SEBRING, FL (25 November 2020) – A penalty served early in the race came back to bite Rebel Rock Racing on the final lap of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season on Saturday, with the team going from second to 10th in the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 at Sebring International Raceway.
Robin Liddell was poised to take the white flag in second place in the No. 71 Urban Grid Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R started by Frank DePew. However, he was forced to pit for a late driver change when the team realized that the time served on a penalty by DePew on the fifth lap did not count towards his drive time, meaning DePew came three seconds shy of meeting the required 40 minutes.
The setback was a frustrating one, as it technicality erased the chance at a big result, with the team having executed on plan from start to finish in the season-ending race.
DePew started a career-best ninth, and held that position on the opening lap. On the following circuit, he was involved in three-wide traffic as he pulled inside the 7 th and 8 th place cars who were battling each otherheading into the fastest corner on the circuit. While he tried to give his competitor room, he was assessed a drive-through penalty for accident responsibility. DePew rejoined the race in 23 rd and he worked his way all the way back to ninth when the race went to its only caution on lap 12. DePew pitted at the 40-minute mark and turned the car over to Liddell.
“Frank did a fantastic job this weekend in qualifying with his best start to date. Unfortunately he got a drive-through [penalty] for the contact in Turn 1 which I think was a pretty harsh call,” Liddell explained. “However, the time you are in pit lane doesn’t count for driver minimum time, as when you hit the timing loop at pit in, your drive time stops. We either missed that fact or hadn’t figured exactly where we were on track when he was called into the pits during a yellow flag and hit the pit entry loop for the driver change, so I believe we were 3.8 seconds under the time. Even though we drove up to second place, we had to do a pit stop to put Frank back in to run the final lap. We lost 9 positions in the pits, coming out in 11 th place. Frank ran down and passed the 10 th place GS car, and we still managed a top 10 finish. Failure to meet the minimum drive time would have disqualified the car.
Liddell went to the lead on lap 33 and led two laps before his final pit stop with 36 minutes remaining. Running eighth, Liddell fought back and took second on lap 44. Running 16.336 seconds behind the eventual winner, Liddell cut the deficit to 8.385 seconds before his final unplanned pit stop.
On his charge through the pack, Liddell recorded the fastest lap of the race, which also set a new class record.
“It was an unfortunate situation,” Liddell said. “We had a strong car and ultimately had the pace to win the race. We’ve done a lot of running with the Camaro at Sebring over the last two years so we know this track very well and the car is very well dialed in there. I wasn’t really surprised at how fast we ran today but in the end, it wasn’t enough.”
The turn of events cost Rebel Rock Racing what would likely have been a third podium of the season, with DePew and Liddell finishing first and third in the two rounds at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
“I’m frustrated by the call and how our race ended up, but I will tell you that I am not at all frustrated by the way the team prepared for this weekend, and how Robin flat drove the wheels off the car today,” said DePew. “ Between starting as well as we have all year long, good pit stops, and our overall team performance, we had a very good weekend going. So to have it all come undone by a matter of a few seconds is disappointing but there were a lot of big positives to take away from the weekend. We will come back stronger next time.”
The 2021 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge is scheduled to begin on Friday, Jan. 29, at Daytona International Speedway.