Thursday, February 23, 2012

To cheat or not to cheat

Here is a question from someone on

"And now a question directly to Antony

What can you tell about manufacturer teams' offences against technical rules? What changes (could) cars had between pre- and post-event scrutineering? What about unauthorized repairs on road sections, changing weight ballasts between the scales? Could a team be sure that officials wont check certain parts of the car? and so on...."

Most of the stories I have heard date way back to the early 1990’s. At the time I was a kid and my dad was running MAZDA RALLY TEAM EUROPE (MRTE). Sometimes he told about stuff that they had seen themselves or heard from 3rd parties. What I am trying to say is I don't know how true or accurate they are. So don’t come and tell me I’m wrong!

On a side note, just to illustrate how unwanted news can easily spread, here is an example where MAZDA was the victim:
MRTE was wondering how, at one point, the press was  coming out with confidential information; by that I mean intricate info about car behavior, setups, reliability problems and so on. Things that the drivers of the time: Hannu Mikkola, Timo Salonen and Ingvar Carlsson couldn't and wouldn't discuss with the press. Let’s face it, the MAZDA 1.6L engine was already at a huge disadvantage compared to the others like TOYOTA, LANCIA and MITSUBISHI who were on 2L engines. The MAZDA's only advantage, which came from its "innovative" gas container damper (KAYABA) and progressive springs (compared to many others who were and still are on linear springs), was definitely not something to openly speak about. It turns out my dad figured out what was going on when he caught a nosy journalist in the act: The journalist had apparently taken the habit of hanging out just below the motor-home window, whenever open. There, the guy just listened away at the drivers and engineers who were discussing... He was caught and sent away.

Stories I heard were, for example, when a factory TOYOTA was getting refueled behind some bushes by guys wearing something apparent to radiation suits... Or a spare wheel being carried out of a Gr. A Celica by three people, cause it was in fact a heavy tank full of gas (I mean gas, not petrol)…Or a MITSUBISHI being replaced in the rally by another brand new MITSUBISHI on which doors and bonnet, from the original MITSU, were bolted. The car made a few donuts on the gravel, so as to look dirty, and on it went... I remember hearing of the FIA technical commission boss of the time, sitting next to my father, on a stage start line watching the Gr.A Celica roar away like an airplane and saying:"Achim, I know something is wrong with this car, but what?" You see, the problem was that people knew they were cheating, but you had to know where and when to look. It was later that I heard they submerged the infamous turbo charger in water and saw air bubbles coming out of places where it shouldn't have. Apparently that turbo was the cleverest cheat the FIA tech guy had ever seen.

Fortunately today it is much harder to cheat. I do not believe official teams are or have been cheating lately, at least not willingly. I could tell you, for example, that I once used an illegal amount of tread patterns in a gravel event. It was a simple accident, really. We were allowed to nominate two different tread patterns. I accidently used three, until we realized. Oops! It's just too risky to cheat willingly and be caught. I remember of one instance, where there was an alert because a works car had lost some plastic parts on a stage, which in turn caused the car to be, let’s say, light. It was an issue. I can tell you also that back in 2002 when I did the ERC (European Rally Championship) there was some proper cheating going on. Illegal cars, illegal fuel, illegal recce, illegal servicing. We saw and heard it all.

I'll make a post about linear and progressive springs soon. I believe it's an interesting subject.

Testing before ELPA Rally 2002

1 comment:

  1. Thank Antony for sharing.. until now, I thought that only in my country was this biased and cheating thing going on... its seems like a global phenomenon!