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.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Underdogs Take the Win

by Tammy

It's a truism that anything can and will happen in an endurance race.

The 24 Hours of Daytona race proved it again this year, with favorites falling early and late, and a couple underdogs staying out of trouble and pulling through for their first wins.

Was it epic? Probably. It was only one lap short of an all-time record distance, and each class had two or three cars that finished on the lead lap. In fact, in both classes, first and second were separated by no more than 10 seconds ... AFTER 24 HOURS OF RACING! That's astonishing.

What's interesting is the change that's happened in the endurance world, the result of teams and cars getting better and more reliable. More than one "old timer" commented during the broadcast that in their day, you'd be conservative until the last couple hours, and then you'd really race--because if you tried to race flat-out the whole time, your car would break. But as one driver (Andy Lally, GT winner) put it, "This was 24 hours of qualifying."

I can't even stay awake to watch it all. I can't imagine how the crew does it (even the drivers get some sleep, but the crew only catches what naps they can in the pits between pit stops).

There's always a story with the 24 Hours of Daytona, and this year, between the visiting celebrities of the entertainment world (Billy Johnson of AC/DC and Patrick Dempsey) and those of the racing world (Michael Waltrip, Travis Pastrana, Giancarlo Fisichella, Jamie McMurry, Mario Andretti, Dario Franchitti, and many more), a set of series regulars and underdogs came through for the win. Both were, in some ways, the Little Engine that Could.

New winners. New stories for the year ahead. I'm liking this start to the 2012 racing season. What about you? Did you watch? Did you enjoy?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Best Laid Plans

by Simon


I hate it when a plan doesn’t come together. Monday, I finished the final markups on the galley for HOT SEAT, the second Aidy Westlake book. Tuesday, I started work on my today’s piece for TWO FOR THE ROAD, which was going to be on the history of Brands Hatch circuit. So while I was Googling some various bits and pieces, I came across a news piece from Christmas time saying that Graham Hill Bend is being modified in 2012. Shouldn’t mean much, but guess what racetrack is featured in HOT SEAT? Yep, you’ve guessed it—Brands Hatch. And guess who doesn’t feature the new corner in their book? Yep, you’ve guessed it—me.

Hand on heart, I do my best to have the up-to-date info on the racing scene for the books. I’ve checked the layout to all the circuits feature in the book. I caught all the changes made to Snetterton for this book, but Brands Hatch was caught in my blind spot.

Unfortunately, it’s too late to change anything. The book is in its production layout and will be going to the printers soon, so I’m kinda caught out. I do have a saving grace in that book will come out in the UK in March just as the 2012 season is kicking off, so I may have gotten away with this one as few people will have seen the new corner by the time the book comes out.

So this blog entry is part mea culpa and part acknowledgement and part justification that I wasn’t being lazy, just unlucky. So be kind.

Sometimes, I hate change. :-)

PS: If anyone is an authority on Brands Hatch and its origins, please contact me. Thanks.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Can You Hear Them?

by Tammy

Can you? If you listen closely, I bet you can. They've been starting up around the country, in ones and twos in shops. Then we heard them by the dozen in the last few weeks, at test dates.

Yes, you're starting to hear the sound of racing engines again. And this coming weekend, they'll start up in anger for the first time in 2012 at the 24 Hours of Daytona. Qualifying on Friday, race starting Saturday at 3 p.m. ET.

You all know where I'll be. How many of you will be watching SPEED with me all weekend? (I'll be on Twitter: @tkaehler.)

But maybe you're more excited about the Daytona 500, on February 26? Or the 12 Hours of Sebring, finally coming along three weeks later still, on March 17? F1 in Australia the next day, March 18? (I know I'll be glued to the television that weekend.) IndyCar a week later, March 25?

I'm most excited about the endurance races: the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring ... though I admit to a great interest in how my friend Beaux Barfield is going to handle being the new Race Director of IndyCar (and by hiring him, they probably guaranteed I'll watch every race this year).

But I want to know what you're all most looking forward to this year? What series? Which races? What rivalries? Tell me!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Glory Days

By Simon

Car makers have gone retro in recent years. When new cars have failed, they’ve turned to past glories. So we've seen the Mustang, GT, Camaro, Thunderbird (although no one liked it), Charger, Fiat 500, VW Beetle ape their designs from their respective heyday. I’ll cut the Mini some slack. It stayed in production with the same design for forty years before it received a makeover. The others didn’t.

As much as I adore seeing a Ford GT on the road and admire the looks of these 21 century interpretations of classic cars, I’m disappointed to see them. Ford shouldn’t have gone back to a design from the 60’s for the Mustang. It should have looked forward. The same applies to VW, GM, Fiat, etc.? For them to do otherwise feels too safe. Worse than that, the decision not to look forward smacks of desperation. You can almost hear the white flag flapping in the wind and someone muttering, “We were too afraid to push the envelope, so we looked in this old one instead.”

