News Release February 27, 2017
TEAM 8 DISQUALIFICATION
Team 8 was automatically disqualified due to evidence of violating rules related to fueling between checkpoints.
Anchorage, Alaska (AK). On Friday, February 24, 2017, Team 8, Tyler Aklestad and Tyson Johnson opted to refuel between checkpoint Ruby and checkpoint Tanana. According to 2017 Iron Dog® Pro Class Official Race Rules, teams are permitted to take fuel and oil under very strict guidelines.
By violating the strict guidelines of Rule 13., Team 8 was automatically disqualified for receiving physical assistance from a non-competitor. The Race Marshals’ ruling cannot be protested.
In an effort to give Team 8 every opportunity to appeal the Rules or the final decision of the Race Marshals, the Iron Dog Board of Directors is calling a special session tonight to allow racers Tyler Aklestad and Tyson Johnson to appear in person and provide their account of the situation, the reasons for their appeal and requested remedy.
“I am actively working with Team 8, the Race Marshals and our Board of Directors to address the disqualification ruling.”, said Kevin Kastner, Iron Dog Executive Director. “As an organization, everyone understands the gravity of this ruling and we are giving it our full attention. I’ve made specific recommendations to Team 8, suggesting that they prepare a full account of their recollection of the events, their rationale for appeal of the rules and/or ruling and what remedy they are seeking. As of 17:09 today, we received an email sent by Tyson Johnson with a document for review by the Board of Directors.”
Rule 13.2. Racers will be permitted to receive outside help for fuel and engine oil ONLY between the checkpoints of Ruby and Tanana.
The intent of Rule 13.2 is to allow teams to optionally receive fuel and oil only from another source other than fuel provided at official checkpoints. This rule has been in place since the 2011 race with the intent to address suspected and alleged rules violations of race teams who had received parts, fuel, oil and assistance outside of a checkpoint, which is strictly forbidden by Rule 7.3.
Rule 7.3. Participants are prohibited from accepting parts, safety gear, fuel or oil from anyone, except at official Iron Dog® checkpoints and as provided in 13.2.
Teams who opt to refuel between Ruby and Tanana do so using their own resources, including but not limited to contractors or volunteer crews. Under these circumstances, the Team is responsible for ALL activities as provided by in Rule 13.2.2. The use of the phrase “ALL aspects” is intended to place full responsiblity on the Team for securing the area, maintaining safe fueling operations and continued adherence to all other rules.
Rule 13.2.2. Participants will be personally responsible for ALL aspects of these operations including the actions of their pit crew, costs, removal of ALL trash and containers, pollution control and cleanup (IF REQUIRED), safety, and all liabilities.
The intent of Rule 13.2.2. is to delegate to any Team who chooses to refuel in this section of the race, absolute ownership of all activities immediately surrounding their chosen location and their pit crew. The definition of a pit crew is intended to be defined as any person(s) who are providing assistance to a Team, whether paid or unpaid, or any other persons who violate Rule 13.2.1.
Rule 13.2.1. NO OTHER ASSISTANCE OF ANY KIND INCLUDING PHYSICAL CONTACT WITH THE PIT CREW WILL BE PERMITTED.
The intent of Rule 13.2.1. is to reiterate the importance of maintaining zero contact with any Racer’s snowmobile, including, but not limited to any non-Racer contact with the Racer, their snowmobile or handing them oil or fuel containers. This is described in Rule 19.1.4. and applies anywhere on the race course.
Rule 19.1.4. Competitor accepting any kind of physical assistance from a non-competitor that aids in adjustments and or repairs of their snowmobile and or equipment. (Example: A bystander may retrieve a replacement part or a lost gear bag, but cannot physically contact the competitors snowmobile and or make any adjustments to their equipment.)
The intent of Rule 19.1.4. is to limit all contact with a Racer including, but not limited to handing a Racer any object, helping lift or move a Racer’s snowmobile or in any way making any kind of physical contact with the Racer and/or their snowmobile.
