So the motorsport season is back with a bang and a big one at that for my return trackside for the first round of the British GT championships at the weekend. Oulton Park was my destination to kick off the season and I was pretty excited. It was a bit like the first day back at school when you were a kid. Catching up with friends and seeing what was new.
It was to be my first visit to the Cheshire track and despite the five and a half hour journey up on the Friday and the 5.30 am fire alarm at the hotel on Saturday morning and having to stand around in sub zero temperatures in my PJ’s (Zoe Wenham and David Ashburn look similarly unimpressed) I was looking forward to checking out what Oulton Park had in store. Although it was cold, I was glad. I had packed my thermals, the sky was blue, the sun was out and the wind was still. Conditions were good as I headed out to shoot the first BGT practice session.
The field was impressive, despite one or two entries pulling out and the cars looked and sounded great in the morning sun. It was good to be back. Some even sported new liveries. A nod to the Tartan livery of Gregor Fiskin & Richard Westbrook’s Trackspeed Porsche which everyone seemed to like, unlike their team mates Porsche of David Ashburn & Nick Tandy who’s spotted entry divided opinion. I myself was a fan of the new look works Ginetta entry with a white, black and orange livery. Also, the Optimum BMW Z4′s look great in Carbon Black showing that you don’t need to do much to make a GT race car look good.
It became apparent early on that I liked the circuit. Spending the first session at Deer Leap and Lodge Corner, I was getting some nice angles and the session seemed to pass by rather quickly. My head was full of thoughts about where to go for the other sessions over the weekend. I didn’t want to miss some good spots and I still had so much to explore.
Discussions were had in the media centre as to where were good places to photograph and I needed opinions from other photographers who knew the circuit a lot better than an Oulton Park newbie like myself. I had decided to head round to the outside of the circuit on the far side to photograph down the hill towards the first chicane and to spend the hour long second practice working my way towards the Shell Oils hairpin. Just that section itself was a joy as again, there were so many different perspectives and angles to get and before long the session was drawing to a close. I was loving this circuit and was wishing it was a lot closer to home. I didn’t have chance to even think about how cold it was.
Qualifying was soon upon us and with cars all at maximum attack it was a good chance to head over to Druids where the crest on exit saw a few of the cars get light at the front and lifting a wheel or two. I was hoping to try and get a few shots of this. Soon after the first qualifying session got underway, a big accident from one of the GT4 Ginetta’s was to delay the session. It played into my hands somewhat as the sun was starting to set. I was thankful that the clocks hadn’t gone forward just yet as I had found a spot amongst the trees with the setting sun behind the farm on the opposite side of the track ready for the return of the cars. Despite the split second I had to capture the cars after appearing from view and then as quickly disappearing again, I was pleased with what I had managed to capture. Then, as the second qualifying session got underway, it was time to try and capture the cars over that crest.
The day drew to an end and I couldn’t wait till Monday to get back and photograph the two races, but in the mean time, I was happy with my days work. Saturday night involved a drive round Runcorn to try and find a supermarket so we could get some food for the next couple of days. Avoiding drunken and mischievous juveniles I was worried about stopping at traffic lights and junctions in case I got hijacked at knifepoint or had the wheels stolen off my car in a time that would make the Red Bull F1 team proud. After eventually finding not one but 4 supermarkets all close together it was time to stop at the local McDonalds for something to eat. It felt like I’d stepped into the holding room for the next episode of the Jeremy Kyle Show and was pretty sure they could tell I wasn’t from round these parts before I had even said anything. Needless to say I ate my Big Mac as quick as possible at a window seat so I could keep an eye on my car, before getting out of there sharp-ish and back to the hotel. People think my home county of Essex is bad? I’m used to a lot of stuff but I was genuinely feeling uncomfortable.
We were staying in a Holiday Inn and we had noticed the previous evening that it was apparent that there was a Wedding and a reception being held there on the Saturday. The latter in full flow as we had got back. Despite the Hotel being nice, I had questioned whether a Holiday Inn was really the sort of place you’d want to get married, but each to their own. There was enough fake tan around to keep Amy Childs beauty salon stocked up for a year and I noticed a popularity for drawing on eyebrows with black marker pen giving the wearer a permanent angry expression which amused me as the angry looking orange faced girls struggled to walk properly in their ridiculous platform high heeled shoes. Even an Essex boy like myself was out of my comfort zone and decided to leave the hotel bar and head for bed.
With no track action on Sunday, the day was spent watching the British Touring Car Championship on the TV in the hotel room before a meal out in the evening with friends. I struggled to get to sleep that night trying to work out the best places at Oulton to shoot the two races on Monday.
The morning was again very cold and this time the skies were cloudy and overcast. Not as good conditions as Saturday but I was grateful it wasn’t raining. I headed to the pit lane to shoot the 10 minute warm up session before deciding where to got for Race One. It was soon upon us and a few minutes were spent on the grid as the cars lined up before I headed down to the first corner. I wanted to capture the impressive Class of 2013 as they headed into the first corner of the season. They looked fantastic as they headed towards myself and the other photographers around me. I fired off shots of the first half of the field heading into the bend before turning to shoot them disappearing down the hill. Big mistake.
With myself pointing my camera down the hill I was unaware of what was happening to my right. The first indication of something not being right was seeing the two photographers to my left out of the corner of my eye suddenly run for cover. I wasn’t up against the barrier but stepped back just as a Mercedes SLS and an Aston Martin appeared and hit the tyres and Armco in front of me. I hadn’t heard the shout of ‘Incoming’ and had been taken by surprise. Thankfully no one was hurt and despite the Aston being able to carry on, only to retire a few laps later, the Mercedes had managed to move to a safer spot on the other side of the track, but is was clearly game over with too much damage to continue. Not the best way to start the new season for them and certainly an unexpected one for me.
I spent race one photographing while heading down the hill towards cascades. It wasn’t long before more drama unfolded though. Smoke could be seen billowing into the air from the other side of the circuit as the LNT Ginetta G55 had burst into flames. Again though, thankfully no one was hurt. The hour had passed quickly and the race had come to an end as I was at the bottom of the hill at cascades. Plenty of action had taken place for the season opener and it was only a few hours until race two was about to get underway.
I took up position for the second race at the bottom of the hill at cascades, only this time on the inside of the circuit to shoot the cars heading down the hill and enabling myself to then photograph the second chicane and Knickerbrook before making my way up the hill towards druids. The first half of the race seemed to go to smoothly before major incidents broke out. The second Ginetta G55 burst into flames leaving driver Colin White to leap out quickly whilst heading up the hill to Deer leap. Also, there was a big accident involving Jon Minhaw’s Trackspeed Porsche and Andrew Howards Aston Martin at the chicane I had been at earlier in the race, so I didn’t manage to get that on camera and one of the Mtech Ferrari’s collided heavily with the APO Ginetta G50. It seemed to me that I had been too close to the action or too far away in the wrong place to capture any of it.
But it didn’t matter, I had a great weekend and I had experienced a new circuit which I loved. Oulton is now threatening Brands Hatch GP as my favourite UK circuit. Next up for me, the World Endurance Championships and European Le Mans Series at Silverstone.
