The weekend before last saw the Britcar Endurance Championship and Production Cup head to Donington Park for an into the night race. A unique race that in theory should have bought many endurance race fans and motorsport fans in general to take in the action at Donington.
Sadly that wasn’t the case. Whether it was the early rain that engulfed the qualifying session for the Production Cup or the cold temperatures later in the day but a good days racing was missed. With a 90 minute production cup race, the four hour endurance race finishing under the cover of darkness and the Smart4two cup on the bill there was plenty of action to see.
The rain cleared up after the morning and a damp track provided plenty of action in the production cup. The few fans who did turn up got a chance to see BTCC Independent Champion Andy Jordan Partner his father in a Honda Integra and take a solid second place overall. The fans were also given a chance to take part in a grid walk before the Start of the Endurance race given them a chance to get up close to the cars including Porsche’s, Ferrari’s, a Mosler, and a Dodge Viper. The Viper belonging to last year’s Britcar Champions Craig Wilkins & Aaron Scott who returned to take part after a season in the Blancpain Endurance Championship with their new Audi R8. Also joining them were the popular 2010 champions Witt Gamski and Keith Robinson along with John Gaw who were to eventually triumph after a close fought battle with the Viper.
However, it was to be the Bullrun team’s Lotus Evora of Richard Adams, David Green & Martin Byford who would take the overall Championship Title for 2012 after a consistent and successful campaign throughout the year.
The good thing about night racing is that I get to play about with light trails and as the evening drew in I got my chance. Trying different angles and places to see what worked and what didn’t. From both trackside and spectator area’s I was quite pleased with what I managed to get. It had even taken my mind off how cold it had become although I was looking forward to a coffee back in the media room.
It was a good day at Donington and a good opportunity to catch up with friends before the winter break sets in and an evening out in Derby with friends topped it off. There is another chance to see some more into the night racing though this season as Britcar head to Brands Hatch on the 24th of November when it is the Production Cup who get the chance to sample the night racing. If you want something to do that weekend then you could do worse than wrap up warm and head to Brands Hatch to sample the racing.
The four hour race report can be read on the Checkered Flag website here.
As I sit and write this, it seems hard to believe that a week has passed since my amazing first experience of the Nurburgring 24hr race on the infamous Nordschleife circuit. I feel very lucky to have been there shooting the race and taking in the whole incredible atmosphere. There seems to be a lot to write about so I think it would be best to split it into two parts to help ease boredom so the first part will be about the Thursday with the remaining parts over the next few days. I hope you enjoy them.
After arriving on Wednesday, mooching about and getting settled in for the next few days, Thursday was the day that all the action would start. We were staying about 25 minutes from the circuit so it wasn’t too bad travelling between the hotel and circuit each day. The first action of the day was the two British GT practice sessions. The British GT was to be run on the Grand Prix track and not out onto the Nordschleife so I spent the morning wandering the circuit finding good places to shoot from for the races during the next couple of days. Even the Grand Prix circuit was pretty amazing. I never really knew how far downhill the track dropped to the hairpin at the bottom before the cars started the climb back up. Standing on the hill overlooking the Schumacher Esses and the Hairpin below was a pretty awesome sight.
The two hours practice session seemed to fly by and I was enjoying myself in the sun, a total contrast to the poor weather the day before. The cars looked fantastic and a few new additions to the British GT line up for this round such as the Lamborghini and another Audi R8 boosted the field to make it even more impressive. I headed back up the hill at the end of the session to make my way back to the media centre. The Classic cars were making their way out on track for their qualifying session so I paused briefly to admire them. I didn’t stay out to photograph this session. Today was going to be a long day and I had lots to do which meant missing some sessions, but I knew we were going to photograph the Classic race on Friday so It wasn’t an issue.
Back at the media centre we planned out the rest of the day. There was to be a Practice session for the 24hr race early afternoon before the British GT qualifying followed by the first Qualifying session for the 24hr in the evening going on until 11.30pm. We had decided to stay around the Grand Prix track for the day before heading out to the Nordschleife for the evening qualifying session. The media room was impressive. It was huge with good facilities. Drinks dispensers for an unlimited supply of soft drinks and hot drinks plus bowls of fruit and chocolate. Not only that but food for lunch and dinner was also supplied. Everyone there was helpful and friendly. The atmosphere was great and I’d settled in well.
For the 24hr practice session I decided to head down to the pits and shoot from there. I will be the first to admit my pit lane photos are not my strongest point and I was weary of the commotion and hive of activity down there. After all, 170 cars running from one pit lane meant it was going to be busy. Add to that the amount of people who had pit lane and VIP passes and the words Bun and Fight spring to mind. Once the session got underway though I had settled in and was enjoying myself. It was busy in the pit lane throughout the session and the iconic pitlane siren seemed to be going off continuously as cars constantly headed down the pitlane. I still look both ways when crossing between the garages and the pit wall despite knowing cars only come from one direction. I’ve never been able to shake that habit but I guess it’s not a bad one to have.
