IMSA sent a technical bulletin to WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams Thursday (Mar. 1) announcing that they will mandate minimum times for refueling, effective immediately. Refueling for Prototypes will be a minimum of 30 seconds. GT Le Mans teams will have to adhere to a 34 second minimum, while GT Daytona teams will have to meet a 40 second minimum refuel time. In addition, the IMSA Technical Regulations have been updated to include new rules for fuel rigs designed so that teams cannot skirt the new minimum refueling time regulations.
Of note, the regulations do not mandate a minimum pit stop time. The minimum times listed above are the times necessary to fill a fuel cell from empty. Since refueling can still occur while tires are changed, pit stops in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will still be quicker than in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Also, short fills are still legal.
The 40 second refueling time for GT Daytona is the key here. Back during the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January, IMSA had not issued a bulletin indicating that a refueling minimum time was in effect for the Rolex 24, but were in fact enforcing a 40 second minimum in the GT Daytona class. None of the other teams were able to breach that number.
However, Montaplast by Land-Motorsport’s No. 29 Audi pictured above had multiple pit stops where it took less than 35 seconds to fill up their Audi. That, plus superior pace early on, allowed the team to build a lead of 1.5 laps on the rest of the rest of the class.
In response, IMSA issued the very first in-race Balance of Performance penalty to the Montaplast by Land-Motorsport No. 29 in the 10th hour. Citing a “consistent and beneficial” advantage in refueling times, the Jeffrey Schmidt was forced to serve a five-minute penalty that dropped the No. 29 from the lead to a lap down. While they were still very fast, they never got back to the class lead. An on-track incident with a Prototype, another penalty and a wing issue dropped the No. 29 to a seventh-place finish in class, three laps down.
Despite the penalty, Montaplast by Land-Motorsport technically did not breach the written rules. The No. 29 Audi passed technical inspection both before and after the race. It just appears that the team packaged their fuel cell in such a way that it could accept fuel more quickly.