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JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
2/23/15 2:50 p.m.


“I know he’s cheating, because he’s beating me and I’m cheating.”
–Every racer ever

Unless you live under a rock–and probably even if you do–you’ve doubtlessly heard about the Spec Miata Plunge-Gate mass disqualification at the 2014 SCCA Runoffs. Post-race, the top six cars were bounced from their finishing spots due to illegal–but apparently highly common–modifications to the cylinder heads. The modification was so popular that doubtlessly more cars would have been bounced had the entire field been torn down.

Internet justice was swift and brutal, with demands that heads (both human and Miata) roll and witches be burned and banishments be enacted for anyone who even watched the race on TV. An equally loud crowd piped up with the “Well, if everyone is doing it, let’s just make it legal” argument.

Mostly it was proof that while America may be lagging behind in most manufacturing sectors, we can still manufacture self-righteous outrage with the best of them. Eventually everyone calmed down and a panel convened to explore the situation. Recommendations have been made, and more are coming. Despite the early chaos, the official response seems reasonable and rational. But I think we all need to examine cheating in general, how we think about it, and how it affects our sport.

First, I think any sort of zero-tolerance policy should be taken off the table. Policies like this fail to recognize that there are as many different types of cheating as there are cheaters, and not all of them are necessarily bad.

Sure, you have your straight-up flagrant a-holes with little or no conscience–or world-class rationalization skills. There are the guys who run illegal parts because they know their local tech inspectors don’t check that particular part, or they disguise illegal parts as legal parts to squeak by. These types are usually compensating for some other gross personal shortcoming–comically small or misshapen genitals, perhaps–and will take the big-fish-in-a-small-pond role any way they can get it.

But then you have your folks who are ignorant or misinformed. Now, I’ve always heard that ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it, and I agree, but officials have a responsibility to be fair, too. Ignorance is also not an excuse to forever ostracize the lawbreaker, potentially turning him into a supervillain bent on revenge. Ignorance cheaters beget wonderful teachable moments, which we can use to benefit our sport and the folks who play it. But yeah, they still don’t deserve that wood-and-plastic trophy.

The close cousin of the ignorance cheater is the exploiter of the gray area. These folks work in the margins of the rulebooks and read the unprinted words between the printed ones. They are the motorsports equivalent of improvisational jazz musicians, producing something that the rest of us intellectually understand takes talent and skill, but couldn’t ever fathom how to do ourselves.

The gray-area crowd, if properly policed, actually performs a service to the community. They find weak links in the rules chains and loopholes that need to be closed or codified. To live in that world, though, they have to realize something: Every so often, one of them will have to lean into the strike zone and take one for the team. It’s just part of the territory. The Runoffs Spec Miata situation largely fits into this category. The rule was written in a way that allowed it to be exploited, everyone exploited it like a Chinese iPhone factory worker, and it all came to a head at Runoffs. The end result of this will be a much clearer picture of Spec Miata head-prep rules by next season.

The final category of cheaters stands apart from the rest. They turn cheating into an art form, pushing rules interpretation so far that they end up progressing the state of the art of the sport. Whether it’s Red Bull’s flexible nose cones and front wings on F1 cars, Toyota’s invisible variable air restrictors on their rally cars, or pretty much everything Smokey Yunick ever did, these developments–while illegal–also helped the sport grow in their own twisted ways.

I come not to glorify the cheaters. It’s worth noting that every example I give in this column was caught and appropriately punished. Rather, I come to say not all who “cheat” are instantly scumbags. Some are merely trying to gain a competitive advantage, and it’s up to the rest of us to determine whether that advantage fits within the established boundaries. In pretty much every sport there are consequences for stepping out of bounds, and motorsport should be no different. But just like football, racing is rather enjoyable to watch when someone tightropes those sidelines.

Read the rest of the story

Rupert
Rupert Dork
2/23/15 3:09 p.m.

In reply to JG Pasterjak: The link to Read the rest of the story didn't work. So I don't know what else you said. But the fact is in many a stock racing scenario, regardless of number of wheels, claiming rules work. When I raced AMA occasional, as you put it "flagrant" cheaters had their bike claimed. Some times, it worked out that the new owner wasn't any faster anyway. But most times, it was obvious when flagrant cheating was involved.

Bottom line. Once a few riders got burned by a claim almost no one was willing to spend the money to build a super ride. Because if they did, it'd be claimed. So there were very few issues with flagrance or problems at tear-down. In fact, tear-down became a very random event.

NOHOME
NOHOME UltraDork
2/23/15 3:14 p.m.

What has always been interesting to me is how much cheating, creativity and hard work go hand-in-hand.

As one person I know of an occidental nationality that shall go unmentioned said when I commented on a national disregard for fair-play when it came to IP.."That is not cheating, that's competing and winning".

mad_machine
mad_machine MegaDork
2/23/15 3:23 p.m.

so if everyone is cheating... why should I stick to the rules and constantly come in last (or back of the pack)? We know the "right" and moral answer to that question, but it still stands.

dean1484
dean1484 MegaDork
2/23/15 3:39 p.m.

