The winners of the GTE Am class at the 24 Horus of Le Mans have been disqualified, along with the #68 Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA car, who were both found to have over the maximum allowance of fuel in their cars during the race.
The post-race celebrations were cut short for the #85 Keating Motorsport squad as two post-race penalties took them off the top step of the podium in class. The first bulletin handed the team a 55.2 second time penalty for “not meet[ing] the minimum complete fuelling time”. This dropped the team to second in class, as they only finished 44 seconds ahead of the Team Project 1 Porsche, but it was the second penalty for having a “total onboard fuel volume in excess of the permitted limit” that disqualified the on-track Am winners.
The GTE Am rules state that teams must use a certain size for their fuel restrictor diameter to ensure that a minimum fuelling time of 45 seconds is met. It was this regulations that the Keating team was in breach of which handed them their first 52-second penalty. It is interesting that they were only handed a time penalty for this, however, as it is the very similar reason that disqualified G-Drive Racing and TDS Racing from the race in 2018.
In the second penalty that did see the team disqualified, the Keating team were found to be over the allowed limit of 96-litres per stint, as made official in the GTE Am Balance of Performance established on Friday ahead of the race, by 0.1-litres. The #68 works Ford car was found to have made the same infringement, which led to it also being disqualified from the final result.
Keating Motorsport argued that they had checked the maximum onboard fuel volume ahead of the car being shipped from the United States to get to the blue-riband event and once again after the BoP had been finalised, but the FIA said that Keating had checked using weight and density of the fuel rather than overall volume, and this led to the discrepancy.
Ben Keating, driver, Team Prinicpal and owner of the Keating Motorsport team, stated after the race that, although the parts on the car had been homologated and checked to make sure they were compliant at the start of the race, the rubber bladder of the fuel cell expanded during the 24-hours of racing, and that – through continuous use – the fuel rig became more efficient. These were the variables that contributed to the breach of regulations as the team were on the limit of these regulations at the start of the race and had not factored in margins of change.
“It is a tough situation, but we failed to build in any margin for error. We were at the limit because we didn’t feel like we had any margin to give.” Keating said in a post-race statement.
“As disappointed as all of us are at Keating Motorsports, we have elected to accept the ACO’s decision regarding the disqualification of the No. 85 Keating Motorsports Ford GT from first place in the GTE-Am class in this past weekend’s 87th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“Our intention every year at Le Mans, and in every race in which we participate each season, is to compete within the parameters of the rules and with an overall spirit of sportsmanship and professionalism.
“Any minute gains from these changes were not factors in what was an otherwise outstanding race for the Keating Motorsports team, our drivers and enthusiastic and supportive sponsor partners. We are proud of our overall performance in the race and believe we clearly showed for nearly the entire 24 hours that we were the team to beat.
“Le Mans is a 24 Hour race that can sometimes be decided by less than a second or a few millimeters. We failed to account for any margin of error this year but won’t make the same mistakes again. We hope to compete in future editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans for many years to come.”
Due to the disqualification, FIA World Endurance Championship Am-winners, Team Project 1, inherit the class victory at Le Mans, with the JMW Motorsport and WeatherTech Racing Ferrari 488 GTEs completing the podium. There has been no shift to the top three in Pro due to the disqualification of the #68, but the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK has been promoted to fourth in class.