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, August 28, 2013

The Wrong Road

By Simon

I’ve been disappointed by grid sizes over the last couple of seasons, especially in the smaller championships, such as Indy Lights, touring cars, Formula Ford and Formula Three. Some of these championships are barely scraping together 20 car grinds, while others are struggling to get into double figures. All very worrying.

Yes, the economy is bad and motorsport is one of those sports that thrive when sponsors are doing well, however, I see a problem within the sport that is doing more harm than good in the guise foreign races within national championships. IndyCar and German Touring Cars started incorporating races abroad around 20 years ago. It made sense. IndyCar wanted to lose its provincial status in comparison to F1 and German Touring Cars was a big draw and helped fill a hole left by the demise of the Euro touring championship. But this concept has swelled to various national F3 championships and the alike. Even a breeder championship as the British Formula Ford championship has a bunch of its races in Europe. While this is cool, it’s financially crazy. Not only will the cost force drivers out of the competition, it’s makes for embarrassing racing. It looked just sad just to see a dozen cars banging around the Nurburgring.

I hate to sound mean but these championships are being over ambitious. Not only does small grides make for dull viewing, the lack of driver competition doesn’t hone great drivers. They need to stick to their roots and do what they’ve always done, which is to provide great proving grounds for up and coming drivers. If the bad economy continues and these over-expanded series persist, I can see a lot of worthwhile championships folding. And that would be a real shame.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Controversial Call

by Tammy

I had another blog topic picked out and ready this weekend ... but then I watched the IndyCar race at Sonoma. The bump-fest, new-nose-festival, yellow-flag party that was the Go Pro Grand Prix.

And then there was THE CALL.

The two leading drivers, Will Power and Scott Dixon, were pitted one after another. Dixon, in the rear, pulled out first as a crew member crossed between the two cars carrying a tire. The tire in the crew member's hand and Dixon's side pod and left rear tire made contact. The tire spun out of the guy's hand and he went flying into another crew member, who also fell over and dropped the air gun in his hand, which flew over and banged into a third crew member's leg. They're all fine.

The question was, who gets a penalty. Did the crew member deserve some fault for not paying enough attention or for making himself as wide an obstacle as possible? Or did Dixon bear all of the blame because the rules say you get a penalty for hitting another team's equipment? (Here's Jalopnik's funny take on the incident, with a video.)

Cue the wailing and gnashing of Twitter teeth. And the wringing of hands by the television commentators.

In the end, Beaux Barfield up in Race Control penalized Dixon for hitting the other team's equipment. He was (to his credit) available immediately after the race to the media for an explanation, saying that the overhead camera showed Dixon to be in Power's space.

Cue more wailing and gnashing of teeth, because the only lines laid down in the pit lane are for the NASCAR race, and there aren't painted lines for the IndyCar pits. Plenty of calls for crappy officiating, etc.

My opinion is that there are hard decisions to make, ones that not everyone will agree with, and sometimes ones that don't have a right/wrong answer. And one guy has to make them. That's Beaux. He owns them and is willing to explain them. And he knows more than I do about how the pits and the cars and the rule books work. So I'm going with his call.

Also, I live in California where a pedestrian always has the right of way—ALWAYS. Even when they dart out in the middle of the block. The pedestrian is always right and the car driver is always wrong. So I get that even if the crew member was deliberately being an obstacle (which I don't think was the case, I think he just wasn't being as thoughtful as he could have been), the driver who hit him gets the penalty.

But plenty of other people disagree. What do you think? Did you see it? Do you have an opinion?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Ten Years With A Friend

By Simon

I’m celebrating an anniversary this week.  My Hyundai Tiburon and I have been together ten years.  Yes, thank you.  Yes, it’s quite a milestone.  We are very happy together.


This is the longest I’ve owned a car, so that’s a great testament to the Tiburon. 

When I was looking for a car (ten years ago), it was because I didn’t actually own one.  Julie had a car for work and I biked everywhere.  After being knocked down for the 3rd time in eighteen months commuting to work, I said bollocks to the environment, I’m buying a car.  I test drove a bunch of cars, but the Tiburon stood out for me.  It was a good looking car (even if the styling cribbed from Ferrari), it had a nice torquy V6 and it was a coupe and not a hot hatch.  The biggest selling point for me was that it was a driver’s car.  In that it was a car that didn’t have ABS, traction control, fancy computers adjusting its every move or any clever suspension and came with a tape deck. Now admittedly, this is because the Tiburon was a budget sports car and not part of any great back to basics campaign.  Nevertheless, I liked having a car which relied on me and not technology.

