A Brief History of Cheating in Motorsports

Human nature is one of the most diverse things we see on planet earth. Sadly, not all of human nature is benign, good, warm, welcoming. One of the negatives we exhibit is called cheating. Be it at school, on our partner, at work, it’s an undesirable trait.

But in motorsport? Yes, it happens. All too often. And it happens worldwide. It happens in rallying. It happens in Formula 1. It happens in IndyCar. It happened here in Australia.

America’s NASCAR was full of innovative people. At one time they had specified a maximum size for the fuel tank. A “clever” interpretation of the rules has Smokey Yunick fit a fuel hose that was eleven feet long and two inches thick. As a result, his car’s overall fuel capacity was increased. Ynick also sidestepped the rules by having an oversized tank fitted but with an inflated basketball inside. This allowed the tank to be filled to more than the regulated amount once the ball was deflated.

Tim Flock decided on a different way to improve the fuel economy of his NASCAR. His steel roll cage wasn’t steel. It looked like steel, but close inspection had a wooden structure smartly painted to resemble steel.

Australia’s royal motorsport name was involved in a somewhat cheeky cheat in 1981. Fabled F1 designer Gordon Murray built a car for the Brabham team that had adjustable ride height. When cars are scrutineered there’s a set ride height they have to adhere to. Murray built in a system that would lower the car under that ride height but would raise it back to the required amount when stopped. Murray’s sense of humour was brought into play by having a box with leads that would attach to the car, for no reason other than to visually distract onlookers, placed at random locations on the car when stopped.

Another entry from NASCAR with Ken Schrader finding his tyre wear exceeding the ability of the car to deal with it. Although leading a race, the second place car was closing rapidly. A quick thinking Schrader discharged his fire suppressant system and the second car’s driver, thinking Schrader’s car engine was about to explode, backed off. The canny Schrader timed this well enough for his lead to get him over the line for a win, with his car in perfect working order.

Japanese goliath Toyota dominated the world rally scene with its awesome and aggressive looking all wheel drive Celica. Complete with huge rear wing, quad headlight front, and legal turbocharger…wait, did I say legal turbocharger? 1995 and the car is dominating the rally world. The WRC had stated a maximum horsepower output of 300. Toyota had abided by the rules that stated a restrictor plate must be fitted inside the turbo.

What they also interpreted was that the regulations said nothing about the restrictor plate having to stay in one spot. Some brilliant engineering had the plate being moved by springs that allowed extra power to be generated, with an estimated fifty extra horsepower. The design of the turbo was such that a thorough pull-down of it was required to see the plate and even then this appeared almost as it should be.

Australia’s great race, the Bathurst 1000, closes out this quick look at motorsport cheating. The 1987 race was won by the stove hot Ford Sierras. Factory supported they were quick, at times almost undriveable according to Rare Spares ambassador John Bowe, but a little bit of physics came in to play for the win. Larger tyres cover more distance for little extra effort and the first two cars, both from the same team, were found to have enlarged wheel arches at the front, allowing a bigger rolling diameter tyre.

Subsequent investigation and appeals against the team had them disqualified, handing the win to the third placed team. That team was from HDT and the car was driven by David Parsons, Peter McLeod, and one Peter James Brock. The win, under less than ideal circumstances, gave the great PB his ninth and ultimately final ATCC win at The Mountain.

Do you know any ingenious tales of people skirting the rules in motorsports? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below this article.  

Adelaide 500 recap

The 2018 Clipsal 500 is the season opener for the category now known as Supercars. This year's event was history making on four fronts: seeing the Audi Sport LMS R8 cars race in Australia for the first time; the debut run for the new SuperUtes category; the first major event for Holden in 2018 after ceasing manufacturing in 2017; and the debut of the Opel sourced ZB Commodore in a trim never to be seen on Aussie roads.

 

It's the twentieth time that Adelaide has hosted the opening round and the street circuit, renowned for its ability to bite any driver that blinks, didn't fail to do so again.

 

The program is always full at the Clipsal, with the headline act backed by a solid group of support categories including Improved Production cars, Carrera Cup,  Stadium Trucks, the Dunlop Super 2 series (formerly known as the Development Series), and the Touring Car Masters.

 

New to Australia were the Audis. There's a strong competition base in this category and they joined the Australian racing scene for the first time after successful seasons in the South East Asian region.

 

But it was eyes on the ZB Commodore as the new bodyshape hit the track for the first time on Friday. Fourteen of the ZB shapes ventured out and, as expected, it was Jamie Whincup in the Red Bull team that topped the timing chart first up.

 

However Whincup would also be the first in the Commodores to hit the walls in the notoriously fickle street circuit and necessitating some frantic behind the scenes repair work overnight. Qualifying had Kiwi gun Shane van Gisbergen top qualifying and he'd go on to win the weekend's races.

 

The Commodore itself has seen much debate, has divided purists and general punters, and with a non V8 powertrain and FWD/AWD inside its hatchback styled body in the road-going versions, further, in many opinions, takes Supercars away from its production based roots.

 

The Stadium Super Trucks have proved to be a crowd pleaser since they commenced racing in Australia, with the 2018 season seeing a famous Australian name in the charts. Brabham. Matthew Brabham.

 

Proving that petrol runs deep in his veins, Brabham would close out the weekend with a first and two thirds. The weekend was not without incident for the high flying machines, with one driver hitting a wall just before the finish line after a collision with another driver. Somehow the vehicle made it across the line in a cloud of smoke sans a rear wheel.

 

As always, the Touring Car Masters, or TCM, put on a show and Rare Spares ambassador John Bowe didn't hold back in his racing efforts. JB qualified third in the Wilson Security/PAYCE Holden Torana SL/R before setting the fastest lap in race one, but traffic early in the race had the Torana fall to mid field.

 

Race 2 was a better effort, with Bowe finishing second, and just three tenths behind Steven Johnson, son of his old racing partner, Dick. JB also managed to set the faster race time than Johnson and closed to within a tenth of the fastest ever race lap for the TCM at Adelaide, set by one John Bowe in 2017 at 1.29.28.

 

The Torana continued its form in Saturday's third race, taking the checkered flag a full half second ahead of Johnson in his Mustang, and again knocked on the door of the outright race record. Sunday's fourth and final race for the TCM category saw Johnson failing to finish, but Bowe avoided any entanglements to take out the race, winning the weekend, and seeing just two one hundredths of a second needed to break his own race record, setting a 1.29.30.

 

As a Rare Spares ambassador, John Bowe is an ideal fit for the Touring Car Masters as well, as Rare Spares have parts and panels for the kinds of cars that race in this spectator friendly category. You can find out more about Rare Spares at www.rarespares.net.au

 

Were you at the Clipsal 500? What did you think? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.