As I returned turned home yesterday I was greeted by a huge parcel waiting for me. As I had not been waiting for anything and hadn’t ordered anything, especially of this size, recently I was somewhat confused by it. On inspection it appeared to have come from Germany. I still hadn’t twigged what it was until I saw the senders name. A sudden rush of excitement filled me as hurriedly but carefully opened the huge box. I wasn’t quite prepared for what was inside.
Carefully wrapped and packaged inside was two large 3ft by 2ft framed and mounted prints. No ordinary prints though. One was of an Audi R8 GT3 and the other of a Mercedes SLS GT3. What’s more was that these prints were of paintings by the incredibly talented German motorsport artist Steffen Imhof and were based on two of my photos I had taken at last year’s Nurburgring 24 hour race.
They both looked stunning. I was overwhelmed by Steffen’s generosity as he had agreed to send me copies of the finished artwork but I wasn’t expecting anything quite like this. He had even enclosed a copy of the huge Mahle racing wall calendar which featured twelve amazing motorsport paintings Steffen had created, including the two that were now sitting in front of me in their magnificent brushed aluminium frames. It was safe to say I was very proud and delighted with them. It is an incredible feeling to have had a photo I have taken turned into a spectacular piece of art such as this.
This isn’t the first time it has happened though. Some of you who read this bloke may have read about the amazing Toyota Avensis artwork the Ian Cook, aka Pop Bang Colour, created which was based on my photo of Frank Wrathall. I’ve spoken to people who saw it being created and some of you may even have a copy. It is a very special feeling indeed. So these three beautiful pieces of art will be taking pride of place on the wall where everyone can see. Even my mum, who has no real interest in cars and motorsport loves them, telling me ‘I wouldn’t want a big photo of yours on the wall but these look fantastic and will look really good on the wall.’ You, can always rely on my Mum to speak her mind, no matter how brutally honest she is. But this was a huge compliment to Steffen and Ian’s work. Not so much on mine though.
The sense of satisfaction I have had from seeing all three of these works of art in incredible and to actually have them to display on my wall too is a great feeling. As someone who loves art, visiting galleries and had great respect for real talent such as that shown by Steffen and Ian, this is something quite special. I can’t wait to show my friends and family.
So on that note, if there are any artists out there who may be interested in turning any of my photos into paintings, drawings or art work, then feel free to get in touch. For the rest of you, I strongly suggest you go and check out both Steffen Imhof’s AutomobilArt website and Ian Cook’s Pop Bang Colour website to check out their stunning work. You could do a lot worse than part with some money in exchange for having their artwork on your wall. Especially if you are a car and motorsport fan.
With the 12 hours of Sebring having taken place, the first two rounds of the Formula One world championship and round one of the World Touring Car Championship having passed, the motorsport season is well underway. That means my winter break is also over and this Easter weekend I’ll be back trackside and behind the camera.
Usually I’ve normally got my first round of the year under my belt by now but the wait will no doubt be worth it. I’ll be heading up to Oulton Park for round one of the British GT championship and I cannot wait. I’ve never been to Oulton Park before so I am looking forward to experiencing a new circuit. I missed last year’s round due to other commitments but the heavy rain the experienced there meant I wasn’t too disappointed. Bizarrely it seems to be snow that might cause trouble at the weekend and thermals will be going in the bag with me.
A huge field of gorgeous cars are set to take to the grid this Easter weekend for two 1 hour races at the Cheshire circuit and I’m really looking forward to seeing and photographing them in action. I just hope I haven’t forgotten how to do it, although it’s questionable if I did in the first place! With the track action taking place on the Saturday and the Monday rather than the usual Saturday and Sunday, it will be a long weekend, but it will definitely be a fun and exciting one. I’ll hopefully posting photos on my twitter account – @ChrisGurton and my facebook page over the weekend as well as providing images for The Checkered Flag, so feel free to give me a ‘follow’ or a ‘like’ to keep up to date.
Whilst some head to Cheshire for their racing fix, many will be heading to Kent this weekend as the first round of the British Touring Car Championship takes place at Brands Hatch. Like the British GT, a large field is expected for the BTCC even though a couple of teams have opted out of the first round. 2009 Champion Colin Turkington makes his return to the series in a rather nice looking BMW 1 Series with West Surrey Racing, the team with whom he won his title. I was surprised at how nice the new 1 series looks, although I’m still unsure on the livery. The BTCC media day stirred up a lot of excitement last week and I know the faithful army of fans are chomping at the bit to see them back in action. Let’s hope there are no controversies to kick off the new season and hopefully driving standards will be improved.
On the subject of controversy, I can’t help but mention the Malaysian Grand Prix. Formula One is the biggest motorsport series on the planet which grabs the attention of millions worldwide. Round one in Australia proved to be a good one with seven different leading drivers during the race. Then, the dreaded team orders come into play in Malaysia. Surely round two is a bit early for team orders? Fans want to see racing not a parade of cars that aren’t allowed to overtake because there might be a risk of crashing. All motorsport has risk and that’s probably why so many enjoy it and take part in it. Surely team orders spoils it for the fans, without whom, the sport would be nothing.
I like Mark Webber a lot, he comes across as the complete professional and he’s one of my favourite drivers. He defended his lead superbly and fairly, but it was clear to see Sebastian Vettel was quicker. So why were the team against him overtaking for the lead? Why did they want him to just sit behind him for the remainder of the race? That isn’t what the fans want to see. The Mercedes team proved this point by making Nico Rosberg stay behind Lewis Hamilton despite being faster. Even Lewis himself admitted it wasn’t the way he wanted to achieve his podium finish. I don’t care if there is a chance that contact might be made between two team mates. I want to see racing. These guys are at the pinnacle of the sport through skill and talent. Or maybe some huge financial backing. They should be able to battle it out for honour and pride regardless of what car the other guy is in.
Team orders can ruin motorsport. I can understand towards the end of the season you want to protect your lead drivers chance of championship glory, but with 17 rounds still to go? Let drivers do battle and give the paying fans what they want. If this is going to become a regular occurrence in Formula one, I won’t be giving it much attention in the future. Match fixing is illegal in sport, surely what Red Bull were trying to do was to fix the race result. I can’t blame Vettel for wanting to race. That’s what he’s paid to do after all. Personally, I’d like to see the FIA step in and put a stop to such blatant team orders, again, for the good of the sport and the fans.
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.
Most of you will know about my love for GT & Endurance racing & in particular my love for the British GT Championship, which this year in particular has proved just how fantastic it is, so it was with mixed emotions as I headed to Donington Park for the final round of the season. Excitement, as the Title would be hotly contested between the seven, yes seven teams still in with a chance of taking the 2012 honours, and Sadness as the exhilarating season was now coming to an end. You just knew the season would end on a high and the weekend didn’t disappoint. Even the FIA GT1 boys rocked up to take part in the weekend’s event to add a little extra excitement to GT fans like myself.
I like Donington Park as a circuit. Its undulating track provides many great photo opportunities and after a disappointing weekend behind the lens at Silverstone the previous weekend, I was determined to make amends and capture a good set of images. What’s more is that the racing was to take place on the full circuit at Donington and despite the numerous visits there I have never shot the full layout so I was hoping to get some new and interesting angles.
Concentrating on just the two GT series over the weekend, I headed out for the GT1 Qualifying session at the start of the day. The noise was just awesome, how I had missed the unrestricted engine noise and the rumble of the Mercedes SLS in particular. Despite only being a 12 car line up, there was still a nice selection of cars on show from Mercedes, Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini McLaren and Ford. Exploring the GP loop of the circuit during this session I tried to find a few different angles and I was enjoying this part of the circuit I had never shot before.