A BRIEF TIMELINE OF THE EVENTS
On or about 14:45 on Friday, February 24, 2017, Team 8 stopped between Ruby and Tanana and was photographed during their refueling operations. The image was posted publicly and was discovered by the Iron Dog Race Marshals at approximately 16:30 on Friday, February 24, 2017. The evidence was presented to Tyson Johnson at 16:48 on the same day. Upon receiving a copy of the image showing the infraction of non-competitor contact, Tyson replied, “We are both focused on fueling and no clue those guys were touching our sleds.” He went on to say in the same message, “If we don’t know they are doing it (sic) it’s kind of hard to stop them.” The Race Marshals reiterated Rule 13.2.1. saying, “No assistance of any kind including physical contact.”
Tyson continued to send messages as the Race Marshals were boarding a plane. At no time during the text message communications did either racer on Team 8 make a written statement or comment about asking the persons touching their snowmobiles to stop what they were doing. The Race Marshals replied to inform Team 8 that they would be calling them from Fairbanks to continue the discussion and determine what actions would come as a result of the apparent rules infraction. No penalty was given at this time.
At 20:37 the Race Marshals had arrived in Fairbanks and messaged Tyler Aklestad to inform Team 8 they would call the Team in 15 minutes to review the evidence and give Team 8 the opportunity to discuss the rule violation. During the first phone conversation, Tyler Aklestad stated, “we told those guys to get away”. This statement contradicts the first messages where they allege having no knowledge of the contact shown in the photograph.
At 21:39, and after reviewing evidence and hearing the arguments of Team 8, the Race Marshals called to inform Team 8 of the ruling that they would be disqualified for violating Rule 13.2.
The penalty was assessed based on the clear evidence of the photograph as permitted under Rule 18.6. which shows non-competitor contact with Team 8’s snowmobiles. Additional evidence was collected through 34 minutes of cumulative discussion between the Team. After an additional 15 minutes of deliberation between all three Race Marshals, the decision to enforce Rule 13.2.2. was unanimous.
Rule 18.6. The Race Marshal Team may use any evidence from any person(s) that may aid the officials in determining if an infraction or violation has occurred.
The penalty for violating Rule 13. is compulsory and is the only rule in the 2017 Iron Dog® Pro Class Official Race Rules that includes a prescribed level of severity, regardless of intent. This rule was established in 2010 for the 2011 race. Every racer has agreed to the Rules as written when they signed the registration form and initialed that they have read and fully comprehend the Rules. In all other checkpoints and along the race course, Race Marshals are given latitude to use judgment to determine the level of penalty for any infraction. In the case of this incident and Rule 13.2.3., the penalty is very clear.
13.2.3. PARTICIPANTS WILL BE DISQUALIFIED IF ANY PART OF THIS FUELING PROCEDURE IS NEGLECTED.
Under the Rule 21.6, once a Race Marshal ruling has been made, it is final.
Rule 21.6. No protests will be accepted that refer to the Race Marshal’s and/or Checkpoint Official’s judgments or decisions.
The Board of Directors have called a special session to discuss the ruling and hear the appeal of Team 8. The certification of the results is scheduled for Tuesday, February 28, 2017 at 17:00 Alaska time according to Rule 17.4.
Rule 17.4. The assigned Race Marshal shall approve and release the final official race results by 5:00 PM Alaska Time on the first Tuesday following the finish of the race including a signed copy for the Executive Director for release and distribution.
2017 Official Iron Dog Rules (published August 1, 2016)
About Iron Dog, Inc. | 7100 Old Seward Hwy, Ste C, Anchorage, Alaska 99518 USA
Iron Dog, Inc. is a proud leader in the snowmobile community promoting snowmobile safety and outdoor education through trade shows, seminars and community events. Iron Dog also conducts student exchange programs and through its annual raffle has donated nearly $200,000 to Alaska charities since 2011.
The Iron Dog race, is a World Class Snowmobile Event that crosses the State of Alaska each February impacting over twenty-five Alaskan communities. Today’s Iron Dog course is over 2,000 miles, from Anchorage to Nome and finishing in Fairbanks, making it the World’s longest snowmobile race. Participants must traverse areas of Alaska’s most remote and rugged terrain while confronting some of the harshest winter conditions. Survival skills are essential, making it the World’s toughest snowmobile race.
For additional information:
Kevin Kastner, Executive Director, Iron Dog, Inc.