It seems that recently some local residents to Mallory Park race circuit have become annoyed and are taking action against the circuit. The reason for their annoyance? Noise.
Yes, that’s right. These morons bought a house near a motor racing circuit and are complaining it is noisy. They now want the circuit to cut the amount of times it is used and impose further noise restrictions. The owner has stated that any further cuts in usage of the circuit will deem the circuit unprofitable and not worth running. An option to sell the circuit for housing is tabled as an alternative if the circuit was to be sold.
The most annoying thing is, what kind of moron buys a house by a race track and then complains it is noisy? Do people buy houses next to Airports, Motorways & Railway lines and then demand the council put a restriction on their usage because they don’t like the noise? I’m sorry, but if you by a house in a noisy area, it is your own fault. Don’t go complaining and ruining other peoples enjoyment of something they love. Just move somewhere else. After all, there are many race fans who’d love a house next to a circuit.
Most of you will know that all race circuits in the UK have to adhere to strict rules and regulations imposed by local authorities regarding usage and noise levels. Curfews are put in place, some race cars have to have silencers fitted to bring them within the noise level set for a race meeting and the likes of the Brands Hatch Grand Prix loop can only be used a certain number of times per year. All this is usually because a load of moaning residents don’t like race tracks to be noisy. Ironically, even Donington Park has curfews and noise limits and that is right next to the East Midlands Airport.
Most of the circuits in this country have been in place for many years. Long before these residents even moved to the areas. Racing on the whole, in past decades was a lot noisier than it is these days too. Some circuits like Silverstone, Goodwood and Snetterton were built on the site of old airfields, which, when in use, would have been noisy too. I really don’t understand the mentality of some people. Do people buy houses next to football stadiums and then phone up the council when the home team scores a goal because the crowd are being too loud? If you ask me, the noise restrictions in place at many circuits already spoil motor racing. I want the cars to be loud. I want to hear engines rumble or scream. In fact, I would love to live in one of the houses that back on to the Brands Hatch Grand Prix Loop and I would be more than happy for it to be used every weekend so I find it unlikely that these factors would de-value a property as there are many other petrol heads like me who would love that.
What’s more, is that these killjoy NIMBY types don’t think of the bigger picture. These circuits bring a vital boost to the local economy. Not only do they provide jobs, but local Hotels, Bed & Breakfasts, Pubs, Restaurants, Shops and Business’ all benefit. Thousands of fans flock to race meetings each weekend, many, along with teams, drivers, mechanics and even media such as myself, will often want somewhere local to stay, eat and drink. I often book myself into a local B&B or Hotel and eaten in the Pubs or Restaurants nearby and I have seen teams and fans alike do the same. Yes, some race weekends are bigger that others, but they all help. I’ve tried to book somewhere to stay overnight for some race weekends only to find that every hotel or guesthouse in the vicinity is fully booked. Think about the impact it would have on many people if a circuit was to close down.
A fine example, albeit on a grander scale, is the Isle of Man. Just think of how many tourism business would cease to exist if it wasn’t for the TT and the Rally. The locals embrace it and let’s face it, most have to in order to make a living. And how about LeMans? How many people would even know where that town was, let alone visit if it wasn’t for the 24 hour race? I can imagine tourism, due to motorsport, is one of the biggest sources of income for both these places.
You can’t tell me local businesses in Silverstone Village and the surrounding area would be thriving if the circuit wasn’t there and I imagine takings in the local guesthouses and eating and drinking establishments during the Formula One or Moto GP weekends are sky high! Some places probably even rely on the trade the circuits bring in and if the circuit was to close down so would they. Surely no one wants to see that happening. So it is much more than just a case of a noisy circuit being forced to close and sold off for housing development.
Whilst I appreciate talks over the future of Mallory Park is in the early stages, I sincerely hope that the Circuit does not fall foul of a few moronic locals who should just move away if they don’t like it rather than spoil other people’s enjoyment of something they love. We can’t lose Mallory Park and I hope sense will prevail. Otherwise who knows what the consequences will be for other Circuits and the sport we love.
Save Mallory Park.
It’s been a busy few weeks for me so as I sit down to write this blog it seems like the topic was a long time ago now. However, I couldn’t let it pass without me writing about how great the Silverstone Classic was this year.
