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, February 26, 2014

Born Slippy

By Simon
A couple of weeks ago I was reminiscing about my old Fiesta XR2, which was a great little car but understeered like crazy if you pushed it little too much.   And this got me thinking about handling characteristics of modern cars. 
Remembering my first few cars—which were never all that old—all of them kept me on my toes.  They understeered, locked their brakes, didn’t brake all that well, suffered from brake fade, came without power steering, aquaplaned at a hint of standing water, and a bunch of other heart skipping  capabilities.  They weren’t terrible cars.  They were cars of their time.  These were the things we dealt with as drivers.
Fast forward twenty-five years and I look at the last couple of cars I’ve owned and it’s a different story.  I used to own a Subaru Impreza which I tried to throw around in the rain but the four-wheel drive and traction control kept everything in check.  The Hyundai Tiburon I’ve been driving for the last ten years is a great little car.  I bought it specifically because it was one of the last cars you could buy without ABS, traction control and all the other smart car goodies.  Ignoring a couple of big moments, it’s a hard car to lose control of, except in the rain.  So technology has come a long way.  Yay technology!
But is that a good thing?  I’m not so sure.
Firstly, from a funability standpoint, I actually want a loose handling car from time to time.  It’s quite nice to feel a car breakaway from under you in a corner so you can bring it back.  I like to anticipate and compensate for a car’s shortcomings.  This is what driving is all about.  If it wasn’t fun, I’d get the bus every day.  
Secondly and more importantly, I don’t think super safe handling cars are a good thing.  I think ABS and traction control are great things but we put too much faith in them.  They stop us from knowing the limits of our vehicles.  Now not all of us want to know our cars’ limits but we should get a progressive feel for the limit.  I find it a little scary that the onboard computers rob us of that ability because when a car lets go, we won’t be prepared for what comes next and speed threshold is going to be a lot higher than we would want on that occasion.  It makes us complacent, lazy and ill-prepared for a big moment.  And that’s not good.
I may be an old fuddy-duddy but I want a car to drive, not a car that drives me.  Then again, I don’t like cell phones.  J

Monday, February 24, 2014

Oh, Rain Delays

by Tammy

In a way, I'm grateful to the rain delay for the Daytona 500. On Sunday, I had to finish some last edits to my manuscript of Avoidable Contact and send it off to my editor (done!) before I could watch the race. Being on the west coast meant the race was supposed to start at 11 a.m.

Cue the rain, which meant I could get my work done and still watch some of the race.

Of course, the idea of a rain delay is laughable to a sportscar racing fan, right? Or a variety of other types of racing fans. When the rain hits, other cars put on rain tires and get on with it.

But I know, I get it. Ovals (never mind that sportscars race in the rain at the 24 Hours of Daytona, on the banked track) and rain don't mix. Fine, whatever.

So what do you do during a rain delay?

Twitter was lit up by a few memes during the break, like #replacemovietitlewithDanica, such as Smokey and the Danica, and #AirTitan (the track dryer), including #AirTitan considers Jurassic Park a petting zoo. But the biggest fun on social media was lighting up Fox News for tweeting that Jimmie Johnson had won the Daytona 500 ... because Fox Sports was showing a replay of the 2013 race, which Jimmie won.

Call that one #twitterfail.

So during the rain delay in my house, I did some laundry, wrote a blog, called my parents, and watched some old CSI: Miami (fun fact: Long Beach stands in for Miami in that show, just add wet pavement).

What did you all do?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Fiesta Time!

By Simon

I was away in North Carolina recently and while I was there alone with nothing to do in my off hours other than think, I got all nostalgic for some 80’s TV shows.  I watched a few on YouTube and while I was watching them I got to thinking about my 80’s car and if I’m being honest, my first love.  What was that car?  My beloved 1983 Ford Fiesta XR2, registration A 300 HLC.

To my American friends, you'll be looking at this vision of loveliness and whining that it’s a hatchback.  Well, don’t whine.  The XR2 was a “Hot Hatch.”  A breed of family runabouts with a bit more grunt than they should have possessed.  The Golf GTI started the craze with Lotus Sunbeam being the most infamous (because it had the engine from the Lotus Espirit in it).

The Fiesta XR2 wasn’t a class leader but I thought it was a bit of an underrated machine because it was lighter than most and came loaded with a 1,600cc engine with more torque than most.  It had a nice burble that was easy on the ear.  It could get up to 60mph in less than 10seconds which was nice for its day and was good for a 106mph overall.  It handled pretty nice although when it under steered, it was ugly.

