Does VW Cheat At Everything?

The recent diesel scandal that forced CEO Martin Winterkorn to step down brings the whole brand into question. If they are willing to cheat a government’s emissions standards and in turn cheat customers into thinking they are buying better cars than they really are, where would they stop? Is anything sacred? What about motorsport?

I bring this up because after the Red Bull Global Rallycross race in Los Angeles there were a lot of rumors that VW was cheating and running traction control. I put up a story asking the question and a lot people said VW doesn’t need to cheat because they are so good. Then a few days later we find out VW’s production cars aren’t really that good and they cheated to make them better, or legal. Why wouldn’t they cheat in a little racing series in the United States to ensure their cars win?

The traction control rumors exist for a few reasons: VW’s recent results and the manner in which those results were achieved, the difference in VW’s tire temps and condition of their right rear tires doing the Los Angeles race, but most importantly because of a slow motion video showing the VW’s launching at Los Angeles.

The two VW’s of Scott Speed and Tanner Foust dominated the Los Angeles races and won by a very large margin. With the multiple heat race format and all the contact on the tight tracks, it’s pretty rare for one team to win both races back to back. It’s even more rare for both cars on the same team to dominate both races in 1st and 2nd. I don’t mean to take away from Tanner and Scott. They are fast, they can drive, and I like both of them.GRC Los angeles sunday podiumVW was the ONLY team on the grid that did not have massive problems with the right rear tire at Los Angeles. Every other team experienced huge blisters which looked more like the outer layer of rubber separating from the tire carcass. The VW’s came off track with perfect looking right rear tires – the course was all left handers which put a ton of stress on the right rear tire and every team uses the same tire. I also heard from teams that the VW’s right rear tire was roughly 1/3 of the temperatures of the other teams – it’s pretty easy to check your competitors with a infrared temp gauge as they roll off the track as slow speed…

But the most compelling evidence is an Instagram video showing the VW’s during a launch. The wheels rotate, start to slip, stop rotating to regain traction and then start up again. Every experienced racer I know has said that it is traction control for sure. Some commenters on my last story say that it’s simply a Torsen diff like those found in the early Mitsubishi Eclipse shown in this video.

My question to them is, do you guys really think VW is using decades old technology to achieve abnormal levels of traction that the other teams, including cars built by M Sport, haven’t tested or aren’t already using? Why don’t the other cars show the same traction from their 600hp+ cars? Also, take a look at this video from GRC Las Vegas at the end of 2014. The VW’s launch very differently than they do now. If the solution was a simple Torsen differential, why wasn’t installed a long time ago? Why aren’t the other teams using it? The only explanation is traction control.

Even more interesting are the comments on the Instagram video… Three other drivers from the series chimed in as well. This isn’t random speculation by me and other spectators. It appears that many other teams in the Red Bull Global Rallycross believe that VW is using traction control as well.

I’ve also heard that it’s the reason why the VW’s dont do victory donuts like so many of the other drivers. I’ve heard the system is GPS based so the car knows when its accelerating from a standing start and when its corning. I’ve heard that it’s in the source code of the car’s ECU and is so complicated that even an experienced engineer would have trouble locating the code. I’ve also heard that it’s the same system that VW is using in its WRC cars that helped Ogier win the WRC Championship this year and even the WRC isn’t sophisticated enough to pin it down so how could a little organization like the Red Bull GRC series find it or police it?

grc los angeles 2015

The problem is that cheating has the potential to ruin the series. A rallycross car with traction control is so much more effective at standing starts and cornering on tight tracks with loose surface that the other teams playing by the rules don’t stand a chance. Would you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to race in a series you can’t win? At some point the teams are going to leave Red Bull GRC and find other places to race.

For those that say VW doesn’t need to cheat or that a company would never cheat so aggressively and risk its reputation, take a look at the recent diesel scandal that forced their CEO to resign. Now ask yourself “If VW is willing to cheat government regulations and a huge portion of its customers, why wouldn’t they cheat to win Red Bull Global Rallycross?”

Bill Caswell is a self-taught racing driver, mechanic, and fabricator, and rose to internet fame taking a $500 Craigslist BMW to a World Rally Championship event in Mexico in March of 2010. His exploits have featured in places like ESPN Magazine, Grassroots Motorsports, NPR Radio, Wired.com and Jalopnik.com. A lifelong fan of rally and motorsport, Caswell famously believes nothing to be impossible.