It is always a highlight of my year and this year was no exception. I have a fondness for classic cars and it is great to see so many of these awesome machines from my childhood and well before, doing what they were designed to do. Race. This year’s event saw the addition of a new race category for Touring cars from 1970-2000. This was to be a hugely popular race with the spectators and the addition of current BTCC favourite, Frank Wrathall to the field in a 1995 Vauxhall Cavalier enticed support even more.
For me, the headline race was the Saturday evening Group C race into dusk. I love the awesome 1980’s Le Mans cars and there was an awesome array of Group C and C2 cars taking part. A favourite had to be the Jagermeister Porsche 962. An Iconic car of the time in an iconic livery. A Peugeot 905 with Nicolas Minassian at the wheel on the entry list was also of huge significance. Sadly, despite qualifying second on the Friday, the car was not to take to the track for either of the two races during the weekend. A bitter blow to many, but Minassian was to take to the Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit for Sunday’s race in one of the three Lancia LC2’s.
Another popular race was the Grand Prix Masters race for formula one cars of the 70’s & 80’s featuring cars such as McLaren M26’s, Arrows A4’s and Williams FW07’s. Remarkably this race was to be the first ever to feature two six wheeled formula one cars. A Tyrell P34 and a March 2-4-0 were to take part much to many people’s delight.
With 13 races on the Saturday and a further 11 on the Sunday there was plenty of on track action to keep the crowed entertained and the high quality and close racing in some of the world’s most beautiful, recognisable and valuable cars, whether it classic GT’s or pre 1956 sports cars or even pre 1961 front engined Grand Prix cars along with many well known drivers past and present, there was something for every motorsport fan young and old.
As if all the on track action wasn’t enough, the many thousands of cars on display from various car clubs was magnificent to see. Cars from Lamborghini, Lotus, Aston Martin, AC Cobras even a bselection of Lancia Delta’s. This year’s Silverstone Classic celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Ferrari F40. One of the world’s most recognizable super cars and the stuff of fantasy for every boy, like myself, who grew up in the 80’s. To mark this occasion, a parade of F40’s took to the track on Sunday setting a record for the most Ferrari F40’s on track together at the same time. There were over 60 in total from all over the world and what a brilliant sight they were under the hot sun. An experience I will not forget in a hurry.
There were trade stands a plenty for you to spend your money and activities for all ages to keep the whole family occupied. The Sun came out to make up for the wet Friday and the weekend was another fantastic event. The Silverstone Classic goes from strength to strength and I am already looking forward to next year’s event. If you haven’t been, then I would highly recommend it. You won’t leave disappointed.
I havent got round to sorting all my photos from the weekend yet, but you can see some Group C ones here. Also, If you like the Chris Gurton Photography page on Facebook, you will be updated when new galleries will be added.
After a pretty rubbish week, I was looking forward to last weekend. My favourite British Race series was to be making its yearly visit to my favourite British racing Circuit. The British GT Championship was to be competing on the Grand Prix circuit at Brands Hatch and I was really looking forward to it.
Having spent the few days on the run up to the weekend checking the weather forecasts, things were looking good. I’ve been luck so far this year with the weather and I was again this weekend. Just a couple of brief showers on the Sunday afternoon were nothing to worry about. I always pack my waterproofs though just in case.
The Saturday morning was spent on the Druids shooting the GT Practice session and the F3 qualifying. I wanted to try a few different things to see what worked and what didn’t. Some stuff came out well, some didn’t. I found a nice new angle too during the F3 qualifying so I will remember that for next time. It’s always nice to capture a nice ‘Through the Trees’ shot too and with Brands one of the few circuits in England where you can do that, I made sure I got a few in the bag. I was enjoying myself and the time flew by. So I was soon back in the media centre checking out what I had captured.
The weather was still fine and dry in the afternoon as I headed out onto the Grand Prix loop for the second GT practice session and the first of the weekends three Formula 3 races. I decided to start at Stirlings, a known quantity for me and a good place to get a variety of shots, before walking back round the inside of the circuit as the session progressed. I got some useable stuff here but the sun was beginning to be an issue so whilst at Westfield bend waiting for the start of the F3 race I decided to cross over to the outside of the circuit so the sun was behind me.
I had never been on the outside of the Grand Prix loop and once I was there I was glad I had made the decision to cross over. There were some really great angles and new places to explore options and I was pleased with the results I was getting. I shot the F3 race and decided I would come back for the GT race on Sunday. The final session I needed to shoot was the GT qualifying and I wanted to be in the pit lane for that so headed back at the end of the F3 race. The day had flown by and I was really looking forward to race day.
