Idle Thoughts, March 92

Idle Thoughts by Pat Childs

Cheaters!  Gosh darn dirty cheaters!

If you've spent any time near a race track, I'm sure you've heard this type of talk before.  For the most part it's just somebody blowing off steam about losing to someone who has simply outdriven them.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of cases wherein the loser is right.

I've been aound motorsports for twenty years and have been involved in winning programs ranging from local demolition derbies to an Escort Endurance Championship.  In each of these efforts we read the rules carefully, prepared our cars accordingly, then went racing.  Along the way we found ways to improve upon our performance and incorporated them, making our efforts even harder to beat.

Sometimes things don't always work in your favor when you follow the rules.  Two weeks after our 6-Cylinder Stock Car won the Best Looking Car in Class award, it was totaled when a lapped car purposely took it into the wall just before the checkered flag fell.  The promoter refused to take action against his friend and four high school buddies got to junk their pride and joy.

Sometimes the rules change.  After our Escort team dominated the first half of the season, losing only one race (by 18 seconds), the rules were tilted in favor of the competition after they boycotted the 24 Hour race at Mosport.  We were forced to watch helplessly as a team of internationally known drivers, in cars which had previously been accused of blocking slower classes, lapped us three times in a four hour race.

Sometimes you feel you have no choice but to break the rules.  During a period when SCCA Enterprises was having trouble keeping up with the demand for Spec Racer engines, our team was compelled to have some engines rebuilt by sources other than Enterprises.  While this practice is patently illegal, steps were taken to have this work done so that no performance advantage was gained.  To make a long story short, we were nailed at prerace tech, albeit with a little help from our "friends".  Perhaps the most galling part of this episode is that there were some individuals who were equally guilty of this infraction and continued to compete the remainder of the season with a high degree of success, hypocritically finger pointing and chastising all the while.

It seems that as long as there is competition, somebody will be trying to bend or break the rules in order to gain the unfair advantage.  I can't honestly say that I've always been on the law abiding side of the fence, but when I have felt compelled to cheat it usually was in a manner which tended to re-equalize the competitiveness of the program in which I was involved.  I can say that it's a lot more fun winning when you haven't cheated, than sweating through post race impound and accepting congratulations from folks that might have won had you played within the rules.

The neat thing about the SCCA is that it is a club, and membership input is an integral part of making it successful.  We each have the opportunity to voice our opinions and ask questions which can affect how the rules and regulations are written.  And if the heirarchy which devises and impliments the rules doesn't hear you, then you just need to make a little more noise.  Working toward getting an unfair rule changed will help not only yourself, but others who may also be working under the same disadvantage.  Cheating doesn't help anyone but the cheater, but sometimes can result in embarrasment and a tarnished reputation, which is really losing.