When I raced we knew who was not really paying attention to the rules. There was a group of them and it was a big game of lets see whose is bigger. The yucking it up and the BS highfalutin crap that was being slung around between those teams was ridiculous never mind the cubic $$$$$ that was spent was just stupid.

We that actually were reading the rules were relegated to mid pack and although it was "fun" to be racing it sucked because we could not win. There is just no way to win if you are down 10-15% in power with all other things being equal. This is one reason why I got out of racing. The cheeting was just getting out of hand. The fun was not there any more because of it. I was so glad to see the top 6 in SM get the hammer dropped on them. I think they should have torn down the whole field.

I completely disagree with your attempt to justify cheating. It is black and white! Cheating is like being pregnant. You either are or you are not. As crew chief ignorance of a rule did not relieve me of being responsible. If you start playing the "I did not know" card as a viable excuse for cheating then the wheels will come off the bus really fast.

Cheating is VERY bad for any sport. You will have a small group that accepts it and plays along with it. There is a much larger group that will just toss in the towel and move on as the cheaters usually are just not fun to play with unless you are cheating also. The biggest harm is that there will be people that may be considering jointing the party but don't bother due to rumors of cheating. You loose new blood and eventually it is only the cheaters that are left to play with each other.

dean1484
dean1484 MegaDork
2/23/15 3:41 p.m.
mad_machine wrote: so if everyone is cheating... why should I stick to the rules and constantly come in last (or back of the pack)? We know the "right" and moral answer to that question, but it still stands.

You end up tossing in the towel and moving on is what happens. Why cheating is inherently bad.

NOHOME
NOHOME UltraDork
2/23/15 3:51 p.m.

Life is not fair and never has been. It is both naive and foolish to think that we will be treated fairly just because we behave that way to others.

What is important is to be aware that ALL games are rigged; we may still choose to participate, but only insofar as we are getting what we want from the game. If you want to win, you have to cheat and not get caught.

HiTempguy
HiTempguy UberDork
2/23/15 3:51 p.m.
mad_machine wrote: so if everyone is cheating... why should I stick to the rules and constantly come in last (or back of the pack)? We know the "right" and moral answer to that question, but it still stands.

This is why I hate it when people go "I don't like zero tolerance policies".

At what point do you sacrifice your values/beliefs/morals? This is not just limited to racing, but is a LIFE question.

I don't cheat. Period. The point of rules is to create standards for people to follow. Break the rules, even if accidental? Tough E36 M3, play again next time, its called the school of "hard knocks" if you want to play in other people's sandboxes like that.

Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess MegaDork
2/23/15 3:57 p.m.

I mean, it's like "Oh, we can't have Voter ID laws. That would discourage cheating, I mean, dat be raysis." If your suggesting that cheating is OK as long as you're not caught, then why bother having rules at all?

Rupert
Rupert Dork
2/23/15 4:00 p.m.

In reply to HiTempguy: Claiming rules make serious cheating too expensive.

HiTempguy
HiTempguy UberDork
2/23/15 4:30 p.m.
Rupert wrote: In reply to HiTempguy: Claiming rules make serious cheating too expensive.

Oh, I am all about claiming. Usually most people aren't though, because they like cheating rather than racing being based on their skill as a driver.

A big reason I like rallying/offroad racing is the variety, and the sheer variance caused by the course itself and reliance on instinct/experience to get you through said variability.

mad_machine
mad_machine MegaDork
2/23/15 6:24 p.m.
Dr. Hess wrote: I mean, it's like "Oh, we can't have Voter ID laws. That would discourage cheating, I mean, dat be raysis." If your suggesting that cheating is OK as long as you're not caught, then why bother having rules at all?

Do you need to flounder threads on a regular basis?

turboswede
turboswede MegaDork
2/23/15 6:43 p.m.
Dr. Hess wrote: I mean, it's like "Oh, we can't have Voter ID laws. That would discourage cheating, I mean, dat be raysis." If your suggesting that cheating is OK as long as you're not caught, then why bother having rules at all?

it must suck to be as ostracized as you must feel if you feel this is an appropriate time to try and make this point.

Hint: it isn't. Many of us think you're being a bit of an shiny happy person.

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
2/23/15 6:46 p.m.

Just so we're straight, I don't practice cheating, nor do I condone it.

But at the same time, I can't deny that there have been contributions to the sport made by people who may not have been within the letter or the spirit of the rules. It's sometimes tricky to know where the 100% mark is unless someone is operating at 101% to provide a frame of reference.

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
2/23/15 6:52 p.m.

Also, I'm in no way trying to justify cheating, only admitting that it happens, and if it happens, maybe there's a way to use it for the good of the sport. If you operate outside the law, there should be consequences. But if one person intentionally crossing a boundary and being punished prevents someone down the road from accidentally crossing that boundary, I think person A has performed a service toward the common good.

Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
2/23/15 7:01 p.m.
mad_machine wrote: Do you need to flounder threads on a regular basis?

