The winner of this year’s GTE-Am class at Le Mans has been disqualified. The Ford GT, car number 85 entered by privateer team Keating Motorsports, was initially given a 55.2-second time penalty as its fuel stops were shorter than the minimum time allowed of 45 seconds.
This demoted the car to second place behind the Porsche 911 RSR of Joerg Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsey and Egidio Perfetti, until the FIA and ACO, the organisers and authority for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, found the car’s fuel tank was 0.1-litres over the minimum capacity and disqualified it completely.
The number 68 factory-backed Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT, that crossed the line fourth in the GTE-Pro class, has also been found to have a fuel tank that holds too much, and it too has been disqualified. This comes as a real blow for the team, as Ford has declared 2019 will be the last year it supports the GT in racing. The other three GTE-Pro GTs finished fourth, fifth and sixth in the amended results.
The Ford GT’s Balance of Performace – the regulations applied to each individual car to try and maintain close racing within the championship – changed before the endurance race, after the cars had left for the circuit. According to the team, there weren’t the resources at the track to recalibrate the cars accurately enough.
Although the ruling could be appealed, Ben Keating, owner of the GTE-Am team and one of the drivers of car 85, has said he will not challenge the decision.
In a manner far more polite than anyone who’s had a win stripped from them for a minor fuel infraction has any right to be, Keating has taken responsibility for not leaving a ‘margin for error’.
In an interview with Sportscar365, Keating was incredibly understanding:
“If I was the second-place car, I’d be saying a rule is a rule.
“We didn’t get it right and we didn’t leave ourselves enough margin for error. In both instances, we just tried to get too close to the sun. Keating Motorsports was not trying to gain an unfair advantage. We were racing to the rules and just too close to the limit.”
It’s not unlike the FIA and ACO to be so strict when enforcing its rules, last year the LMP2 class winners suffered a post-race penalty. Thankfully, such draconian attitudes from the organisers won’t stop Keating competing next year.
‘I think we have the ability to perform at a level that can win the race again. We did not win the race because of an advantage we received from any type of fueling. I hope to go back and prove that it wasn’t a fluke.’