IMSA: Officials Punish Lamborghini For “Sandbagging” At Daytona

Photo Credit: IMSA

Without a doubt, the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 certainly made an impression during last month’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, the opening round of the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. The new challenger not only was nimble through the infield section of 3.56 mile combination of road course and tri-oval, the car’s five liter, V-10 engine was so powerful that it even managed to pull away from the best of the entries in the professional GT Le Mans division as well. Despite not coming away with the victory in the season opener, the series after an extensive post-race test and experimentation now claim that the famed Italian manufacturer may have intentionally hidden just how good their car and engine package really was.

As reported last week by OnPitRoad.com, IMSA had impounded all the Lamborghini V-10 engines used in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and sent them to the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Charlotte, North Carolina for tests. After nearly a month of overseeing and comparing, officials determined that the hammer needed to be dropped on the manufacturer and its teams.

On Monday, IMSA penalized Lamborghini and its five runners spread over four different teams for running afoul of the so-called “Sandbagging” regulation during the Roar Before the Rolex 24 open test at the Daytona International Speedway, which they used to full advantage in terms of outpacing the competition during the actual Rolex 24 race weekend that followed. The rule has existed since the unification of sports car racing in 2014, however this is the first time that a penalty has ever been levied due its violation. All five teams that utilized the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 at Daytona have been hit with a post-race five minute penalty, essentially two and a half laps of the Daytona International Speedway by a GTD class vehicle. In addition, Lamborghini will be stripped of all its championship points earned toward the GT Daytona Manufacturer’s Championship and has also been levied a $25,000 fine.

The violated rule in the IMSA rule book states the following. “Competitors and manufacturers are expected to provide valid data upon request to assist IMSA in the Balance of Performance process.”

“Any competitor or manufacturer who deliberately gives false information, attempts to influence the BoP process, or displays a level of performance beyond the expected result may be issued a penalty prior to, during, or after a race of a minimum stop plus five minutes.”

Penalties assessed after the race are added to the car’s finishing time for the race and may include a lap count penalty.

The beginning of the suspicion started following the three-day open test on the first weekend of January at Daytona. IMSA’s officials, based on times posted and information gathered from personal reports and the teams themselves, lay out a set of Balance of Performance changes based on the data acquired, in an attempt to create a level playing field for the twice around the clock classic in each of the four divisions that makeup the circuit.

The Huracans were among the fastest in GTD through the first two days of the open test with both Konrad Motorsport and Paul Miller Racing near the top of the charts. On the third and final day however, as other manufacturers such as Porsche with their plethora of 991 GT3-Rs began to claim the overall fastest times during the test, the Lamborghinis began to drop down the order, with Konrad electing not to run at all in the final session of track time on Sunday.

Although the drop was significant, IMSA still levied the BoP hammer hard on the Huracan entries prior to race week. Following the test, the Huracans were forced to run 20 kilograms heavier with their minimum weight and with a two millimeters smaller air restrictor. Despite the changes, it was clear the Lamborghinis were the fastest in GT Daytona at the start of the actual race week.In the first rain-free session of running on Friday, Paul Miller Racing and O’Gara Motorsport went 1-2 with their Lamborghinis. Once the green flag flew to start the 24-hour race on Saturday, the five-car Italian assault really unleashed its true pace.

By the end of the event, 14 of the 15 fastest laps in GTD were run by Lamborghinis, with the fastest lap of all over a full second clear of the fastest non-Lamborghini in the division. Of course, if not for mechanical problems delaying four of the five runners, they could have easily run away with the event. Eventually however, Franz Konrad’s primary car had bounced back to take the lead from the Magnus Racing Audi R8 with under ten minutes to go, only to run short on fuel with less than five minutes to run to the finish. The entry settled for a fifth place finish in class.

Essentially, the penalties hit Konrad the hardest as they are relegated to a tenth place finish in GTD for the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona. The move in turn, advances the No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 up to fifth in the division, with the next four after also gaining one position.

It is unknown whether Lamborghini or its teams will appeal against the penalties or not at the time OnPitRoad.com went to press.

As reported by OnPitRoad.com last week, IMSA had yet to make any adjustments specific to the Huracan GT3 in advance of next month’s Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, however the assessed penalties would seem to indicate that major adjustments will be made following IMSA’s two-day open test at the 3.7 mile Sebring International Raceway this week. As for the second round of the IMSA WeatherTech Championship itself, at least four Lamborghinis are expected to participate, with new entrant Dream Racing Competition among them. The question mark for a fifth representative on the grid hinges on whether co-drivers Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler can resurrect their full-time entry or not. They competed for O’Gara Motorsport at Daytona, however the team announced last week that it was ending operations effective immediately. The situation is similar to the 2014 campaign when the teammates switched from the closed down Level 5 Motorsports squad to AIM Autosport between Daytona and Sebring, yet still managed to make a serious challenge for the overall title.

Stay tuned to OnPitRoad.com for more further updates on this developing story.