Its a feature, not a bug.

Rupert
Rupert Dork
2/23/15 8:05 p.m.

In reply to JG Pasterjak: Sorry for sounding so redundant. But the bottom line is, should you know on any given day your ride might be claimed by a competitor after any given race, you'll probably not spend all that much money to cheat!

We're not talking about steal your competitor's ride money here. In AMA the claiming cost was set at least 125% to 150% of the average build cost. In other words, if your ride is that hot It's worth paying a lot more than I could build it for, so I'll claim it!

The other side is, as a rider I'm not going to spend a ton of money to cheat. Because if/when I do, the other team/teams will buy my rides and not just beat me with what i built. But in addition, I'll also have to start over from scratch!

Rupert
Rupert Dork
2/23/15 8:11 p.m.
Dr. Hess wrote: I mean, it's like "Oh, we can't have Voter ID laws. That would discourage cheating, I mean, dat be raysis." If your suggesting that cheating is OK as long as you're not caught, then why bother having rules at all?

Sorry about your problems dealing with the realities of the 20th, not to mention the 21st century! Perhaps if you cut bigger holes in your white sheet, your brain would get more oxygen!

Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess MegaDork
2/23/15 8:27 p.m.

So, "Cheating is OK if it helps MY TEAM but not OK if it doesn't..." Or is it "Not cheating isn't fair because then we might not 'win'"?

Driven5
Driven5 HalfDork
2/23/15 9:16 p.m.

So gov't mandated photo ID's are OK to require for one Constitutionally protected right, but not OK to require for another...Or is it gov't mandated photo ID's are an infringement on any Constitutionally protected right?

.

NOHOME wrote: If you want to win, you have to cheat and not get caught.

False...Playing the 'game' better, including interpreting the rules better, is not inherently cheating.

Trackmouse
Trackmouse Reader
2/23/15 9:28 p.m.

Yikes. Feels like I just read through a democrat vs. republican debate...

Let's look at things in this way fellas: what is the "spirit" of racing? Is it to go as fast as you can? No. Because that is only a test of your skills. We race because we want to be faster than everyone else.

With that said I think the rules are stupid. All racing should be kept entry level. No factory backing and a build cost of xx,xxx$. If you figure something out that makes you faster than the rest, so be it. Enjoy your secret while it lasts. No one stays on top forever. You'll go down in infamy for a short time. Then it's the next guys turn. If the rules governing the car were removed, racing would take on a pedigree not yet known. You could have the Miata that outpaces a corvette in every way.

And what of the manufacturers? They would now be doing all sorts of neat stuff to provide you with a crazy ride. Including slick designed aftermarket parts. In this way, everybody wins. The track? That's governed. The laps? That's governed. The sanctioning body? That's governed. The car? It's anybody's game. If you can build a FWD that destroys all other cars, do it. And show the world.

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
2/23/15 10:03 p.m.

Claimer classes have always interested me a bit. Ultimately, I think claim rules produce the best racing in spec series, or series that are so tightly controlled as to be near-spec. I think the problem with claim rules is in the emotional attachment many of us feel toward our labor, and what we build. How much innovation are you going to put into a creation that you know can be taken away at a moment's notice?

Of course, that's the whole point, which is why I think it works best in tightly-controlled classes. Because eventually you'll limit innovation to a rough average of what the participants of the class are willing to invest. You'll have a few guys at the pointy end who build good cars, guys at the low end who just claim the good cars, and a bunch of guys in the middle who aren't really targets.

So, yeah, I think it's a cool idea to level—or at least stabilize–the playing field, but I don't see it as a universal solution, or you'd lose a lot of innovation. I think more sanctioning bodies need to explore it for a least a few classes (Spec Miata would be a natural claimer class).

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
2/23/15 10:16 p.m.
Trackmouse wrote: All racing should be kept entry level. No factory backing and a build cost of xx,xxx$.

It's a great sentiment, but as we've learned from the $200X Challenge, "build cost of $xx,xxx" is very far from a fixed point of reference. Ther's a million variables. Time, skill, geography, non-financial resources, etc.

That said, series like Lemons, Chump and our Challenges are good examples of this approach, but the type of racing they produce is far different from what most folks are looking for. People like some degree of standardization. They like knowing that they can walk into a McDonalds in Boise, Idaho and get the same mediocre burger that they can get in Knoxville, Tennessee. Yes it's fun finding the out-of-the-way local place, but chances are you won't be able to find another meal like that anywhere but there.

Driven5
Driven5 HalfDork
2/23/15 10:25 p.m.

I agree that claim rules seem like a great way for equalizing a class. In an "ideal" (to me) world, I could see most classes being broken down into two major types. Claimer and Innovator. As noted, Claimers would be great for spec and tightly regulated racing classes. Then the Innovators would rely on minimalist rule sets that try to only place significant restrictions on a limited number of easily policed attributes.

Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
2/23/15 10:46 p.m.

I'm looking more and more to the LO206 class in karting. Sealed and close racing. Those who cheat are fairly easily caught.

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