Scott McLaughlin and Alexandre Prémat’s maiden Bathurst 1000 victory will perhaps be forever tainted by the race’s team orders scandal, after DJR Team Penske was found guilty of breaching the FIA rules during the race.
A hearing by the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) Stewards on Saturday resulted in three penalties being issued:
- DJR Team Penske was fined $250,000, with $100,000 suspended until the end of 2021
- DJR Team Penske was deducted 300 Teams’ Championship points which it earned for McLaughlin and Prémat’s victory
- The sister #12 entry of Fabian Coulthard and co-driver Tony D’Alberto was demoted from sixth to 21st in an updated classification of the race results.
Saturday’s hearing occurred after Coulthard dramatically slowed at the onset of a Safety Car on Lap 134 of the 161-lap race, with DJRTP Team Principal Ryan Story’s evasive answers to questions raised in the immediate aftermath of the incident prompting suspicions that the team had enacted illegal team orders.
Coulthard was instructed to slow due to “debris” on the circuit, however Story later claimed that the slow-down was to address an alleged overheating issue.
Coulthard’s reduced speed allowed him to avoid a double-stack pit stop behind teammate McLaughlin, who along with race leader Jamie Whincup charged to the pit lane to pit and return to the circuit without suffering any loss of track position.
The Stewards rules that the team had breached the FIA’s Obligation of Fairness regulations, but did not implicate the McLaughlin / Prémat entry in their findings.
In a lengthy 11-page ruling, the Stewards issued the largest fine in Supercars history and, combined with the Teams’ Championship points penalty, the heftiest punishment available to them within the rules.
While the team cooperated fully with the investigation and admitted guilt, the CAMS Stewards still lambasted DJRTP of its handling of the situation at the time and in its immediate aftermath.
“In our view, it defies belief that no one in DJRTP’s garage knew that the reason why the Safety Car deployment had occurred was because Car #27 was off at Turn 23,” an extract from their ruling reads.
“The conduct of DJRTP demands a severe Penalty, not just because it was intentionally engaged in to give the Team an advantage but because it was done in a way that reflected a calculated attempt to conceal why it was being done.
“We do not attribute what occurred to an impulsive ill-considered decision by Car #12’s Engineer alone. In our view, the Engineer was merely a conduit through whom a direction conceived by a more senior representative of the Team was implemented.
“However, we are unable to reach any conclusion other than that someone else in the DJRTP Team conceived of a strategy to give knowingly false information to the Driver of Car #12 to cause Car #12 to slow.
“The Authorised Representative [Story] told us that he had since made enquiries within the Team to attempt to ascertain what had happened and had been assured by the Engineer of Car #12 that he had made an innocent mistake. We reject that suggestion.
“DJRTP infringed the principles of fairness in competition and behaved in an unsportsmanlike manner.”
Coulthard’s demotion in the final race classification drops hom from third to fourth in the Drivers’ Championship standings; he now lies a whopping 907 points behind teammate McLaughlin who can claim back-to-back titles at this weekend’s Gold Coast 600 round.
Image via DJR Team Penske