Sunday’s action was due to start at 10am with a 10 minute warm up session for the GT’s so I had a bit of a lie in. I headed to the garages and pit lane for the quick warm up session to get a few driver shots. I went to Druids to capture the action of the short 20 minute F3 race before lunch and getting my stuff prepared for the main two hour GT race. Watching the start of the F1 race on the TV in the media room, rain started to fall. I could see blue sky in the distance so was confident it would be a passing shower. However, I’m not trained meteorologist so it was time to break out the waterproofs to take with me just in case.
The GT race was the one I was really looking forward to and as I headed out the rain had now stopped. I wanted to capture the start from Druids with the cars coming up the hill. As the pit lane opened and the cars headed out to form up on the grid, the rain started again causing a greasy surface which would add to the excitement at the start of the race. By the time the cars were released from the rolling start, the rain had stopped but the track was still slippery and the cars were on slick tyres. With a few spinners and some of the field taking it steadier than others there were a few position changes. Thankfully, I had my pocket radio so could tune into radio Brands to keep track of the commentary and what was going on. This was to prove invaluable out on the GP track where there are no tannoy speakers.
I shot the first few laps from the outside of Druids hairpin before making my move to the Grand Prix loop. I headed to the bridge on the main straight and walked up the outside of the track along Hawthorn Hill. I was to spend the rest of the race working my way around the outside. Trying new angles and perspectives a brief shower whilst I was at Dingle Dell wasn’t going to ruin my enjoyment. I was keeping up to date with the race action on the radio and I was glad of it. The race was proving to be pretty exciting. The Nissan GTR of Alex Buncombe and Jann Mardenborough that started in ninth was now in the lead with the other Nissan GTR of the Hetherington brothers Benji and Freddie was making its way through the pack too and was up to fourth before disaster struck.
Benji Hetherington had pushed just a bit too hard through Stirlings and two wheels up on the kerb on the exit was enough to spit the car out and into the barrier on inside. It was a heavy impact and a relatively long safety car period was to follow to allow the recovery of the car and repairs to the barrier. It was a disappointment as the white Nissan was due a good race and things were looking good. The pit stops and drivers played out soon after the safety car period and It was Jann Mardenborough now in the leading Nissan. Oliver Bryant had taken over the BMW Z4 and was up to second place and trying to close in. Each time Bryant closed the gap, Mardenborough seemed to have an answer and kept him at bay just a couple of seconds behind. Keeping track of the commentary whilst continuing to capture what was unfolding on track with my camera the time was flying by but I wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen.
Whilst the Nissan and BMW battled out at the front, Jonny Adam was now in the Aston Martin setting very quick times. He was catching the front two at quite a rate but with quite a deficit to make up, would there be enough time with the 2 hour finish time in sight. It looked like he could make second place but would still need to pass the BMW once he caught him. Sure enough, the flying Aston was to steal second place at Paddock Hill bend on the penultimate lap. Onto the final lap and the Aston had the Nissan in its sights. Could the Beechdean car take an unlikely win just two weeks after a full rebuild thanks to its heavy impact with the wall at Rockingham just two weeks ago?
I was at sheen curve on the last lap. I could see the Nissan approach with the Aston in close attendance and the BMW not too far behind. I watched as they rounded Stirlings and now not even a cigarette paper could separate the rear of the Black and Red Nissan GTR and the front of the Blue and White Aston Martin. Out of sight I had to rely on the commentary. After defending the final bend, the Nissan had the inside line but the Jonny Adam moved to the outside. It was to be a straight drag to the line. Side by side the pair crossed the line. A second or two passed after the flag had dropped while the commentator waited for the timing screen to update. Who had one?
Incredibly, after 2 hours of racing and 74 laps of the Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit, just twenty two thousandths of a second split the pair. That’s 0.022seconds in numbers. The closest British GT race finish in history. The spoils went to the Nissan. Just. It now made it six different race winners from six races and five different manufacturers. What a finish. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough for you, Jann Mardenborough confirmed that this, his first GT race victory had come exactly 365 days after he won the Playstation GT Academy. It really was fairytale stuff. I was beaming. I had witnessed an awesome race and my favourite British race series had produced something truly special on my favourite British race circuit.