The first British GT practice session was used to get photos of the cars for a spotters guide that I was helping with along with the guys from l’endurance & Daily Sportscar much like the one we had produced for the Britcar 24hr. Thankfully the hour session enabled me enough time to get some side on shots of the cars and try and bag something a bit more creative at Redgate corner and further down towards the Craner Curves. The time passed pretty quickly and before long I was uploading the shots I had to my laptop back in the media room so the spotters guide could be completed. It looked pretty good even if I do say so myself and you can see it here.
The second British GT practice session took place before the lunch break so I headed out to the Melbourne Hairpin and the GP loop that I had been at to capture the GT1’s earlier to try and get the British GT cars in similar angles. I even managed to find a few new ones too. A quick break after that session and it was back out for the First of the weekend’s two GT1 races and I decided to shoot from the First corner and work down to the old hairpin by the end of the race. Thankfully the rain stayed away and the racing was good. I had got some photos in the bag that I was happy with.
The final session of the day was the qualifying for the British GT. I usually shoot this session from the pitlane as the cars come in and out frequently and this weekend was no different. However I was to regret this decision. Some friends came back into the media room after the session with photos of the cars with a glorious sunset backdrop. I knew the sun was setting, but didn’t realise just how good it looked behind the main pit buildings. Although I was happy with some of the photos I had got, I wished I had gone out trackside and caught the sunset.
Sunday kicked off with two warm up sessions for both the GT series. I shot these short sessions from the inside of Goddards Hairpin and the approach. Again, an area I hadn’t shot before so It was good to try it out. Even though it was mid morning, you could still capture brake discs glowing on the GT1 cars as they braked hard for the slow hairpin before the pit straight.
The second GT1 race took place that afternoon after the lunch break and I headed out to the far side of the circuit to cover the race from there. A big accident between the Ford GT and one of the BMW halted the race for about 40 minutes whilst repairs to the tyre wall was made and the cars were recovered. The race resumed and I shot from the Coppice and McLeans area of the track. However with about 20 minutes of the race to go, disaster struck. The two Championship contenders, the All-Inkl Mercedes of Marc Basseng and Markus Winklehock collided with the remaining Vita4one BMW of Michael Bartels and Yelmer Buurman on the exit of Regate. The latter impacted with the wall hard enough to dislodge the concrete and the session was red flagged whilst medical crews extracted Buurman from the mangled BMW. Thankfully he OK having been taken to hospital and kept in overnight. I then realised the concreted that had been wiped out was all that was separating the circuit and photographers trackside. It is an area that is popular with photographers and one where I have stood on many occasions. Thankfully no one was there at the time or there could have been a very serious outcome. It is times like this that you realise actually how close to danger you can be and you have to be aware at all times.
As I walked up to Redgate for the start of the final British GT race of the season, I could see the impact zone and the debris. The wall hadn’t been replaced properly and I knew I wouldn’t be standing there for the upcoming race. The pile of debris from the BMW scattered everywhere left a stark reminder of how dangerous motorsport can be, but thankfully the outcome was not as bad as it could well have been.
Putting all that to the back of my mind, it was time to concentrate on the big race. Seven cars in with a chance of Championship glory, five of which knowing all they need to do is win and the title is theirs. Add in the front two cars being non championship points scoring additions to the weekends grid which could put a spanner in the works of the overall outcome and the race was set to be a tasty encounter with the 26 car field represented by 14 different manufacturers.
From the off the gauntlet was laid down. Starting from 14th on the Grid, the Nissan GT-R, one of the 5 cars just needing the win to claim the Championship, with Alex Buncombe at the wheel was on blistering pace and within three laps had taken the lead and was pulling away. With the rest of the field battling away and the other championship contenders fighting to get near the front, Buncombe was stretching out a healthy lead. The other results were starting to look irrelevant as the Nissan was looking unstoppable and the win was all that was needed. At the pit stops Buncombe bought in the Nissan to hand over to Jann Mardenborough, last year’s Playstation GT Academy winner and hugely talented, with a lead of over 12 seconds. But disaster was to strike.
Just a couple of laps after the hand over, the left rear shock absorber on the Nissan broke. That was it. Game over for the Championship aspirations. It was gut wrenching stuff, and despite the RJN team fixing the issue and sending the rapid Welshman back out, they had lost far too much time and were a few laps down on the lead. With Nissan out of contention, this handed the current Championship lead to the MTech Ferrrari of Matt Griffin and Duncan Cameron. All it needed was to hang on to current race position of fourth and they would clinch the Title by half a point.
But Allan Simonsen in the Rosso Verde Ferrari was to have a say in matters. A battle between the two ensued with Griffin clinging on to the vital place needed for the championship win and was only halted by the appearance of the safety car a couple of laps later bunching the field up. This meant that another title contender, the Ecurie Ecosse BMW, had closed in and was keen to snatch the honours away.
After the safety car had come back in and the field had bunched up, the BMW was keen to make up places for the points needed for victory. An audacious move from Ollie Bryant in the Ecurie Ecosse car at Goddards saw him dive up the inside from a long way back to try and take the place from the MTech Ferrari. Sadly he came from just too far back and made contact with his rival sending Griffin into a spin causing him to haemorrhage places from the bunched up field and with it the championship hopes had faded. This now meant the BMW was on course for the title with not long left in the race. But the upper hand in the title race was to be a short lived for the Ecurie Ecosse team as a one minute stop go penalty was handed out to them as punishment for the contact with Griffin.
This now meant the fourth change of championship leader in the race and this time the Motorbase Porsche of Michael Caine and Daniele Perfetti was to be the grateful recipient. Despite being fourth place in the race, the top two places were occupied by the two non points scoring cars of Alvaro Parente and Zak Brown in their United Autosports McLaren and the Lamborghini of Peter Kox and Nico Pronk. Third place was the second United Autosports McLaren of Charles Bateman and Matt Bell and although they too were Championship contenders coming into the weekend, they needed others to drop points and with the Caine and Perfetti car behind in Fourth, the points deficit was too much to be overturned. So Michael Caine only needed to bring the car home safely and the Title was theirs.
As the chequered Flag dropped, he had done it. Dave Bartrum and the rest of the Motorbase team were delighted. Probably not one of the favourites to win the title coming into the race despite being a real contender but it had showed just how close this season had been and it had all come down to the very last lap of the last race before the champions were crowned. Add to this the Motorbase Porsche had not won a race this season, the second year in a row that the eventual Champions had not won a race, you can see just how tight the championship battle had been throughout the season and that reliability and consistency are key.
So the British GT season has drawn to an end and what a season it has been. Truly Epic. There won’t be many championships this hotly contested and so close right down to the very last corner. With 15 different manufacturers having taken part and eight different winners from ten races, it is easy to see why this championship is a stand out event in the UK and Europe. Hopefully it will continue to go from strength to strength and be even bigger and better next season if that could be even possible. I for one cannot wait.
Its been a busy few weeks for me and my blog has been neglected somewhat of late and the distraction of the Olympics hasn’t helped so I thought it would be time for a bit of a catch up before I head to Snetterton this weekend for the British Touring Car Championship.
