In auto racing, as in most sports, the regulations under which the sport is contested are documented within a rule book. The rule book is created by the sanctioning body to try and keep everyone safe and attempt to equalize competition. As soon as the ink dries, racers read through the rule book like a defense attorney looking for a loophole in the penal code. And just like attorneys, racers exploit any loopholes they discover.
This doesn’t mean that racers are cheaters. In fact, it is quite the contrary. Racers don’t want to be disqualified when the race ends. They want their car to meet the letter specifications and technical requirements of rules, but at the same time exploit a loosely written rule to give them an upper hand against competitors. Sharp racers look hard for what the late Mark Donohue called the “Unfair Advantage.”
Our Unfair Advantage
Roger Penske did it at Indy, Smokey Yunick did it in NASCAR, and my team, Krider Racing, did it at the 24 Hours of LeMons. Like our illustrious predecessors, we pushed rules and boundaries so far that rule books began to get thicker and thicker in attempts to slow us down. What did we do when the rule book hindered us? We tried something else, until that was made illegal too. In reward for our numerous efforts the rule books have been expanded. To be honest, it’s something in which my team takes great pride.
The 24 Hours of LeMons is an endurance race for $500 cars. That $500 cap doesn’t count toward certain things that are deemed “safety equipment” like a rollcage, racing seat, or a fuel cell. We read the rules carefully and it didn’t state that we had to remove the stock gas tank if we installed a fuel cell. So, we installed a fuel cell for “safety” as well left the stock tank in place. We used a simple gravity fed line from the fuel cell in the trunk to the stock fuel filler neck in our Nissan Sentra SE-R. As we raced around the track for hours the stock fuel gauge was pegged at ‘full.’ It was awesome.
When we came in for a fuel stop, after a very long stint thanks to the fact we had double the fuel capacity over all of our competitors, we used two NASCAR fuel jugs to separately fill the stock tank and the fuel cell in the trunk at the same time. After watching our pit stop, the LeMons organizers got hip to the obvious oversight in their rule book and later added to the rules that if you mount a fuel cell in your car you must remove the stock tank. Well, it was fun while it lasted!
We did what LeMons asked of us and played by the rules and removed the car’s stock fuel tank when we added a fuel cell in the Acura Integra we were building for the following year’s race. We just chose to add an enormous fuel cell into the car. With 32-gallons of fuel we stayed on track for all long as four hours between refueling stops.
After looking at our lap data after the LeMons, organizers realized we rarely came in for gas. And when we did come in we had a enormous amount of fuel going into the car at once. LeMons enacted a new 5-gallon refilling fuel jug rule and mandated that fuel cells be limited to 24-gallons. This didn’t discourage us, we just installed displacement balls into the 32-gallon fuel cell and got our fuel capacity to exactly 24-gallons for the next race.
The New Fueling Rules
Moving on from LeMons
After our days in LeMons racing we moved on to other sanctioning bodies. We continued the same rule loophole-seeking behavior and as a result have official rules in numerous General Competition Rule (GCR) manuals. One of the biggest holes we found was during a television show competition called The Forum Wars where the rule was street cars on D.O.T. street tires show up to compete. We showed up with a set of Hoosier slick “D.O.T.” tires on a Shelby Mustang and smashed the competition. Hey, D.O.T. is D.O.T. shame on the other teams for not realizing it.
A Proud Record of Forcing Rule Changes
Remember this – it isn’t about actual cheating. It is about creative rule interpretation. If a rule book says we can’t do something, our team won’t do it. But if the rule book is written loosely… well that is a different story, of course. Below is the official account of the different rules that have been authored because of our team detailed in a poster we have hanging in our shop. From the National Auto Sport Association (NASA) to All-American Soap Box Derby we have made a long lasting impact to many of those sanctioning bodies rules.
I’m certainly not encouraging any racer to break a written rule. If you chose to, you will find yourself sitting in impound and a trophy ripped right out of your hand, as well as having to pay back any contingency money you earned earlier in the season. And your car will always been examined that much closer by tech officials. This is a bad thing, so don’t do it.
And trust me, not all rule book rules written because of your team are cool. One of the rules in the 24 Hours of LeMons book deals with being banned for one calendar year after rolling a car over. Yup, that is our fault too.
Happy rule book reading!