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.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Cost of Good Intentions

By Simon

Not sure if people caught this little story about Mark Hales. Hales is well known car journalist and racing driver in the UK. He's been around since I was an egg. Hales is in hot water right now because he blew engine on David Piper’s Porsche 917. Hales was driving the car for an article and he over-revved the engine and popped it (although there is some debate this issue). David Piper, who has been racing long before I was an egg, sued Hales over the damage and won. Hales now owes Piper $174,000 for the engine rebuild and the court costs. The demand is likely to cost Hales his home and push him into bankruptcy. Ouch.

There are a lot of things going on here in the background. Hales claims the car miss-shifted and wasn’t his fault. Piper says Hales revved higher than as instructed. Hales supposedly agreed verbally to cover the costs before he knew the damage cost $100k. To add insult to injury, it doesn’t look like anyone took out any insurance to cover any potential damage, which I find surprising. The 917 is worth $2million. It looks like a lot of balls got dropped. Overall, it’s a big mess.

I can sympathize with Mark Hales’ plight. I once destroyed someone’s car. I can’t go into details because a story was concocted to cover up what happened as the one of the owner didn’t know I would be driving the car. I did come away with two broken vertebrae for my trouble, so I didn’t get away scot-free. But I can see how these things happen. Everybody knows each other. Everyone trusts each other. And one day someone says, do you want to take it for a spin and no one thinks the worst will happen and naturally no one protects themselves for it.

My advice is always, if you're going to race a car, make sure it’s your own—or have a lot of insurance.

Monday, January 28, 2013

24 at Daytona

by Tammy

I'm going to cop out just a little bit today by giving you a link. But I wrote eight blog posts, tweeted dozens of updates, uploaded 20 photos to Facebook, and took hundreds of snapshots. Most of that (the blogs for sure) was in 25 hours between Saturday and Sunday. My brain has nothing left to give at the moment (besides the fact that I'm flying home Monday as you read this).

So I'll send you to those blogs: From The Pits

Photos and some of the stories and good lines I heard will follow....

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Road Test

By Simon

I’m going to say something that probably won’t go down very well with some people. I think the US government should have all road vehicles tested for their roadworthiness. If your car doesn’t pass, it doesn’t go on the road.

I can’t take the credit for this idea. A road worthiness test has been mandatory for all road vehicles for decades in the UK. Every car in the over three years old has to pass an MOT test (aka Ministry of Transport test) every year. Without a current certificate, you can’t get the vehicle insured. The test checks the mechanics (such as wheel bearings, brakes and shocks), functionality (such as headlight alignment, brake light operation, windshield wipers) as well exhaust emissions.

As a car owner in the UK, it’s a real drag. The test isn't all that expensive, but it’s a pain in the arse to drag the car someone to do the test, but I do appreciate it for a couple reasons. One, it’s a cheap inspection to find out if there's something serious wrong with my car. Two, it gives me a certain amount of confidence that a car is basic sound if it has a “long MOT” when I’m buying a secondhand car.

Here in the US, I don’t have that security. I’m engineer by training and I like things to work properly. It slays me when I see a poorly kept car on the road, especially those that are dangerous. I borrowed a friend’s car a couple of months ago with the alignment so off target, the car changed lanes every time I braked. That’s scary to me.

But that’s the things you can see are wrong. The problem with modern cars is that they hide a lot of issues. 20 years ago, if you had a blowout, you knew about it. Now, you can drive home and not know about it. the other week, I was watching a Nissan Murano’s front wheel jackhammer up and down because the shocks were shot, but the driver didn’t seem notice anything, although a quick look at the wear on the tires would give you a clue. So for reasons of public safety, we need a road worthiness test here in the US.

The reason for this little rant. A few months ago, I was driving on the freeway and the wheel sheared off a car coming in the opposite direction. The wheel jumped the median and flew down the freeway on a collision course with me. I dodged the wheel, but it destroyed the front of the car behind me. A safety inspection might have prevented an incident like this.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The 52 Hours of Daytona

by Tammy

Sure, the race is the 24 Hours of Daytona. But I'm heading out to Florida this week to embed with my friends at The Racer's Group (see my December post about it) for the duration of the weekend. And as best I can figure it, I'll be at the track for the better part of 52 hours between Thursday morning and Sunday evening.

And no, for everyone who's asked, I won't stay up all night. I don't think I can. But I don't expect much in the way of sleep, that's for sure.

Next Monday I'll have a quick report, with more details and lots of photos to follow (I'll be posting to Facebook and Twitter throughout the weekend, if you want to follow along). And on a personal level, I expect to have piles and piles of notes for the next book.

So what am I looking forward to?

  • The racing season getting underway!
  • Sitting in on team meetings, to find out what really goes on there ... I've got my suspicions and some memories from the 2004 season, but I need some current details.
  • Sitting on the pit box with a radio headset, listening to team communications.
  • Seeing the Corvette DPs.
  • Seeing friends from over the years, including Kevin Buckler and Bob Dickinson at The Racer's Group and drivers Patrick Long and Andrew Davis.
  • Hanging out with friends Barb and Mary.
  • Generating new ideas for the story I'm working on (I hope).
What about you? Will you be watching the 24 Hours of Daytona? Are you looking forward to anything in particular?