Over the last couple of weeks I have been taking photos for the local Pony Club Junior and Intermediate camps. Not quite the fast paced adrenaline fuelled action I see trackside but it is still good fun. The weather was good for both weeks, and I’m always treated well there by the organisers. Despite the hard work it is always worth it and I do enjoy covering the Camps. I don’t get to photograph equestrian events as much as I used to and I do miss it at times so it’s always nice to go back to where my sports photography all began.
The weekend just passed It was back to the track and the first weekend of three in a row at Snetterton. The British GT & F3 Championships headed to the Norfolk circuit and I was there to photograph my favourite UK championship. Initial weather forecasts were promising, but those who have been to Snetterton will know how unpredictable the weather can be there. The place seems to have its own micro climate and the best option is to pack for all conditions.
This was definitely the case as despite the dry relatively sunny conditions all morning, black clouds gathered during second practice for the GT’s and when a red flag was put out for an off from Ollie Milroy in the Ecurie Ecosse BMW, the heavens took this cue to open. Thankfully I could see this and the thunder and lightning coming and as soon as the red flag made an appearance I made a bee line for the safety of the media centre. Within minutes the down pour had flooded the circuit and the pit lane. The GT cars were not going to head out in those conditions and the session finished. Subsequent race and qualifying sessions were to be delayed until after the rain stopped so areas of standing water on the track could be pumped away.
The rain delay meant the GT qualifying, due last on the timetable had to be dropped. Grid positions for both 1 hour races were to be decided by the 2 practice session times. This played into the hands of the Trackspeed Porsches as it was pole in race one for the 31 car and pole in race two for the 33 car.
Sunday was to be a new day but the unpredictable weather returned. Heavy rain returned and disrupted the rescheduled timetable meaning the second Ginetta Challenge race of the day had to be dropped to avoid breaking the curfew. It also meant the F3 cars had to take on the elements but Both GT races avoided the wet and had two dry races. The new McLaren MP4-12C of United Autosports Charles Bateman and Matt Bell took a debut win for the car in the championships meaning it was a remarkable seven different winners from the seven races so far in the season. It looked to be a possible eight different winners from eight races in race two as after the pit stops the Trackspeed Porsche of Jon Minshaw and Tim Harvey led comfortable but a fuel pressure problem meant they dropped back to second place leaving team mates Joe Osborne and Steve Tandy to take their second win of the season. For full race reports, visit the Checkered Flag website here.
With just two points separating the top five drivers in the championship, it is all up for grabs over the remaining two rounds at Silverstone and Donington Park and it looks set to go right down to the wire. Despite Lotus not making an appearance in GT4 at their home circuit and the Jones Brothers Mercedes also absent an addition to the field was the Rhino’s Leipert Motorsport Lamborghini LP600 of Hari Prozcyk and Marco Attard. It was a welcome addition and even with the absentee’s 12 different manufacturers were represented on the grid with the possibility of this increasing to 14 for the next round. As you can see that is a pretty impressive field and one of the reasons British GT is so great.
So next for me is the British Touring Car Championship back in Norfolk after their long summer break. I haven’t photographed the Touring cars for some time due to calendar clashes and it seems like a long time since I last shot them at Donington. I really hope the weather stays dry and I’m sure the thousands of fans who I know will be heading there will be hoping the same.
Photos from the F3 and GT Races and sessions can be seen on my Facebook page.
With two weekends away from the track, I have been at somewhat of a loose end. Thankfully the British Grand Prix and the GT1 & GT3 championships have kept me motorsport withdrawal symptoms at bay, but it has been a good time to get a few things sorted out before what will be a manic six weeks or so.
I had decided it best get my Telephoto lens serviced during my ‘break’ as I was beginning to experience a few niggly issues with it. I have had it a few years and it has taken a lot of abuse in that time and served me well, but it was beginning to struggle to focus on the shorter focal lengths and I had some intermittent problems with over exposure. So despite the cost, I bit the bullet and sent it off for a service to get the issues dealt with. There isn’t ever really a good time to fork out a lot of money but it needed to be done. Probably one of the many expenses incurred that a client or customer doesn’t really think about when enquiring about and sometimes questioning a photographers prices but I won’t go it to that now.
Having been told the initial service turnaround time was 2-3 weeks, I was surprised to have a phone call just 4 working days after dropping off the lens at Sigma telling me it was ready to be sent back. I was pretty pleased as I was worried there was a chance I would be without the lens this coming weekend at Brand Hatch. The issues seem to be resolved now so I look forward to having it working fully ahead of my impending busy schedule.
As well as getting the lens serviced I used this down time to re-design and update my website. It had been neglected somewhat so was due a spring clean and a sort out. My design and website building skills are somewhat limited but I seem to have managed ok and I’m relatively pleased with how it is looking. I am never fully satisfied but considering my ability with this kind of thing, the end result isn’t too shabby and initial reactions seem positive. I have added a few new pages and features and now images from the motorsport events I cover over the year can be purchased as prints and a calendar will keep you updated on which races I have been at and will be attending this year. So feel free to check out the site www.chrisgurtonphotography.com
Towards the end of the month I have a couple of Equestrian events I will be covering. So it has been a good time to get things sorted out for this too. As I print images onsite at these events it was time to order in paper, mounts and the dreaded ink! This is a huge outlay for me and although I should more than recoup the costs after the event it is never a good feeling making a bulk order when initial funds aren’t overly healthy. I always print on high quality paper and use the original best quality Canon Inks that go with my printer. I never use the cheap refill type inks as my Dad ruined a printer of his using cheap alternative inks despite my warnings. I believe in the best quality for my customers despite the extra costs to myself. I will never know for sure but apparently the chromalife ink I use is guaranteed for 100 years. I guess that can’t be bad and I know my prices are very competitive. I’m looking forward to the equestrian events and I really hope the weather is favourable.
So on to this weekend and I will be at Brands Hatch on the GP loop again where the Britcar Endurance series is supporting the International GT Open and F2 championships. There is a full programme for the weekend and I am really looking forward to it. The following weekend is one of the great highlights of my year. The Silverstone Classic. The biggest race weekend of the year with over one thousand classic race car entries and a few thousand more classic cars on display. It’s well worth a visit, especially for the Group C Dusk race on Saturday evening.
The two three day equestrian events then follow before we head into August and three back to weekends at Snetterton. I don’t think I will have time for my Birthday in the middle of that but it should all be good fun.
Finally, I’m giving away a few A4 prints to my Twitter followers this week and to those who like my Facebook page. Follow the links on the right of this blog to my Twitter and Facebook pages to find out more and you could get a free print for yourself.
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.
Saturday was soon upon us. Race day! It was another early start for us as although the 24 hour race didn’t start until 4pm, the second British GT race was starting at 9.15am so we needed to be there before that to photograph it.
It was another great race and the field of British GT cars looked superb in front of the thousands of on looking fans. Hopefully this weekend will have helped raise the profile of the British GT championship. It was the Ferrari 458 of Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin that took the victory overcoming the numerous Porsches which were seemingly going to dominate the second of the two races. A full race report can be read here.
After the race, there was time for some rest in the media room before the main event. The Porsche Carrera cup Deutschland and Renault Clio cup took place and we were able to watch the action out on the Nordschleife on the TV screens whilst sorting photos from the British GT race and making plans for the 24 hour race. I also went to the souvenir stands to pick up a few bits. My Laptop is now sporting an obligatory Nürburgring Sticker.
