Cheating In The World Rally Championship

Over the years there has been various cases of cheating in the WRC. In this post i am going to highlight some of the more well known and less known cases.

Over the years there has been various cases of cheating in the WRC. In this post i am going to highlight some of the more well known and less known cases.

The side skirt scandal at Sanremo

Cheating In The World Rally Championship

After the death of Henri Toivonen and Sergio Cresto FISA introduced a revised set of rules for the remaining rounds of the 1986 championship. One of these was to ban the use of side skirts with immediate effect. Peugeot still continued to use the side skirts and the organisers of the Italian round, the Sanremo rally reported Peugeot to the FISA for violating the rules. Now this is where it gets interesting. The head of FISA was Jean-Marie Balestre who was french. Balestre is known for giving the French teams/drivers the advantage as FISA is based in Paris. One famous incident was moving the pole position at Suzuka to give Prost the advantage over Senna who qualified first, but thats another story. Balestre should have banned Peugeot for the rest of the season but this was not to be. He continued to allow the use of the Peugeots. All of the results were dropped from Sanremo where Markku Alen took victory with the Delta S4.

Another issue was that Peugeot did not build an additional 20 cars for an evolution of the T16 which would make the 1986 car an Evo 3. The side skirts were a structural change which would have resulted in an evolution being built but FISA let Peugeot off again. Despite all of this Peugeot won the manufactures and Drivers titles in 1986.

Use of illegal fuel

Eriksson inherited 3rd place.
Eriksson inherited 3rd place.

This was rather common in motorsport in general but one case was quite ironic. At the 1000 Lakes rally in 1991 Timo Salonen’s Mitsubishi was excluded for the use of illegal fuel. Ironically enough, Timo’s third place was inherited by his team mate Kenneth Eriksson whose fuel had not been tested. It was suspected that Eriksson was also running the fuel but no testing was ever done.

At the 1993 Sanremo rally Carlo Sainz was excluded for illegal fuel.

Toyota's Turbo scandal

Cheating In The World Rally Championship

In the history of WRC the most blatant case of cheating is Toyota’s illegal turbo discovered at 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.

Toyota has some of the best engineers in the world. Every car is inspected before the rally by by the governing body to make sure that the restrictor plate is installed. Toyota engineered a way to allow air in to the turbo intake that completely bypassed the seals around the restrictor. Additionally when the car was moving and the turbo was engaged, the restrictor plate would be moved back a couple of inches completely nullifying the effect of the restrictor plate. Some of the best judges and techs had gone over the car to make sure cheating like this were not taking place. In fact, the engineering was so good that when the turbo was disassembled post-race for inspection, judges couldn’t find any evidence that extra air had passed through the turbo. Toyota had manufactured special springs and clips that would move the restrictor plate back from the air intake, but when the turbo was disengaged the springs would pop it back in to position making it appear that everything was as per the FIA rules.

Max Mosley, the president of the FIA at the time said this: “Inside it was beautifully made. The springs inside the hose had been polished and machined so not to impede the air which passed through. To force the springs open without the special tool would require substantial force. It is the most sophisticated and ingenious device either I or the FIA’s technical experts have seen for a long-time. It was so well made that there was no gap apparent to suggest there was any means of opening it.”

This gave the car an estimated 25% extra air coming in to the turbos, which added an 50 BHP. In the group A period the cars were restricted to 300bhp but most teams ran more power. The FIA quickly moved to ban TTE. Toyota lawyered up, but they were eventually banned for the rest of the 1995 and 1996 season.

Swapping cars?

Mouton and Braun together at the start of the Ivory Coast rally
Mouton and Braun together at the start of the Ivory Coast rally

The most peculiar case took place in Ivory Coast Rally in 1985 when Audi was suspected to have swapped 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.


donald cannons

Keep up the great articles mate, very factual and informative.

02/10/2016 - 02:52 |
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Why were side skirts the cause of the deaths and banned? and how was the fuel altered? If it can be expanded that would be greatly appreciated as I’m finding that quite interesting.

02/10/2016 - 04:18 |
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The fuel was simply a combination of two things. Sometimes tarine was added to the fuel which was similar to f1 fuel at the time or a different octane was used to create more horsepower. The sideskirts did notkill anyone but I can’t quite remember the reasoning behind it. It was something to do with access to the underneath of the vehicles

02/10/2016 - 09:22 |
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Da Prc

Now this is something i like te read!

02/10/2016 - 04:36 |
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The turbo scandal is such an organized way of cheating!

02/10/2016 - 06:27 |
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Great piece, thanks!

02/10/2016 - 15:01 |
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Adam Hurlburt

Great post, Adam. Very interested as to why the FIA banned side-skirts in ‘86.

02/10/2016 - 21:38 |
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I can’t remember of the top of my head. I may do an in depth article tomorrow about the issue

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