Steward decision ends Louise Frost's season in TCR Denmark
After a very promising start to the final TCR Denmark round of the season at Padborg Park, Louise Frost's season came to an abrupt end, having been excluded from all three races. Here's the whole story.
The last round of the 2021 TCR Denmark season took place at Padborg Park with three races to round up the year for the Danish series. Among the packed field, Louise Frost was back on track in the #94 TPR Motorsport entry. The Danish young woman had no easy start to the season, as she missed the first two rounds due health reasons.
She then made a remarkable debut at the Copenhagen GP and successively claimed three point scoring finishes, showing speed and development throughout the season - despite being halted by technical issues on a few occasions. It was indeed a challenging season, but the last weekend at Padborg Park meant trouble to a whole new level for Louise Frost.
"It’s great to see that I have the pace when the car is working and the setup is working."
Before the last round it was a five-driver battle for the title, with Kasper H. Jensen (Massive Motorsport) and reigning champion led the field ahead of Michael Markussen (Markussen Motorsport) with 52 points. But Casper Elgaard (Brian Madsen Autosport), Nicolai Sylvest and Jan Magnussen were in the battle as well.
A yellow flag interrupted the Q1 session when Elgaard went off in the early minutes and got stuck in the gravel. After the session was resumed, eight minutes were left to set a fast lap time. Jensen led the timesheets, ahead of Markussen, Sylvest, Jacob Mathiassen and Kenn Bach. Elgaard would later be disqualified from the timing. Louise Frost was able to advance into Q2 with tenth place.
Yet, nobody was able to beat Jenssen, who had scored the fastest lap ahead of Magnussen and Markussen. Louise Frost had a stunning lap and qualified her #94 Honda Civic Type R TCR in an impressive 6th place.
On race day, the sky was grey and rainy - resulting in a lot of problems with spray and poor visibility for the drivers. Nevertheless, Jensen won his second championship title with a victory in race 3, while Markussen took the win in race 2 and finished second in the championship. Having claimed victory in race 1, Jan Magnussen secured third in the standings.
But one of the weekend's main stories was an untold one. Louise Frost had received a penalty that excluded her from the whole weekend and forced more consequences than anyone suspected before.
It all came down to race 1: from sixth on the grid, Frost jumped the start and received a penalty as natural consequence - but, due to the water spray, she couldn't see the penalty sign with her number.
"The car drove perfectly and I started in P6, with the hope that Padborg Park could give us a good end to the season - but I had to think again." - she told us.
"I got a penalty for a false start in the first heat, and such a penalty is a factual verdict. You have to take your penalty no matter what, I know that - but unfortunately for me and several other drivers, the visibility was so bad on the track that the sign with the penalty could not be seen."
The disqualification for the first race of the weekend was a sensible penalty, as a mistake was made. But to be excluded from the whole weekend - for all three races - and to be forced to take a new license test is something entirely unheard of.
In these situations, the race direction usually has protocols that include communicating the penalty to the team, which calls in the driver via radio.
"My people in the pit also received no message, and therefore I drove without knowing anything about the punishment." - Frost added. "It gave a black flag, which is the natural consequence of getting a penalty - but I cannot see my number along with the black flag because of the spray from the rain, so I drove on" - she explained, exposing one more mishandling of the situation.
Louise was ordered to visit the stewards' office to explain her views on the incident and why she didn't take the penalty in time. "Of course they asked questions about my driving. I tried to explain to the judge that I have not acted in bad faith." - she stated.
"I appealed the case on the spot and even came up with video documentation that the sign was not possible to be seen while driving. The judge fully agreed with me, but still chose to exclude me from the whole weekend - and also recommended that I go to a new license test and also accused me of deliberately ignoring the flags."
It is common practice to show the black flag around the track and not just only at one marshal post - even more so when visibility is so poor like it was at Padborg Park. Yet, this didn't happen. The black flag was only shown at one marshal point and spray made it impossible to see it - not only for Frost, but for every driver.
She wasn't in fact the only racer to be black flagged that weekend, but she was the only one to receive the most severe punishment. Another driver had overlooked a black flag in the timed session, but was only excluded from the qualifying as a result.
At Padborg Park, the inconsistency of penalties was indeed an issue.
"I am left with an annoying feeling of whether it is worth the money and the work at all when such a dubious ruling can have such great significance" - continued Frost. "It’s hard to have to explain to one’s sponsors that the weekend ended before it began almost."
Louise Frost was excluded for the entire weekend because of one mistake which she accepted, but the situation risks making everything more difficult to find the backing for a new racing season in 2022. And it would be a real shame to miss a fast, talented and likeable person in the paddock like Louise Frost.
"On the other hand, I would like to send a big and well-meaning thank you to TCR Denmark and promoter Martin Jensen, who really cares about the drivers in the field and is always on the lookout to help", she concluded.
Unfortunately, an otherwise spectacular TCR Denmark season ended with a judge's decision.
All we can hope is that the situation will be clarified promptly by the sporting authorities and will be resolved without unnecessary further consequences for Louise Frost - hoping to see her on the grid next year.
Mistakes are made, but the sport has the responsibility to treat everyone objectively.