It was decided to shoot the start of the race from out on the Nordshleife rather than at the first corner where most of the photographers would be. So an hour or so before the race, I had packed what I needed and we headed out. We headed to the inside of Pflanzgarten but at the top of the hill to see the cars come over the crest. Opposite us on the other side of the track was a McDonalds Drive through sign. Not a made up one. An actually proper sign that lit up. Somewhere in Germany a McDonalds was missing their sign! The Germans who were camped out there were already on the beers and like most of the fans, probably had been since Monday.
As the race start neared the German national anthem came on over the tannoy system. The boozed up guys opposite us stood to attention and sang along proudly. After that they had realised we were English and so treated us to a rendition of God save the Queen. We gave them a cheer and showed our appreciation. I was quite impressed. Had this had been a football match we would have been on the receiving end of a torrent of abuse.
Pretty soon the unmistakable rumble of engines could be heard through the trees. I could sense the atmosphere change and the excitement grow. The course car appeared over the crest with orange lights ablaze followed close behind by the front running cars all weaving to keep their tyres warm like a mother duck leading her ducklings. But these were more like caged tigers desperate to be freed to unleash their fury amongst the German pine trees. The sun was beaming down on the paintwork of the cars as they streamed past and down the hill. Air horns, whistles, hooters and horns could be heard over the cheers. I was sure my cheeks would start to hurt soon from the constant grin that was plastered across my face. There was nowhere else I would rather have been at that moment. The next course car led through the second group of cars and soon the final group were to stream past. The field is so big that the rolling start has to be split into three groups to avoid mass carnage at the first corners.
I knew the next car to pass me would be the leading car under race conditions. I waited impatiently for it to come round. It seemed like an age as I readied myself. Then, before I knew it, Whoosh. The Schubert BMW Z4 flashed past in an instant. A couple of seconds passed before the chasing pack followed like greyhounds after the BMW hare. We were racing. Cars continually appeared over the crest towards me and I was firing of plenty of shots to capture them in the afternoon sun against the forest backdrop. A tried various angles and perspective to try and capture the gorgeous machines in an attempt to do them some kind of justice. But there were plenty of places to shoot from and angles to get. Even amongst the trees. I was really enjoying myself.
I wandered down towards the crest towards the bottom of the hill before the right hander which took the cars back up the hill. The majority of the cars were getting air at the crest and I could get pretty close to capture it. The fans opposite that adorned the numerous scaffolding towers and those standing below had a great view. Cheers erupted as cars took to the air. I got a good vantage point to capture the action. Everything had become quite surreal. I had never experienced anything like this before. The track, the cars, the fans, the sounds, the smells, the atmosphere. It was a culmination of the best bits of motorsport all together in the same place at the same time. I wasn’t sure whether to just stand there and take it all in or crack on with taking photos to capture this incredible experience.
I moved further on and round the corner. I was standing behind the Armco as cars were now making their way up the hill. The line they took made it feel like they were heading straight towards me. I was just feet away from them as the roared past. I’m no adrenalin junkie, far from it, I’m even scared of heights, but this was such a good feeling. I was buzzing. Quick glances at the screen on my camera gave me an idea of what I was capturing. I only hoped they would look as good, or better when I uploaded the images to my laptop. Time had flown by but in reality I had been at that section of the track for a few hours. It was time to move on and find another good place to shoot from.
I wasn’t to be disappointed with our next destination, Kleine Karussell. Not a hairpin like Karussell but still a banked left hander. Cars raced through like the wall of death at a fun fair. Like the corners bigger brother, some of the cars jumped out of the exit as the banking ended before they scampered up the hill. Like so many of the other area’s on the Nordschleife, you were spoilt for choice in terms of getting some good angles. I was still hoping the photos I was taking were doing this incredible place some kind of justice. As the evening drew in and the light faded it was a good time to head back to the media room to get something to eat and upload the photos we had taken. My excitement had caused me to forget that by now I was actually quite hungry.
Back in the media room, James was in his element. Making notes, checking timing screens, watching through the window and keeping track of the leading cars on the impressive Ipad car and driver tracker application. I scoffed down some hot stew that had been provided whilst I uploaded the photos and tried to get some kind of update as to what had been going on in the race and who was leading. The night had drawn in and I was pretty pleased with the photos I had taken as I was checking through some on my laptop. The Champions League final was on the TV at the end of the media room. From the German cheers and questions of ‘Are you English?’ followed by laughs on my reply, I assumed some Bloke called Brian Munich had scored. I wasn’t that interested though. Did these people realise what was going on outside? I took this as my cue to head down to the pitlane. As I did the Germans went quiet. Chelsea had equalised.
Down in the pitlane it was still a hub of activity. Some mechanics were catching a few minutes sleep whilst others bustled about or watched the football on TV’s. In fact, most of the garages had the Football on next to timing screens and onboard feeds from their cars. Even some pit walls had the football on. Outside the garages, the pit lane was crowded still. Photographers, Mechanics, Organisers and VIP pass holders all jostled for positions. How no one got hit by a car coming in or going out is beyond me. Or maybe people did get hit and I just never saw. I was conscious that I wasn’t going to be one of them so was on full alert throughout.
I was standing outside the Black Falcon garage as the team had prepared everything for a pit stop as it was obvious one of their Mercedes was due in soon. With up to six or more cars per garage space was at a premium. Some cars had to pit in at an angle between others and get pushed back in order to exit when the stop was complete. One of the Black Falcon team members wandered out with the lollypop board to indicate where their car needed to stop. As he peered up the pitlane into the darkness trying to identify their car from its headlights, two cars came in and filled the spot the team had prepared. Neither were the Mercedes they had been expecting and now there was no space for it’s imminent arrival. With that the whole team grabbed everything they could, tyres in their warmers, jacks, fire extinguishers and anything else they needed and sprinted down the pitlane to a clear spot further down. As they did, the Mercedes rumbled in close behind. It was an amazing piece of team work and I wanted to stand and applaud. Formula One drivers moan about pit stops? They need to experience this!
As I patrolled up and down with my camera in hand, I had become aware from the cheers and shouts that the football had gone to penalties and the Germans were doing well. I wasn’t surprised, were the English really going to beat the Germans on penalties in their own back yard? Of course not. By the time I had got down to the Aston Martin garage the team of mechanics and drivers not racing at the time were all huddled around the TV. There was some commotion. I wandered in and on tiptoes peered over the top of a gaggle of heads. It seemed that Chelsea had the chance to win with the last penalty. I was suddenly a bit interested. It was scored and the British Aston Martin team erupted, drowning out the cries of despair that reverberated from all of the other garages. Chelsea had won the Champions League on Penalties. Pretty Epic. In years to come people will ask, ‘Where were you when Chelsea beat the Germans on Penalties on that fateful night?’ To which I will take pride in being able to respond with ‘Standing in the Aston Martin Garage at the Nurburgring during the 24 hour race’. That response is even more epic. I smiled to myself and walked back into the pitlane.
Back in the media room I checked out the photos I had just taken and glanced at the clock. Midnight. It was now Sunday but there was still plenty of racing to capture……
Friday was to be a bit of a shorter day than Thursday dues to the lack of a night qualifying session, but it was to be no less exciting.