The variety of cars on display was amazing. Everything from front Running Audi R8’s, Porsche 997’s & Mercedes SLS’ through to VW Scirocco’s, a huge variety of BMW’s, MKIII Golf’s, Astra’s, even a Ford Fiesta and not to mention the Fans favourite and obligatory Opel Manta. The noise, the smells, the sight they provided was just brilliant. It was not long though before the session drew to a close and I was back at my laptop in the media room pouring over the photos I had just take.
I spent the British GT qualifying session down in the pit lane too. Although nowhere near as manic as the earlier session I was there for, it was still pretty good to be amongst the teams and drivers as they set about getting solid lap times for the two races. Jan Mardenborough in the RJN Playstation Academy Nissan GT-R proved his ability behind the wheel of the awesome looking machine by setting the fastest time in Q1 and clinching pole position for the first race. The quickest time in Q2 and pole for race two went to Nick Tandy in the Motorbase Porsche.
We had stayed near the media room during this session as we were going to head out for the first of the 24hr qualifying sessions soon after. We jumped into the car and headed out having decided to shoot from Pflanzgarten. This was to be my first taste of action on the Nordschleife. I was pretty excited but tried not to show it. We parked up and walked to the outside of the corner at the bottom of the hill. The place was packed. There were hundreds of, probably more, fans lining the catch fencing. Bonfires were lit, Barbeques were cooking and scaffolding towers and viewing platforms had been erected by them to get a better view. Music was blaring, Lady Ga-Ga was drowning out the German commentary over the tannoy system.
I got the occasional call from drunken fans, ‘Hallo Photographer!’ followed by a cheer as I turned and put my thumb up. Quite a bizarre experience. You don’t get that at Snetterton! The place was buzzing. It seemed to be more like a popular music festival than a race track. I had never seen anything like it. Even British GT Drivers Aaron Scott and John Dhillon were walking past to try and take up a vantage point for the spectacle that was about to happen.
Pretty soon engine noises could be heard. Through the trees it was echoing. Getting louder and louder. Then, cheers erupted as the first car burst over the top of the hill and dropped down towards us followed by a cascade of others chasing behind. All snaking through the narrow section leaping the crest before baring right and off up the hill and back amongst the trees. I wasn’t sure whether to take photos or stand and stare in awe of what I was witnessing. I could see why the crazy fans were so dedicated. I have witness some pretty amazing stuff in my time, but this was the pinnacle. Cars were blasting through this tight section at breakneck speed with what seemed consummate ease. No run off areas and armco barriers tightly lining the track. Even the fastest cars were passing the slower ones through this section and barely lifting off the power in the process. How was that even possible? I was in my element and just a few feet from the action. The fans weren’t much further away either.
As the evening passed and the darkness descended, the music got loader, the Barbeques continued to fill the air with aroma’s of cooked meat, the bonfire’s threw out more heat and the fans got louder as the beer flowed. Cars still roared past and I was still grinning like a Cheshire cat. Had I died and gone to heaven? Was heaven even this good?
It became dark so we headed back. There was time to do some night photography in the pitlane before the session finished. It was still pretty manic down there. Teams and mechanics jostled with photographers and VIP’s with camera phones as they tried to make space for their car’s that were about to come in. Before today I had worried a bit about being in such a busy area. I didn’t want to get in the way, trip over something or knock stuff over, but it wasn’t as bad as I had expected. Yes it was busy but the teams and mechanics seemed ok with the amount of people about as long as someone didn’t do anything completely stupid. I made sure that wasn’t going to be me.
The session was drawing to an end, the cars were coming back to the pits and my first day shooting at the Nurburgring was complete. The experience was awesome and I couldn’t wait to get back out there. Thankfully I didn’t have long to wait.
Last weekend I was photographing the Britcar into the night race, my last circuit race of the season. I have one more motorsport event to cover with a trip to Rockingham for the Rockingham Stages Rally. I’m clinging on to dear life to the remainder of the season but I have to accept defeat and let it go soon. I’m left with the frightening prospect of not having much to do at weekends until it all starts again next year.
The Into the night race was at Brands Hatch and was a three hour endurance race starting in the daylight at 3.30pm and finishing in the dark at 6.30. I really enjoy covering the Britcar races and it’s great to shoot at night too and get some cool light trail photos. This event also featured the first Britcar Production Cup race which will hold a full season next year. The idea is to produce great racing for production cars, with a one and a half hour race and qualifying session in one day and low entry fee’s this is aimed at encouraging those on a budget into endurance type racing.
