Feature image: Nick Dungan/AdrenalMedia.com/FIA WEC. All others: FIA WEC.
Before I start, remember you can click all the images to see a larger version! So, have you calmed down yet? No, me neither, I’ve tried, I want to write a cool objective piece on the importance of driving standards, that we entrust our sport to the hands of a few individuals to put on a competitive, professional display, but then thoughts turn to the LMP2 category battle and the final 40 minutes of the Six Hours of Fuji and I get all fired up again!
So lets take a look at what we know, and saw. Remember this is in the LMP2 Championship context of the #26 G-Drive-Ligier line-up of Rusinov/Canal/Bird on 109 points versus 122 points for Championship leader #47 KCMG-Oreca of Howson/Bradley (/Tandy not in the championship running). The Team Trophy is equally close going to Fuji, KCMG #47 lead G-Drive #26 and 28 by 13 and 18 points respectively.
The first incident with 37:43 to go is #26 Roman Rusinov at the wheel, colliding with the right rear of the #47 of Richard Bradley on approach to Turn 13 resulting in on-track debris and a puncture for the #47 requiring a stop under green. This also brought out a virtual FCY (Full Course Yellow) which the #26 (and by the by #36 Alpine SignaTech) took advantage of with fuelling to make the final flag.
This does appear an unfortunate racing incident. There is a flash from the #47 exhaust suggesting lifting off the throttle. The #26 has moved out to the inside line for the next corner thus attempting a legitimate under-braking passing attempt. This is important (and relevant to the later incident). Benefit of the doubt to #26
At the #47 stop it is apparent the rear of the car is damaged, the impact lifted the body but not the right rear wheel, it has cracked the assembly on the left rear but all is sufficiently secure to continue. However, the impact on the car’s subsequent performance can only be considered as negative.
We now move on in time to 31:14 and running under the FCY the #28 of Gustavo Yacaman (and sister car to G-Drive #26) has been able to pull on to the rear of the resuming #47 of Riachard Bradley. The #28 is a lap down on the second placed KCMG car. Whilst still under the FCY this car behaves aggressively lights ablaze, seemingly flashing and weaving (possibly keen to retain heat in its tyres).
Unfortunately with 28:02 to go, the #28 makes a low percentage dive to the inside, the door closed and judging by the rear light reflection off the kerbing taking plenty of the aforementioned kerb.
From these two images it is clear the #47 is moving away from the pursuing #26.
Contact is made, which pushes the #47 car into a half spin and results in a punctured right rear tyre. This incident, given the #28 was a lap-down, surprisingly went unpunished, and with hindsight, could be deemed the root of what then ensues.
As a side note, contact between the #88 & #7 took place at the similar time, and it is possible that Race Control’s attention was stretched…
Of course the #47 KCMG required a stop to replace the tyre, which resulted in the car returning to track in the vicinity of the now unlapped #28 G-Drive…
With 10:47 remaining on the clock we see the two cars running nose to tail #47 in 3rd in class and #28 4th. At 09:57 the #28 leans heavily on the #47 down the pit straight forcing Richard Bradley onto the dirty and damp side of the straight close to the pitwall. On returning to the racing line, and despite any damage to the aero the #47 KCMG is able to retain its 3rd place position.
Tough battle continues and again with the KCMG forced across the solid white pit-out line (along with the G-Drive car) things reached a seeming crescendo at Turn1 as Gustavo Yacaman out-brakes himself and runs off circuit. Richard Bradley retains the very limits of the track, and the G-Drive is able to just return to the track ahead.
With 06:20 remaining at Turn 6 Richard Bradley in the #47 is forced to the margins of the track to initiate a superb move around the outside of the #28 car. It is a spectacular move, placing him just ahead.
The understood margin is to leave your competitor a car’s width.. This clearly is not respected in this dogfight.If you catch the highlights of the race, it is useful to compare this scenario with the battle between Pilet & Bamber (at about 10mins remaining).
Sadly less than 30 seconds later the pot boils over. I’ve grabbed the following images in an attempt to comprehend the incident
Yacaman #28 appears to have continued to move to the right of the #47 (slightly obscured by a stanchion).Yacaman #28 is tighter to the right hand kerb, moving right of Bradley.
With a car’s width, every opportunity to pull right and claim the inside line and out-brake into Turn 13 – Right-hander.
The #28 moving left, behind the #47 makes no attempt to pass to the right and indeed appears to be going for an outside run on the approaching right-handed Turn 13?!
It is a short straight with little chance of catching a decisive draft (imo).
Fully behind, #47 rear lifted, wing deranged, what were you thinking?!
A shunt in the basic train-like sense!
In summary, I believe this was an avoidable incident if the original infraction had been appropriately handled. Given it was not, and considering how Rusinov in the #26 dealt with a near identical situation which impacted the #47 earlier in the race, I am bewildered by the actions of Gustavo Yacaman. He proceeded to the left, seemingly unaffected by the impact, He braked heavily to avoid the now hapless passenger onboard the Oreca 05 #47, remaining in the box seats until the way was clear…
When looking for an alternative theory you have to consider what the KCMG #47 car had to gain by being involved in all this contact? I can find no plausible reason for that car or its drivers wanting to act in an inflammatory manner. Indeed this would appear to be the third attempt by a competitor to engage in close combat, and the final effort does seem to be particularly brutal.
My recommendation to race control, should no further evidence provide further enlightenment, would be putting all parties on final notice. Any contact between parties in the remaining rounds of the Championship to be punished by immediate exclusion of each entrants car or cars. It is unacceptable dangerous behaviour in any FIA event and needs to be stamped out brutally so all are clear on that fact.
One final note specifically for Mr Gustavo Yacaman, I don’t know you, I don’t know your previous record, and I have no reason to hold a malicious view of you. All I ask is for honesty and justification of your actions in each of these incidents.
Has that helped ? 🙂