The first session for us for the day was to be the 24hr second qualifying session so we headed straight out to the Nordschleife from the hotel to photograph it. After heading up to Flugplatz we soon realised the Sun was doing our photos no favours, It was another sunny and warm day, so it was decided that we should head somewhere different and come back later. So we headed off and parked at Breidscheid so we could walk up the hill to Wehrseifen.
Walking through the campsite up the hill I noticed again how fantastic the fans were. More scaffolding towers had been erected and some area’s resembled small but busy village communities. One scaffolding tower was created to resemble a pirate ship with disco lights as cannons. There was even a group who had created their own landscape garden with a stream, rock garden and newly planted flowers and vegetation. However, amongst a smouldering bonfire circled by car seats, something really caught my eye. A really nice, shiny green Mark One Volkswagen Golf. But it was just the front section from the bulkhead forward including the front two wheels. It seemed bizarre but all became clear as underneath the bonnet was a gas powered Barbeque grill. This was possible the best Barbeque I had ever seen!
Having made it up to Wehrseifen my grin broadened. This was another great spot. The cars came round the corner into view dropping down the hill and into the tight left hander before a quick right hand bend took them down the hill towards Exmühle and over the bridge out of sight. In the distance you could see the climb up the steep hill through the trees towards Bergwerk. Fans adorned the bank and the hill side on the outside of the corner where we were and the Armco barrier we were standing behind was close up to the edge of the track. There was no need to shoot with a telephoto lens, I had my 18mm in use which was perfect.
Shooting from this point it was soon apparent that there were so many different perspectives you could get from just one area. The Sun was shining, the cars looked superb and the fans were still on top form. The noise of the Mercedes rumbling down the hill or the High pitch scream of the Lexus LFA accelerating out of the tight bend was a joy. Today was another good day.
As the session drew to an end we headed back to the cafe where we had left the car. We had some time before the Classic race was due to be out on track so it was time for some lunch in the German sunshine. For the 3hr classic race we thought we would head to the famous Karussell hairpin. We wouldn’t be able to shoot the whole race as the British GT race one was due soon after and we needed to get back for that, but we made the most of the time we did have.
Having taken to the forest tracks that twisted and turned up the hills we had made it to the infamous corner. Seeing the banked hairpin for the first time was incredible. Again, no pictures or race simulators could do it any justice. The banking was steep and cars bottomed out and sparks flew as they dropped into the corner and again as they exited with some even taking to the air briefly. Again, it was another corner that provided many different perspectives and photo opportunities. There were English Marshall’s on the post at this corner who were very friendly as we were to find out throughout our time at the Nürburgring providing us with tea, biscuits and good conversation. The sights and sounds of classic Porsche 911’s, E-Type Jags and the awesome Warsteiner liveried BMW M1 Procar was just the icing on the cake. A few more images from the Classic race can be seen on my Facebook page or on my Flickr page.
Time must have flown by as it was soon time to head back to the Grand Prix Circuit for the First of the weekends British GT Races. It was a great spectacle and the racing was great. Jann Mardenborough continued to show his form in the Nissan GT-R as he stretched out a lead before the pit stops and handing over to Alex Buncombe. However the RJN team had stopped for half a second shorter than they should have and were punished with a drive through penalty. This gifted the win to the Beechdean Aston Martin of Jonny Adam and Andrew Howard. The cars first win in the Championship. The Full race report can be read here. Also some more images of the British GT can be viewed on the Chris Gurton Photography Facebook page here or on my Flickr page here.
A new qualifying format for the 24hr race saw the top 40 cars compete in a shoot out format on Friday evening and this was to be the last session of the day. With the prospect of the fastest cars pushing hard to set fast times we made our move to Flugplatz. A long straight with a slight crest at Quiddelbacher-Höle where the front of the cars lift off the ground, some even getting all four wheels off the ground.
I took up my position right behind the Armco just feet from the tarmac ready to capture the action. We didn’t have long to wait as we could see the cars drop down the hill at Hocheichen in the distance before roaring up into view on their out laps. Picking up the pace for their flying laps expectation mounted. The first car, one of the Aston Martins, came past with a whoosh, the front of the car lifted as the front two wheel parted with the warm tarmac. Amazing. The following cars were to do the same. This was awesome. The drivers were showing balls of steel as the crest was close to a braking point. I was in awe of these incredible machines and their pilots.
Yet again the session had passed in a blur but I was left with a great feeling inside. It was time to head back to the hotel and get some rest before the big day. Saturday; Race Day.
Every now and then in life you have to face some tough decisions. Its just part of life, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Without the benefit of hindsight, you often never know which one is the right decision to take or the outcome until it has happened. This week I’ve been faced with such a decision. Do I go with my heart or my head?
Last week I was booked up to cover a three day equestrian event at the beginning of August. That wasn’t a problem. Its the same event I do every year, well almost every year, but I’ll come back to that later. I was more than happy to do it. After all, I need the money and in tough economical times, who would turn that down? However, this week, I was asked to do another Equestrian event over three days the week before. I also usually do this event each year too. So surely it was a simple decision to make right?
Wrong. This event was to be in late July during a time when I was making plans for something else. I was planning on going to Belgium for the Spa 24 hour race and the British F3 round there the same weekend. I was really looking forward to going and you are all probably well aware of my love of sportscar and endurance racing. I had even sacrificed my trip to Le Mans this year to help pay the costs. I was also going to go with my friend James who writes the race reports that I provide the photos for. I knew he was looking forward to the trip too. But could I turn down the money that the Equestrian event would bring me? It was a difficult decision. Do I go with my heart or my head. I’ve never been to Spa and I missed out going last year due to other commitments and I was pretty gutted about that. Do I miss out again this year?
I do enjoy photographing Equestrian events and it is something I used to do a lot of. In fact, its where I started with my photography business. It was only until years later that I started the motorsport photography and that was only due to more and more competition for work and less events coming my way. Despite keeping my costs down and coming up with unique products, bookings were becoming less frequent. So it is always nice to keep my foot in the door and the Pony Club who book me for these events are always very good to me. They are kind, polite and often provide me lunch. We all know the way to a Man’s heart is through his stomach, so I’m always happy to be there. I wasn’t booked for one of the events two years ago though, and I assumed that was it and my time as an Equestrian photographer was numbered. It was a pity, because I always enjoyed it. I wouldn’t have done it otherwise, so naturally I was disappointed. Was it something I did wrong? Were my photos not good enough? Was I just too expensive? I knew that the latter wasn’t the case. I’d checked the price of other photographers prints and I was one of, if not the cheapest around. After all, I’d rather sell two photos at £10 each than one at £16. I also knew I was always kind, polite and acted professionally at all times, so it probably wasn’t something I did wrong either. My natural lack of self confidence meant that I had assumed no one liked my photos and there were photographers a lot better than me getting the work.
So you can imagine my surprise when I get a call a year later almost begging me to come back. It had turned out that the previous years organiser had changed and she knew a photographer so asked him to cover the event. Apparently he was more used to taking pictures of minor celebrities falling out of nightclubs late at night, rather than horses and their riders. According to the woman on the phone, she had bought a number of my photos over the past few years and really liked them so when she took over as the new organiser knew who to ask first to cover the event. This actually really cheered me up. Maybe my work wasn’t so bad after all. So when she called again last week it was a yes straight away. I’m more than happy to repay other peoples kindness.