I love the Ford GT. I think they did a bang up job. The engineering that went into that car is excellent and is a worthy successor to the classic GT40, but sticking with same outward appearance puts me off. I’m glad to see the GT back, but I want to see a GT that will have people talking about in 50years and not one that will remind of a car from 50years ago. I want evolution, not nostalgia when it comes to great looking and performing cars. So give me one. Give Corvette their due. They've kept to a concept of what a Corvette should be, but they have updated that design over the year. The same applies to Porsche and the 911. If they can do it, so can the others.

Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, but copying is not. C'mon guys, look forward. Inspire us. Make a jaws drop showing us something we haven’t seen before.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Racing Resources 2012

by Tammy

Good times ahead! By which I mean the racing season is about to start. I knew teams had been testing for the 24 Hours of Daytona, but I'd forgotten about NASCAR, and I did a delighted double-take when I walked into a restaurant Friday for lunch and saw cars going around in circles.

The long dry spell is almost over, race fans!

And that makes me start thinking about where I get my information. I've got a list of blogs and sites I check, and I just found a really great-looking schedule for the year. But I'm also sure there are other resources out there I don't know about. So tell me what I'm missing....

The first race-fan essential is the 2012 Racing Wall Planner (above) from All racing (except NASCAR) in one wall calendar. Awesome! (Sorry NASCAR fans, but hey ... you're on almost every weekend anyway, so it's less difficult to remember when.)

Continuing with the sportscar theme, two of my favorite sites are (some free, mostly subscription, but worth it) and After that, I check (or rather, my Google Reader checks) CorvetteBlogger, Jalopnik, Pressdog, PlanetF1, and a wide variety of Twitter feeds.

I've picked up more IndyCar news with my Twitter friends and their blogs and links, but I'm still missing a good source of NASCAR news (other than and a little bit on Anyone have anything for me?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Making a Splash

by Simon

I had a nice little surprise on Monday while watching Top Gear. They examined what to do if you crashed your car in a body of water. My ears pricked up at the mention of this because I used that exact situation in my first novel, ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN. In the opening chapter, the lead character is forced off the road and into a river and he has to work out his escape from a rapidly sinking car.

I was interested to see what they discovered to see if I’d guessed right. Whereas Top Gear has the budget to drop a car in pool with a camera crew, I don’t. For the book, I relied on my engineering background for what would happen. I knew there’d external and internal pressures as a car sank and you’d have to be Arnold Schwarzenegger to force open the doors. I also considered that power windows, etc. wouldn’t work either. My solution for escape was a play off what I was taught in flying school. If you ditch in the sea or something, I was told to open the door before impact, because you won’t be able to open them with the water pressing against them. In the book, my character breaks out through the windows before the car has a chance to submerge. This goes against conventional advice of sticking with the car while it sinks, let the car fill up with water and when the pressure has equalized, let yourself out. If this proved right, there was a rewrite on the books.

Well, my escape theory proved right and conventional advice didn’t work. I was very proud of myself. Yay me!!!

The practice test proved that it took a long time for the pressure to equalize and you would most likely run out of breath before then.

If you’d like to see how it all went, please watch the video clips.

Consider this blog entry a Public Service Announcement. My advice is to have something in the car to break the windows should you ever end up in the water. You want to get out as soon as possible. :-)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Fun at TruSpeed's Race Shop

by Tammy

I had a rare treat for a race fan last Friday. I'd written an article about my adventures at racing school for a magazine, and they wanted a photo. Not just any photo, but an artsy photo of me in a racecar. It took some doing to find a car I could climb into, but in the end, a friend reconnected me to someone I'd met at the racetrack years ago, and the deal was struck.

Well, it wasn't a deal, except for me. Tyler at TruSpeed Motorcars basically said, "Come on in," and took the time to rearrange and polish a racecar for our use. And then he left me and the photographer alone.

While the photographer set up his gear, I looked around a bit, peeking into the shop part of the building and staring at an amazing array of Porsches. I recognized a few of the cars from past seasons, and I marveled at the number of gorgeous street and race machines they had there. There was a particularly good looking dark green street car....

But before I got too distracted, I climbed in the red racecar and sat there for an hour, resisting the photographer's suggestions that I get out and stretch or relax now and then. I mean, come on! This was my chance to sit in a racecar! I wasn't getting out before we were done. No self-respecting race fan would do anything else.

Besides, I told myself that an hour was nothing. Drivers sit there for more than twice that. (There's the proof I was there.) So I studied the dash and the pedals and the stickers on the rollbars that showed the car had been run at Monza and other cool tracks. And I soaked in a little bit of the racing vibe.

