There’s bending the rules—and there’s breaking the rules.
In the early days of competition, there was a fair amount of grey in the rules and the way cars were constructed. In a race weekend, for even the most ardent officials, there’s simply not enough time to have every machine be torn down and checked against the rulebook. At the 24 Hours of Le Mans, for instance, the three phases of checks takes the better part of two entire working days.
You can check things before or after, but what about during the race? Moreover, if you were running second place before a service area and a mechanic replaces your fire extinguisher with one filled to the brim with power-boosting NOS, would you be able to leave the trigger alone?
Don’t laugh: stranger things have happened. Talking about cheating may be down to your interpretation of the rules and events that followed, but in rally there have been a few ingenious “solutions” for getting to the finish faster than competitors.
1 | 1985 Rallye Cote d’Ivoire
Michele Mouton was a force to be reckoned with in her Audi Sport Quattro, though during this race, early engine troubles sidelined her #2 car. After finishing a stage with a particularly grim-sounding engine that was belching ominous white smoke, the other team bosses were expecting a retirement and so were surprised to find Mouton leaving service—with the #11 car of Braun Franz and Arewd Fischer following closely behind.
The #2 left the rally route, took nearly an hour and a half of time penalties, and rejoined, without engine trouble. Audi’s official explanation was that the #11 car gave its oil pump to put Mouton back in the race, but multiple accounts charge the team with switching every body panel from the sick car to the healthy one—something the scrutineers said couldn’t be done, and the allegations were unproven. When someone noticed that the car’s windshields had apparently been swapped, team boss Roland Gumpert said Mouton’s “anti-fog” system had failed.
If you start getting all Zapruder on things, you’ll notice some odd details, including hood-mounted fog lights at the base of the windshield that seem to move between cars.
2 | 1966 Monte Carlo Rally
In rally, sometimes the rules can be bent the other way, such that in 1966, ten cars were disqualified from this event for having headlight bulbs that didn’t match items fitted as standard to the production version. That year, the fastest Mini Coopers would have finished 1, 2, 3 with Timo Mäkinen, Rauno Aaltonen, and Paddy Hopkirk; instead, victory went to a most normal Citroën ID19 (but you can call it the DS).