I stayed to photograph the final F3 race of the day knowing that it was just never going to match the excitement of the GT race. I headed back to the media room and was met by beaming faces all round and discussion of the incredible scenes that they had witnessed. A video still from TSL timing’s camera aimed at the finish lane showed how close the GT race finish really was. It was a fantastic weekend and I was so glad to have witnessed it.
For the full race report visit The Checkered Flag.
I now have two weekends away from the circuit, before my next event which is again back at Brand Hatch on the Grand Prix circuit for a bumper weekend of the F2, GT Open and Britcar. If it is half as exciting as the British GT race, it will be a good weekend and I look forward to finding some more new angles and locations to shoot from.
As the clock ticked past midnight and into the Witching hour it was time to head back out of the media centre. We wanted to capture some light trails during the night and decided we would head out to the Karussell.
After parking up beside the muddy track and having stumbled through the trees and undergrowth in the dark, we were greeted by the English Marshalls there. They were quick to put the kettle on for us as I set about getting to work with my tripod and shutter release cable. The Karussell was just as awesome at night and sparks flew, brake discs glowed and engines echoed through the trees. The temperature was still warm too so it didn’t seem like we were up during the early hours.
I stood talking to the Marshalls with my knees up against the Armco barrier and I heard a clang then felt a thud. It was if something had come off a car and hit the barrier where we were. I wondered what it could be. It felt quite solid. A wheel nut maybe? A quick conversation by the Marshall’s over their radio revealed the source. A car had hit the barrier at the bottom of the hill. The impact was about three or four hundred meters away from where I was standing but could still feel it. I was glad I wasn’t standing any further down the hill. Tales from the Marshall’s soon followed about incidents where they have been hit by debris. It made me remember that being trackside can be dangerous. Especially as close as we were on the Nordschleife. Something that I don’t think about when I’m out shooting. The Marshalls even told us that at some points on the circuit which are particularly narrow and the Armco is close to the track edge, that when they wave yellow or white flags, some cars pass and clip the end of the flags! These guys in orange really need to be applauded.
I wandered down the hill to capture some light trails going up towards the Karussell. I could see the extent of the crash as I got down there. A BMW Z4 had it the barrier head on quite hard. The service crew were there and had the area coned off. Cars were forced to the other side of the narrow track but were very obliging of the safety crew and Marshall’s waved yellow flags slowing right down to a crawl past the scene before getting on the power past me and up the hill. The BMW was towed away in quite a mess. The scene was tidied up quickly and before long the only visible sign of an accident was a slightly damaged Armco and some sand on top of a fluid leak. Cars were back to full speed up the hill and I was standing pretty close. Knowing one car had hit the barrier and the possibility of a slippery surface due to the spilled fluid, I wasn’t going to hang about here for long and made my way back up the hill.
Time was passing by quite quickly and it would be first light soon so we decided to make a move and come back to the Karussell later during daylight hours. Parking up at the bottom of the hill near Hocheichen we walked up the hill through the campsite to Hatzenbach. Walking through the array of tents, small marquee’s and caravans, traversing piles of rubbish, empty beer bottles and bonfires as well as the occasional fan sleeping on the bare ground I was feeling surprisingly alert. It was about 5 am and I was starting to think to myself that I could last till the end of the race quite comfortably at this rate. Pausing to glance back at the cars snaking down the hill behind us and saying hello to the occasional fan, some of which still happily down beer I was in high spirits.
Having reached the top of the hill we headed to the outside of the first corner on the Nordschleife. The cars would come off the Grand Prix circuit, head towards us and then drop down the twisty first section of the ‘Green Hell’. As I paused to watch the cars head towards me with headlights ablaze it happened. I had hit the wall. All of my energy had been drained. I was struggling to focus let alone look through a view finder. But I was here. I had walked up the hill and I wasn’t going to let the opportunity of taking photos pass so I carried on regardless. I was firing off shots unsure if what I was getting was of any use. My eyes had given up even bothering to focus on anything and I couldn’t see if the images on the rear screen were any good either. I had glanced up at Kev. He was struggling too. I think he had become somewhat delirious as he had started singing odd made up songs. Trying to ignore the fact that my body was urging me to rest I carried on shooting in the hope something would be useable.
