Reedy Race Drama: Incidental Contact or Blatant Hack?

Reedy Race Drama: Incidental Contact or Blatant Hack?


Last weekend, the Reedy International Touring Car Race of Champions returned to the immaculately prepared asphalt of Tamiya America’s track in Aliso Viejo, CA for the first time in five years, and while you’ll find a full race report later this week (spoiler alert: German Yokomo/LRP driver Ronald Volker won the Invitational class over world champions Marc Rheinard and Jilles Groskamp) there was controversy surrounding the title-deciding third A-Main for the spec 13.5-turn class after a race-long battle between previous leg winners Kyle Bergstrom and Henrik Heitsch. Click the image below to start the video at the 2:52 mark, the incident in question happens five seconds later at 2:57.

Hack maybe

A bit of an ugly start further back in the pack immediately separated TQ Heitsch and Bergstrom, who settled into a battle as they stretched a gap from everyone else. About 45 seconds into the race (1:10 in the video) Heitsch hit the curbing entering the first right-hander, pushing him wide and allowing Bergstrom to make it by. Less than a minute later, Heitsch out-braked Bergstrom into the hairpin after the sweeper to retake the lead without contact, a truly incredible pass. At the halfway point of the race (2:55 in the video), another car crashed entering the infield and flipped into the front straightaway, taking the attention of the race announcer. The leaders entered that same corner (the right-hander where Bergstrom passed Heitsch just minutes prior) just as the turn marshal grabbed the car and placed it back in the proper part of the track, who drives slowly along the outside of the lane in an attempt to allow the top two drivers to pass. Heitsch clearly checked up entering the corner and Bergstrom couldn’t get slowed down in time to avoid driving into the right rear fender of Heitsch’s car. Heitsch landed on his wheels but not before Bergstrom went by, and despite several attempts over the remaining two and minutes Heitsch wasn’t able to regain the top spot. Bergstrom took the win and with it the 13.5-turn class championship.

Should he have won? Here’s how everyone involved affected the outcome:
Henrik Heitsch
First things first – if Heitsch maintains his speed entering the corner, this discussion doesn’t happen. We don’t know whether he timidly approached the turn because of the turn marshal grabbing the car that crashed into the straightaway, or his car simply got out of shape, but he didn’t enter the turn with the same rate of speed that he had on previous laps.

Kyle Bergstrom
Bergstrom knew he was stronger than Heitsch in that particular corner, having made a great inside pass a few laps prior, and was well within striking distance to try to do it again even if Heitsch hadn’t checked up. It’s unclear in the video if Bergstrom hesitated because of the contact, or because the orange car that had crashed onto the straightaway was still on the outside of the lane, but Bergstrom didn’t get back on the gas until Heitsch landed back on all four wheels.

Crashed car
The identity of the driver in control of the vehicle that wrecked and caused the melee (one of several all-orange vehicles on the track) is unimportant, especially because there was absolutely nothing he could do. There was absolutely no way of knowing that his mistake would eventually affect the outcome of the championship, and once the turn marshal set his car down on the racing surface he did the right thing by staying well out of the racing line so that the leaders could pass.

Turn marshal
There was no reason for the turn marshal to hold onto the wrecked orange car longer than he did – he removed it from the straightaway, which could’ve been an even larger disaster, and set it back on its wheels where it left the track, far outside of the racing line.

Having manned the microphone for many national and world championship-caliber events, Scotty Ernst is the best in the business. He took his attention away from the battle for the win only briefly, in order to alert other drivers and turn marshals to the potential danger of a crashed car sitting on the front straightaway, which at the time was a much higher priority. Without seeing exactly what happened in a different part of the track at that instance, Ernst was not able to rule immediately whether Bergstrom should’ve completed a stop-and-go.

Race official
As the referee for the event, it was Ron Schuur’s call whether or not to alter the outcome of the race by imposing a ruling after the fact. After reviewing the replay (available in slow motion at the end of the video) he determined that the crash was incidental contact and chose not to reverse the finishing results, which would’ve given Heitsch the title.

My personal opinion of this accident may be clouded by the fact that I’ve been on the receiving end of similar crashes more often than playing the role of the driver in pursuit, but I think that Heitsch got robbed.


No insurance company in the world rules the green car at fault here.

I feel that Bergstrom should’ve hesitated a split second longer to allow Heitsch to regain the lead, and passed him without contact – after all, he still had half the race left to do so. Because Bergstrom didn’t stop, it was up to the race official to rule that although the contact may not have been on purpose, there was simply no chance that Bergstrom could’ve cleanly completed the pass in that corner – there was no room between Heitsch’s car and the inside curbing, and because Bergstrom didn’t stop on his own he should’ve been ordered a stop-and-go or assessed a penalty after the race.

What do you think?

