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, November 30, 2012

Car Crusher

SIMON: Over Thanksgiving, I was on the road for a bit and naturally, it brought out my dark side and that gave me an idea for this week’s post. If you were a government overlord with the power to abolish any class of vehicle what would it be? Sports cars? Hatchbacks? SUVs? RVs? Hybrids? Electric cars? Sedans? Pickups? You can do it, like He-Man, you have the power, but you're going to have to give me a reason.

Personally, I would like to abolish Minivans. This was a close call with SUVs, but their 4WD abilities in rougher climbs ensured that they live to annoy me for another day, but not so when it comes to minivans. Now my distaste for minivans has nothing to do with elitism. I don’t like them because they make me nervous from a road user’s point of view. They're big, heavy, cumbersome, not particularly agile when loaded down and saddled with a high center of gravity. They're the automotive equivalent of a cannonball with the same destructive power. I would not want to be in one during a crash.

Okay, Tammy, you're the ogre in charge of the Department of Transport. Who are you dropping the hammer on?

TAMMY: It was OK for you to pass up SUVs, Simon, because I'm going to crush them. All of them, that is, except those that can be proven to be used off-road.

See, I don't mind if you're a rancher riding your fence line or actually driving your Jeep Cherokee out to the desert and then taking it on off-road runs across the wash (hi, dad!). But if you're a 5'2" soccer mom who only uses the vehicle's capacity for a half-day every month, and the rest of the time are unable to park wholly within a standard parking place? CRUSHED.

(I may be extra-sensitive because there's a female who's maybe 100-lbs soaking wet who parks a giant SUV in our parking structure every afternoon and can't manage to a) park straight in a spot or b) pull all the way forward. So her behemoth is an extra hazard when trying to exit the structure.)

So there's my verdict: you have to prove you need the utility part of that sports utility vehicle. I mean, otherwise, you should be driving a minivan, right, Simon?

What would the rest of you crush if you had the power?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Night Moves

By Simon

Following on from my comments about getting greater usage out of racetrack from last week, I’ve been pondering a new concept in racing—night racing. The idea would be to have a midweek race card consisting of four to five races. The races would be a 10-15 lap sprint races in order to provide a couple of hours nighttime entertainment.

Changes in the world of cricket gave me the idea for some new motor racing. Yes, that cricket. For the uninformed, test match cricket is five days. There's one day cricket, but even that is a full day commitment, but in recent years, Twenty20 cricket (a short form version of the game) has gained a lot of favor because the game is high tempo and takes a couple of hours to play out. Perfect for some after work entertainment.

I think this could be a lot of fun. Normally racing usually takes up a full day or weekend. This way, race fans can get a fast and furious (good name for a movie) sporting fix. Organizers could put together some specific night based race series featuring something like Mazda MX5’s, Formula Fords, Porsche, etc. The night series would operate outside of regular championships and could be touted as the “Champion of the Night” series.

This could be good. What do you think?

Monday, November 26, 2012

What Are You Thankful For About Racing?

by Tammy

The racing season is now over, and we're staring down the end of the year, as well. With Thanksgiving and all, I spent some time being thankful last week about my life in general. But I wanted to cover a few items I'm thankful for with regard to the world of racing.

Corvette Racing 2012 ALMS Champs: I'm pretty dang happy they pulled it out to win the season championship, their first in the (combined) GT class.

Last-race championship decisions: An awful lot of season championship battles came down to the last race of the year: F1, IndyCar, several of the ALMS classes. Well done with all of the battles, guys.

Pressdog, the blogger: A racing friend introduced me to the Pressdog's blog, and I have to say, he brightens my week. It's my dream to be a Woman of Pressdog (R).

The ALMS/Grand-Am merger: I still have some concerns about how this will turn out (specifically that it won't be a case of losing the good in favor of the ponderous), but I'm hopeful. If nothing else, I think change is good to shake things up. And if nothing else, it makes it really easy for me to transition Kate from the ALMS to the 24 Hours of Daytona for my third book in the series....

TrueCar Racing sponsoring a bunch of female racers: Yeah, I'm letting my feminism out. But I think it's fantastic that a company stepped up and sponsored six female racers across a variety of disciplines. It was neat to follow their tweets as they traveled en masse to races to support each other. I hope TrueCar keeps it up.