The decision to stop was soon made for us. I felt a few spots of rain. I wasn’t sure if it was actually starting to rain or I was just hallucinating. I could definitely fell it get a bit heavier and the Marshall’s were now waving the yellow and red Slippery surface flags. Time to head back. We got in the car and made our way to the media car park. We needed to sleep but weren’t sure to sleep in the car or the media centre. Realising James would be in the media centre and no doubt bouncing off the walls high on caffeine, chocolate and e-numbers it was decided best that we slept in the car. I was out like a light.
I woke up just as Kevin did. I actually felt pretty refreshed. How long had I slept for? Had I missed the race? The rain had stopped and the sun was out. Glancing at the time it was 9am. Phew, I was only asleep for two hours but thankfully it felt like longer and I was recharged. Time for some coffee and a bite to eat before heading back to the media centre to empty memory cards and catch up on the goings on.
I was right. James was still in a Sugar induced high and was loving every minute of the experience. I was slightly envious. How can he manage it but I can’t? He’s only a few years younger than me. Then I realised, He doesn’t walk miles lugging camera’s and kit around. I wasn’t complaining though. I wouldn’t change that for the world. I love doing it.
Having been fed and watered it was time to make a move again. We decided to head out to the Karussell again then one or two other areas before the race finish. Back at the banked hairpin and with the Marshalls again, I felt revitalized. The sun was beating down and the cars still looked magnificent. Albeit a little dirtier and some sporting a few dents, scrapes and a moderate amount of race tape. After all, this was endurance racing at it most difficult and cars still running at this point had achieved so much already. I was merrily snapping away, trying different angles and perspectives of the corner having a great time a number of other photographers were now at the hairpin all looking pretty happy. Life was good.
Time passed by rapidly and due to an unforeseen circumstance, we weren’t able to head to a different area before the race end. However we made it back to the media room for the race finish and in time to see the battle for third place between one of the Porsche’s and a Mercedes SLS in the dying minutes. It was exciting stuff but no one was prepared for what was about to unfold.
As the Clock ticked down, the Porsche powered down the long straight with the Mercedes right on its bumper. Into the last few corners before busting into the Grand Prix circuit. The clocked hadn’t quite reached the 4 o’clock mark and they would need to complete another lap. Game On. We moved to the windows to see the cars come down the pit straight to start their last lap. Or so we thought. The Mercedes roared past. Where was the Porsche? It had slowed. Coming towards the line it was almost crawling along. What was wrong? Was there a mechanical issue? Had it run out of petrol? Or had it completely miss timed everything thinking the chequered flag would be out and throwing third place away in the process? The lead Audi was yet to come through and the Porsche had crossed the line almost coming to a standstill towards the other side of the track from the pit wall. Cars were still coming through however. One of which was a Renault Clio still travelling at speed. I could see him coming towards the Porsche. He must have seen it. He’s definitely seen it right? Why isn’t he moving across? He didn’t see it. Smash. Gasps and groans reverberated around the Media Centre. The Clio ploughed into the back of the Porsche at high speed. Debris littered the track distracting everyone from the Leading Audi R8 that was about to take the flag and victory.
Confusion reigned as Cars took the chequered flag amongst the numerous waved yellow ones and Marshalls rallying around to clear up the mess which had now ruined the Grandstand photo finish for the factory Aston Martin team. As the Zagato, flanked by the two Vantages headed towards the line the left hand Vantage had to tuck in behind avoid the debris. The race was over in bizarre fashion.
It was a peculiar end to an amazing experience but it was now all over. Sitting outside the Italian restaurant that evening with a cold beer and a pizza I was left reflecting on my first experience of the Nurburgring Nordschleife and the 24hr race. It had been incredible. The place was just spectacular and I was spoilt with the variety of places to photograph from. You will never get a full appreciation for how incredible the place is until you see it for real. How narrow, twisty and undulating it really is. It gives you a renewed appreciation for racing drivers and the balls, guts, determination and fearlessness they must have to take on such circuit in the high powered machinery they do. A lot of people tell me that they think endurance racing is boring. Firstly, these people clearly have no attention span and secondly they have definitely never been to the Nurburgring to see the 24hr race.
This led me on to a new appreciation. That of the Fans. These people were incredible. They were friendly, likeable and their dedication know no bounds. They never ceased to amaze me throughout the week. They were proper hardcore motorsport fans and they were loving every minute of it. At the risk of upsetting a few people, they made the Le Mans 24hr look like a holiday camp. And I’ve been to Le Mans more than once!