It was the other event booking causing me the problem though. Again, the organisers are very kind, friendly, treat me well and the atmosphere is always very good. But it would mean missing the Spa 24 hours. I needed the money the event would bring, but I felt that I would be letting James down if I told him I couldn’t go to Spa after saying I would. Deep down I knew I had to go with my head over my heart and if I turned down the event, the chances were I wouldn’t be asked back again and I know I would miss not doing the occasional equestrian event. Thankfully, although James was disappointed when I told him, but he understood the situation and that although it was a tough choice to make had to do what I thought was best.
The decision was made, I wont be going to Spa. I know a few other motorsport photographers have raised a few eyebrows at my choice, but despite the disappointment of missing the 24 hour race, I’m pretty sure I’ve made the right decision. It is the one that makes the most financial sense anyway. I am looking forward to doing the events though. Yes there is a lot of work to be done but they are always good fun and the weather is usually really good.
I would probably have chosen Spa if I wasn’t going to the Nurburgring 24 hour race in a couple of weeks. So at least I will be at one European 24hr race this year and I can’t wait. I’m sure there will be other opportunities for me to go to the iconic Belgium circuit in years to come anyway.
It’s been nearly a month now since I bought my new car and most of you will know I am very proud of it. That’s just as well as it is the single biggest purchase of my life to date. However, there is one gripe I have. Despite the fact that I love driving it, I love the way it looks, and the fact that it is the SRi version so it has the big alloy wheels, the sports seats and trim, there are some people who have turned their nose up at it just prior to a comment along the lines of ‘Huh, it’s only a Vauxhall Vectra’
So what? It’s my car, I have to drive it, you don’t, that’s why it’s my car and not yours. Cars are very much a form of art in that they are subjective. What one person likes, others may not. Let’s be honest, I hate the Nissan Juke, I think it’s ugly, pointless and resembles the warthog from the Lion King. That hasn’t stopped others buying it though. Why? Because they like it. No one is forcing you to buy a car you don’t like.
I don’t have a massive budget and I know I will never be able to buy an Aston Martin V12 Vantage, so being sensible I bought a car that ticks all my requirements. If I’m honest, Kelly Brook may be stunning, but I imagine she is expensive to maintain and if she can’t cook at all, then for me, she probably isn’t really marriage material. So the Vectra is practical for what I need and the SRi variant makes it just that bit more special and I think looks great. Ever seen the film ‘She’s all that’? Average looking girl (who I thought was quite pretty anyway) gets asked to the High School prom by a Jock, has a bit of a makeover, then becomes über hot. (I promise you an ex girlfriend made me watch that film) Anyway, I guess to me the SRi is a bit like that. If you have an expensive flashy car then yes, maybe to you it is ‘Only a Vauxhall Vectra’ but with your trophy wife on your arm kitted out with expensive clothes and jewellery looking like a million dollars you may not take a second look at that gorgeous girl working at the checkout in your local Sainsbury’s. That doesn’t mean she isn’t hot and it doesn’t mean a lot of other blokes don’t fancy her.
Whilst testing the new sporty Vauxhall Corsa on Top Gear recently, James May got into a Fiat Panda and stated that life is about ‘Taking pleasure in the simple things’. He is of course right. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, a petrolhead is still a petrolhead. Whether you own a Citroen Saxo or an Audi RS4, you can still enjoy driving and taking pride in your vehicle. James May can probably afford any car he wants, yet he owns and drives a Fiat Panda. That’s the beauty of being a car fanatic. Your tastes can vary, you’re needs can differ, but we all share a passion for cars. I love seeing old cars that have been kept in immaculate condition and have been well looked after on the road as much as a brand new offering from the likes of Ferrari or Bentley. There is a guy in my Village who drives a 1983 Ford Fiesta Ghia in pale gold. It is as immaculate, if not more so, than the day it rolled off the production line all those years ago, but it still makes me smile when I see it. It may be just an old Ford Fiesta, but it’s obviously his pride and joy. I also saw a Triumph Dolomite Sprint in pretty good condition at the weekend doing what they were designed to do, being driven. Ok, So like all British Leyland products that is rare but, I still enjoyed seeing it.
So with a free Sunday, and having spent the day before cleaning and polishing my new pride and joy to within an inch of her life, I decided I would take her out and do two things I really enjoy. Driving and taking photos. I packed my cameras, lenses, and a few bits of other kit and headed out. I love to get motion photos and although I have built a car rig to take photos with, there are a few issues that need ironing out plus it’s pretty hard to fit it all and mess about with it on your own, so instead I took a pump cup, a few clamps and my Magic Arm with quick release plate. Using a quiet road on an industrial estate I set to work fitting my camera to various parts of the car and using a slow shutter speed and timer so I had time to jump back in the car and drive it before the shutter released. I spent quite a while trying different things with varying degrees of success whilst getting odd looks from passers by. Being restricted on what I could do on my own, I went away with a few hopeful looking shots for me to play about with on the computer when I got home. That was not before I went for a drive in the unseasonal weather we’ve been experiencing, the perfect excuse. Some people see driving as a chore or something to be avoided if they can, but I love driving. Even more so in my new car. It was good to get out and explore places and find new roads you didn’t know of before, you get to see quite a lot, and what’s more, you get to see lots of other cars and the people who drive them. Sunday was a good day.
Regardless of whatever car you own, whether other people like it or not, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. So, I may just have a Vauxhall Vectra, but…..It’s MY Vauxhall Vectra.
This weekend I spent some time creating a video slideshow of images I had taken at the Britcar 24hr race at Silverstone last October. Ok, so I’m not great at creating stuff like that and it did take me a while to do, but it is finally done.
However, whilst selecting images to use in the video I spent a lot of time going through the photos I had take. I came across a photo that caught my attention which it hadn’t done before. The more I looked at it the more I liked it. It may not be to everyone’s taste but after looking at it for quite a while and making a few tweaks in Photoshop, I really like it. There were a few other photos that had initially caught my attention before as being quite good but up until this weekend the photo in question wasn’t one of them. Subsequently it is now one of my favourites from the race. I guess it pays to go back and look at photos regularly and you might just spot something that you didn’t notice before.
Anyway, I’ll let you cast your own judgement on the photo and let you decide if you like it or not. It is of the race winning Eclipse Ferrari 430. As for the video, you can see it below.
Last weekend saw the annual Britcar 24 hour race at Silverstone, the premier 24 hour race on UK soil. Once again the entry list was full of a whole host of car makes and models from the front running Ferraris, Moslers and Porches, to Honda Civics, BMWs and a Smart Four 4.
I was there covering the event for the Checkered Flag taking photos whilst the three other team members were providing Hourly Updates and live feeds online. You can check out our coverage and race report here.
The weather was incredibly favourable, unlike last year and the sun was beating down on the circuit. The crowds were gathered in large numbers which was great to see as It is a superb event and deserves all the support it can get. I’m sure those who were there will agree that they were treated to a spectacle. I love covering the 24 hour race as I can get photos from a whole host of places and in different lights. I really enjoy trying to get evening light trail shots too, and although I didn’t get the fantastic red sky in the evening I did last year, I did get a nice sunrise. Also, shooting a 24hr race gives you plenty of time to muck about with your camera and try new things, new angles and find new spots to shoot from. I spent some time in the pit lane too which is always fun trying to get some good shots whilst dodging expensive race cars. You can see a bigger collection of photos from the race on my Facebook group here.
