View from penalty box

This weekend I was recording penalties at the 24 Hours of LeMons race at Thunderhill. Some highlights and observations follow…

  • A car spun off track and caught the grass on fire. Yes, California was very wet for a while, but it’s now desert-dry with lots of grass. Why did the grass catch on fire? Because the driver had left the hand brake on and the heat was enough to ignite the grass. The driver didn’t report to the penalty box afterward and it took multiple flaggings to get him to report.
  • A Ford Taurus SHO was a frequent visitor to the penalty box. The car was full of new drivers. No, not new racers, but new drivers. A high school teacher thought it was a good idea to bring his students. The race was in May. One of the drivers was licensed in April, and another in March. None have them had ever been on a race track before. I asked why he didn’t do the test day to maybe familiarize the drivers with the 5 mile, 26 turn course. Apparently it wasn’t in the budget.
  • One of the teams decided they would do donuts on the skid pad at midnight with a child sitting on the lap of the driving dad. They were kicked out.
  • At least 1/3 of all incidents were drivers running off course at turn 9C. This is the connector between the East and West courses. It’s a blind switchback at the top of a hill.
  • Teams that got black-flagged were usually flagged more than once. About 1/3 of the teams were completely clean.
  • Incidents are most frequent at the start and end of the day.
  • First, second, and third place were decided by who had the most penalty laps. If any of the teams had had 1 less black flag, they would have walked away with an easy win. As it turned out, it was a real nail-biter with the outcome not decided until the final lap. The race leader with a 75 second lead got a black flag and came in to the penalty box, handing the race over to the next car… which proceeded to get a penalty 30 seconds later… which they ignored. Well, you can’t win a race with a pending black flag, so they threw the checker (rightly so) on the car with 1 fewer laps.
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