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, October 30, 2013

Mr. Motorsport

By Simon

I love commentators. They are the custodians of the sport. Competitors, teams, coaches and owners can come and go, but commentators are a constant. For they're the trusted voices. They reflect our love of the sport and they keep that love burning. Motorsport is lucky enough to have a number of great people to voice the game, but for me I have one standout.

As far as I’m concerned, Murray Walker is Mr. Motorsport. He’s been commentating on motorsport in the UK, since the end of the 40’s. from 1978 – 2001, he commentated on Formula One, traveling to every venue the Grand Prix circus traveled to. Not only that he voiced the commentary for everything that the BBC aired whether it be rally-cross, touring cars or Formula Three. He knew the sport and the drivers. His trademark was his excitability. His voice would climb into a high-pitched wail when the action reached a crescendo. It was fantastic because it was something that matched the excitement of the viewer. He was always respectful to the drivers, which endeared him to them. The other trademark that endeared him to the public was his ability to get something wrong or jinx a driver whenever he endorsed their success. He’d say something like, “With two laps to go, nothing can stop so and so from winning.” A lap later, that driver’s car would be at the side of the track after being struck by lightning or something. He is a character like no other. I thought it was very cool that when he retired from F1 broadcasting, the owners of Indianapolis Speedway gave him a brick from the original track. I believe he's one of the few non drivers to be given one.
And while there are some very knowledgeable voices out there right now, no one inspires the kind of excitement in me like Murray did.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Losing More

by Tammy

Is it just me, or has this been an exceptionally bad year for deaths in the motorsports community? Allan Simonson at Le Mans, Sean Edwards at a private coaching event, Jason Leffler in Midget cars, Josh Burton in Sprint cars, Andrea Antonelli in motorcycle racing, and Maria de Villota from injuries sustained in her 2012 accident.

And don't forget other freakish accidents and deaths: the course worker run over at the Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix, Dario Franchitti's terrible wreck at Houston or Justin Wilson's t-bone accident at Fontana, even Tony Stewart's Sprint car wreck.

I think 2013 was worse than years past. So why?

Given all the attention paid to making the cars safer (especially in IndyCar since Dan Wheldon's death in 2011), I think it's just the law of averages.

I know that drivers think it won't happen to them—I mean, they have to believe that to get in the car and do their jobs. But I have to believe that some of the losses (especially of Sean Edwards, who I believe would have been racing with the team at Petit, but instead was there on the car above), hit particularly close to home. Or maybe they'll chalk that one up to letting someone else get behind the wheel with you in the car.

Dr. Jim Norman, who's a racer and doctor, among other pursuits, is passionate about the need for safer tracks. In the wake of Edwards' death, he added more information to his article on the why of racing deaths, including one tidbit that surprised me: gravel traps get less and less effective the faster a car is going. If a car is going really fast, they'll skip right over the top of the gravel and hardly be slowed down. Which of course renders them useless for situations in which they're the most necessary.

I met Jim at Petit (photo above), and he was passionate about the need for racetracks to update their safety features. In this day and age, he argues, drivers take plenty of risks, but they shouldn't need to take the risk of running head-first into a concrete wall or a tree, and many tracks are still constructed in that fashion (Road Atlanta included, such as the runoff from Turn 1, where there's grass leading to a wall lightly rimmed in tires).

On one hand, I can hear some of the old-timers saying they didn't need those things when they raced (like they say/complain about lights at the Daytona 24). And I can understand the dilemma of the racetracks, who aren't scurrying to fix these turns and walls, because those are huge costs to compensate for something that's already inherently dangerous. On the other hand, shouldn't we do everything we can to make sure drivers don't die?

I just hope 2014 isn't as traumatic and deadly.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


By Simon
GoDaddy has pulled out of IndyCar.  It’s sticking with Danica & NASCAR, but as it expands its horizons into other countries, they're looking to spend their ad dollars in other sports such as soccer.  No great shocker.  Sponsors come and go.  But I was a little disappointed to read some remarks out of GoDaddy.  They were leaving IndyCar because the dollar to potential customer ratio was too high.  Simply put: IndyCar has too small a viewership.  Something we all know too.  It was pretty sad to see barely occupied grandstands at Fontana.  Yet again, IndyCar loses out to tin-topped cousins. 

