There must be one or more engineers who are ashamed of themselves at TDS Racing #28 tonight, following the 6 Hours of Shanghai round in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The team consisting of Loic Duval, Francois Perrodo and Matthieu Vaxiviere had done the almost perfect race through most of the day, and was actually heading towards the first podium position of the season.
There is a rule in the FIA WEC LMP2 category, which states at all drivers in the car has to have done at least 1 hour and 15 minutes in the car, for the car to be classified.
And the team made a huge mistake by keeping Matthieu Vaxiviere in the car for too long. There was a lot of red flag at the start of the race, but the clock kept ticking. Vaxiviere was the starting driver of the car, and he was in the car for 3 hours and 53 minutes, before handing the car over to Perrodo. That left a total of 2 hours and 7 minutes for Perrodo and Duval.
It is a bit unclear at what exact point that the team realized the error, but neither Perrodo nor Duval would get enough time in the car.
The team chose to pit at the start of the very final lap. They stated themselves in their press releases, that it was to put Perrodo back in the car – but that wouldn’t have made the slightest bit of difference, since neither Duval nor Perrodo would have done their 75 minutes of racing. So perhaps it was just to avoid getting disqualified from the car – because that would have been the penalty, if they had finished the race.
Now they are noted as Not Classified, since they didn’t pass the chequered flag out on the track, and that looks better than ‘disqualified’.
The team states themselves in a press release, that the pit exit unfortunately was closed, when they wanted to send Perrodo back on the track. That might well be right, but it didn’t make the slightest bit of difference, since they wouldn’t have been able to do the minimum time anyway.
Some might say that the team got caught out by the nearly two-hour long Red Flag periods during the first three hours of the race – but the clock kept ticking during the red flag, so they should had pulled Vaxiviere out of the car, after a bit over three-hour drive, and let the two remaining drivers share the rest of the race.
And what is the lesson in all this? Well, races are not only won by the drivers and mechanics in the pits – but certainly also by the engineers on the pit wall, who should keep track and stick to the original strategy, where Vaxiviere should had driven less than 3 hours and 30 minutes, so the remaining drivers still would have been able to do 75 minutes each.
A Christmas present for the engineers at TDS Racing #28 might be three stop watches labelled Duval, Perrodo and Vaxiviere…