The 10 most ingenious loopholes in racing history

For decades, mechanics and crew chiefs have worked day and night to discover loopholes in the rules of all kinds of motorsports. For racing engineers, what many perceive as cheating is pretty clever reading of the rule book to find ambiguities. While outright cheating has been experienced in almost every racing sport, from World Rally Championship, NASCAR racing to Formula One, finding gray areas is not considered legal or prohibited – it’s where racing teams gain an advantage. unfair on his reluctant adversaries.


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Exploring the loopholes is part of what makes racing interesting, as they say, “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.” There are dozens of clever and devious ways that racing teams and legendary drivers have used to gain a performance advantage in the history of motorsports. While many of these clever tricks were discovered, they were banned long after the team, driver or car had already raced to victory. Because finding ways around the rules has always been a part of motorsports, we’ve put together a list of the 10 most ingenious feats of legal ambiguity throughout racing history.

10 Mercedes-AMG F1 2020 DAS system

Mercedes surprised everyone at the start of the 2020 season with the innovative Dual Axis Steering (DAS) technology. The system allowed drivers to adjust the toe angle of the front wheels, thereby reducing drag and helping warm tires under a safety car.

This attracted discontent from rival teams, who claimed that Mercedes gained an unfair advantage over the rest of the field. But despite its objection, the FIA ​​said the system did not breach the rules for the year. However, it was eventually banned from the 2021 season following regulation changes.

9 Deflategate by Smokey Yunick

Smokey Yunick was a brilliant mechanic who became famous for his creative interpretation of NASCAR rules. One of his clever “cheats” during the 1960s was to shove an inflated basketball into an already oversized fuel tank before the car was submitted for inspection. This followed NASCAR regulations regarding gas tank capacity.

After the scrutineers cleared the car, Smokey would deflate the basketball, remove it, and fill the gas tank with fuel, thus earning more miles and spending less time refueling. Was it illegal? No. It turned out that there were no such rules against this particular trick.

8 1998 Toyota GT-One “The Red Lady” Trunk Exploitation

In 1998, Toyota built the GT-One to compete in the GT1 series. At the time, the rules required all competition cars to have a street version. As such, one of the requirements for racing and road cars was the inclusion of a trunk that could fit a standard suitcase.

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Following a trick started by Mercedes, Toyota did not include a hatch for the trunk. Toyota went a step further by eliminating the trunk completely. They argued that the empty fuel tank could theoretically hold a suitcase. Surprisingly, Toyota got away with it as the rules did not require a suitcase to be placed during an inspection.

7 Yunick’s 1967 Chevy Chevelle Race Car

While NASCAR mandated that the race cars remain in stock, Smokey Yunick had other ideas. Heading into the 1967 season, Yunick worked on the development of what is now one of the best-modified stock cars in the history of the sport.

Although many allude to the car keeping the 7:8 scale of the original Chevelle, Yunick sculpted the car’s exterior to be more streamlined. Among other modifications, the most dramatic was moving the car’s body a few inches back for better weight distribution. Although the car could not be considered “stock”, it was not illegal.

6 Red Bull Racing Flex Front Spoiler 2011-2014

The dominant Red Bull F1 car that Sebastian Vettel drove to four consecutive championships from 2010 to 2013 was as much the result of technological innovation as it was living in the gray area of ​​the FIA ​​rule books. The 2011 RB7 that took 11 wins and an additional 15 pole positions in 19 races featured a flexible wing.

The wing passed inspection tests throughout the season, but it stuck to the track more than allowed when subjected to downforce. While it was revolutionary at the time, it was considered illegal by rival teams. In 2013, stricter tests closed the loophole and Red Bull was penalized in 2014 for using the flex wing in qualifying.

5 1997 Jeff Gordon No. 24 “T-Rex” Car Front Bumper Stamp

The Hendrick Motorsports team undertook a bold plan by testing an experimental chassis in 1997. When the car finally entered a race in the All-Star Race, it destroyed every other car on the track.

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Dubbed the T-Rex, the car was designed to try to exploit the gray areas in NASCAR’s rules and regulations. The car featured oversized frame rails and a curved floor. The front end also sat closer to the track, creating a low-pressure zone at the rear, thus gaining additional downforce. While it was deemed legal, NASCAR ordered Hendrick Motorsports never to race the car again.

4 The 1967 “lightweight” Chevy Camaro by Smokey Yunick

The 1967 Trans-Am championship saw the introduction of the Chevy Camaro SCCA under the Penske Racing Team. While it was built from lighter gauge steel, unfortunately Donohue crashed it twice in his first start. So the Penske team decided to soak the race car in acid instead of repairing the sheet metal.

As a result, they lost 270 pounds; the car was dubbed “the lightweight” as it weighed in at 2,550 pounds, even with a full roll cage. Meanwhile, Donohue surged ahead to win the final two rounds. But after the season finale, the SCCA declared the “lightweight” Camaro illegal and banned it forever.

3 Brawn GP double diffuser 2008

Brawn GP left many wondering how they managed to get a 1-2 finish in their first race, having competed for one season since they bought the underperforming Honda team. And while the team ended up winning both championship titles, the team barely had any sponsors, enough development time, or funding.

How did this happen? The team had discovered a loophole in the regulations where they fitted the car with a “twin diffuser”. The rear diffuser channeled air from the ground to the rear of the car through a hole in the diffuser. This generated more downforce than other cars.

When NASCAR advocated new regulations regarding gas tank size, Smokey Yunick complied by installing a standardized fuel tank. But this is where it gets interesting. Yunick discovered that the rule books didn’t say anything about fuel lines.

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When NASCAR officials suspected that Yunick’s car was getting better fuel economy, they found that the tank was within regulations, but Yunick replaced the normal fuel line with an 11-foot-long fuel line with a diameter 2 inch wide inside. This means that Smokey Yunick’s race car could hold an additional 5 gallons of fuel.

1 Gordon Murray’s 1981 Brabham BT49 F1 Low Rider

While there is a fine line between breaking the rules and innovating, Gordon Murray made a quick one with the 1981 Brabham BT49C. that the regulations allow.

This gave the car an aerodynamic advantage over its rivals. Surprisingly, the car stood at the recommended height, but the downforce pushed the body down when it got up to speed. While other teams debated the legality of the trick, competitors were creating and using similar systems. Ultimately, Gordon Murray clinched the 1981 F1 championship by a single point.

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