This is something I don’t get, because I don’t mean to be a snob, but I think IndyCar is far more interesting to watch than NASCAR.  Open wheel cars always look cooler.  The series has one of the most world’s historic races in the Indy500.  So it should be a clear winner—right? 

Sadly, not.

So why do I people gravitate to NASCAR?  Is it stock car’s romantic prohibition origins?  Is it a regional thing?  Is it because the cars somewhat akin to the cars you can buy at your dealership?  Is the sponsors?  Why?

So for the NASCAR fans in the e-room, what makes NASCAR the tops?  I really want to know.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The End of an Era

by Tammy

The American Le Mans Series is over. Fifteen years of competition and friendships, perhaps now scattered to the winds. I say that with wistfulness more than negativity, because I get that things change, and I believe that change and evolution are good things. But it was hard to leave the friends I'd made at the end of the night, wondering if I'd ever see them again anywhere but on social media.

It was in the Series that the outlook was uncertain (and that the new series seems more like a buy-out than a merger). In the paddock, Petit was also simply another race to be run and struggled through and won. And 2014 promises nothing but new, exciting challenges, starting with the (former) ALMS teams taking part in the 24 Hours of Daytona, come January.

Pinning down my favorite memory from my experience with the ALMS was pretty hard, until I thought all the way back to the beginning. Sebring, 2004. Team media guy (and now good friend) Shane Mahoney took me from the pits, over pit wall and across pit lane to stand at the wall of the track. During the race. At night. Unforgettable!

And what I'm most excited about for the future is seeing the new Corvette C7.R out on track, whaling on the new GTLM competition. And as a really cool side note, I got to meet Harlan Charles in the paddock at Petit on Saturday. He's the product manager for the new C7 Stingray, and he's a reader. Fingers crossed he's going to like the book I gave him!

What's your favorite ALMS memory? What are you looking forward to in 2014?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Maria De Villota Passes Away

The sad news came out over the weekend that Spanish racing driver MariaDe Villota died in what is believed to be as a result of the injuries sustained during a crash in Marussia F1 car.
For those that don’t know what happened, Maria was testing the Marussia last year.  When she was in the paddock, she lost control of the car and crashed into the team’s car transporter.  She suffered a massive head injury which cost her an eye, not to mention major neurological trauma.
Maria claimed something went wrong with the car while the team maintains that it was driver error that led to the crash.  Britain Health & Safety Executive’s ongoing investigation will hopefully get to the bottom of the incident.  Either way, it’s going to be a sad outcome.  I hate to think Maria got it wrong that day but at the same time I don’t want to hear that Marussia have a dangerous vehicle.
The saddest thing is that F1 has another fatality in its ranks.  I hope it’s a very long time before we see this again.  Rest in peace, Maria.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Team Kate at Petit

by Tammy

Watch out, Atlanta, here we come! Next weekend is the final race of the ALMS season, and the final race of the American Le Mans Series. What a weird thing to write.

The ALMS has been my racing security blanket—the series I really understood and had friends in. Now I'm afraid that my friends will be too big and too good for me, having merged with a NASCAR operation and all. As if I'm stuck in junior high and they've graduated to high school.

Of course, the end of one era means the start of another that holds a lot of promise. It's going to be really fascinating to see what the United Sports Car Championship turns into.

But first, one last Petit Le Mans for the ALMS! And I'm going to be there with other "crew" ... which means prizes!

Prize details are posted on my other blog, but the basics are this: find me or another Team Kate crew member, and take a photo with us, then tweet it or post to Facebook, and you'll win a prize. Take a photo with us and a female racecar driver? Win a better prize. You get the idea.

Will we see you there?!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

There Is No Substitute (But I Beg To Differ)

What does an old warhorse do when there's no war to fight, but still holds the stink of the battlefield in its nostrils? I’m not sure, but I bet it’s frustrating.

I do understand the frustration though. And while I may have packed away my racing desires at the back of my brain, they tend to leap to the fore when I barrel into a juicy curve on our President’s highways. I’m not one of those people who clings to their glory days like a life preserver. One, it’s sad and two, it’s really sad. The past is the past and the future is open to new opportunities. I filled the gap left by racing. Like I mentioned last week, there's no room for it nowadays.