As with all endurance racing, reliability is key and this year was no exception. A number of class four cars finished in the top 10 beating their quicker and more powerful rivals and the Aquilla, which was setting blisteringly quick times, about five seconds faster than anyone else, showed its vulnerability and a host of problems dropped in down the timing screens. As the race headed into the midday sun of Sunday, it looked like it would be an exciting climax between the Topcats Racing Mosler and the Eclipse Motorsport Ferrari 430. However, disaster struck for the Mosler with about four hours of the race left to go and whilst leading when a stuck throttle caused the car to career into the tyre wall at the end of the Wellington straight ending its hopes of victory. It was a bitter blow for the Topcats team who were recovering from having their team base broken into and almost everything stolen. Tools, wheels, tyres, spare parts etc. Pretty much the only things left were the car chassis. It was a great effort to see them on the grid and get everything ready and it was good to see their other two cars, a pair of Marcos Mantis’ finish very respectfully.
This year saw a team of Gadget Show presenters tackle the 24hr race on a simulator from one of the garages. Running in sync with the race on track, Jon, Jason and Polly drove a state of the art gaming simulator. I’m not sure how they got on but I’m sure you will see it on the TV. I cannot recommend the event highly enough and it is well worth going to next year. So don’t miss out.
I’m back at Silverstone this weekend for the British GT and Blancpain endurance series which will be great and then after that, on the Sunday night I head off to the Isle of Mull for the Mull Rally with Andy Rowe and Cat Lund as part of their Support Crew. I cannot wait for that and it will be a great new experience for me which I will share when I get back.
This weekend my Alter Ego will be off to Rockingham to photograph the British GT and F3 championships after a couple of weekends away from being trackside and it can’t come soon enough.
I say alter ego because as a photographer I am a different person to the one in my day job. Unfortunately my day job is totally different to being a photographer and I like to keep the two very separate. So much so that my boss doesn’t really know what I get up to at weekends and neither does any other people I come into contact with at work. Whereas over time I have become to despise my day job for many different reasons, I love my photography and being trackside so I like to keep them apart. I always look forward to being trackside, photographing great cars and racing and catching up with some good friends I have made during my time as a motorsport photographer. Whereas on the flip side, I dread going to work especially after a great weekend behind my camera. I am currently looking for another job but that is a whole different story!
It has been a little while since I was last taking photos of the Britcar championships at Snetterton and since then my main camera has been sent off to the Nikon repair centre which turned out to be quite a farce. I have developed a slight scratch on the filter in front of my sensor which is sometimes noticeable on photos. Very much like dust spots, it is more noticeable on photos where a slower shutter speed is used. Whilst not totally ruining the camera it is still somewhat annoying and something I was hoping cold be fixed. Having sent the camera off, I had to wait over a week for Nikon to tell me they had received it and that a quote would follow soon. A few more days passed and I had eventually received a repair quote. A whopping £1,700! This was unexpected as I thought the filter could be replaced easily. Needless to say I did not go ahead with the repair and I am still waiting for the camera to be sent back.
In the mean time a new camera has been purchased which I will be putting through its paces at Rockingham. It will be my second visit to the circuit this season having been there for Britcar in April. It’s a unique circuit, run on an oval and infield section, that divides opinions but I don’t mind the circuit. The fact that it is hosting the return of the British GT series, after a long break, means I’m looking forward to it even more as you all know how much I love GT racing.
So whilst I will be heading into work tomorrow with a heavy heart, my thoughts will be on the weekend and one of the few things that helps me through each day. Also, it is just one month to go to the Britcar 24 hour race. I cannot 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.
As a photographer and fan of motorsport, I have a huge interest in photography from other eras of the sport. Therefore I love books that show photographs from other periods of motor racing. I am always fascinated to see images from years past of classic cars doing battle whilst the driver pushes the machine to its limits in a time when there were no devices to help the driver such as sequential gearboxes, traction control or ABS. I also find it amazing to see how great the photos are as the camera’s used are pretty crude compared to what you have now.
One of my favourite books is one titled ‘Motor Racing – The Early Years’ by Brian Laban and Getty Images. 350 pages charting motorsport from as early as the turn of the twentieth century through to the end of the fifties. The images are breathtaking and give a real insight into what it was like behind the wheel of these incredible machines. At the moment I am reading a book called ‘Track Record – The Motorsport Photography of Maurice Rowe’ This book charts the career, through images of Maurice Rowe starting from Formula one and sports cars in the fifties through to the late seventies. The book includes some stunning and also intimate images of the a golden era of the sport with the likes of Jim Clarke, Jackie Stewart, John Surtees and Graham Hill all captured on and off the track. Well worth a look if you can track down a copy.
I couldn’t talk about books without mentioning a very interesting book bought to my attention called ‘Go Faster’ by Sven Voelker. It looks into the graphic design of race cars and how racing liveries can shape and change the way racing cars look, perhaps something for the car designer in you.
This interest I have of racing cars of years passed, is why I head to the Goodwood revival each year. It’s a great opportunity to see classic racing cars doing what they were designed to do. Race. It’s nice to see the cars on display but you can’t beat seeing them take to the famous Goodwood tarmac and power round the circuit as they did many years ago. I hope that in many years to come, I will still get to see the current crop of racing cars in action as I feel it is important to keep history alive.
At this point, I’d like to hear from you. Are there certain books about motorsport that you like? Do you have any favourites you would recommend? I’m always looking out for books that interest me so it would be nice to hear from you.
So as 2011 has arrived at a rapid pace, I have decided to resurrect my blog. However, I’ve gone one step better and started a completely new one. This time it is now a place to write mostly about my photography, motorsport, and my work for The Checkered Flag. Although no doubt I will occasionally write about a few other bits and bobs, and life in general just for good measure.
I’m using a new hosting site so it might take me a little while to get used to it all, but in time I hope to make it a better and of course add in a few visual treats along the way. Also, I would like to hear from you, the reader. Feel free to comment, and leave your thoughts and also let me know if there are certain things you’d like to hear about or want me to discuss.
So onwards into the New Year and it’s been a long time since I’ve seen any live motorsport and I’m starting to get impatient. I’ve purchased some more motorsport DVD’s to help me through this difficult time until I’m back out trackside and behind the lens.
On a plus note, I will be heading to the Autosport Show next Thursday and I hear that Lotus Renault or Renault Lotus or The team formally known as Renault or whatever they will be called, are to showcase their new livery. It seems that it will be based on the classic Black and Gold John Player livery so I can’t wait to see it. It will also be great to catch up with some good friends whilst I’m there and maybe join James and Pete, the BTCCCrazy editor and photographer for a Slush Puppy. (An inside joke which may well become apparent when the new BTCC season gets underway).
This year I am really looking forward to seeing the new Snetterton Circuit Layout. This is due for completion in February and will no doubt increase the circuits stature in help encourage larger race series to Norfolk. As a circuit I visit regularly, it will be interesting to see the changes and the further developments in store for the coming months and years. A new video has been released providing an aerial and onboard perspective of the new ‘300’ circuit layout which can be viewed here.
So with my new blog now up and running, all that remains for now is for me to wish you all a very Happy and Prosperous New Year.
Don’t forget to check back soon for more of my rumblings.