I have to say the Tib has impressed me over the years.  It’s been reliable, having never broke down.  The mechanical failures have been the air conditioning hose and the power window motors.  The only major overhaul has been a clutch replacement last month. The car is remarkably well mannered.  I once had the car sideways on I-80 at 80mph (don’t ask why) and I expected it to end up in median, but it was immensely controllable and predictable.  My only improvements I would have asked Hyundai for would have been an extra 50bhp, power to the back wheels and some weight reduction.  Then they would have had very exciting car.

Now I’ve reached the ten year marker, I know that my days with my faithful friend are numbered.  I can feel the age in the car.  I hear creaks that didn’t used to be there.  I know that as we add more miles there's the likelihood that the Tib will let me down and tarnish our good relationship.  I know that in the next year or so, my buddy and I will have to part ways.  It’ll be a sad day, but one filled with good memories.

Thanks for all the good miles, matey.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Fan Civility

by Tammy

A confession: I haven't been watching much racing the last couple months. I follow it, and I know what's happening, but I haven't been sitting in front of the television for hours every weekend watching each lap turned.

But while I'm writing, I've got live timing and scoring rolling on my screen. But more enlightening that even the live feed from the track is following races on Twitter (or TweetDeck, in my case).

Social media has affected every aspect of our lives, right? So maybe it's not so strange to say that in the last decade it's completely changed how we watch races—how we experience them, whether we're at the track or not. But it's still kind of amazing. I was following the NASCAR race on Sunday and within two minutes of Kyle Busch's brush with the wall, there was a video snippet posted that I could watch of the incident. And plenty of commentary.

Now, the news and facts are useful, and by that, I'm referring to the updates posted by the racing journalists I follow. For the most part, I'm also highly entertained by the random fan comments: the endless Junior or Danica supporting or bashing, and the snarky comments about any bump, rub, or crash.

What amazes me, however, is the depth of emotion. I mean, I dislike Kyle Busch intensely and like Tony Stewart a lot. But am I going to get personally offensive to someone who disagrees with me? Not likely. But plenty of you people out there do—and it's not just on Twitter. Read any online article and check out the comments, you'll see what I mean.

What started me thinking about this today was someone on Twitter slamming Nicole Briscoe (who's co-hosted motorsport-report shows for some years and is married to a top pro driver) for expressing an opinion that contradicted something an actual racecar driver thought, complete with disparaging remarks about "pageant queens" (she was one) and calling her "IGNORANT" (caps theirs). Seriously? Where'd the civility go?

I get that we all have a microphone now, and I do enjoy the conversation that is social media ... I've gotten to meet (virtually and in person) a lot of great people because of those conversations. But I suppose there's also the looming possibility that someone's going to call me ignorant or an asshole because I'm expressing an opinion that's different than theirs.

All I can say is, like and hate who you choose in the racing world. I won't judge you, if you don't judge me.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Why I’m Not A Bugatti Veyron Fan

By Simon

I’m not a fan of the Bugatti Veyron.  Given the choice, I’d take a Caterham Super 7 over the Veyron.  While the Super 7 can’t do over 250mph, the car is a lot more fun that a Bugatti—admittedly I haven't or unlikely to have the pleasure of driving a Veyron.  However, the Veyron is one of those cars that fail to inspire me.  The more anyone explains how the car works the more it puts me off.  Yes, the engineers at Audi have done a fantastic job creating the car, but the problem for me is that it lacks elegance.  The 250mph barrier is a tricky to beat but the Bugatti has achieved it through brute force.  The clever tech stuff comes in overcoming a number of engineering problems the Veyron creates for itself.  So to me, the Veyron is a car created with inside the box thinking which is kind of disappointing.

I’m more inspired by the Ferrari F12 which has employed some very inventive aerodynamic solutions to increase down force without the need of a giant wing on the back.  The car that has me really going is the Pagani Huayra.  Mr. Pagani has come up with some very creative solutions to make the Huayra fast and at the same time a work of art to look at.  Here are a couple of videos from 5th Gear in the UK to see what Pagani has done.  This is the poster child for me, not the Veyron.  Sorry, Bugatti.