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Updated: May 27, 2014 — 6:32 PM


Add a Comment
  1. Aaron, as a writer it’s a good thing to pose such a question to get people to think about a particular situation. However, to impose your own opinion on what took place in this incident once the question has been posed is fairly unprofessional. If you were writing an editorial, I wouldn’t have a problem with that. It sounds like you didn’t like the outcome so you turned to your computer to see if anyone else agrees with you.
    I was watching the race (in person) and can testify that these guys were going all out and any bobble was taken advantage of. It doesn’t look like Kyle was trying to make a pass at this point as some people are claiming. This is an assumption. He was however, hot on the heels of Henrik and any deviation from how they had been running thus far would result in contact. At that point of the turn in question, the drivers are back on the throttle and Henrik uncharacteristically checked up when he went a little high on the curbing, (which I can testify was very unforgiving), when he should have been on throttle as he had been every other lap. There was plenty of time for him to regain the lead after the incident but couldn’t. Henrik made plenty of mistakes after the pass that solidified this fact. The better car/driver won regardless of that 1 corner. If you look again at the line Kyle was taking, rather than focusing on Henrik’s car, he was not cutting to the inside of Henrik nor was it not an instance of NOT getting slowed down in time. He was on throttle at the right time and Henrik was not… Racing incident pure and simple. Kyle wanted the win and Henrik gave him the opportunity to take it.

  2. I watched this race over and over, it was a great race. I would have to say, it was NO HACK but definitely Hacker Brushless that made the difference here.

  3. Situation like that, I would have given back the lead. Would never want a win, that was possibly considered a hack. True racers want a clean race.

  4. Green car initially turned in too quickly, not apex in the turn correctly. He went up on the curbing and then slid out to correct the mistake. This made an opening and the white car took the line cleanly. Green car tried to get back on line but was too late. It’s not really an issue at all. It’s racing. And they were racing close the whole time! If the green car “checked” up because of the wrecked car being marshalled, that’s on him… they also had about half the race to go… and he never gained the lead again… that’s on him too.

  5. well….typically american style of racing….besides maybe Lemieux

  6. “he blew the corner and was going abnormally slow due to the crash (compared to his speed on previous laps).” I agree i did not expect him to slow this much as all of our other laps i was able to stay within 6 inches. When your dealing with 6 inches of room its a lot harder slow at an unexpected pace. This was a mistake on his part i do not understand why i should be punished for it. During the race I ran the situation through my head and i paused for a split second but then realized this was not a mistake on my part so i took off once he was on all 4’s. If this was any part my fault the time i gave him to settle his car should have been enough.

    I really enjoyed racing Henrik and hope we can race again. This was an excellent battle throughout the weekend and I hope the show was good.

    This was one of the best Reedy races I have ever been to and I hope to be a part again next year.

    Kyle Bergstrom

  7. I am a bit torn, but really it was the first place car that made the mistake, he blew the corner and was going abnormally slow due to the crash (compared to his speed on previous laps). I can’t fault Bergstrom for hitting him, Bergstrom was going at race speed and Heich was not.

    I would say that it would be up to Bergstrom if he wanted to give up the position and try and take the title with no contact, or if he did want to leave things as-is with Heich making the mistake, I can’t fault him. It just means there will be a tiny * on his win now, but he still went home with the trophy.

  8. What this article fails to address is the two prior instances during this race that Bergstrom gave Heitsch more room going into a corner to avoid a collision, and Heitsch took advantage to gain position. This instance was simply a case of Heitsch slowing on his own for no reason (The crash was well outside the racing line, and the turn marshall was standing on the island), and with the mere inches of seperation that these two were driving at the whole race, gave Bergstrom no room. Bergstrom did in fact let off to allow Heitsch to get back on his wheels, but with the closing 3rd place driver (Stellflue), they could not afford to sit around and wait. This is racing, and it was one of the best examples of it. Sure – it could have been cleaner, but it would have been nowhere near as exciting for anyone – including the drivers. Both drivers were very professional after the race, and congratulated each other. Only this media is continuing the drama.

    PS – Did anyone else notice that the Blitz TSX Body Heitsch was running the whole event was not ROAR legal? The Reedy Race is based on ROAR sanctioned rules….

  9. It’s so hard to tell. The crash happened so fast, but on road racin is so blisteringly quick it’s difficult to make the right call. I don’t think the contact was intentional, the white car hesitated just enough and that’s the race. Racing is unpredictable. (This all coming from someone who was not a witness to these actual events and has never been in an RC racing event of anykind.)

  10. Back hander i reckon alot of cash was exchanged to fix the race and ALLOW that foul to go un-noticed , typial americans , cant keep anything clean and simnple SCUM

  11. You see the green car have trouble entering the previous corner and the white car almost ran through him. Then on the corner in question, the green car completely stalls at the apex and white says G’bye. I see it as driver error/misjudgment. Perhaps he was being too cautious with the lap traffic or having trigger trouble.

  12. Agreed, a close racing incident but Bergstrom should have shown better sportsmanship by allowing Heitsch to regain. Especially since the crashed orange car pulled off to allow the leaders to get thru.

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