Twitter and passionate racing fans and friends everywhere: It's amazing how we can stay involved in the racing world these days from our desk or chair at home. Thank you Twitter, and thank you, committed Tweeters. I don't always agree with what everyone's saying, but I love the virtual community we've got. And what's even better is making true friends in that virtual world. (Find me there.)

So what about the rest of you? What were you especially thankful for in the 2012 racing season?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


By Simon

I’m always a little concerned by how underused sports facilities are used in the US. There are some great NFL stadiums and they might only get used ten times a year at best. The same applies to race tracks. A bunch of them are rolled for special occasions. I was kind of shocked when I found out that Indianapolis speedway is used only three times a year for racing and the new F1 circuit in Austin is only being used once a year.

This situation kind of blows my mind because I’m used to seeing circuits used on a regular basis. Places like Silverstone, Brands Hatch, Hochenheim, etc. are in near constant use during the racing season. They have full racing calendars throughout the season, in addition to midweek testing and the tracks’ driving schools. Smaller tracks open up their parking areas for flea market rentals. These are truly working tracks in every sense of the word, so I’m baffled that so many facilities in the US allow themselves not to be used. With Indianapolis, the track is used for a bike GP, Indy and Nascar and the rest of the year relies on the museum to keep itself going. There's no race school and limited tested. And that’s a real shame as it’s a lovely facility.

These places may make a profit from a handful of events, but it’s a real eggs in one basket situation and that’s a little scary. Racetracks are expensive to maintain (ask the owners of the Korean and Indian GP tracks). They cover hundreds of acres and it’s criminal not use them to their fullest. So in this spirit of thanksgiving, I give thanks for racetracks everywhere and I hope they get to be used on a regular basis.

Happy Thanksgiving to the Americans in the e-room.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Win, Fail, and WTF?

by Tammy

Let's evaluate the racing weekend, shall we?

Formula 1: By all accounts, the U.S. Formula 1 race made a good showing this weekend. Consider: drivers seemed to like the track, fans packed the stands, and (gasp!) there was even a thrilling, on-track pass for the race win. (So the traffic in and out of the Circuit of the Americas was a drag ... we didn't experience that watching on television.) The results of this race even set up the last F1 race of the season as the championship decider. Bottom line: not just another boring F1 go-round. And in a good timezone for us to watch!
Score for F1 in the U.S. again? WIN

NASCAR: Jimmie was leading, Brad was mid-pack. One ahead in the Chase standings, then the other, then a tie. One hundred laps to go, and Jimmie stops for gas, guaranteeing he can get to the end with only one more stop. Brad doesn't stop, no one's sure he can save enough fuel to do a one-stop. Sixty-two laps to the end, Brad runs out of fuel, makes it to the pits, rejoins in 24th place (too low to secure the title). Fifty laps to go: horrors, Jimmie's crew misses a lug nut, he has to return to the pits, and he rejoins a lap down, 29th place. He seems out of it, but anything can happen in 49 laps, 48 laps....

And then something broke in the back of Jimmie's car, and they went to the garage. Day done. Season done.  Not the way anyone wanted to see them end. But as long as Brad can get his car around to the checkers (which he does), he's the champion. Everyone's happy for Roger Penske who wins (unbelievably) only his first NASCAR championship. Jimmie is classy in defeat in the media center, Brad is classy in the championship circle. Even Jeff "Mr. Retaliation" Gordon, who wins the race, is classy in the winner's circle.
Score for Penske: WIN
Score for Keselowski as Champ: WIN
Score for how Jimmie lost: FAIL

Hats: Rick Hendrick and Roger Penske reportedly swapped hats in the championship winner's circle when Hendrick (losing car owner) went to congratulate Penske (this apparently has history for the two men). And then there were the podium hats in Austin (seen on Hamilton, the race winner, to the right). Clever? Perhaps. But ... let's just say, once seen, can't ever be unseen.
Score for Hendrick/Penske hat swap: WIN
Score for one-of-a-kind Pirelli cowboy hats: WTF?

What do you all think? Do you agree? Do you want one of those cowboy hats?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Big Weekend Ahead

TAMMY: Two huge events in the racing world this weekend. Not only does Formula One returns to the United States, but also, NASCAR will crown a new champion. The question is, which one is bigger?

