Penalty call denies Dalziel title challenge Ryan Dalziel was today denied the opportunity to challenge Toyota Atlantic title rival Jon Fogarty in the season finale at Laguna Seca, California, as the Scottish racer was handed a drive-through ...
Penalty call denies Dalziel title challenge
Ryan Dalziel was today denied the opportunity to challenge Toyota Atlantic title rival Jon Fogarty in the season finale at Laguna Seca, California, as the Scottish racer was handed a drive-through penalty in the opening laps for an alleged start-line violation as the green flag unleashed the field.
As a result the 22-year-old Scot was forced to surrender his second place position and eventually finished the 30-lap race down in a disappointing sixth. With Fogarty maintaining his lead he subsequently collected his sixth win of the season and wrapped up the 2004 Toyota Atlantic Championship. Fogarty, just five points ahead of Dalziel heading into the race, tops the driver standings with 327 points while Ryan finishes the year as series runner-up for the second consecutive season on 309 points.
Today's 12th and final round of the Toyota Atlantic Championship was, on paper at least, set to be a classic with Fogarty and Dalziel locking out the front-row in qualifying. Events quickly transpired to deny the Laguna Seca crowd of a title battle almost as soon as the pace car had peeled in. Jon and Ryan charged to the start line as the field behind jostled for position. The American won the race to the first turn as Ryan, piloting the #28 ProWorks car, slotted in behind and gave chase over the 2.238-mile permanent road course.
The Scotsman's title bid was promptly ended as officials handed him a drive-through penalty for appearing to edge ahead of Fogarty just before the start. The distance in question was a matter of inches and there was ultimately no track advantage for the #28 car as Fogarty led the pack into the first turn. Officials reviewed the tape of the start as Ryan's Sierra Sierra Enterprises team questioned the call but the penalty remained and Dalziel dutifully served the drive-through, ending any chances he may have had for challenging for the title.
Ryan re-joined the race in eighth but an ill-handling car meant his chances of gaining ground to the front-runners were slim. He quickly passed the Team Rahal cars of Festa and Patrick to move up to sixth but from there he had no answer to the cars ahead. As Fogarty took the title with another victory, followed by Bremer and Ranger, Ryan claimed the chequered flag in sixth, the first time he has failed to finish on the podium since Round 7 in Toronto in July.
Frustrated with the outcome of today's proceedings Dalziel remarked:
"This is a disappointing result from a championship point of view. To decide the outcome of the series in this manner is extremely frustrating. I thought I was behind Jon at the start; it could be as simple as he hit the limit changing gears and I edged ahead but the bottom line is I had no advantage and he led into the first turn, it was clear for all to see!
"For the sake of a potentially entertaining race between Jon and myself I wouldn't have thought officials would end our title battle this way but they new what the outcome would be and made the call. I served my penalty and while I probably didn't have a car good enough to win today's race I would have appreciated the opportunity to try. It's still a great result to finish the year as series runner-up, we've won races, won poles and proved ourselves when circumstances have worked against us. Overall it's been a good year, now we look to the future."
Ryan's 2004 season boasts four victories, five pole positions, three second place finishes and five fastest race laps. The past two Toyota Atlantic seasons have netted the Orlando-based racer an impressive total of 16 podium finishes from 24 starts. With the on-track activities finished the pack assemble for the final time tonight to celebrate at the 2004 Toyota Atlantic Championship Awards Banquet in Monterey.