SMIDSY's sumo bout in Robot Wars 2000

This was our first appearance on TV but it was filmed after all the real action, hence the rather battered appearance of SMIDSY's side armour and the 'crackle effect' of the leather on the top armour.

Our strategy

The rules are simple, avoid being pushed out of the ring for as long as possible (ideally push your opponent out of the ring, but we were up against Shunt, who is nearly 50% heavier than a heavy-weight contender).

We'd seen a number of robots pushed out of the ring in the blink of an eye; before we entered the ring none had lasted more than 6 seconds. We knew our jaws were twisted from repeated ramming the previous day so there was no way we were going to get under Shunt's mighty bulldozer blade. Instead we opted for the stategy of dodging him for as long as possible.


SMIDSY the sumo warrior

1 - The team in the booth, preparing for the bout
2 - SMISDY ready to throw salt into the ring
3 - SMIDSY and Shunt glare at each other
4 - SMIDSY and Shunt square off ready for battle
5 - 2 seconds in, SMIDSY has feinted to one side and is now going the other way
6 - We just stop for the edge and Shunt has turned around to try to push us over
7 - Both robots have reversed hurriedly to avoid the edge, SMIDSY ended up perilously close to another edge
8 - SMIDSY shoots past Shunt yet again, this time backwards
9 - We just escape and Shunt backs off
10 - So we drive in front of him again and start a U-turn
11 - Finishing the U-turn, Shunt hasn't had a chance to move
12 - SMIDSY turns left and rams Shunt broadside
13 - Shunt spins out of the way and leaves SMIDSY heading for the edge at great speed
14 - too fast to stop
15 - And it's all over
16 - But we'd had a great time and the crowd loved it

What happened

We dashed into the middle of the ring, slewed sideways and waited for Shunt. Just before he hit us we squirted forwards out of his way. At this point we knew we'd beaten at least half the robots that went before us, and our plan had worked perfectly :-)

Unfortunately that was as far as we'd planned :-(

We were now accelerating at high speed towards the edge of the ring and only another handbrake turn stopped us from flying over the edge. As soon as we'd recovered Shunt was heading for us again. We shot past him and again narrowly missed the edge.

This happened a number of times and often a part of the robot was jutting into empty space and at one point a wheel was even over-hanging the edge. Fortunately SMIDSY's 4 wheel drive works even when one wheel is spinning uselessly.

We were beginning to get the hang of avoiding Shunt when a fantastic opportunity arose; SMIDSY had its jaws pointed directly towards Shunt's vulnerable flank AND he was right by the edge - after all the dodging we had a chance to push him over the edge! We rammed as hard as we could and pushed. We opened the jaws to lift the nearest wheel off the ground.

It didn't work; Shunt was too heavy to push and too heavy to lift. He twisted slightly and SMIDSY shot past and over the edge. It was all over.

It was only 14.11 seconds but it was the longest 14 seconds of my life. It was also the best Sumo bout that the crowd had seen so far, and they went absolutely wild - no one had managed to dodge Shunt so many times.

We were very happy at the time and only mildly disappointed later when a couple of robots manged to jam themselves under Shunt and last the whole 60 seconds - they had just been lucky, we'd actually used speed and manoeuverability to avoid him. We didn't even mind that Panic Attack managed to dodge for even longer than us and trick Shunt into driving over the edge, because Kim is a ReallyNiceChap and an excellent driver. We'd put on a good show and had an adrenaline buzz that would last for days.

The salt

Real Sumo wrestlers throw salt into the ring for luck (salt used to be expensive, so it was a sacrifice) We wanted to do the same. We 'borrowed' a couple of plastic salt cellars from the RobotWars cafeteria. Before the bout, at the point where we were introduced, we opened the jaws to allow the salt to roll out - except they didn't and we had to jerk forwards and back to throw them out.

  • In the second picture (the first of SMIDSY) you can see a couple of blue and white objects in his jaws; these are the salt cellars
  • In the fourth photo you can see them just inside the red circle
  • In the fifth photo we have driven over one and pushed it ahead of us, it's just visible by our front right wheel
  • In the sixth photo you can just see the one we pushed on the edge of the black circle, at about 1 o'clock. The other salt cellar is still where it was in the fourth photo.
  • Seventh photo, no change
  • In the eighth photo one of the salt cellars is just visible behind SMIDSY at the extreme left of the frame
  • We've driven over the left hand salt cellar (the one we missed originally) and spread a small drift of salt. The white smear is quite visible for the rest of the overhead photos.

We had to explain the significance of the salt to every member of the RW crew but they all liked the idea and were keen for us to try it. We don't know why it was cut from the TV show, possibly they thought it would be too complicated for the target audience, maybe the camera wasn't able to focus on us as we jerked back and forth. Maybe it just wasn't very exciting, but that doesn't matter because now YOU know a bit of Robot Wars trivia that very few other people know. It's just possible that one day (under a bizarre set of circumstances) it may come in handy.

The technical bit

In a robotic pushing match you need grip and torque. Your grip is limited by your choice of tyres and your weight. Most people are using very good tyres and so there isn't much difference between robots. There is a weight limit of 80kg so all robots weigh the same too. Many robots choose a gear ratio that gives them enough torque to use all this grip although quite a few opt for a higher top speed instead.

This ought to mean that all pushing battles are nearly equal but there is another way to gain an advantage. If you can get under your opponent and lift them (even only slightly) you reduce the weight on his wheels and increase the weight on your own wheels, giving you more grip and eventually lifting his wheels right off the ground.

Unfortunately Shunt is much heavier than all the competitors and has very low ground clearance, making it very difficult to get under him. Two robots managed it and they both managed to reduce the effect of Shunt's weight advantage to the point where they could hold their ground. They couldn't move but Shunt couldn't push them out of the ring either.

In 2001 of course the weight limit has gone up from 80kg to 100kg, the better competitors should be able to push Shunt around!

Watch this space!