I'm voting the NASCAR champion, because of who it could possibly be. It's come down to Jimmie Johnston trying for a sixth championship ... though after a blown tire and a wall-slap last weekend, he doesn't have much choice of beating the frontrunner. That is, if Brad Keselowski can pull together a decent finish.

What I think is earth-shaking about Keselowski possibly winning the championship is that he represents the next generation of NASCAR. He's 28, and an avid Twitterer (@keselowski). He has been a brash, crazy rookie and newbie in the sport, but he's shown real maturity, especially this year. And talent, of course. But he's also captured everyone's imagination by tweeting from the car during red flags. Like the one last weekend (at right). And of course, the infamous red flag back at the Daytona 500, when Juan Pablo Montoya turned a jet dryer into a fireball.

So what will be more significant this weekend, NASCAR or the return of the lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous-racers show? NASCAR, because we'll either have a champion who's won six times in the past seven years, or we'll have a first-timer who reaches out to NASCAR fans in a way no other driver has.

But don't get me wrong, I'll be watching both.... What's your vote, Simon?

SIMON: Personally, I'll be watching F1. Don't think it'll be the bigger event, but it'll be the 1st time F1 will race on a proper race track since Watkins Glen. Since '81, F1 has arsed about on makeshift circuits (and parking lots if you consider the Vegas Grand Prix). Even Indy Speedway GP was a half-hearted attempt at a real track when they modified the infield. I hope Austin pulls this off because like I mentioned a few months ago, that F1 needs to race in countries where there's a racing culture and the US has it. I hope F1 remains in the US, so I'm rooting for it. I still question the need for a new track when the US has some established circuits that would make for a great F1 race.

TAMMY: Well, I agree that F1 could have run any number of great tracks that already existed in the U.S., but would that really have fed Bernie's ego the same way? But that's another post....

What about the rest of you, what will you be watching this weekend?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Donning My Other Helmet

This is a crazy week this week as I have six of my out of print books coming out again in print and audio book thanks to my new publisher, Thomas & Mercer and Brilliance Audio. I’m talking about these books (although I encourage you to check them out here), but I wanted to talk about my Aidy Westlake motor racing mysteries.

I need to finish the third Aidy adventure (title to be determined because Tammy stole it from me. What a thief!) because the interesting news is that the first Aidy book DID NOT FINISH is out of print in both hardback and paperback. Whatever is in stores is it. Not all is lost. You can find it as an eBook, but Audible is releasing an audio book soon.

I think a similar fate awaits HOT SEAT. There aren’t many copies of that around either, although thanks to Audible, you'll be able to listen to it. I guess what I’m saying is if you want to read these books, you need to jump on it now or risk losing out. :-)

Happy Wednesday to you all.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Appreciating The Iceman

by Tammy

I admit it, I used to think Kimi Raikkonen was a bit of a putz. No expression changes, ever. Seemingly bored by the whole Formula 1 thing, as proved by the fact that he ditched it to go rallying for a couple years (well, OK, he didn't get the contract he wanted, I assume). I mean, of course he could drive (and he wasn't as annoying as Alonso), but I didn't really care about him. But honestly? I've really enjoyed his return this year.

Why is that? I think it's simply that the audience has been having more fun with him. Because clearly, he hasn't changed at all....

Maybe it's that his new team, Lotus, is having fun with him (check out the Lotus F1 Team Facebook page for the evidence).

But the turning point for me was the radio transmissions from his winning run in Abu Dhabi, when he responded to his crew chief giving him updates with, "Leave me alone, I know what I'm doing," and later, to a reminder to save the tires with, "Yes, yes, yes, yes. I'm doing it all the time. You don't have to remind me every second." (Link to actual transmissions.)

But under that stoic face, he's got a sense of humor. BBC Sport reports that Kimi had 500 tee-shirts bearing the quote "Leave me alone, I know what I'm doing" delivered to his team. Further, he commented, "It's not the first time, and it's not the last. It's just a normal thing. People will probably try to make a big story out of it, but it happens every weekend."

So I say, let Kimi be Kimi, and enjoy him. And if you want to buy one of those tee-shirts, go "like" the image (also shown here) on the Lotus F1 Team page and maybe they'll produce and sell you one....

