Thursday five: leading examples of A-grade motorsport douchebaggery
Car racing is an incredibly unique sport. Drivers have to display unprecedented endurance while going against human instinct to straddle themselves on the line that separates life and death. The sport as such favours bravery and guile at times over outright fitness, creating one of the most interesting fields of which to study in the sporting world.
But all of that is balanced by crashes. Sometimes they're caused by car failure or innocent circumstances, and sometimes they're caused by a driver neglecting to use the fleshy mass between their ears.
And then on the odd and increasingly rare occasion, they're the result of malice and planning — such as the examples below that we're celebrating on today's Thursday Five.
Timo Schieder asked by team to take out a rival, does so
This could be the most notably blatant piece of driving from contemporary touring car racing — a team literally asking their driver to bop the rivals he was battling off the track, with the driver following the order moments later.
The series is DTM, the driver was Timo Scheider, the other two drivers are Mercedes-Benz pilots Robert Wickens and Pascal Wehrlein.
Having been elbowed out of position by both Merc drivers, Audi Motorsport boss Dr Wolfgang Ullrich said “schieb ihn raus” to Schieder — German for “push him out.” Schieder did, knocking both cars out at the next corner before collecting sixth.
As you would expect the result didn't last after stewards excluded Scheider for doing what he did “on purpose”. Ullrich initially tried to defend the circumstance by way of employing the R Kelly “wasn't me” approach, before eventually giving something of an apology, I guess.
“That was obviously not a nice ending of an otherwise tremendous race,” he later said.
“What was done with Timo was not the proper way to go about things. But it was most definitely not my intention that Robert and Pascal end up in the gravel trap. I'm sorry that I shouted, 'Timo push him out' in my initial emotion at the command post. I do not communicate with the drivers by radio during the race and did not know that the radio was open.”
Russell Ingall and Mark Skaife get silly at the Creek
Ah Mark Skaife and Russell Ingall. Two of the steeliest racers in V8 Supercars history. It was somewhat inevitable that they would eventually have a titanic on-track clash, though few would've scripted one so vicious.
The final round of the 2003 Supercars title was underlined by a three-way championship fight between Kiwi Greg Murphy, Skaife, and Ingall's teammate Marcos Ambrose. Murph had a toilet of a weekend from the outset, which booted him from the hunt and left it down to Ford and Holden's marquee stars.
Ambrose eventually enjoyed a relatively low-key weekend where he could win both races. Skaife meanwhile was too far away to launch any kind of threat. But that didn't stop Ingall from roughing him up as they battled in the background.
Exiting the Creek's famous hairpin side by side, Skaife inside Ingall's Caltex Falcon, Ingall veered to the right coming out of the corner — planting Skaife into the concrete. In a scene more familiar to Nascar fans, a fuming Skaife leaped from his car to brandish his helmet and a selection of choice words at Ingall as he passed by on the following lap.
Ingall, probably regretfully, swerved at the unwavering Skaife. Both drivers were fined, and Ingall was docked of all his points from the weekend.
The incident commenced a rivalry between the pair that lasted a number of years until earlier this year when the pair — who now work alongside each other at Fox Sports — kissed and made up.
Clint Bowyer gets an itch, ruins team
Nascar is known for its bust ups and crashes but few are as conniving as what Clint Bowyer did at the 2013 Federated Autoparts 400 in Richmond.
The spin in isolation with just a few laps to go was quite minor, with no contact made between anyone and Bowyer able to drive away . However, it didn't take long before people started to connect the dots and suspect that Bowyer had spun on purpose.
It was the final round of Nascar's primary season, before their Chase for the Cup season commenced (think playoffs, but with cars and confederate flags everywhere). And while Bowyer was a firm inclusion in the chase season, his Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr was on the cusp of not making it. Bowyer's spin swung circumstances into favouring Truex, and Truex made it in. Though not for long.
Suspicious coded conversation between Bowyer and his engineer soon came under scrutiny, as did conversation between the third MWR team car of Brian Vickers and his team that saw Vickers make a late unnecessary pit stop to further benefit Truex's chances.
In the end while Nascar couldn't prove that Bowyer's spin was deliberate, they did prove that Vickers' pit stop was — and subsequently each car in the team was docked points, Truex had to surrender his chase spot, and the team were fined $300,000USD.
Team members were put on probation, Vickers' engineer was suspended indefinitely, and the team's marquee sponsor (and subsequently Truex) deserted them. MWR never recovered from the loss, and closed up shop last year.
Schumacher's all-or-nothing 1997 defense
With Formula 1 legend Michael Schumacher still in a coma following a skiing accident, the world has been remembering him by recounting their rosiest and fluffiest memories of the man.
There's nothing wrong with that per say, but Schumacher isn't exactly the cleanest of drivers in Formula 1 history.
This isn't a dig against Schumi — more an acknowledgement of how determined and driven (ha) he is as a racer. We need more of those drivers coming through the system, in an era that seems to favour tyre and fuel conservation over balls-to-the-wall grit.
One such example of when Schumacher went a touch over the edge however was during his desperate attempt to snatch the 1997 championship from Canadian Jacques Villeneuve. Battling at the final round of the season in Jerez, Villeneuve dived inside Schumacher for the last step on the podium.
Seeing that Villeneuve had him on toast, Schumacher turned down into Villeneuve. This wasn't just a case of the German champ not seeing him either; this was a strategy to try and take the pair of them out of the race and win himself the title.
It didn't work. Villeneuve collected third, won a maiden title, and Schumacher later felt the wrath of the FIA in getting disqualified from the championship.
Revenge served cold, Nascar style
I feel a bit dirty myself including Nascar in this list twice, but it simply wasn't possible given their status as the malicious driving capital of the motorsport world.
This time we go to a race from last year's season that involved something of an altercation between the divisive Joey Logano and perennial good guy Matt Kenseth.
Now, Nascar has long been an advocate for the ‘rubbin's racin’ tact, and it was with that in mind that most looked at the move Logano pulled on Kenseth at the event prior, which sent Kenseth into a spin, out of a top finish, and out of Nascar's chase system.
Kenseth was miffed, as somewhat expected. But we didn't quite see just how miffed he was until the following round at Martinsville Speedway. A lap down and out of the championship picture, Kenseth pile-drived Logano's Ford Fusion into the wall in a move that earned Kenseth wide praise (only in America, right?).
Honestly, this entire list could’ve been Nascar videos. Maybe that’s another story for another day.