts in doubt, whether we will again show up for this race in the future, especially after taking into account the year's events.
The 2nd incident costed us 10 further laps but the team tried to carry on. After 8 hours a 3rd accident similar to the prevoius ones occured. Again we were pushed out and again we were blamed as solely responsible for the incident. As the race officials also rejected the licence of the involved pilot and the car was heavily damaged, the team called it a day after this.
Apart from the decisions against our team, we noticed a number of further questionable decisions in this years race. The pole setting Radical team was disqualified due to a relatively ridiculous incident during the race, although being in a good position for chasing the leader. Some top-teams were also served 5 minutes Stop & Go penalties for similar occasions. We had the subjective impression that this played into the hands of a particular car to be supported this year. That of course does not alter the fact that the winners of Flying Lizzard Motorsport with the Audi R8 GT3 driven by Johannes van Oberbeek, Guy Cosmo, Tomonobu Fujii and Darren Law took a convincing and deserved win this year."