Pace Car Debacle: The Official Explanation

Paul Carruthers | July 6, 2009

It’s never good when a race official has to hold a press conference post-race to explain what went wrong. And this is the second time Colin Fraser has had to do so, the first being after the pace-car debacle at Daytona. Always candid and to the point, Fraser – AMA Pro Racing’s director of competition – did his best to give AMA Pro Racing’s side as to exactly what transpired with the pace car during the AMA American Superbike final at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca yesterday afternoon.”The second start there was a multi-bike accident with three riders down and several other people on and off in turn two at the bottom of the hill,” Fraser said. “That led to a safety car call, which didn’t occur. The riders didn’t respond and therefore we had to stop.”So where exactly did the pace car come from?”The car came out of the pit lane so what happened is when the field, on the first lap after the incident in turn two, reached the Corkscrew, we called for the safety car and it pulled out just past and under the bridge with a plan to drive it as far up the hill as it could be and still be seen. The marshalls displayed dual waving yellow flags and a safety car sign and they know that those signs and those flags were shown and seen in nine, 10, 11 and at the start /finish line. I know they were seen because we asked the marshalls and got a call in terms of how some of the people in the field behaved. I can’t tell you why people didn’t respond. Please understand that the safety car had to be somewhere where it could control the field through turn two, so what we tried to do is put it as far up the hill, past the bridge, where the riders could still see it with the expectation that there were multiple turns with waving yellows and safety cars prior to that location that would allow us when the riders came out of 11 to follow the instructions as per usual with the safety car. There is no set spot where the riders will encounter the safety car – it depends on the flow of the race.”Clearly, it didn’t work well. I’m not going to pretend that it was successful.”The pace car was being driven by Dan Argana, who Fraser says has done it on a regular basis and who is a a former racer who teaches at Laguna Seca. “He has a lot of laps on this track on a motorcycle,” Fraser said.”The instruction was to go on the far right as far up the hill as they could be seen exiting turn 11 and that was quickly discussed when we made the call as the field was reaching the Corkscrew to go with the safety car.”When things went wrong and the majority of the field was past the pace car, “We were off the leash on this deal and we’re trying not to cause further trouble so obviously, I shouldn’t say obviously because I’m not 100 percent sure on everything that happened, but the safety car got as far out of the way as possible once the leader had passed him. This is not a scenario that we had discussed, so the only safe thing to do is to stop [red flag the race].”Despite the melee, Fraser said AMA Pro Racing is still committed to the pace car idea and it will soon change to a safety bike.”I still believe in the concept of the safety car. I think it has a lot to offer in terms of controlling the field and I believe if it is utitlized properly it is a safe idea so no I don’t believe the safety car shouldn’t be used. I think there are a lot of things that need to be considered and obviously we have to get to the bottom of how these things happen.”

Paul Carruthers | Editor

Paul Carruthers took over as the editor of Cycle News in 1993 after serving as associate editor since starting his career at the publication in 1985. Carruthers has covered every facet of the sport in his near-28-year tenure at America's Daily Motorcycle News Source.