I have always believed that of all the sports in the world, auto racing would be the hardest to fix because there are too many variables.
In any race, there are usually upwards of a dozen drivers capable of winning. Even if you managed to compromise all 12 – an impossibility to start with – the driver supposed to win could innocently be caught up in a crash or his or her car could develop a mechanical defect that would cause it to fall by the wayside.
Maybe I’m naïve, but I don’t know how you could fix a golf tournament or a hockey game. Tennis – yes, it’s possible. The gamblers could get to one of the two players.
Basketball point spreads are where you can fix that game (it’s been documented that players have deliberately missed shots to keep a game from going over a particular total) and you can fix football two or more ways – a field goal kicker can miss on purpose or a referee can drop a flag that can cancel a touchdown.
Boxing? It’s always been crooked. But auto racing? No way, I said.
You’ll notice the past tense there.
I was as shocked as anybody else when it was proved that Nelson Piquet Jr. and Flavio Briatore conspired to create a situation in the 2008 Grand Prix of Singapore that would give Fernando Alonso enough of an advantage that he could win the race if nothing untoward happened going forward (see crashes, car trouble, above). So Piquet crashed on purpose at a particular point in the race and Alonso, indeed, went on to win.
I still thought it was an isolated case (even though there have been suggestions over the years that Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s one Daytona 500 victory and, yes, even Gilles Villeneuve’s first Grand Prix win at Montreal in 1978 were not exactly 100 per cent on the up-and-up).
Then a friend sent me a link to a story published recently on espn.com about intrigue that surrounded the 1933 Grand Prix of Tripoli. It wasn’t so much that the fellow who won wasn’t supposed to, it’s more that the famous and dominant driver of that era, Tazio Nuvolari, lost.
You can enjoy it by clicking here.