The General Rules of Welsh Imperium Teapot Racing

Welsh Imperium General Rules of Teapot Racing,

Bencampwriaeth ras tebot.

Overall winner
Copyright © 2017 by Richard Sewell

Rules are here to ensure amusing racing and fair competition.

General rules

Teapot racing is a race for remote-controlled vehicles in the form of a teapot. The race is carried out against the clock or in heats against other vehicles, over an obstacle course.

Local rules (i.e. per event) will take precedence over general rules.

Global rules [1], as established by Splendid Teapot Racing of New Zealand may be referred to in order to clarify any unclear aspects.

RFC:2119 applies: the words ‘must’, ‘should’, ‘may’ and their inverses with ‘not’ are significant.



Three aluminium teapots

Three aluminium teapots, ready for racing


The vehicle must be based on a teapot and must have the ability to move.

  • Based on may mean that the vehicle is either made from a teapot, or has the visual form of a teapot. The teapot must be prominent, not merely a ‘hood ornament’.
  • It is not required that the teapot is still functional, or has ever been functional.
  • ‘Teapot’ is taken to mean teapots, coffeepots, kettles, covfefepots, tetsubin, samovars and other like vessels, used for the heating or brewing of tea, fitted with a spout and an enclosed lid. Handles are required, except for samovars fitted with a tap. Milk jugs may also be permitted to compete, subject to the organiser’s approval.


Audience favourite, Monster-Chan, a walking teapot racer
Copyright © 2017 by Richard Sewell

Movement may be done by wheels, tracks, legs, hovering, crawling, slithering, anti-gravity, teleportation or other means as yet undiscovered.

  • Movement must not be done by flight; either heavier than air, lighter than air, powered aircraft, powered rotary wing aircraft, drones, quadcopters, balloons, dirigibles.
  • Local rules may permit a flying contest, but this is likely to be a special event.

Vehicles ”may” be controlled by one or more drivers, or may be self-directed.

  • The Scrutineer should be satisfied that all vehicles can be adequately controlled by their drivers or makers.
  • Drivers are encouraged to provide vehicles that can be controlled across the range of the whole course, but drivers are also allowed to follow their vehicle around the course.


All vehicles must fit within the scrutineering size box. This is 30×30×40cm (w×h×l). Vehicles may be taller than this, provided that anything above this, aerials, flags etc., is flexible and can pass beneath an archway 50% taller than the box.

The vehicle must fit into the test box during scrutineering. It is not required to remain the same size afterwards, provided that such a change is made by the vehicle itself (or under driver command), rather than by physical adjustment by a mechanic.

Vehicles larger than this may be permitted to compete, subject to the scrutineer’s opinion. Entrants are reminded that vehicles which do exceed this may be unable to pass some obstacles.

Power source

The vehicle’s power source is up to the constructor’s choice.

It is expected that most vehicles will be powered by batteries. It should be assumed that methods other than this, particularly steam or pressurised fluids will not be permitted, unless specifically allowed by local rules. It should be assumed that they will not be, unless clarified beforehand. Batteries must not present a fire hazard or acid spill hazard.

Battery charging and fuelling

Charging of batteries will not be permitted except in designated pit areas, which may be provided but are not guaranteed to be available. Local rules may specify the details of this. Organisers should ensure that mains supplies provided are adequate, that mains chargers are safe to use with these and that any appropriate spill protection, fire protection and fire extinguishers are available.

Teams are advised to bring their batteries pre-charged, where this is practical, as organisers cannot promise the availability of charging. Teams should certainly bring their own chargers.

Likewise, liquid or gas fuels may not be filled, except in a designated pit area for refuelling. Such an area is likely to be outdoors.


Vehicles should pass a scrutineering inspection before the event, or again during the race if the condition of the vehicle warrants it (i.e. things start to fall off).

Vehicles must not be too hazardous, to either themselves, other vehicles, spectators or the course. Organisers may withdraw a vehicle during the race if it becomes hazardous.

Competitors are reminded that precise handling around the course has often proven to be more useful than sheer speed.


The course will be marked out in advance, with a clear start and finish gate, and obstacles between.

The course should not be publicised in advance, but should be open for inspection by drivers before the race. The intention is that drivers will have time to study the course, but not time to build a vehicle specially for it.

A map of the course may be prominently displayed, if it is necessary to indicate the direction through obstacles.

If the course is “self-evident”, i.e. any one-direction obstacles are clearly indicated as such (i.e. by an arrow on them), likewise any mandatory obstacles, then a separate map may not be needed.

Start and Finish gates

Both Start and Finish will be marked clearly, such as by a taped line on the floor, or by passing through an archway. Organisers should endeavour that the gates will not be moved accidentally, if hit by a vehicle.