Friday, January 18, 2013

What We're Looking Forward to in 2013

TAMMY: We're back after the new year, and only a week away from the start of the U.S. racing season. It seems like time to talk about what we think 2013 might bring. What we're excited about ... and what we're not thrilled about but expect to see anyway.

I'm excited for:

  • The name of the new combined ALMS and Grand-Am series
  • The combined race weekend for ALMS and Grand-Am at Road America
  • Corvette Racing, as always
  • The Long Beach Grand Prix, as always
  • Danica in the NASCAR Cup series (love her, hate her ... she's the first woman running full-time, so go girl!)

I'm not excited about:

  • The lame-duck season it will be for both the ALMS and Grand-Am Series and teams
  • No Porsche factory effort, which means fewer of our favorite teams and drivers around full-time (I'm looking at you, Patrick Long!) (also at you, Flying Lizards!)
  • The Busch brothers (no one is surprised by this)
What about you, Simon? What are you looking forward to in the coming season?


I'm excited for:

  • The new F1 season as with the new specs coming next year, this might be the last year for reliability for a couple of years.
  • I'm interested to see how Lewis Hamilton will fair with Mercedes. Martin Brundell made some interesting remarks the other week about he wasn't the kind of driver to develop a car.  Well, see if he's right.
  • IndyCar! I know it's the redheaded stepchild of motorsport, but I really enjoy the racing. Would like to see a prettier car though.

I'm not excited about:

  • Simple--small grids.  Races series around the world still seem to be down to the bare bones.  That's always bad to see.
That's us, but what about you.  What are your highs and lows for 2013?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Jackie Stewart & His Cars

By Simon

A very short piece as the work has been done for me. Autosport magazine has a wonderful interview with Jackie Stewart about the great racing cars in his life. There's an audio track to go along with it. Listen to it here.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Loud or Quiet?

by Tammy

If you're in Dubai, the racing season has already begun. For us in the States, however, we're just two short weeks away from our season's kickoff, the 24 Hours of Daytona (you'll hear a lot more about that from me soon).

Out of the pre-season testing that's been going on, an article popped up that intrigued me. Oliver Gavin, one of the Corvette factory drivers, urged rulemakers and manufacturers not to make cars too quiet (Gavin Fears Quiet Cars a Fan Turn-Off), arguing that the noise is part of what fans like races for.

Now, I'll admit to being amazed and awed (and even startled) by the super-quiet Audi R-10, whose diesel technology made the car almost undetectable from five feet away, at least with the rest of the racing noise going on. And I'm well aware of the beating that one's body and eardrums take over hours and hours of race noise. Noise is exhausting. And probably less environmentally friendly overall.

But I have to agree with Ollie. I think the occasional quiet machine is fun and all, but racing wouldn't be the same without the high-strung whine of the Porsches and Ferraris. Without the base rumbly growl of the Corvette's V-8. Even without the grating roar of the Mazda rotary sometimes. Part of the racing experience is the overdose on noise and power and speed and drama.

And I don't think you can take that away from us! What do the rest of you think? Noise at the expense of environmental benefit? Can we have both?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2013--A Betamax Year For F1?

By Simon

It’s going to be an interesting year for formula one in 2013 because in 2014, F1 is going back to turbos with the addition of a hybrid component. That means the 2013 cars are Betamax. They might be good, but they're a dead technology. No one is going to be dumping a bunch of money into these cars.

So does that mean grand prix racing is going to be a bust this year?

I don’t think so. While I don’t think any of the teams will go crazy with upgrades when they're having to put so much into cars for next year which will essentially be brand new cars in every respect, I don’t think it will detract from the racing. At least we won’t have a two-tier season like we did in the 80’s when you had turbo power running rough shod over normally aspirated cars. Drivers and constructors will still want to win a championship. Hopefully racing will be a little tighter as teams will be essentially fine tuning their existing 2012 cars.

All in all, I’m looking forward to this year’s racing (especially as it’s going to be on NBC from now on). Yes, the cars will have that last days of disco feel about them but who doesn’t tap a foot to a Sister Sledge track when it comes on the radio?

Enjoy the fast times of 2013…

Monday, January 7, 2013

Grand-Am Le Mans

by Tammy

While the new year means resolutions and diets and such for many people, for race fans, it means a renewal of optimism. The Roar Before the 24 happened this weekend, giving everyone a taste of 2013 racing ... lame duck as that might be for the ALMS and Grand-Am, which will merge into one series in 2014.

As promised, planners of the combined series are starting to make some plans for the future. Some make sense, such as appointing Paul Walter to be race director for both the ALMS (a position he's held for a year now) and Grand-Am this year. I think that's an excellent idea that will begin to draw the series together before that merge is official.

Some plans both make sense, and are really confusing. I'm not going to recap the new proposed combined class structure, I'll just point you to the basics in an article on Jalopnik: ALMS and Grand-Am Announce Plans to Become the Most Confusing Thing in the World. It's entirely possible that headline is right.

On the other hand, they've got seven different classes to condense into fewer than that. Plus new, experimental cars to accommodate (the case in point is the Delta Wing). So I don't have an answer for making it less complicated.

What do you think? Could they do it better?

Onward to the racing season!