Le Mans – Why Red Flag?

Petit shotAs we stated on Episode 10, the Petit Le Mans was a little more Petit than usual. There have been a number of people who have asked questions regarding the decision making process for the red flag. Like why did it take so long to end the race? They have rain tires, why did they not just keep going? Well the good folks have done what the FIA wishes it could do and has released a press statement giving some insight into why things happened the way they did last Saturday. Below is the release for your viewing pleasure:

The decision to call the race prior to its completion was required for the following reasons…

– Due to the weeks of historically unprecendented inclement weather that the Greater Atlanta area had been subjected to (including additional very heavy rain Saturday morning) the track conditions at the start of the race were fragile at best. The land surrounding Road Atlanta was completely saturated and incapable of absorbing any additional rainfall. The heavy rain that began just before the halfway mark of the race almost immediately created an unsafe condition on the track. There were several areas with water running across the track and standing water up to six inches in depth in the turn 4 and turn 10 areas. These conditions required IMSA to halt the race per the published red flag procedures.

– Both the Road Atlanta and IMSA staff were very aware of the changing weather conditions and had formulated a plan to attempt to restore the track to racing condition based on a break in the weather (indicated on weather radar for the Road Atlanta area) that was to occur around 7 pm. This plan was activated despite the break not coming at that time. The break in weather did not occur at 7 pm but did materialize at approximately 8 pm. The race has historically ended around 9:30 pm. At 8 pm it would have taken at least 1 hour to restore the track to a condition that was better than when the red flag was waved. This criterion is the standard by which IMSA and other profesional race series (which follow the International Sporting Code) use to determine a restart to a race event that has been stopped due to inclement weather. During the decision making period IMSA also called upon two (2) unbiased veteran professional drivers from the series to personally inspect the track conditions at approximately 7:45 pm. Both drivers agreed that the conditions conditions were not safe and that restarting the race in the extreme wet conditions and in darkness represented an unacceptable level of risk. It was only after this comprehensive analysis of all factors involving track conditions, time required to restore the surface to an acceptable condition and the consultation of highly experienced professional drivers that IMSA made the decision to wave the checkered flag and end the event.

The 12th Petit Le Mans was an official race as defined in the rules for the following reasons…

Series races are conducted under two sets of rules: the IMSA CODE and the Standing Regulations for the American Le Mans Series. According to the IMSA CODE, the Race Director and the Stewards are responsible for determining whether track conditions are safe to continue the event for reasons of safety or forces beyond their control. Obviously weather is classified as a force beyond control. The race was red flagged due to a torrential downpour just short of the 50 percent completion point in regards to time. The IMSA CODE also states that during a race stoppage the overall race time will continue to be counted during the stoppage unless otherwise announced by the Race Director. The Race Director did not stop the race time due to the fact that there was every expectation and intention to re-start the event. The weather radar readings at the time the red flag was displayed indicated a break in the rain was due at approximately 7 pm. As a result a plan was made to put every effort into restoring the track surface and restarting the race. As referenced above, the expected break in the rain did not materialize until much later. However, the clock continued to run and the race was considered complete once it passed the 50 percent point.

So there you have it folks…the very text book press release that hopefully answers any questions on the decision making process used last Saturday at Road Atlanta.

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