If Top Doorslammer racers Andrew Sutton and Robin Judd had run their controversial ANDRA Winternationals final round at an NHRA event, the ruling would have been the same. Sutton would have been declared the winner according to NHRA Director of Operations Graham Light.
A firestorm of controversy has engulfed the championship round where Sutton was declared the winner when his car recorded a 5.601 pass at 245 mph, over .15 quicker than a recently established quickest run in the history of the class. Sutton had a reaction time .25 slower than Judd at .351 yet had two car lengths by 1,000 feet in the race course.
Presented with the evidence of video and the timing increments, Light said he would have thrown out the elapsed time but upheld the win-light by Sutton. He confirmed a timing glitch but said it wouldn’t have affected the race itself.
“Looking at the video, it appears he [Sutton] did leave on the amber,” said Light. “Something obviously held the pre-stage and staging lights on. The incremental times and elapsed times are incorrect. It looked like a legal start even though the elapsed time wouldn’t have counted.”
Light said from his expertise that Sutton had a rolling start greatly affecting every incremental to his actual reaction time.
“If he left when the ambers came on, and it appeared he did, the race outcome would have been the same,” Light explained. “If this had been an NHRA event, we would have certainly gone to the slow motion camera for a better look.”
FROM THE TIMING EXPERT
Willowbank Raceway utilizes a Compulink timing system and according to their experts, something went awry with the system during the crucial run.
Jeff Foster, who handles the timing system maintenance for Compulink at NHRA, watched the video as well.
“When they left the line, it was clear he [Sutton] left first,” Foster explained. “However, the pre-stage and stage lights remained on as the car left the beams. Something hung the beams, be it the car, a low-hanging diaper, headers or the car, something … caught in the beam. The other pre-stage and stage beams [Judd’s lane] went out prior to [Sutton’s] even though [Sutton] left first. It was clear something hung the beams for three-tenths of a second.”
Foster concurred with Light in saying the end result at the finish line was not affected by what happened at the start.
“The only question would his start have been a green light start had it have cleared properly,” Foster said, posing the question. “If it was a true green-light leave, it would have been good except for the numbers.”
Foster confirmed that had this have transpired at an NHRA event it would have been subjected to an inordinate amount of scrutiny through video before a true winner was determined.
“We would have gone back to [Sutton’s] runs and reactions and studied carefully,” Foster continued. “We would have slowed to super slow with times to determine when the nose of the cars first moved. If the move of [Sutton’s] car wouldn’t have been more than [.351] seconds, it would have been a green light. I think looking at the video, it was a legit race.”
Foster concluded definitely that Sutton had a rolling start.
“Half of the car was probably through the stage lights before the beam broke,” Foster explained. “That’s why his 60-foot clocking [.650] was so quick. If you would have added the reaction time to the sixty-foot and given a .05 reaction, you would have had the numbers add up.”
A rolling start it was, but in Foster’s assessment, it was not a traditional rear wheel start.
“A traditional rear wheel start is when everything has cleared the beam and the rear wheel gets back in before the tree has activated,” Foster explained. “I think in this instance, I don’t think this car was at the rear wheel by the time the clock started. This would be closer to a diaper start.”
JUDD BREAKS SILENCE
Robin Judd spoke on the record for the first time since the incident with CompetitionPlus.com on Friday afternoon. Prior to last weekend, Judd announced he was walking away from the sport after the Willowbank event.
“That isn’t the way I wanted to end my career,” said Judd. “I think there’s a bigger issue here and that’s the credibility of this sport in Australia and ANDRA as a governing body. They need to resolve the issue. Regardless of whether I should have gotten a trophy or not, they need to resolve this and follow a process where the drag racing industry can say ANDRA did the right thing.
“The drag racing industry needs to know they investigated and came up with the right solution, whatever that is.”
Judd’s opinion of Tuesday afternoon’s final was ANDRA had ruled unfairly on the outcome of the race.
“No it wasn’t fair because of the questions surrounding the staging and launch,” Judd explained. “Because of the resultant incremental times recorded, shows that something isn’t right.”
Judd said he protested the outcome of the race with meeting director and Group 1 representative Greg Schultz.
“They looked under Sutton’s car,” Judd recalled. "Then the Meeting Director sent me down to the scrutineering shed with ANDRA to file a formal protest. As I went down there, I called over Andrew Sutton who was lining up on the track (just opposite the shed) for presentations. He was a bit bewildered by the whole thing.”
In the moments following the race, Judd said he pleaded his case to Schultz, who he said believed something was wrong but wouldn’t grant a rerun.
“Greg Schultz said that it should be rerun but that wasn’t going to happen,” Judd said. “The reason I believe he said that was because they had run out of time and had already set up the presentation staging. Everyone was tired and wanted to go home, which is not very professional but I can understand those were the facts at the time. He said, ‘the rerun’s not going to happen.’ This was before I lodged my protest.
“Then the guy’s came over [from ANDRA], came over to me in the pits and said, ‘look, there’s nothing much you can do about that. Here’s your money back for the protest. We are just going to leave things as they are.”
CompetitionPlus.com contacted ANDRA’s Greg Schultz, the Group 1 director of competition, who declined to provide a statement concerning the incident. Schultz refused to answer any questions about how he determined the winner of the race or if he felt the incremental numbers didn’t align.
JUDD LODGES ANOTHER PROTEST
Judd said, per the ANDRA rulebook, he’s requested an investigative tribunal to help in the resolution of this controversial race. The tribunal, according to Judd, is run by the Queensland Divisional Director Shane Holmes.
The tribunal will convene the divisional director with three independent racers, who can call witnesses and do whatever they like in determining what happened.”
“I’m quite relaxed about now but I do feel they need to get to the bottom of it,” Judd said. “I didn’t appreciate ANDRA’a report on their website that said both competitors had accepted the end result because I certainly didn’t say that. And, I’m sure Andrew Sutton wouldn’t have said anything either way.”
Judd is quick to point out he holds Sutton blameless in the incident, saying Sutton didn’t say much to him about the incident.
“He would have to know that he didn’t run a 5.60,” Judd said.
Judd said he is following the proper protest protocol and in the end, will accept the final ruling.
“If you do the math you will see it was probably a red-light, I will leave it to the tribunal,” Judd said. “I will accept whatever they come up with.”
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