Finally I’d like to thank everyone who made my first trip to the Nurburgring so amazing and special. From all the Germans who were friendly, kind and helpful, to all the media for the laughs and the teams for putting up with the photographers poking around and getting in the way. Last but not least I have to give a huge thank you to Kevin at Red Square Images. Without him my trip probably wouldn’t have been possible and his knowledge of the area helped me so much. Thank You Kev I really appreciate what you have done for me.
The Nordschleife is affectionately known as the ‘Green Hell’ but to me, the place was motorsport Heaven.
I will be going back.
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.
Everyone has their favourite racing circuit, whether you are a racing driver, spectator, photographer or marshal. There are a number of different circuits scattered throughout the UK and most of them have various layouts. But for me, my favourite of all is the GP circuit at Brands Hatch. I love it not just from a photographer’s point of view, but from a motorsport fan’s as well. For me it has great variety, numerous vantage points and some brilliant corners. Add to that the undulations, climbs and descents and you have a stunning race circuit.
I understand that a number of circuits are built on old airfields and to be fair, it is a good use of the land, however this leaves you with flat, but by no means featureless race tracks. The undulating layout at Brands however adds to the excitement. We all know what an awesome sight it is to see cars thunder round Paddock hill bend, down the hill and then up to Druids. It is akin (well almost) to Eau Rouge at Spa Francorschamps. Having been out in the Indy layout at Brands in a race spec Radical SR3 RS, I can tell you, it’s a rollercoaster ride.
The GP circuit, steeped in motorsport history, provides some fantastic viewpoints not just a trackside photographer but as a spectator too. Obviously being trackside provides me with great photo opportunities but there was I time before I had media access and I loved the circuit then too. From the Desire Wilson and Paddock Hill grandstands you can see a great deal of the circuit thanks to the high vantage point. Around Paddock Hill bend, along Hailwood Hill and on the outside of Druids Hairpin provide great spectator viewing despite the high catch fencing. But if you like to take photos, the large area on the inside of Druids provides a great opportunity to capture some shots without the fencing being a Problem. I also love the Southbank parking area. It is ideal if you have the family with you, as you can watch from the comfort of your own car (great if it’s pouring with rain) but is a good central point to start from if you want to wander around the track.
Head out into the woods and you can also get some great unobstructed views of the GP section too. You can walk round pretty much the whole of the inside section with many great vantage points for the budding photographer. If you are there for a touring car head out to Westfield Bend. It may be a bit of a trek but it’s great to see the likes of Andy Jordan launch his car on to two wheels as he catches the inside Kerb, plus you can see it from just a few feet away. Another good spot, and one of my favourites is Stirlings Bend. A banked 90 degree left hander before the blast to clearways always gives good opportunities for a nice photo.
There are so many aspects of the circuit that come together to make it a very spectator friendly race track. Many people tell me how hard it is to take motorsport photos as a spectator due to all the high fencing everywhere. My response to them is that whilst catch fencing can be the foe to any photographer, it is there for a very good reason. It can be frustrating as well I know as I was a spectator too and sometimes still am. However, get yourself down to Brands Hatch and you will find you are spoilt with the amount of area’s you can take unhindered photos from.
I’ve been to Brands Hatch twice in recent weeks and both race meetings have been run on the full GP layout. I like shooting it and each time I’m there I manage to find a nice place to shoot from that I wasn’t aware of before. The most recent visit was for the Historic Sports Car Club meeting. I love historic and classic racing and it is something that greatly interests me. Although you won’t see Formula One at Brands anymore, it was there just 25 years ago so it was a great thrill to be there to see some of those cars back there, along with the Group C monsters that used to take part in the famous 1000km race there. You can read my report from the weekend on the Checkered Flag website here.
I’ve given my reasons for why I love the Grand Prix circuit at Brands Hatch so much and I know it is a favourite among many racing drivers too. Although I will more than likely never experience it as a racing driver, I have been out at racing speeds on the Indy loop which you can read in a previous blog post. However, thanks to Will at the Radical Owners Club, I will be experiencing the full GP loop on Monday. He has very kindly invited me to their trackday and I will be sampling first hand what it is like to travel round the famous track at high speed. Of course, I cannot wait and I will be writing about my second Radical experience, but until then, I will be running around like an expectant five year old on Christmas Eve.