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, October 8, 2012

Reprise: Racecars and Street Cars

by Tammy (who was out of town last weekend, and is reprising an old favorite)

The stereotype of a racing fan is, among other traits, one who leaves the track so influenced by what they've watched that they imagine themselves the next Andretti or Earnhardt and speed away in his or her Chevy Malibu (or Mazda 3 or Ford Fusion) only to get a speeding ticket or wreck the car on the way home.

So here's my question: Racing fans out there, are you so intoxicated by watching speed at the track that you push your speed in the corners, heel-and-toe downshift, and aim for the apex in the corners? Do you speed?

(Note: I live in Los Angeles, so I count some amount of speeding as a given. But I'm talking about more than the standard 10 m.p.h above the speed limit that just might escape the notice of the cops.)

I've never wanted the fastest car money could buy. I've never wanted to go 100 m.p.h. anywhere, really, let alone on highways or in other situations where everyone else on the road wasn't prepared for it. (Yes, the irony of me writing about a racecar driver is not lost on me.) My husband, on the other hand, has occasionally pushed the speedometer higher than I ever would. And as a car guy, he's always fascinated with high horsepower and speed vehicles. Which is why one of the most interesting outcomes of being intimately involved with the racing world is that he has less desire to own or drive such a car than ever before.

The reason is that he's realized how different a real racecar is than any car you can buy for the street. (OK, Corvette fans, I can hear you shouting about Corvette models, such as the ZR1, which, I'll grant you is about as close to a racecar as you can get.) But the point is that after watching racecars tuned and prepped for the racetrack be driven within inches of their performance limits, the idea of having a car whose performance limits we'll never touch more than 20% of just seems like a waste.

Now, I'm not saying we don't appreciate high performance cars. But for our needs, we go with a good power-to-weight ratio so that what we drive feels fun, quick, and zippy.

What about all of you? Do you drive your Porsches, Corvettes, Mazda 3s and occasionally punch it up to far, far above the posted speed limit? Do you take your cars to the track? Or do you just dream of speed in your four-door sedan or mini-van? I don't judge....


  1. I'll pick out the apex on a corner and practice heel and toe shifting. The upside being that only vehicle I own at the moment with a stick is an 11 year old, compact pickup truck. So speeding isn't much of an issue. In the past I would take driving trips in the north Georgia mountains but now I always have two large dogs in the back of the wagon. So it's less about the driving and more about the hiking.

  2. I won’t lie; I DO get the urge to push the limits of my car. While that’s a feeling that’s been lingering upon me, I also have the sense not to forget my responsibility as a responsible driver. That being said, on the race track, I’m all speed and power. On the street, safety and reliability are my main concerns.