The course
Copyright © 2017 by Richard Sewell

The course contains a number of obstacles. These should be passed by each vehicle. Failure to either pass an obstacle, passing it incorrectly, or knocking it down, will incur a penalty (see §Scoring). Hitting the obstacle does not incur a penalty, unless it is ‘knocked down’.

Obstacles will have a designated order on the course route. It is the organiser’s decision if this must be followed, or if obstacles can be attempted in any order (this is generally to be encouraged). The designated order should be the quickest and most direct, and this should be enough to encourage its use. If a driver misses an obstacle, then goes back and attempts it successfully out of sequence, they will thus not be penalised for this.

Marking out obstacles on the floor, rather than making a physical obstacle, is discouraged as it is difficult to score them. Automated means, such as laser security fences, may be permitted but should be reliable.
Obstacle types

The number and types of obstacle are a matter for the course designer. Some suggestions though:


Barbie makes a flying start in the racing
Copyright © 2017 by Richard Sewell

An arch, through which the vehicle must pass. It should be of a ‘reasonable’ size larger than the vehicle maximum size.

Arches should be constructed to resist vehicles knocking them over or out of position. Knocking one over counts as a ‘knock down’.


As for an arch, but longer, so that the vehicle can no longer be seen clearly when passing through it.

The dimensions of the tunnel should be generous, and the inner walls smooth to avoid trapping the vehicle.


Barbie races home across the bridge
Copyright © 2017 by Richard Sewell

A bridge with approach ramps. The sides of the bridge should be raised, so that vehicles do not fall off it.

Bridges may be of any length, straight or curved.

Organisers should endeavour to make the approach ramps of the bridge smooth to the floor, but drivers are reminded that floors are not always even and their vehicles may have to cope with a step here.


Bollards are one or more pillars which vehicles must either around or between. They may be arranged as single bollards, a row or a set of paired gates. If the row must be interleaved in a particular sequence, this must be indicated clearly to the drivers. The maritime tradition of red and green markers should be followed, with red markers passed on the port[note 1] side.[note 2] As non-sailors will be confused by this, and American sailors do it backwards anyway, arrows should be used as well.

Bollards may be provided with a clear ‘knock down’ obstacle on top, such as a narrow pillar with an egg-like object on top.


A see-saw is a form of moving bridge, which tilts under the weight of the vehicle.

Moving obstacles

Course designers are encouraged to provide moving obstacles, if possible.


Each obstacle will have penalty points assigned to it. Failure to complete the obstacle correctly will impose that penalty upon the competitor. Scoring penalties will be published before the start of the race.

For simplicity:

  • The simplest form of penalty is a time penalty in seconds, which is added to the course time.
  • The penalty for an obstacle should be the same, for either a minor incident,[note 3] total demolition, having to be manually released or simply ignoring it.
  • All obstacles should carry the same penalties as each other

These penalties could be adjusted by local rules for a particular obstacle, but organisers should not over-complicate things.


Vehicles may become stuck on an obstacle. To continue racing, drivers may physically move or release the vehicle from the obstacle. Doing so incurs a penalty.

Mandatory obstacles

One or more obstacles may be declared as mandatory. Failing to complete the obstacle will be seen as failing to complete the course.

The purpose of mandatory obstacles is to ensure that courses, such as U-shaped courses, can’t be ignored entirely by taking a short-cut from start to finish. Their use should be minimal, but U shaped courses may include one of them, such as a bollard, to define the U.

Course surface

The surface of the course is likely to be whatever is available at the venue. This mat be a smooth or highly polished floor. Organisers should generally try to avoid carpet surfaces, especially long carpet.

Some obstacles (bridges, see-saws) will involve the vehicle climbing a ramp. Organisers should provide such obstacles with a surface giving adequate traction.

Competitors should be aware of this, and should construct their vehicles accordingly. Choice of tyres has often proven to be a crucial factor in racing.

Master of Ceremonies

A Master of Ceremonies will be appointed by the organisers. Their role is to conduct the event, to organise competitors, to commentate upon the heats, to score competitors and to judge the winner(s). Their decision is final. An Authoritative Hat may be useful.


Assistant marshals may be appointed by the Master of Ceremonies, as necessary. Their roles may include:

  • Assisting with the course, clearing any blockages, damage, releasing stuck vehicles
  • Scrutineering
  • Timekeeping and scoring
  • Judging
  • Awarding of prizes

The issuing of flags to course marshals is to be encouraged.


Races may be conducted either by one vehicle against the clock, or vehicles racing against each other. This is the organiser’s choice, depending on the course and the number of contestants.

