Supercars series leader Scott McLaughlin has kept his Bathurst 1000 title, but his Ford outfit DJR Team Penske has paid a heavy price for its controversial safety car tactics at Mount Panorama.
After a Saturday hearing, governing body Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) announced it had fined McLaughlin’s team $250,000 and deducted 300 championship points for an FIA international sporting code breach in The Great Race last weekend.
It is the biggest fine in Supercars history, but $100,000 has been suspended until the end of 2021.
McLaughlin emerged unscathed but Ford teammate Fabian Coulthard was demoted from sixth in the Bathurst results to 21st after his safety car “go slow”, effectively relegating him to last after five of the 26-strong field failed to finish.
The CAMS decision drops Coulthard from third to fourth in the drivers’ series. He is 907 points adrift of McLaughlin, who was no doubt breathing easier on Sunday.
The penalty also reduces DJR Team Penske’s teams championship lead over Red Bull Holden Racing Team to 423 points.
There were fears McLaughlin may be stripped of his maiden Bathurst win when officials announced the results would remain provisional after initially charging his team with breaching team orders regulations over Coulthard’s safety car controversy.
A then third-placed Coulthard copped flak after he dramatically slowed down during a safety car period – in which cars can’t overtake – and held up the Bathurst field behind his teammate McLaughlin with 26 of the race’s 161 laps left.
His tactics eliminated the fuel advantage of hard-charging Holden star Shane van Gisbergen who eventually finished second, just 0.68sec behind McLaughlin.
DJR Team Penske initially claimed it asked Coulthard to slow down due to debris on the track and concerns for an overheating engine.
But Supercars legend Larry Perkins slammed the team, saying its tactics were “disgraceful”.
The CAMS verdict stated that officials were “prepared to assume that there was no intention to advantage Car #17 (McLaughlin)” when DJR Team Penske ordered Coulthard to slow down.
But CAMS CEO Eugene Arocca said the team was still found guilty of breaching the FIA’s obligation of fairness regulations by slowing down, hitting it with the heaviest penalties that could be applied for the offence.
“The penalty issued today regarding the breach of the FIA International Sporting Code Appendix B reflects the serious nature of the incident that took place at the Supercheap Bathurst 1000,” he said in a statement.
The CAMS verdict said Coulthard was also penalised because he was “deemed to be somewhat complicit in the breach”.
It is another blow for Coulthard, who has received vile social media attacks since the controversy.
DJR Team Penske issued a brief statement on Sunday.
“After reviewing data from Car#12 (Coulthard) following the Bathurst 1000 with the stewards and deputy race director, DJR Team Penske accepts the penalties issued related to the FIA International Sporting Code,” it said.
“The team will be making no further comment at this time.”