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Everybody’s Cheating

Everybody’s Cheating

RC racing is full of cheaters. OK, is everybody really cheating? No, of course not. Are enough people cheating to make the average Joe a little skeptical or suspicious? Maybe. It’s hard to tell how many people might really be bending the rules. I’m not one to hang around the tech table to see what’s going on with each car. Every track does tech, right? Relax, I know your track doesn’t tech regularly. It’s simply impractical and not what weekend warrior racing for fun is all about. We largely work on the ol’ honor system.

But, before I get too far, I need to state that one of my biggest RC racing pet peeves is when someone declares anyone faster than themselves must be cheating. I’ve personally never blown the whistle on a cheater (even when I’ve known for sure someone was cheating—as in seen it with my own eyes), and it’s my opinion is that you better be really (I mean, REALLY) sure someone is cheating before going to an official.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Who’s cheating? From my experience, it’s usually the guys not winning. Seems odd, right? If you’re cheating, you must be going faster than everyone and thus winning. No, most guys motivated to cheat think they just need to be going faster when in fact, they need to drive a better line and carry more momentum. I just gave away the biggest secret in all of racing—it’s all about maintaining momentum. We’re getting off topic again, but it’s worth it. The guys who hammer around the track and fly hard into every corner and blast out with the throttle buried and dirt flying are—get this—slow. They may look fast, but they’re constantly accelerating and almost coming to a stop in every corner. They probably crash a whole lot too. They might be going 2 or 3mph faster than everyone else at the end of each straight, but it’s not about top speed, it’s about average speed. What does this have to do with cheating? Well, it’s usually those guys, who despite their best efforts (and a horrible driving technique), that think the guys beating them must be cheating. They might even be cheating themselves, so if someone is faster, that person simply has to be cheating. If someone drove a real race car the way these guys drove their RC race machines, the real driver would be more worried about how they were going to clean the puke off the inside of their helmet than who might be cheating. The moral of the story is these guys need to worry about driving a better line and less about who’s faster or who might be cheating.

The topic of cheating kind of comes and goes in RC, and it’s a natural bedfellow of spec and stock racing. Remember Legends? The concept was simple and something to the effect of, “If the rules don’t specifically say you can do it, you can’t.” Legends was great, but eventually, cheating tarnished the class. Street Spec racing (my favorite class of all time) was the same way. The first year we started racing short course (aka the year of the Spec Slash class) reminds me a lot of the Legends and Street Spec eras.

Back in the day, guys cranked the timing in stock racing, opened cans and generally applied every bit of black magic they could to get more power out of their 27-turn 24-degree stocker. This all went away when brushless took over and the 17.5 class was born. Or did it? Are speed controls with “enhanced timing” the new cheat? The solution to this problem, at least at some tracks, is to have two 17.5 classes–one with timing allowed and one without. That doesn’t seem like a very good solution to me.

How are people cheating? Are they heating their LiPos? That’s a no-no. How about non-mechanical cheats like the guys who cut the course? Or guys who are running gear that isn’t available to the general public yet?

Do you think people at your local track are cheating? Have you ever cheated?



“Cheating… hmm…let me think about that a minute. Any ambiguous rule will be stretched to the limit by a racer. This is why rule books are so detailed and growing in size each year. In my years of being involved with ROAR, I saw definitions redefined almost daily by new interpretations of the rule by club level to manufacturer racers alike. The statement “spirit of the rule” no longer applies in my opinion.

Basically, cheating is done the best by the manufacturer … by pushing the limit of the rule and using intimidation on the sanctioning body to get this rule altered to fit their needs.”–Dawn Sanchez, former ROAR President

I also hit up Richard Saxton, a pro-racer at a major RC company, for his take on the subject. His first response sums up how controversal this topic really is. He said,  “Cheating is a harsh word!”

I asked him if he thought cheating is at all prevalent at the pro-level and followed up by asking what sort of cheating is being employed?
“I hate to say yes but ever since racing has started from day one people have tried to bend the rules.

At the on-road worlds they have handout fuel for a reason. So, if it’s going on in on-road, I would have to assume someone is doing it in off-road, also tire additives.”–Richard Saxton

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Updated: August 9, 2011 — 4:11 PM


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  1. Pingback: 1/8 GT Rules - the basics - Page 3 - R/C Tech Forums
  2. I suppose different classes of race could be ok. Having said that in Formula 1 racing the engineers are always trying to tweak their cars to beat the others, but they still have to rely on the driver to do a good job. Then again, the F1 rules are always changing to try and curb the ‘tweaks’ and make the races more even.


  4. You have heard rubbing is racing well cheating is part of racing too. If you follow nascar or any form of top level racing you will find even the drivers that make millions will from time to time get caught cheating . I remember a top nascar driver saying the difference between bending the rules & cheating is getting caught . Me personally , I hate cheaters & whiners , but have accepted that they are a part of life [ying-yang] .

  5. Matt,

    I think before some can say what “cheating” might be going on, we need to know what “cheating” is or isn’t. Yeah I know, sounds stupid, but there seems to be debate on what people think “cheating” is and isn’t. What I’m getting at is that almost everyone would agree that “cheating” is: The breaking of any rule or rules to gain an unfair advantage. Sounds pretty cut and dry and to a point is. If there’s a rule in place stating that something cannot be done or used, don’t break it. If you do, you’re “cheating”.

    The second half to that and where the debate comes in is, when a rule or rules don’t specifically state what can or can’t be done or used. The grey area that racers love to exploit any chance they get. It’s what racers do, though some don’t know it. It is also what makes all the headaches for anyone, from IFMAR, to ROAR, to the local club/race director, that has to enforce rules compliance.

