Controversial penalty denies Optimum Motorsport victory at Monza
Optimum Motorsport returned to the Michelin Le Mans Cup this weekend (12-13 May, 2017) at Monza, their first event since their debut event last year at Paul Ricard, with Flick Haigh and Joe Osborne partnering up once again in the #75 Audi R8 LMS and ended the weekend with a podium on a day that should have brought so much more.
Having completed a successful test at Portimao, the team got down to business in Friday practice with Haigh completing most of the running, making big strides in lap time as track conditions improved to top the first practice session. The pattern continued into the afternoon with Haigh completing a bulk of the running in readiness for qualifying.
With just a 15-minute session to qualify for the race, Haigh proved that her practice pace was no fluke and held the provisional pole position in the final minutes only to be pipped as the chequered flag flew.
The first lap on race proved to be a good one for Haigh, taking the class lead to run seventh overall, before opting to allow some the faster LMP3 car pass for position whilst maintaining her advantage in GT3.
It was a trouble-free – and highly impressive stint - for Haigh as she handed over to Osborne at the half-way mark with a 20-second cushion. Osborne made no mistakes and took few risks and with 10 minutes remaining the news came through that the team had to serve a drive through penalty for an air bottle infringement.
This dropped Osborne down to third and with no time left to recover ground, took the chequered flag in third position, later to become second following another penalty for a rival.
“We’re not happy with this result at all,” said Team Principal Shaun Goff. “The series informed us that we had a pit stop infringement as they deemed we had not used our air bottles to make our tyre change.
“We had used the swivel boom, which they deemed as we are not able to be use. The regulations don't state that you can't use the boom. It’s an informal rule. No conversation was had with me before the penalty and I couldn't believe the penalty punished the drivers. If there was any chance of blame they should have sent a fine to the team. There was no advantage to be gained in any way shape or form.
“As it is, we were stripped of the win in effect and that’s a real shame as Flick did a great job, a really great job in her stint to pretty much win the race. Joe had bags of pace but he just had to bring it home. That was until the penalty. We’ll regroup, but a second is nothing to celebrate today.”