I was really pleased to see such a great turn out from spectators at this event. Having been covering a number of race weekends this year, with the exception of the BTCC, I have always been disappointed with the seemingly poor spectator numbers. With tickets far cheaper than a premier league football match for a whole weekends worth of entertainment and children’s entry for free I don’t see why more people don’t come along to motorsport events. There is always great action whether it is the British GT or smaller club events. I guess the Into the night format appeals to many with the feel of a 24hr race in just one afternoon. It was good to see Britcar supported well and with an exciting calendar lined up for next year, I hope many more people will come along and see the race series next year.
The title was almost sown up before the race with the Dodge Viper of Aaron Scott and Craig Wilkins just needing to start the race to claim the Championship, which they did before mechanical trouble struck. The Barwell Motorsport team had entered the new look Ginetta G55 GT3 and promptly put it on pole only to suffer a driveshaft failure at the start of the formation laps. Another disappointment came in the form of the Honda NSX. A great car which suffered at Donington earlier this year and has not been entered since so it was great to see it back at Brands Hatch even if it was only for the practice and qualify sessions in which it went well before falling Victim of mechanical trouble and being forced to withdraw from the race. The full race reports from the Endurance and Production categories can be found on The Checkered Flag website here, and a few more images can be seen here.
So with only one more event to cover, I look back on what has been a great season of motorsport. I now have a chance to spend some time working on other projects of which I’m sure I will keep you up to date with. In the meantime I am pleased to tell you that some of my images are available on my website in print form which you can find them here. A selection of BTCC, British GT, Blancpain Endurance and Classic/Historic racing images can be purchased and until the 6th of December you can get 20% off orders using the code Discount20.
At the weekend The Mail on Sunday decided to announce some braking news. Something that would rock the world of TV. Or so they thought.
They revealed that Top Gear presenters use racing drivers whilst filming high speed supercars at 200mph and made it look like, Clarkson, Hammond or May were behind the wheel. Big deal. Did they think this would surprise people? Did they think this would cause national outrage? Were they trying to incite anger towards the BBC? It really must have been a slow news day because Fans of Top Gear don’t really care. I was more interested in the fact that one of the racing drivers was Aaron Scott. A top GT racer who many will know competes in the British GT championships, the MSA Endurance championships, the GT trophy and many other events. He’s also taken to the wheel of a 1986 Group C Spice SE86 for a few historic events. He’s a really nice guy and its good publicity for him so at least the Mail have done something decent for a change.
However, It seems quite clear that those who work for the Daily Mail don’t even watch Top Gear. Next they will be telling us that caravans are deliberately destroyed whilst trying to make out it is all a hilarious accident, or that a Morris Marina was purposely parked under a crane that wasn’t in shot which dropped a piano on its roof. Do they think that viewers believe that it was Jeremy Clarkson who drove the red Renault Twingo into the sea whilst trying to jump onto a departing ferry? Will they tell us that the original Stig, Perry McCarthy, didn’t die whilst driving a car off the end of an aircraft carrier? Come on guys, the viewers aren’t stupid. We know its all set up but that’s what makes the show so great.
Top Gear is no longer the serious car buyers show it used to be and that’s fine by me. If I want to know what a Ford Mondeo diesel estate drove like, I’d pop to the local dealer and take one for a test drive. I want to see amazing supercars being thrashed around an airfield regardless of who is driving. Top Gear is an entertainment show based around cars and the format works. The viewing figures show this and so does the waiting list for being in the shows audience. It makes you laugh, it makes you drool and it leaves you wanting more. The presenters work so well together and compliment one another so well. Each with their own kwirks and traits which make you able to relate to them. I’m sure they have a great time acting like the kids that every petrol head has inside them which makes for great telly. I know a certain Mr Clarkson is not to everyone’s liking which is fine. Its because he’s opinionated and speaks his mind. All opinionated people are like marmite. You either love them or hate them. I’m sure Jeremy isn’t losing any sleep over those people who don’t like him as there are plenty of people do.
The only gripe I have is that the series isn’t long enough. The 6 episodes fly by and I’m left with nothing to fill the void. Yes there are other car programmes but none are a patch on the BBC’s offering which for me is well worth the slice of licence fee it uses. The show has become a cult phenomenon and generates a huge amount of money for the beeb. Hopefully Top Gear will continue to go from strength to strength and provide myself and millions of others great entertainment for many years to come. Why drive around in fifth gear when you can slip it into Top Gear and leave everyone else trailing in you’re wake?