You don’t always hear about it because it’s usually only discovered after the telly cameras have stopped rolling. But even now, there’s still plenty of cheating in bike racing. More often than not, it goes completely undetected, but every now and then the perps get caught red handed. But why do they do it? And how do they do it? What’s stopping everyone from doing it? And what happens to them when they get caught? Join us to find out as we strap our goggles on, hold our noses and dive headfirst into the murky waters of cheating in bike racing.
It doesn’t matter what level of motorsport you’re racing at, you’re probably going to have a few cheaters to contend with. Every class of racing has a ‘rulebook’ even if that rulebook is only one side of A4. But no matter how many or few rules there are, for some, they’ve been made to be broken.
Engine displacement is quite often one of the main factors that differentiates one bike class from another. 125cc bikes tend to race with other 125cc bikes, 600s with 600s, litre bikes with litre bikes, etc. That way you stand half a chance of having a fair race. But engine size is also something that the cheats love to play with. It’s one of the most sure-fire ways to increase a bikes power. After all there’s no replacement for displacement. And it can be fairly easy to do. Sourcing oversized pistons for most bikes is a piece of piss, then it’s just a case of boring out your cylinder(s) and machining your cylinderhead(s) to suit.
Or you could go down the route of ‘stroking’ your engine; that just means increasing the crank throw (and therefor stroke) to increase your CC. Stroking an engine can sometimes be a little bit more work, but it’s not beyond the wit of man.
These days, though, it’s a lot easier, and usually cheaper to gain power by faffing with the electronics. In some formulas, they allow it, so it’s not cheating, but in most ‘production’ or ‘superstock’ classes, you’re not. That doesn’t stop people having a go at it though. For years people have been ‘illegally’ adjusting traction control characteristics, faffing with ignition timing, fuelling, and all sorts, in search of a few extra bhp. And unless you know exactly what they’ve done, and exactly how they’ve done it, it’s almost impossible to stop them.
Nearly every championship, whether it’s MotoGP, WSBK or BSB, will have loads of rules pertaining to parts you can and can’t use. Things like tyres, fuel and other consumables, to chassis and engine components. And it’s not always about trying to match everyone’s performance. Quite often its because of a commercial deal with a tyre manufacturer, or it’s a vein effort to try to keep costs down. But that doesn’t stop people running different tyres or fuel, if they think they can get away with it. And as far as engine internals go, well you’d never know until you stripped the motor. That’s why cheating in bike racing is so prolific.
Why do they do it? Why does cheating in bike racing still go on? Well that’s easy. Because they like winning, and they think they can get away with it. And a lot of them do get away with it. And half the time, even if they do get caught, they’re only given a little slap on the wrist. Either that or they just called it a ‘Technical Infringement’ and brush it under the carpet.
These technical infringements are all to often blamed on accidental oversights by team members or engine builders. Like a few years ago when Michael Dunlop was disqualified from the 2016 Supersport TT result (for cheating). He said he didn’t know there were illegal engine parts in his R6, and it was a complete accident. Just like last year (2020) when the Yamaha MotoGP team “forgot” that they had to inform the organisers if they wanted to run different valves. An honest mistake? Pfft. If you believe that, you’ll believe anything.
Like it or not, we are never going to hear the full story when things like that happen. It’s not in the organisers best interests, the riders best interests or the teams best interest; that’s why we get fobbed off with bollocks. Lame excuses. It’s the same whenever someone is caught cheating. They’ll tell you that it was an honest mistake, and that whatever they were doing wasn’t ‘performance enhancing’ anyway. In fact, if anything it make them slower! Nah, don’t always read what you believe.
Of course, not everyone cheats. Some people have got far too much integrity to cheat. Some people can’t afford to cheat. Others know they aren’t clever enough to cheat and get away with it. But you can rest assured that when Billy Backmarker suddenly goes from also-ran, to podium finisher, he’s probably been a naughty boy.