However, in the last couple of years, I’ve really gotten stuck into cycling. I used to do it to keep my cardio going. Now, cycling is a full-blown hobby. This year, I’ll probably compete in a dozen organized rides with distances ranging from 65miles to 100miles. They're rides and not races because there's no official championship or anything. That said, some of the rides are timed and/or feature time trials at some point in the ride. Even if there's not, it’s me verses my clock and my personal best. I’m not really bothered how well I do against everyone else. I’m only interested about how well I do against myself, which was the same when I did race. If I improved, my results would. Worrying about what everyone else is doing is a distraction.

Oh gosh, I am a competitive one. Yes, guilty as charged.

The competitiveness aside, cycling has allowed me to satisfy my racing desires that lurk at the back of my brain. The rides usually include heart-bursting climbs, which means there are heart-stopping descents on twisting hillside roads. Yummy. As sad as it sounds, I come whipping down this hills and I’m looking for turning points and apexes. I try to take care of braking before the corner so I can pedal or power through the bend. When I hit the bottom of a hill and go into the next climb, I’m thinking power, power, power as pedal like mad to carry some momentum up into the next climb and keep my speed up. And there's no finer feeling than motoring by another rider on a hill section or out braking someone going into a corner on a descent.

Childish and juvenile? Hmm, possibly. Does it make me feel good? You betcha.

So yes, cycling has become my surrogate for motor racing. I’m glad I’ve found something that gives me pleasure and makes up for the size fifteen carbon footprint I’ve left behind.

So what does an old warhorse do when there's no war to fight, but still holds the stink of the battlefield in its nostrils? I now know the answer. He joins a war reenactment society.

Happy pedaling,

Monday, October 7, 2013

Winter Blues

by Tammy

It's happened again, hasn't it? The days are growing shorter, the temperatures are falling ... and we're nearly out of racing for the year.


Grand-Am is over. The ALMS is down to one race of the year and of its life. NASCAR has only six races left, and F1 has only five. Sure, we've still got some good competition left (except for F1—ouch!), but I can smell it, can't you?

The dark weekend days of winter with nary a car race to be had. *sniff* That must mean it's time for Christmas shopping and plotting our fantasy race teams for 2014, right?

Here's what I want to know:

  1. How are you going to make the most of the last few races of 2013? Viewing parties? Getting to any races?
    Me? I'm headed out to Petit Le Mans in a week and a half.
  2. Who do you think will take a championship? (Any of them, pick one.)
    I'm tired of Vettel, who will undoubtedly win F1 again. And I'm thinking Corvette will take the last ALMS GT title (hooray!). NASCAR? I still think old five-time could make it a six-pack (that's Jimmie Johnson). 
  3. What will you miss about this season?
    Hmm, I'm not sure there is anything. This year's been a little lame-duck in my sportscar racing series, and the anticipation is high for next year.
I didn't even get into all the driver-swapping and silly-season moves ... that'll have to be another blog.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


By Simon

I snuck off to have a secret rendezvous with RUSH on Saturday afternoon.  I went to see it at a small theater where I could enjoy the film with no one around.  I have to say I enjoyed the film but I didn’t love it.  It’s a fascinating story and I came away unsatisfied in some ways because the movie glossed over a bunch of stuff in an attempt to cover a wider story.  I wish they'd focused on the ’76 season with some poignant flashbacks or made it into a mini-series to tell the whole tale.  My general feeling was the film felt a little disjointed because people didn’t quite decide what was relevant or not. That said, I give it a solid 600bhp out of a 1,000bhp on the motorsport movie scale.

However, here are a few things I enjoyed from watching the movie.

1.       Didn’t know Nikki Lauda was so single minded (aka unlikable).
2.       Still found it hard to like James Hunt, but I think I respect him a little more.
3.       The cars were fugly but they looked cool to drive…well, maybe not that 6-wheel Tyrell.
4.       The technology of the 70’s meant the end of the old guard drivers of the 60’s and the start with the likes of Hunt and Lauda.
5.       F1 seemed like a sport where anyone could get a car and team off the ground.
6.       It was nice to see Brands Hatch double as Paul Ricard. 
7.       It was a scary reminder that safety standards have improved a million percent since those times.
8.       Glad to see the rev counter being the front and center in the cars.  In a racecar, your tachometer is your copilot.
9.       I never want my lungs vacuumed…ever.
10.   It made me a little homesick for the pit lane.

The great motor racing movie has yet to be made, but this one is worth checking out.