What do you think? Want a tee-shirt? Love or hate Kimi?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Tales of Two Dream Rides

SIMON: I wanted to talk about dream cars today, but I wanted to put a twist on it. Instead of asking everyone about their dream car they'll never own, I want to soften it slightly. I want to know which car you'd like to own if money were no object and which car could you potentially own if you saved all your pennies and made a few sacrifices, such moved into a shed and gave your children away.

For me, my ultimate-money-no-object-ride would be the latest Aston Martin Vanquish. It’s around $300,000. Not totally outrageous in the money stakes. I’m not that kind of guy, but certainly out of my reach. So why the Vanquish? I know it’s not the fastest or the quickest, but c'mon, just look at it. It’s just so damn pretty.

But for my with-a-bit-of-luck-I-could-afford-one-of-these, I would choose the Porsche Cayman S. With a price tag around $60,000, I could pull this off. So why the Cayman? It’s a pretty car and looks more exclusive than its price portrays, but more importantly, it’s a car that you can live with. It’ll fit in a parking lot and it won’t ground out over speed bumps. But more importantly, I think Porsche came up with a nicely designed pocket rocket that’s easy on the bank account. I could see one in my future.

How about you, Tammy?

TAMMY:  I suppose I have less grandiose tastes than you, Simon. Thinking of "what would I go buy right now if money were no object," my thoughts go immediately to a car I've loved since I first saw it, sat in it, and got a hot lap around a track in it: the Audi R8. At only about $177,000, I could have my very own. I just think they look fantastic.

For my slightly more within reach dream car, I'd have to go more with pretty than a real driving car. Face it, I don't drive all that much these days (1.5 miles to work and 0.5 to the grocery store), but starting with my father's 1957 Thunderbird (yes, I grew up with that car), I've loved cars of the 1940s and 1950s. So with my $60,000 or so, I'd track down a classic 1957 Corvette. I would look kick-ass in that car.

So what about the rest of you? What are your dream purchases?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Glass Ceilings

By Simon

The issue of enclosed cockpits came up again at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after Nico Rosberg and Narain Karthikeyan crashed. See the film below.

I hope that enclosed cockpits don’t get introduced. They just give me the willies. I’ll admit that when I raced I would have a panic attack at the thought of rolling over in a gravel trap (and still do). I think sheer will prevented that happening on a couple of occasions. But the idea of rolling over with enclosed cockpit freaks me out even more. The last thing I’d want is to be upside down or have something on top of me and have my only means of escape blocked. At least with an open cockpit, you have some wiggle room for escape.

The interesting point made over the weekend in the light of this crash is that someone mentioned maybe it was a good idea to ask the drivers their feelings towards enclosed cockpits. Now there's a novelty.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Motor racing is a dangerous sport and it can’t be made bulletproof. Crashes are inevitable and crashes are curious animals in themselves. Cars can have all the safety systems in the world, but when the tires and wings have been sheared off, a racecar becomes an exercise in Newtonian physics—where a racecar in motion will remain in motion until an opposing force (usually in the form of a crash barrier) is imposed on it.

I’m all for safety and I’m willing to be open-minded, but kneejerk solutions are rarely the correct ones. The quest continues…

Monday, November 5, 2012

My Dream Ride

by Tammy

I've found the perfect Christmas gift (for me). Simon, are you listening?

We all know that the new Circuit of the Americas track will host its first race in two weeks when Formula 1 comes back to the United States. (We know this, right?) I won't be there, alas, because I'm slaving away over my next book. I know plenty of people who will be, and I'm sure I'll get there sometime in the next couple years, whether it's to see F1 or the ALMS next year.

But really, I want to get there for an entirely different purpose: a ride-along in an old Jordan F1 car. Yep, for the bargain (gulp) price of $999, you can take a few karting laps (to get used to the cornering forces, apparently), and then get a 2-3 lap ridealong in a modified F1 car, driven by a pro. Courtesy of Formula GP Experience (image from that site.)

Didier Theys is the champion driver figurehead for the product, and there are a few recognizable motorsports players also involved, such as Conquest Racing (an ALMS P2 team). I figure this is as close as I'll ever get to driving an F1 car. It's research, right??

Who's with me?