So I owe a big thanks to TruSpeed, a clean and friendly operation ... and one that's good at their job of prepping racecars, judging from the number of trophies in the shop, and from the Pirelli World Challenge GT championship Patrick Long took in the TruSpeed car. I can't thank them enough for allowing me and a photographer to climb around one of their cars (we didn't hurt it, of course). If you're looking for Porsche sales, service, or racing support, check them out. And join me in rooting for them in the IMSA GT cup next year.

It's about time for some racing around here, don't you all think?!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Open Wheel, Open Mind

by Simon

Tammy and that Steve Ulfelder chappie are forever picking on me because I like open wheel racing and racecars. I could hurl abuse at them which will drive them into back into their holes of unenlightenment, but I’ve decided to take the higher road and explain why I like open wheel cars.

If I’m being honest, I never wanted to race on circuit. I was intending to go into rallying but I took a spin in a single seater and I was hooked. This was the genre of motorsport I wanted to compete in and I was better suited to them.

Now, I could bat on about the power to weight ratio, the low center of gravity, etc., but I won’t, because it’s the not overwhelming reason. The simple reason why I like single seaters is because I like their simplicity. Yes, at first blush, an F1 or IndyCar looks immensely complicated and they are, but underneath their computers lay quite a simple and elegant machine. If you compare a production based road going car to a single seater racecar, the road car is more complicated with its power steering, computer, traction control, ABS, servo assisted brakes, airbags, doors, fan belts, etc. A single seater has none of this. Essentially, the car is stripped down to the basic components that the car needs. There were no complicated electrics. There weren’t any headlights, dashboard displays or control systems to worry about. Frankly, the electrical loom inside a road car frightens me. With all those wires, I don’t know what powers what. In my formula cars, a tiny battery powered the electronic ignition and starter motor and that was it. The brakes were simple with no servo. The same applied to the steering, no power assistance. The cars are air-cooled so fans and there's not even an alternator to keep the battery charged. This makes the car relatively low tech. The clever stuff came in the guise of the suspension with its wishbones and pushrods to push and pull at the shocks and springs—and despite its complexity, the suspension worked off very simple mechanical principles.

All this simplicity was very comforting to me. When I was setting up the car, I could see how the suspension worked. Need to adjust it and I could simply. If the electrics crapped out, it was very easy to establish to cause of the fault. The electrics fails on a production based racecar and with so many circuits operating so many items, I’d be lost for an answer. And I didn’t have any awkward bodywork to work around. I needed to get to a part of the car and the bodywork came away at the flick of a latch. No panel beating for me. All this simplicity boiled down to confidence. I knew the language of my racecar and I understood it. Nothing got lost in translation. And all because I knew how it worked and I could see how it worked. Production based racecars fall prey to the mystery of how an automaker primarily designed a car for the road and not the track.

So there you have it. Open wheel racecars—simple, elegant, clean and above all, fun.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Racing Resolutions

by Tammy

Happy 2012 to everyone out there, especially you racing fans! I have to be honest, I haven't been thinking about racing much lately. I've been thinking about writing, which usually means racing, but I've been more concerned with plotlines and character motivations than on-track action. And we're in the off-season, of course, so there's not much to watch and only rumors and team-swapping to read about.

But that's going to change soon. Whereas December felt like the wind down from the last season (for the spectator, at least, because I know teams have been out testing in past weeks), January very much feels like the ramp-up. As if the new engines have been bolted in the new chassis and turned over for the first time. All about possibility and potential. Because we've got only four weeks until the first event of the season here: the 24 Hours of Daytona!

But in the meantime, I'm thinking about the year ahead in racing. I'm getting out the calendar and thinking about what I might get to, what I'm excited to watch, what races to clear my schedule for, what real-world plotlines I'm looking forward to watching. And here's what I've resolved:

1. I will be very busy at the Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend, April 13-15, catching up with all the great friends (pros and fans) I made at races over the last year. Can't wait to see you all here!

2. I will pay more attention to IndyCar. I expect I may know some people in that organization this year, and I'm really eager to see how the women of IndyCar do (though it's hard to say just yet which women will be there driving). Fingers crossed for Pippa Mann and Katherine Legge to come through with good, final news.

3. I will try to understand the point of ovals. I'm open for some people to work on explaining this to me. Please? Of course, IndyCar will have a lot fewer ovals next year....

4. I will root for Danica in the Nationwide series. I really do want her to do well there.

5. I will not say anything bad about Kyle Busch ... until he does something to merit it.

6. I will try to get to both a NASCAR race and an IndyCar race this year. Anyone up for Sonoma or Fontana? How about going to Fontana with me and explaining ovals? (Of course, where I really want to go is Bristol ... August?)

7. I will share my enthusiasm with other race fans. This is the easy one to promise, because you all make it lots of fun. (A shout out to Kevin and Mike shown here with me at the ALMS Monterey race!)

How about you? What are you resolved to do this year? What are you looking forward to?