Callum Ilott has revealed through social media that he has been the focus of abuse and death threats online following Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Ilott detailed that the messages were delivered in Spanish, hinting that fans of his new IndyCar team-mate Agustin Canapino may be to blame.
Canapino brings a large following of fans with him from his native Argentina, and is a rookie racing with Juncos Hollinger Racing this season.
Although Ilott didn’t go into many specifics with his posts, it appears that the hateful words directed his way were on account of his close racing moment with his team-mate Canapino.
Canapino was at the front of the field for a mid-race restart after his crew decided to try a bold strategy and left him on track while most of the rest of the field pitted for new tires. Just as the race went green, Ilott came out of the pits himself and was on track directly in front of his team-mate.
The two came close to each other with the rest of the field breathing down their necks, but television cameras did not show any contact between the drivers.
Canapino did drop through the field rather quickly, presumably from contact with one of the other drivers that were rushing past on fresh Firestone rubber. He later spent some time in the garage area while repairs were made to his JHR Chevy.
Following the race, Ilott made a few posts that made it clear he was not pleased with the threats he received, and that they went beyond the normal level of fan favoritism that athletes are subject to.
“Genuinely impressed by the amount of death threats and abuse I’ve received,” Ilott posted. “Definitely a new record by far, really appreciate the effort to help me learn all these new Spanish words.”
On Monday, he followed that message up with more details about the incident and thanked people for their support.
“On another note, it’s an important reminder to all new and old fans/people. Respect goes both ways. Although I have thick skin and am used to this behaviour occasionally. One day it will go too far to someone who can’t deal with it as well as others.
“It’s unacceptable on any level and those who encourage it should have a real think about the consequences of their actions. But I would like to thank everyone who has supported me, it means a lot.”
Ilott also sent a public message to an Argentinian sports commentator about the incident, reminding him that “professionalism is needed when you hold a microphone that sends a message to 100k+ people.”
Canapino posted his own message to social media, which appears to be related to the fan reactions he witnessed following the race.
“Unfortunately we had to retire due to a race situation,” read the translated message. “To clarify that [Callum Ilott] did not do anything on purpose or with intention, it simply happened that way due to circumstances, we make a good team and I am very grateful for that.”
Update: IndyCar and Juncos Hollinger Racing each released a statement condemning the abuse and calling for respect towards everyone in the sport.