I bought mine in ’86 and I had it for seven years.  In that time, I had it airborne, put it on a track, evaded the police in it and added about 40,000 miles.  Sadly, it was stolen and partially stripped.  I’d rebuilt the car once already after it was t-boned by someone without insurance and I didn’t have the heart to rebuild it all over again.  I said goodbye but I have never forgotten my pocket rocket.

So thank you North Carolina for the nice trip down Memory Lane, which can be found just off Fun Time Highway.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Sneak Peek of Avoidable Contact

by Tammy

I spent all weekend frantically working on a draft of Kate #3, Avoidable Contact, and that's the only motorsports I'm thinking about. So I thought I'd share a short snippit of the story for today's blog. It's actually Chapter 4, at the start of the 24 Hours of Daytona....



“Green, green, green! We are green for the 24 Hours of Daytona!”
All eyes in Daytona International Speedway focused on the sixty-eight racecars sweeping under the green flag. As they crossed the start/finish line, the official clock began its twenty-four hour countdown.
Every one of the hundred-plus people packed into the Sandham Swift tent strained to monitor each twitch and bobble of our Corvettes as they negotiated the melee. I exhaled, my release of tension echoed up and down pit lane, as the field got through the narrow, tricky Turn 1 with no accidents.
Holly grabbed my arm. Someone else pointed at the camera feed showing two prototypes shoving each other through Turn 2—only two cars ahead of Mike.
The cars slid off-track driver’s left at the approach to Turn 3, the right-handed International Horseshoe. Mike and the rest of the sportscars checked up but weren’t impeded. We breathed again.
Mike fought for position. Still second in class. Dogging the back of the BMW on the GTLM pole.
“Easy,” I muttered. “It’s only the first lap.”
As if he’d heard me, the half a car length between Corvette and BMW widened as both cars powered through the Kink, Turn 4, a flat-out, left-hand bend in the track’s inner loop.
Through the West Horseshoe, Turn 5. One of the prototypes forced off two turns prior sliced through the GTs on his way back to the front.
The car dove under our 29 Corvette, and a mechanic next to me growled, “Careful there, you sumbitch.”
I laughed, provoking a sheepish grin from the mechanic. Daytona was big enough that unless the cars were all on the front stretch, or a car was directly in front of us making a pit stop, we could carry on conversations—and sometimes hear under-the-breath mutterings.
Someone leaned over my shoulder to point at one of the screens. The lead BMW had bobbled under braking. Distracted? Missed a shift? Whatever the cause, he drifted wide approaching Turn 6, the left-hander that transitioned from the inner loop to the banked oval track. I tensed as Mike pounced, slipping under him and scooting away into the lead.

“Whooooo!” We all cheered. I high-fived everyone around me, feeling energized and alive. Regardless of what happened in the next twenty-four hours, we’d made a small mark on the race.
(More to come in August 2014 ... pre-order it today!)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Winning By A Nose

By Simon

They say you can’t pick your friends but you can pick your nose—and Formula One is no different.  For the last few years we've been suffering the ugly effects of the “step nose” look.  But that’s gone.  With introduction of the new turbo era, we have the…er…um…how should I put it…the “nostril look.”  Yes, the nostril look.  I said it first so I’m taking credit for the term.

I’m calling it the nostril look because the cars all have holes in their noses.  Take a look at the Ferrari, Force India, Lotus and Red Bull.

As an engineer, I have to say I find it fascinating that everyone has come up with this concept.  I do wonder what led them to same solution—aerodynamic necessity or industrial espionage?  I’d love to sit down with the designers for a chat.  I hope to do this for an upcoming Aidy book as I want to explore a secret design breakthrough to shake up the sport.  But that’s later.  For now, enjoy the sound of the new F1 turbo engine courtesy of Caterham and Renault.

Monday, February 3, 2014

My Favorite Daytona Things

by Tammy

I'm writing non-stop this month, and particularly this week, trying to get a draft of Avoidable Contact out to some beta readers (or maybe alpha readers, because it might still be that raw). But I've been combing through the hundreds of photos I took, and I thought I'd share some of my favorites.

(me, reflected in Jake)

(coming out of tech inspection)

(I found Kate's tires!)

(with Katy, Arm Candy founder and cancer survivor, raising money for the cure)

(the Dempsey Racing team's sign in the evening light)

(off to race...)