Juncos explains Long Beach team errors after fans backlash

Ricardo Juncos has attempted to calm Argentine fans who thought Juncos Hollinger Racing's Callum Ilott had intentionally wrecked the chances of his team-mate Agustin Canapino in the Long Beach race.

Agustín Canapino, Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet

Ilott struck the Turn 1 wall on lap 6 of the race, and had to limp around a whole lap, to get his punctured right-front tyre replaced. That put him a lap down, so when the full-course caution came out for Scott Dixon being in a tyre wall on lap 20, his team delayed his first scheduled stop to allow him to get his lap back on the pack that was cruising behind the safety car.

However, a delay in the pits and the fact that Dixon got going again promptly, meant that Ilott was released only just in front of the pack that had just got the green flag. With Canapino having been left out when all others pitted, he was now leading so Ilott emerged from the pits on cold tyres, into Canapino’s path.

That meant the Argentine couldn’t get away from his immediate pursuers and exiting Turn 5, Canapino got sideways, allowing Castroneves alongside him and as they went into Turn 6 side by side, he brushed the inside wall, causing terminal damage.

Afterward, Argentine fans were furious at what appeared to be unsportsmanlike actions from Ilott having triggered a chain-reaction of events that put out Canapino. Many even went on social media to deliver death threats to Ilott, triggering IndyCar itself to issue a statement:

 

Speaking to Autosport, JHR team founder and co-owner Juncos said the mix-up had been the result of inexperience from the team, and the failure to tell Ilott that his team-mate was in the lead. 

“The problem was the lack of communication between us,” said Juncos, having expanded the team to two full-time entries when he hired Canapino this year. “We had our completely individual strategy with respect to Callum and, since we are all rookies on Agustin's car – in the engineering department, myself in the radio part and as part of the strategy, and the engineer who does the strategy – it is very difficult to be able to control everything that is happening: the data on the car, the condition of the tyres, the fuel consumption during a yellow, because you have to be constantly looking at things that are new to us.

“On top of that, being attentive to the lap times of the others – who stays on track, who pits – is a lot of information for us. We made mistakes there. I didn't even imagine that Callum was going to come out in front of Agustin because I wasn’t paying attention to it. Nor could I tell you that [Helio] Castroneves is a lap down. We made mistakes. I had the responsibility with the radio.  

“It was a moment of frustration, because we lost several seconds at the stop for Ilott. Instead of restarting 10 seconds or seven seconds behind the leader [had he made up his full lap and caught the back of the pack] he started close together and it turns out that Agustin is the leader. Callum didn't know that the leader was Agustin, either. In fact, he asked his engineer at the end of the race, 'How come you didn't tell me that Agustin had been leading?' 

“Those mistakes that are made due to lack of experience, not on purpose. Several unfortunate situations came together at one point. It is nobody's fault.

Ricardo Juncos watches over the pitstops for Ilott and Canapino.

Ricardo Juncos watches over the pitstops for Ilott and Canapino.

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

“If there is anyone guilty it would be the team, it would be me in this case. It’s not Callum Ilott's fault. A driver does not choose when he enters or when he leaves the pits; that is handled by the team. It is not easy to come out with cold tyres in front of the leader in that sequence.”

Juncos siad there is no bad blood between Canapino and Ilott.

“Perfect, the relationship is impeccable,” Juncos said. “Agustin is frustrated because he was hurt by Callum leaving in front of him, without blaming him for that, and by leaving slow because he leaves with cold tyres like everyone else. Agustin also doesn't make the decision to go and pass him [Ilott] aggressively. If he had done that, Callum wouldn't [hold him up], but Agustin doesn't do it either because of the camaraderie and friendship they have. It was a complex situation.

“If there is one person who has helped Agustin internally in the team, it has been Callum. We owe a lot to Callum. He is the driver that I chose, he is the driver that represents us because Agustin is learning.

“That he has been mistreated as he was mistreated in social networks is sad, we know how the networks are.  We have to understand that we Argentines are the way we are and the passion we have, which plays for the best in some cases and for the worst in others.”

Asked what he had said to Ilott about the furious messages from Canapino’s compatriots, Juncos replied: “Callum didn't understand anything, he didn't understand people's reaction. He showed me pages and pages of the outrageous things that were being said to him…

“We Argentines have to show off, because we always show off. We are what we are and that's why we have the country we have – for better or worse.  I tried to explain to Callum not to take it personally, that it is what it is and nothing more. Obviously the hot moments were yesterday. He has already put something on the social media and had many positive comments from many Argentine fans.

“The reality is that when they [the fans] understand how IndyCar works and begin to understand the reasons for everything, then everything changes. The thing is that people don't understand IndyCar; it's not like racing in Argentina, it's not like F1, it's much more difficult because we have the refuelling that F1 doesn't have. So it's not that easy.

“When you understand the rules, you start to understand why what happened, happened. I had no communication with Agustin because he was wearing a new helmet and the microphone was wrong. Different things that people don't know at the time of the action, but then they begin to understand and that obviously changes.

“That's what happened and for me, we have to turn the page, look forward. We made the mistakes we made as a team and we have to keep learning.”

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