IMSA released a statement on Monday afternoon, just over 24 hours after the conclusion of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, stating that officials made a mistake when the decision was made to wave the checkered flag.
Effectively, the white flag, and subsequently the race-ending checkered flag, were displayed to Felipe Nasr in the #7 Porsche GTP prototype one lap before they should have.
The rules state that the checkered flag is meant to be displayed to the leading car as it crosses the line at or after the prescribed time limit has elapsed.
For the race this past weekend, the winner was given the checkered flag at 23 hours, 58, minutes, 24.723 seconds as he crossed the line to complete his 791st lap, ending the race on the spot.
The official race results are taken from when the flag was displayed, and there is even a specific carve-out in the regulations to deal with such a scenario.
“Due to an officiating error in race control, IMSA inadvertently announced and subsequently displayed the white flag with under three minutes remaining in the race,” read the official statement from IMSA.
“At the end of the lap, the race-leading No. 7 GTP car then received the checkered flag with 1 minute, 35.277 seconds still remaining, ending the race short of the planned 24 hours by effectively one lap.
“Based on Article 49 of the 2024 IMSA Sporting Regulations and Standard Supplementary Regulations, should the checkered flag be inadvertently or otherwise displayed before the leading car completes the scheduled number of laps or before the prescribed time has been completed, the race is nevertheless deemed ended when the flag is displayed.”
The assertion that the race was ended just one lap short is borne out by the lap times completed throughout the event. Even if Nasr had matched the fastest lap of race on his next lap, he would have crossed the line 0.277 seconds after the 24 hour mark.
The gap between the #7 Porsche and the #31 Cadillac had been hovering near one second for the previous 15 laps, meaning that an extra lap was not guaranteed to have changed the order at the front of the field.
MotorsportWeek.com understands there were in-depth conversations within race control after the conclusion of the event to dissect how the decision to have the flag stand official wave the checkered flag was made.
Some of that apparent confusion made its way to the teams as well, as those team members tasked with keeping track of the time from the pit wall were counting on an additional lap to be run.
Some even believed that the checkered was going to be waved a lap earlier than it ultimately was, and inconsistent information was passed on to the drivers who were using their last bits of endurance out on the track.
“Yeah, you’ve got to keep on the throttle until it’s over,” said Nasr after the race, describing how he continued to run at full speed for a portion of the lap after he received the checkered flag.
“That’s what Tim Cindric said on the radio. I was confused, too. I don’t know if there was two white flags. I don’t know. I really don’t know.
“I was just focused on each corner, each braking and just clearing traffic and making sure there was no mistakes and taking the car to the end.
“I think at the start / finish, the team just said, ‘I think now it’s the final lap.’ That’s when I knew — I think for the second time it was the final lap.”
Occurrences such as this are not unprecedented, and most series now contain clauses in their rulebooks that make race results official upon the waving of the checkered flag, whether or not it was shown at the appropriate time.
The results for the 2024 Rolex 24 at Daytona have yet to be certified and made official by IMSA, but every indication is that there will be no changes made due to the timing of the end of the race.