MOTOR RACING ROUNDUP : Schumacher Stripped of Belgian Victory
Michael Schumacher, the apparent runaway winner of the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday, was disqualified when race stewards found that a speed-limitation device on his car did not meet requirements at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium.
The ruling gave the victory to Britain’s Damon Hill, reopening the world championship points race only four hours after Schumacher seemed to have locked it up with his eighth victory in 11 races.
Race stewards ruled that a mandatory wooden plank under his car, aimed at slowing drivers, did not meet legal measurement requirements. It was too thin, giving him an advantage over his competitors.
The stewards ruled out Benetton Ford’s claim that it could have been caused by Schumacher’s accidental spin during the race.
“The stewards concluded that not one of the defenses offered is acceptable,” the ruling said.
Said international FIA federation spokesman Tom Walkinshaw: “Stewards of the Belgian Grand Prix have decided to inflict a penalty on Benetton Ford and driver Michael Schumacher of exclusion from the event.”
The crude wooden board was introduced into the high-technology sport halfway through the season after the deaths of Brazilian Ayrton Senna and Austrian Roland Ratzenberger at the San Marino Grand Prix in May.
The incident is the third this year to jeopardize Schumacher’s dominance, which once seemed vulnerable only to the guardians of Formula One racing.
Schumacher, driving under an appeal of a two-race suspension for disregarding a black flag at the British Grand Prix, will learn the fate of his appeal on Tuesday in Paris. A loss could cost him the points earned during the appeal, as well as resulting in a lengthened suspension.
His Benetton Ford team is under investigation for an alleged infraction in the refueling procedures at the German Grand Prix.
Now, instead of leading the world standings by 35 points over Hill, Schumacher has 76 points to Hill’s 55, and more sanctions could be coming.
If he sits out the upcoming Italian and Portuguese Grand Prix races and Hill wins both, the margin could be cut to one point with three races to go.
Pole-sitter Scott Pruett led from start to finish in a Camaro in winning the Road Atlanta Blockbuster Trans-Am at Braselton, Ga., by six-tenths of a second over Dorsey Schroeder.
Tom Kendall of Manhattan Beach finished third.
American Scott Russell, riding a 750cc Kawasaki, won two races in the Superbike World Championship at Muratamachi, Japan.