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.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Racing, Politics, and Innovation

For this Discussion Friday, I thought we'd cover a couple timely and possibly controversial topics.

First topic: the DeltaWing racecar. Originally a concept for the new IndyCar chassis this year, the revolutionary design has found new life thanks to Dan Gurney, Duncan Dayton (Highcroft Racing), and Don Panoz (ALMS founder). They're taking this baby to Le Mans. And that should be really interesting.

(Photo from

The car (wing?) has been tested in a variety of locations, on a variety of tracks, and even in a variety of weather conditions. It hasn't flown yet (I mean that literally, which is good). It seems to turn corners. But it also inspires ... humor. (Many refer to it as the DeltaWang, because, I mean, look at it.)

SIMON: Yeah, I saw this news piece the other week and I'm a little skeptical over this design. It looks more in keeping with a landspeed car of the 50's (a la Campbell's Bluebird). This year's Indy cars have come out of the ugly factory, but I think they're better than the "Wing" design. I'm intrigued how it will corner and where the downforce will come from. Personally, I can't see how a narrow front track will work. It's always been the wider the better. I raced a car that went from a narrow to a wide track (about 4" wider) and it made a big difference. Where's the designer of this thing? I have questions.

TAMMY: My husband is a mechanical engineer, and he's never had a positive thing to say about the Wing. Since I trust him, I don't trust the car. It's really good as the subject of jokes, though. I think Le Mans is going to be really, really interesting.

Second topic: Bahrain. This weekend, Formula 1 races (after much discussion, grandstanding, and playing chicken) in Bahrain. Some of the natives (not sure how many, but they know how to burn things) are not happy about this. These are protesters against the current leadership, who view F1's arrival as tacit political support. Groups associated with F1 (the FIA, which is F1's leadership, and FOTA, the Formula One Teams Association) played "not it" over a decision last week, and the end result seems to be both sides shrugging and saying, "well, they don't think it's a problem, so let's go."

Should they?

SIMON: I understand why F1 is getting some flack over this, but people are displaying some selective memory here. Here's something to consider, why isn't anyone complaining about the Chinese Grand Prix over their human rights issues and I don't remember too many people making comment over the South African Grand Prix during the apartheid years. It might be in poor taste, but so is baconnaise.

On a personal level, I've not liked some of the changes in where F1 races. Bernie has ditched some great motor racing countries for places that will attract more TV and money and that's a little sad. For me, Barahain isn't a go-to destination. It's nice to have a race in that region, but who is going to attend? F1 should go where the fans are.

TAMMY: I'm all for racing as a positive statement about the success or resilience of a country or people, but F1 is a sport for the wealthy, like the rulers of Bahrain who built a fancy track to bring the racing. I don't know what I'd do if I were a team owner or driver, with lots of money already invested in arrangements to be there. But at least those folks have security. Someone like Will Buxton (on-the-ground reporter for SPEED) only gets some extra pairs of underpants. (I paraphrase his tweets, but will note: he made it clear SPEED gave him the choice of going or not.) Bottom line? I wouldn't go, purely for safety's sake. I wouldn't want my sport making a political statement. But obviously, I'm not Bernie....

What do you all think?


  1. From an engineering perspective, the basic geometric setup of the Wing is counterintuitive in terms of turning...particularly when one considers mechanical grip. I suppose that aero performance is probably helping considerably to retain stability of this chassis in all but the slowest of cornering scenarios. Still, it seems to me the car will have a tough time competing against existing designs with a wider front track. Maybe, in the interest of safety and the necessary gestation period for commercial exposure, this design would best be applied in a spec series? Just a thought.

  2. Before anyone spends too much on the delta wing, I have two words--Robin Reliant. One wheel at the front, two at the back = no cornering.

  3. Agreed. (Anonymous is an engineer-friend of my husband's, so I've heard many of the same arguments at home.) And yet, they've been turning laps at different tracks ... emphasis on the "turning." It's working so far. That's why Le Mans will be so interesting.