Two for the Road is a hangout for mystery writers Tammy Kaehler and Simon Wood to chat, reminisce, gossip, speculate and argue about all things motorsport.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Trusted Voices

SIMON: I love commentators. They are the custodians of the sport. Competitors, teams, coaches and owners can come and go, but commentators are a constant. For they're the trusted voices. They reflect our love of the sport and they keep that love burning. Motorsport is lucky enough to have a number of great people to voice the game. For me I have three standout individuals.

As far as I’m concerned, Murray Walker is Mr. Motorsport. He’s been commentating on motorsport in the UK, since the end of the 40’s. from 1978 – 2001, he commentated on Formula One, traveling to every venue the Grand Prix circus traveled to. Not only that he voiced the commentary for everything that the BBC aired whether it be rally-cross, touring cars or Formula Three. He knew the sport and the drivers. His trademark was his excitability. His voice would climb into a high-pitched wail when the action reached a crescendo. It was fantastic because it was something that matched the excitement of the viewer. He was always respectful to the drivers, which endeared him to them. The other trademark that endeared him to the public was his ability to get something wrong or jinx a driver whenever he endorsed their success. He’d say something like, “With two laps to go, nothing can stop so and so from winning.” A lap later, that driver’s car would be at the side of the track after being struck by lightning or something. He is a character like no other. I thought it was very cool that when he retired from F1 broadcasting, the owners of Indianapolis Speedway gave him a brick from the original track. I believe he's one of the few non drivers to be given one.

The US doesn’t have someone like Murray Walker, but America does have Paul Page. Paul covered Indy car racing for nearly twenty years and he was brilliant. When I came to the US, it was his commentary I wanted to here. Paul Page has a voice of authority like a racing equivalent of Walter Kronkite and Tom Brokaw. When he talks, you know you're hearing something worthy of hearing. Sadly, ABC dumped as an anchor in 2004. I don’t know why and to be honest, their coverage has been the same. The last time I saw Paul Page, he was commentating on the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating competition, which I found very sad. I very much miss him.

Lastly, I’m a big fan of ex-driver, Scott Goodyear. Of all the “color” commentators out there, he's the best. He's not only someone who knows what he's talking about because he's done it, but also because he brings an insightfulness and intelligence that no one else brings. If Scott is talking, I listen.

So who cuts the mustard for you, Tammy.

TAMMY: I have a lot of favorites, but the one who tops the list is the guy I think is the hardest working talker in motorsports: John Hindhaugh. He's the voice of Radio Le Mans, and as such he covers the 24 Hours of Le Mans and all of the American Le Mans races (he does much more, including work for Eurosport, MotorsTV, ITV, XM Satellite Radio ... but I hear him streaming on Radio Le Mans or on the PA live at the ALMS races). This man knows a ton about racing, knows all the drivers, and just flat out loves what he does. You can tell. He's always excited about the action he's seeing, whether it's the first hour or the 12th. And let me tell you, he has stamina. I've seen him do a 10-hour Petit Le Mans all by himself, and then hustle to the Winner's Circle for those ceremonies as well. He's not a bad driver either; I've had the pleasure of a lap around the Long Beach Grand Prix track with him in a Corvette street car, and he knew what he was doing.

I have to also give a shout-out to Leigh Diffey, Calvin Fish, Brian Till, and Dorsey Schroeder. They were the team of SPEED commentators in 2004 when I was involved with an ALMS sponsor, and they're friendly, fun-loving guys who like to tell tall tales. It's no secret that they inspired the SPEED commentators in my new mystery novel.

Beyond them, I find Brad Daugherty fascinating, because he had a career in pro basketball, then owned a NASCAR truck team, and now commentates for ESPN. And I have a new favorite: Rutledge Wood, SPEED motor racing analyst and co-host of the new US version of Top Gear. I'm absolutely biased by the fact that I recognized him in an airport a couple weeks ago and introduced myself. He couldn't have been nicer. Not only did he let me give him a copy of my book, but he claimed to be excited about it!

What about the rest of you? Who do you trust and look forward to hearing? We've been pretty nice here ... is there anyone who you won't listen to?

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