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  Home > Specials > Editorials > Cheating in WRC
Cheating in WRC
In any sport governed by technical rules it is natural that the people involved are exploring the boundaries of performance within the rules, known as pushing the envelope. By definition, this creates gray areas when technology advances beyond what rule makes had in mind. In addition, there also are people looking at ways to bend those rules for their own favour or, at times, even ways to cheat.

This article revolves around the topic of cheating, whether rules are broken intentionally or by mistake. In comparison to some more traditional sports which rely mainly on human body to achieve the result, World Rally Championship has been relatively free of malignant rule breaking.

Unintentional cases
That doesn't mean that there haven't been exclusions and disqualifications, suspicions, accusations and scandals. Quite the contrary, those are surprisingly common. Luckily for the sport, in the vast majority of all cases the question is not about cheating. The most common reason for exclusion is exceeding the maximum lateness but that is not cheating.

The most common reason of disqualification which could be cheating, but most often is not, are technical irregularities. Rallying is technical sport and governed by complex rules, so it is no wonder that from time to time cars are found not to conform with their homologation papers. Most often this affects privateers who do not have the required technical knowledge and do simple mistakes often avoided by the more professional teams.

Often, but not always. Famous cases include Vauxhall's aborted entry at Portugal Rally 1978 when their car used modified cylinder head that team thought was legal. Or the original water pump of Ford Focus used in Monte Carlo 1999 but later ruled to be illegal. Even more innocent cases, but which in on both accounts led to exclusion of the winning crew, are Mitsubishi's turbo that did not have cooling ducts (Australia 2000) or Peugeot's water pump impellers (Cyprus 2004), both on the grounds that there were slight differences to production cars.

Unproven or inconclusive
For each acquitted and convicted case there is at least one suspicion or downright accusation of cheating. The most peculiar case took place in Ivory Coast Rally in 1985 when Audi was suspected to have swopped an entire car.

Michelle Mouton's quattro had developed serious engine problems and was expected to retire at any moment. Instead, she started off to the next section with mechanic Franz Braun's similar chase car in tow. After losing a lot of time, Mouton emerged from the section with miraculously cured Audi but no sign of Braun's car. Official explanation was that problem had not been damaged cylinder head as first suspected but an oil pump, which had been replaced by one from Braun's car. Perfectly logical explanation and legal action.

Until rumors surfaced stating that Mouton's car was in fact that of Braun's, with body panels switched to make it look like the original. Rumors were so persistent that rally officials examined the matter despite no protest was ever made. They found no evidence of the swop. As Martin Holmes points out, the matter became more curious when Mouton finally withdrew from the rally, claiming that car was unsafe as it was falling to pieces. Her original car was especially strengthened for African rallies, Braun's chase car was not and would have suffered from exactly that sort of frailty.

Not many know but professional rally drivers are athletes who are subject to same anti-doping regulations than for example olympic athletes are. This despite the fact that there is not much to be gained from artificial performance enhancement, rally driving being spread over longer period of time unlike for example GP races. Natural consequence of anti-doping regulations is that drivers are subject to doping testing. And that can lead to difficulties with for example such common health problems as flue or allergies. Some of the most effective medicines used to treat normal patients are not suitable for drivers because such drugs can contain substances disallowed by doping regulations.

Toyota Turbo Scandal
In the history of WRC the most blatant case of cheating is Toyota's illegal turbo discovered in Rally Catalunya 1995. On one hand, it was piece of brilliant engineering but on the other hand it embodied the desperation that TTE was in to make latest Celica competitive. Toyota forced the team to use Celica as a base for their programme, even though car was not ideal for the purpose.

Before turbo restrictor was introduced TTE was able to overcome other deficits by using engine that was more powerful than what opposition had. But with the introduction of the restrictor this advantage was eliminated and problem became more acute when TTE moved from well-proven ST185 to newer ST205.

Long-nosed, transverse engined sports-car with unfavourable weight distribution was no match to new generation of purpose-built rally cars like Ford Escort Cosworth, Subaru Impreza and Mitsubishi Lancer. Facing such reality, in May 1995 someone at TTE made fateful decision and soon works Celicas were fitted with illegal turbo restrictor device which was duly discovered just after Catalunya 1995 and led to a ban of 12 months for works Toyotas.

San Remo 1986
Another case of interest is San Remo 1986, now infamous. Even if there was no cheating involved per se, the roots of the scandal lay in suspected cheating. Following the tragic accident which cost Henri Toivonen and Sergio Cresto their lives in Corsica earlier that year, a number of rule changes were introduced. One of these was that skirts were banned with immediate effect.

Without going into details of how rally proceeded, the scandal was triggered when scrutineers were tipped off about the skirts of the Peugeots. Cars were examined and excluded on the grounds that skirts were banned. This is curious in the light that cars had been scrutineered and declared legal before the event. Official investigation later found that Peugeots were not equipped with skirts and hence been illegally excluded.

And so on
Within such a complex sport there are hundreds of ways to seek the advantage in unfair ways of which above are but some. For example, suspicions of fuel additives have been aroused from time to time. Even so that Lancia was suspected to carry highly volatile oxidants inside the rollcage. Raises uncomfortable questions, bearing in mind how fiery Toivonen's accident was.

There have been other fuel related cases, the most famous being the rather late exclusion of Carlos Sainz's Jolly Club Lancia from 1993 San Remo Rally on the grounds that team had used illegal fuel. Another case two years before when Timo Salonen's Mitsubishi was excluded after 1000 Lakes in 1991 on similar grounds. Ironically enough, Timo's third place was inherited by his team mate Kenneth Eriksson whose fuel had not been tested.

How about taking shortcuts? For example, Kankkunen has claimed that Delecour took a shortcut in 1994 Monte Carlo, using an opening which was later blocked by a Ford team's car. Monte Carlo is rife with other scandals too. Did Citroen have something to hide in 2002 when they performed tyre change before parc ferme, contrary to specific instructions from the officials, which cost them the win? If not, why did they do it?

These are but few examples of what has happened in the past and my it is my, perhaps naive, hope that in future there will be no more serious cases of cheating.