Scrutineering

7/10/2015

Version 12.2

Congrats, you ran a good race! Too good, in fact.

And the racing officials are so impressed with your suspiciously breathtaking performance that they’re going to go over your rally car with a fine-tooth comb to make sure you didn’t, y’know, creatively break the rules, or “cheat,“ to get that win.

Welcome to the vetting process known as scrutineering, where a team of appointed experts, or scrutineers, has the authority to rigorously inspect cars not only before the race to ensure they comply with race rules and regulations, but also anytime their suspicions are raised, like after that dazzling qualifying time you just posted – to ensure that a vehicle fully complies with technical and safety regulations. Think of it like being sent to the headmaster’s office to explain yourself.

So now, ride along as we explain the ins and outs of the scrutineering process, what they are looking for and what they sometimes find.

The Proverbial Level Playing Field

Each and every racing organization – from soapbox derby cars to 300-mph dragsters – has to abide by the rules. What makes this tricky is that the rules are always changing, and woe be unto that racer caught not following the latest letter of the law.

Prerace scrutineering – also known as tech inspection – is a static inspection to ensure the vehicle is prepared to a safe, professional, officially established standard. Typically, this occurs the day before a race. That way, if (ahem) discrepancies are detected, they can be rectified and the vehicle reinspected prior to the race. If a vehicle does not pass, it is not allowed to race – plain and simple.

Subaru Rally Team USA competes in two classes: Rally America National Championship and the Red Bull Global Rallycross Championships (GRC).

Inspectors check the cockpit of the Subaru WRX STI.

Rally America tech inspection includes:

  • Examination of driver and co-driver helmets and race suits
  • Ensure horn, lights, and wipers are functioning correctly
  • Inspect roll cage, roll cage padding, and door structure
  • Ensure seats are secured and proper restraint system installed (racing harness)
  • Confirm that fire extinguisher and environmental spill kit are on board
  • Check vehicle logbook

 

 

 

GRC tech inspection includes:

  • Ensure roll cage is constructed to meet requirements
  • Check body panels and measurements
  • Check turbocharger inlet restrictor size and confirm that restrictor is sealed
  • Confirm that GRC series data logger is installed and functioning properly
  • Ensure that timing and scoring transponder is installed
  • Check tires to make sure that they are the correct tire and compound numbers

 

 

Inspectors check the cockpit of the Subaru WRX STI.

But inspections aren’t finished there. For rallycross, the top two heat qualifiers, and then heat-race winners, must undergo scrutineering. All cars earning a spot in the finals will be inspected. After that, cars advancing from the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ) are scrutineered. Lastly, the top five finishing vehicles are impounded and enter the postrace process.

Engine control unit (ECU) and wiring is inspected; location of battery, fuel tank, radiator, and intercooler is checked; engine location is
measured; and turbocharger inlet restrictor size is checked.

GRC postrace scrutineering includes:

  • Weighing car and checking tires
  • Checking turbo inlet restrictor
  • Performing chassis and body measurement
  • Checking electronics
  • Checking fuel sample
  • Performing random inspection of other parts or systems

Rally cars may be inspected at any time during the rally. After the final stage, the 1st-place car in each class at a national event may be impounded for inspection.

Taking it to the limits … and beyond!

Teams have found creative ways to bend the rules … but ultimately got caught. While this type of rascally behavior is never – never – practiced by rallycross teams, one story from NASCAR shows just how far some will go to try to find a competitive advantage.

NASCAR has one of the thickest rule books – remember, these guys started as bootleggers. Back in the day, they initiated a rule to regulate the fuel tank size. Smokey Yunick’s cars seemed to go longer between fill-ups. Call in the scrutineers! They found the fuel tank was the right size. Puzzling. So they took a closer look and – whattaya know? – it turns out there was no regulation on the length and diameter of the fuel line. So Yunick had replaced the half-inch wide fuel line with one that was 2 inches wide and 11 feet long, and held 5 gallons of gasoline. Mystery solved.