Monday, August 12, 2013

I'm Going There

by Tammy

On a plane flight this weekend, I read the excellent Road & Track cover article about the new 2014 Corvette Stingray, as tested by Tony "Smoke" Stewart. He basically couldn't say enough good about the car (the one he's already ordered for himself is black), which is exciting because I can finally really, thoroughly love a Corvette model.

But that's not my point here. My point is Smoke. The article refers to him as America's greatest active racing driver—an accolade I probably agree with. Except for one word: "active." Because he's not, and won't be for some weeks to come, because of a broken leg sustained in a sprint car race last week. (He was apparently discharged from the hospital Sunday night.)

The R&T article says Stewart will race in 115 races this year, only 38 of them NASCAR races. Of course, he won't reach that number now, but that he had that as his plan is amazing. That's a race every three days. (The article does say he races under a different name sometimes, so as not to attract attention, thus proving that his point is racing, not publicity.) But by now being out of the car, Stewart has arguably put one pillar of his empire at risk. I'm referring to Smoke as driver. Smoke as team owner, racetrack owner, and small business owner aren't in danger because he's bedridden for a little while.

So the question is, should he be racing in the more dangerous races, the ones that aren't central to his core business model? I'm sure his sponsors would say "yes." Certainly, that's what's happened to Dale Earnhardt Jr. since his fiery wreck in a Corvette in 2004.

But I say no. Don't make Smoke give up what makes him Smoke. And I don't think he will give it up, personally. I think he'll continue to play the odds ... after all, isn't that what all racers are doing, to some extent?

What do you think? Re. Tony Stewart racing in series and races other than NASCAR. Should he or shouldn't he? Will he or won't he?

Photo from

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Over Expansion

By Simon

Tammy’s favorite octogenarian, Bernie Ecclestone is meddling again.  The F1 schedule has swelled to nineteen races from sixteen over recent years and it looks as if it’s going to grow again to possibly twenty-two races per season.  That’s kind of disturbing for a number of reasons.  Every additional race adds millions to a team’s budget with the knock on that the smaller teams are stretched even thinner than they already are.  Also, we are still in an economic trough, there isn’t the sponsorship or the viewership to back a move like this up.  Finally, there's a safety issue.  With testing restrictions, these cars are somewhat of an unknown racing quantity.  Personally, I miss the days where the teams tested as much as they liked.  The cars were getting sorted.  With an increased schedule and restricted testing, racecar development seems to be an “on the job” learning experience.  All in all, it doesn’t seem like a sustainable model.


Personally, I like a sixteen race schedule, as it was something that most series up and down the racing food chain kept to.  Double and triple headers help increase the races and are kinder on the pocketbook, but I’ve never been in favor of these as one bad shunt could mean the end of a race weekend and missing rounds.  And having done a 16-race season, that is plenty busy enough for a team and driver.  A year just disappears on you with just that many.  I shudder to think what an additional six races would feel like.

I have no problem with the F1 circus going to different cities around the world, but it needs to be at the expense of other locales.  I love F1 but there can be too much of a good thing and adding more races could just do that.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Which Track Next?

by Tammy

For a few minutes yesterday, we toyed with the idea of going to the Formula 1 race at Suzuka in October. That's Japan. That's the cool, figure-eight of a track that means drivers go both clockwise and counter-clockwise in the same race.

That sounds awesome.

In the end, the timing isn't going to work with some other trips planned this year (most specifically, going to the last-ever ALMS-run Petit Le Mans, the weekend after Suzuka). But looking into the possibility made me add that track and race to my racing wish list.

And it got me thinking about what tracks or events I want to get to. I know we've had this conversation before, but I've learned more, and new tracks and events have come up. So tell me the top two or three races on your wish list. Here are mine....

  1. Le Mans. We're going next June to see the hoopla around the brand new Porsche LMP1 effort (and the new GT contender).
  2. Indy 500. It's about time I get to this race. Not because I love ovals (you all know me better than that), but for the spectacle. It won't happen in 2014, but maybe 2015....
  3. F1 at Suzuka. Partly I want to experience the track. Partly I'm intrigued about experiencing a race in a very, very polite society. And partly I want to see F1, anywhere.
Where do you want to go next?