Feigning weakness to get an opponent to make an error from a false sense of security is a clever strategy in warfare, sports, games, business, politics, and other competitive activities. The most catchy name for this is strategy is the Rope-a-Dope, which has its origins in 1974 when Muhammad Ali used it to tire out George Foreman.

The Dope-a-Dope  is an unintentional error that suckers both drivers into a crash. It starts with the lead driver spinning and ends with the lead car hitting the trailing car. It’s easier to imagine the trailing car T-boning the lead car, but in a dope-a-dope, the lead car does the spinning and the hitting. The trailing car sees the spin, is baited into making an easy pass, and is felled by an accidental sucker punch.

If your rear tires lock, you can enter a spin very easily. There are a lot of ways you can end up with your rear tires in a skid (ABS delete, incorrectly adjusted prop valve, using the hand brake, debris on track, trailing-throttle oversteer, mid-corner braking, going off track, etc.). After perusing hundreds of spins on YouTube, I can say that a shockingly common source appears to be engine braking in a RWD vehicle (aka down-shitting). While the engine is not a very effective brake, it is strong enough to shift braking bias to the rear. If one dumps the clutch in a downshift, the sudden change in brake bias and car balance can skid the rear tires out of line even in a car that is going straight. Smoking rear tires are one of the telltale signs.

When another driver spins in front of you, what happens next is mostly up to you. They are skidding and out of control. You can stop in a shorter distance than they can. There is really no excuse for hitting them or for being hit. The blue & white Miata handles the situation gracefully. The black & yellow Spec Racer gambles and loses. If you’re going to attempt a pass, the responsibility is on you. If it goes badly, don’t blame someone else for your poor judgement or execution.

4 thoughts on “Dope-a-Dope

  1. Just a bad call from the Spec Ford guy. I’ve been in that exact situation and to me it feels like slow motion. He should definitely have seen the front wheels of the spun car trying to correct, and figured he was going to hook up and run straight eventually. But, easy to play arm chair racer I guess…


  2. Agreed, it’s easy (and somewhat unfair) to critique from a replay. In that moment, I could have made the same bad call. But in review, I would have regretted it because in an amateur endurance race (which this was), it’s more important to save the car than gain a position or two. BTW, I don’t want anyone to think that I’m critiquing from a position of authority or superiority. I suck at racing too.


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