    The answer to correct “cheating”, if any, is not a one answer fits all solution. Rather, a series of answers and solutions at all levels of competition. From Worlds to nationals to weekly club racing. From Pro racers to the local club racer and all Race Directors at all levels. Getting everyone to agree on how to do so is probably the biggest issue. If the Race Director doesn’t enforce the rules for the racing, then sooner or later people will start to bend and eventually break any and every rule they can get away with.

    Racers also need to know and understand the rules in place. I would say that most do, but for some events ot races there are late rule changes that tend to cause more confusion than needed. Also racers need to remind each other of what should be done and is expected. That might put some people off when they get reminded. Maybe they were unaware or forgot about a rule or rule change. It does happen.

    At the Pro level and the big events, they are expected to know and follow the rules at all times. I’d say for the most part they do as many do race for a pay check, but sometimes we do see a DQ or a Pro driver from time to time. It doesn’t happen all the time and that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any rule bending or breaking going on either. Not everyone gets caught, but many suspect after someone does get caught.

    At the club level, most racers would file a protest for “cheating” suspected or otherwise. Part of the reason is that not many club races have a “Tech” table, let alone someone to run it. Another part might be that racers would rather bust someone’s stones about the time when they tried to pull a fast one (cheat) and it still didn’t help them. Sometimes it’s more fun to let someone think they got away with something and poke fun at them later when it doesn’t work. I’d say the ladder half is what most racers would normally do.

    Back the the “grey” areas of rules. Just about every rule has some degree of a “grey” area that racer will try to use to their advantage. Now many would say or think that the correct solution here is…………… wait for it………….. more rules. We see it every day in life and yet fail to see that it rarely works out the way we thought it would. Too many rules and all the fun is taken out of racing because racers/people feel that the racing is too strict and will just quit racing. Yet, too few rules or rule enforcement and we are right back to racers/people constantly bending or breaking them. Kind of a catch 22.

    We can usually see the rule bending or breaking easier in some classes than others. Box Stock/ Spec racing comes to mind here. Those classes are where racers will try to get every ounce of speed they can and then some. That is part of the reason why I no longer care for those types of classes. Sure they start out as cheap fun/racing, but rarely stay that way and rarely stay around. As someone that has ran classes like that in the past and has tried just about everything I could think of doing, it almost never turned out well in my favor.

    The idea of an “open” or “mod” class seems to me to be a logical solution. Want more speed? Put in a faster motor. Pretty straight forward and very easy to do. The rule bending or breaking in that type of class is usually less of an issue, but is not without it’s drawbacks. The biggest one of those being that when a new racer goes out and puts in some stupid fast motor, they ca almost never control it well enough to make the most use of that faster motor. So it’s not a perfect solution and I’m not sure there will be one.

    I think as long as there are racers trying to go faster than the next racer, they will push the rules as far as they can get away with. Sad to say, but it is what it is. Which is why, even though I don’t always agree with what is done or how it is done. I will tip my hat to anyone that is willing to step up and hold a position within IFMAR, ROAR, or the local culb/race director, that has to come up with rules for all of us to follow or enforce said rules. It’s a thankless job that I am glad someone is doing because I know I wouldn’t want that headache.

    I’ll put out a few different situations and see what people think.

    1. If a rule doesn’t cover a timeframe of when a product has to be available to the general public and only the top Pro diver’s have access to it and you will be racing those driver’s, is that “cheating” or not?

    2. If there is no rule in place stating a min. dia. of a comm. on a brushed motor and you have access to a lathe to make the comm. dia. smaller and thus making the motor faster, is that “cheating” or not?

    3. If there is no rule preventing the use of tire additives for racing and you decide to use said tire additives to give you an advantage, is that “cheating” or not?

    I ask those few questons because there are those that say yes and those that say no. I know what my answers would be, but don’t know if they would be right or wrong. Therein lies the great debate.

  6. Just throwing this out there, but I ran my nearly stock 2wd SC10 brushless RTR (Suburb 2.0 in the back, was the ONLY change from box stock) at a semi-major event this past weekend. The guy who won was a fantastic driver… I came 2nd…the guy in 4th had a 5000kv with a 3s (9.9v) LiFe pack….pulling wheelies down the straights, jumping 2x farther than the rest of us… but he couldn’t keep the rubber on the road…

    My mommy always said “Cheaters never prosper” and I honestly believe this to be true…

  7. There’s a guy I race with locally in the 17.5 short course class who runs no fenders at all on his truck body. Technically, he runs an illegal body. As far as I’ve seen, the guy is a good guy and has a good attitude. I’ve heard other racers bust his stones about the body. Usually it’s with passing comments or some trash talk from the drivers’ stand. I personally just let the clearly illegal body go, but I admit I’d feel totally different if he was winning the A-main.

  8. guy 1: are you cheating?
    guy 2: no. are you?
    guy 1: *agrees with guy 2*

    reality: both are “bending the rules” in one way or another

  9. “Who’s cheating? From my experience, it’s usually the guys not winning. Seems odd, right? If you’re cheating,”

    This is true.

  10. Pingback: Everybody's Cheating
  11. ESC timing, Motor Timing, Enhanced this and tunable that … I think the problem is that it’s all becoming more of an equipment race than anything else. All these options can have such a massive difference on performance that anyone that doesn’t have it, or cant afford the latest and greatest is getting left further and further behind.
    Matts idea of a modified race and a spec class, I think, is a good one. In the modifieds people can go crazy with equipment, in the spec class, this is what you use and everybody is the same. At least newbies and the not so well off can still run and have a chance.

    1. +1 to this idea.

  12. ESC timing is the worst thing to happen to brushless racing, I think.

    1. ya just like Nimh batteries and Lipos!

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