Heats will be conducted between a number of vehicles, typically two. Large courses may permit more vehicles than this simultaneously.


Drivers may follow their vehicle along the course, or may control it from the stands. Drivers must not impede other vehicles or drivers. Penalties may be awarded for this. Drivers should also not disturb the course obstacles, and penalties may be awarded for this also.

Timekeeping, and counting of obstacle penalties, will be done by a designated course marshal as timekeeper. If available, a large and well-visible clock should be used as a stopwatch.

Per local rules, there may be a time limit on each heat. Vehicles unable to complete the course in that time may be disqualified or given a time penalty.


The Master of Ceremonies, or their deputy, will call the drivers and vehicles to the start line. Vehicles should be ready to start in a reasonable time, those that cannot may be allowed to start in later heats, may be withdrawn, or may be disqualified if they are unlikely to be available without delaying the event.

Vehicles must start from behind the start line, alongside each other, but there is no “grid” or starting order.

A clear countdown and the command “Race!” will be given, ideally accompanied by a flag.


A sufficient number of marshals (depending on number of vehicles, obstacles and size of course) will be available to check, score and rest obstacles during the race. Marshals should be clear as to who is counting what, to avoid double-counting.

Penalties are awarded for obstacles on the basis of:

  • Omitting the obstacle
  • ‘Knocking down’ the obstacle.

The course diagram will indicate the necessary route to pass an obstacle, such as through an arch, across a bridge, or between bollards. It will also indicate if the direction of travel is significant. Some may be designed as ‘either way’, others as ‘one way’. There is no penalty for passing the wrong way through an obstacle, but it does not count as a pass. Driving partway into an obstacle and then driving out the same way does not count as a pass.

‘Knocking down’ an obstacle depends on the type of obstacle. Some types, such as bridges, are effectively impossible to knock down (although drivers will still try). ‘Knocking down’ should have the obstacles behave in a clear manner, i.e. an egg balanced on a candlestick.[note 4]

Marshals should agree beforehand and may note on the course diagram if an obstacle is to be reset during the race, once knocked down. If not, the penalty can only be awarded once (to any competitor). If reset, the penalty may be awarded repeatedly, to either the same competitor or different. If competitors may correctly pass the obstacle before it is reset, they avoid the risk of the penalty for it.


Finishing will be determined by timing the front of the vehicle crossing the finishing marker. A course marshal will flag the first vehicle as it cross the line.

To be a valid finish, the rear of the vehicle must also cross the finishing marker, within a reasonable time of the front. The majority of the vehicle, by weight, must cross the marker as a single, functioning vehicle.

Failure to complete all the mandatory obstacles will make the finish invalid.

Scoring will be based on the combination of performance in the heats, winning each heat and judging the qualities of the vehicle. Local event rules may weight the various parts of this.

Prizes may be awarded. There may be more than one set of prizes per event, such as best competition results, best vehicle, or separate prizes for each of the entry classes.

Bribery of judges

This is to be encouraged.

It is the judge’s choice as to whether they publicise bribes received thus far, pour encourager les autres.

Stable of vehicles

To encourage the sport of teapot racing, the event organisers may make available a pool of racers that may be driven by newcomers to the sport who do not yet have their own vehicle.

If many drivers are likely to be using these pool vehicles, then the organisers should offer two prizes, for best racing and best vehicle.

Local rules

Local rules (Teapot racing, Chepstow 2017)

Local rules will be issued before each event. They are there to tailor the rules, particularly scoring, to the event and the expected turnout in order to encourage fun and successful racing.

  • Local rules exist to enforce any particular rules made necessary by the venue or the event.
  • Local rules will be well publicised in advance.
  • Local rules will clarify any optional aspects of general rules, according to the event. This will include the scoring rules, particularly the rewards for using a team-built vehicle, rather than an event pool vehicle.
  • Local rules may be used to encourage particular forms of competition, as appropriate to the event – particularly to encourage participation by groups such as children.

Local rules should clarify the following in advance:

  • Vehicle size rules (and anything that might cause a vehicle to unexpectedly fail scrutineering)
  • Scoring rules
  • Mandatory obstacles

The course design itself should not be published before the event.

Useful equipment

  • A Master of Ceremonies’ Hat (an ideal Master of Ceremonies candidate probably has their own selection already)
  • Flags
  • Start and Finish flags. Obstacle penalty flags
  • Timing clock
  • Hand clicker for counting penalties
  • Gaffer tape (for sealing obstacle ramp edges)
  • Vehicle size test box
  • Course obstacles

External links


These general rules are the copyright © 2017–2018 of Chepstow and Area Steampunk Society
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 License.

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