HOUSTON (AP) — IndyCar’s top competition official said Friday that a penalty against Sebastien Bourdais for unsafe driving was overturned because the series did not have enough evidence to show he had done anything wrong.
Bourdais was fined $10,000 and placed on probation following a crash with Justin Wilson in the June 7 race at Texas Motor Speedway. IndyCar this week reversed the penalty but gave no reason for the change.
Derrick Walker, IndyCar’s president of competition and operations, told The Associated Press on Friday that he overturned the penalty when he personally reviewed the evidence and found there was not enough to show Bourdais had intentionally done anything wrong.
“I agreed with that decision initially, but when we started getting more information and putting everything together, and being president of competition gives me the right to veto calls … this was a time I thought we didn’t have enough evidence to say he was guilty,” Walker said. “And if we didn’t have that, we shouldn’t say he was guilty and we should back off.”
Walker said the initial penalty was decided by the race stewards in the days after the Texas race, and the stewards did not unanimously agree with his decision to overturn the call. He also said he doesn’t like to overrule the stewards, but simply couldn’t find enough data to support the penalty.
To date, all the public has seen of the incident is a view from an in-car camera inside Simon Pagenaud’s car. Pagenaud was behind Bourdais and Wilson, who were racing side-by-side for position. Neither gave any room as they headed into a turn, Wilson spun and both were collected in the crash.
It was presumed that Bourdais was accused of running Wilson too low on the track.
Walker gave a lengthy explanation to the drivers in their morning meeting and apologized for the Bourdais incident. Most drivers said they understood why the series flip-flopped, and Helio Castroneves praised Walker for standing up and admitted race control erred.
“It goes a long way in terms of credibility,” Castroneves said.
Walker told the drivers IndyCar needs about $5 million worth of new equipment to be able to review data properly during races.
“If we were doing things the way Formula One is doing it — they can listen to driver communications, they can look at car data, they can look at all kinds of camera views, they have the ultimate — to take us to where we are now to where Formula One is, it’s about a $5 million hit,” Walker told AP. “We’ll get there, it’s just we don’t have it now. I don’t want that to sound like it’s an excuse. It’s not. We can still do a better job, and we didn’t do a good enough job with Bourdais.”
Walker said he’s also aware of the public perception that race control favors driver Will Power and picks on others, such as Bourdais.
It’s a notion Power himself scoffs out and rattles off a list of recent penalties: at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, the Indianapolis 500, Detroit and Texas. He was also warned in the season-opener at St. Pete for an improper restart.
“I’ve probably got the most penalties of anyone this year, and four of them have come in the last five races,” said Power, the points leader going into this weekend’s doubleheader at Houston. “I’d be surprised if anybody has two penalties, let alone four. I’ve been penalized enough, and you know, when people stop talking about you, that’s when you’ve got a problem.”
Walker insisted there are no favorites.
“I’d ask anyone to sit down with us and show us all the examples where Will Power has been favored,” Walker said. “I’d be the first one to stand up and say we’ve got to cut that out if we were, but I don’t see that at all.”
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