A Fantastic WEC-End
After three weekends in a row at Snetterton, my next three race weekends were going to be at Silverstone. Although rather than three back to back it will be three in five weekends. The first of these weekends was to be the World Endurance Championship. As an Endurance racing fan it was going to be a great weekend and would go some way to making up for the fact I didn’t go to Le Mans this year.
I had never photographed Le Mans Prototype cars before, not as accredited media anyway and there were a lot of rules to adhere to. A photographers briefing was held on the Saturday morning and all photographers had to attend in order to be allowed a photographers bib. This wasn’t a bad thing as it provides as a reminder as just how dangerous being trackside can be. Also, to be allowed in the pit lane you needed fireproofs overalls, a helmet and a special Pit Lane bib. These bibs were limited and thankfully a managed to reserve one for the Saturday Practice session and the middle two hours of the six hour race.
The practice session was to be the first session I would be shooting, so I donned the overalls I had borrowed got my gear sorted and headed down to the pit lane. Rocking the bicycle helmet look, I stepped out of the garages into the pit lane as the cars, teams and drivers were preparing to head out. Mechanics rushed about, drivers were getting strapped in and engines roared into life. For a second or two I had almost forgotten why I was there as I soaked up the atmosphere. The cars were beautiful, the noise was music to a petrol heads hears and the surroundings were great. Ok, so I wasn’t at the Circuit de la Sarthe, but it was good enough.
During the session I busied myself taking photos, walking up and down the pit lane, looking for which teams were preparing for a stop so I knew which cars were coming in and I knew where to head for to get photos. The time flew by and the session drew to a close. The Audi Garage had drew a lot of attention and as the Number 2 car had been pushed back into the garage, the Number 1 car had come in. The team used this time to practice driver changes. I used this time to get photos of the Le Mans winning car and drivers in the form of Benoit Tréluyer, Marcel Fässler and André Lotterer as they leapt in and out of the magnificent R18 e-tron Quattro whilst mechanics glided around removing tyres and replacing them effortlessly as Leena Gade, the number 1 cars race engineer, manned the stop watch. After half a dozen or so pit stop practices the car was wheeled away and the rain started to fall. I took this a cue to head back to the media room to see what I had managed to capture.
James could tell by the grin on my face as I got back to my laptop that I had been enjoying myself and I was. I couldn’t wait to head out trackside for the qualifying session later that afternoon. Thankfully by then the rain had stopped and the track was drying. I headed out to the Village Loop to capture the two short qualifying sessions. One for the LMGTE classes and one for the LMP classes. With the GT classes qualified the LMP cars headed out. On their first flying lap it was instantly obvious just how fast they were. They stuck like glue to the track through Abbey and Farm Curve looking aggressive yet graceful. As the session ended I couldn’t wait for the race on Sunday.
The day wasn’t over yet though. With no more sessions to photograph, whilst in the media room, an invite for all media to join the Strakka team for Pimms and Scones in their garage and 6pm was handed out. Also, soon after, another invite came. This time from JRM for drinks, food and the opportunity to chat to the team and drivers in their hospitality unit. Not one to pass up the offer of free food and drink, I, along with some other media friends headed down to the Strakka garage to take up their kind offer. They were very welcoming and were more than keen for us to drink plenty of Pimms. The JRM team were also very welcoming as were their drivers, Karun Chandhok, David Brabham & Peter Dumbreck. Happy to chat and answer questions it was a great experience and a fine end to the day.
Sunday started early with a 20 minute warm up session. It gave me an opportunity to get a few more shots before the main race. It also meant I experienced the superb photographers shuttle service. A few minibuses were laid on for photographers to get around the circuit and whilst onboard I was given the phone number of the driver and told to call when I needed a lift somewhere and he would get someone to come and pick me up. After the warm up session I used the number and sure enough, within 2 minutes a minibus arrived to pick me up and take me back to the media centre.
The morning soon passed and the cars and teams began to form up on the grid. It was time to head out, beginning with some time on the grid. Whilst taking some photos of the cars and teams during their preparations, I came across Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott, The British Canoe Slalom Olympic Gold Medallists. Tim was posing for photos with some girls and seemed to be enjoying the attention. I began to wish I had a Team GB tracksuit, but I had caught Etienne’s eye and I asked if I could take a photo. He was more than happy to oblige and posed with his gold medal. He was very pleasant and I was somewhat in awe of what who I had just met. The weekend was getting better and better.
As the grid cleared I headed out trackside. I took up my position at the loop to shoot the start whilst listening to the commentary from Radio Le Mans. John Hindhaugh was doing a great job of building the start up and you could feel the tension in the crowd build. The safety car peeled off and the six hours of Silverstone was underway.
I spent some time shooting the race around Village and the Loop section of the track before jumping on a minibus to get around to Luffield. Time was passing quickly but I was trying to get in as many different areas as possible. As the end of the second hour drew near it was time to get back to collect my pit lane bib for my two hour time slot. A quick call later and I was soon getting back into the overalls and putting on my helmet. The Pit lane was pretty busy and I needed to keep my wits about me. I couldn’t get in the way of any of the teams and risk ruining their slick pit stops so I had to be alert, especially as the Hybrid cars were eerily quiet whilst coming in and exiting the pits.
Before I knew it, my time in the pit lane was up so I handed back my bib, got changed and headed back out to trackside. There was something quite comforting about listening to John Hindhaugh’s dulcet Geordie tones and the rest of the Radio Le Mans team as I shot these incredible machines. The weather had stayed dry and by now was quite warm. Despite some difficult times of late, I was feeling quite content. I was beginning to wish it was a 24hr race not just 6 hours.
I had got round to the final corner to capture the Chequered Flag which I did, but not exactly how I had hoped. I guess it’s up to the drivers themselves where they place the car on the track not the photographers envisaging the shot they want. Thankfully I was in the right place to cross the track and get to the end of the pit lane for the podium. I took up a spot on the tyre barrier next to two young boys waving flags and cheering for their dad, who just happened to be Alan McNish. The area was packed with teams, crew, VIP’s and photographers as the trophies were handed out and champagne was sprayed.
The end of the weekend had made its appearance and as I was packing up my gear I had a chance to let it all sink in. It had been a superb race and an incredible weekend which I had thoroughly enjoyed. Sometimes my life isn’t too bad.
For race reports and news from the weekend, check out The Checkered Flag website. Images from the weekend can be seen on the Chris Gurton Photography Facebook page, and prints of the photos can be purchased from the Motorsport Galleries page on my website http://www.chrisgurtonphotography.com
This entry was posted on August 29, 2012 by Chris Gurton. It was filed under Uncategorized and was tagged with Abbey, Allan McNish, Andre Lotterer, Benoit Tréluyer, Canoe Slalom, Circuit de la Sarthe, David Brabham, e-tron, Etienne Stott, Farm Curve, Gold, Grid, GTE, Hybrid, John Hindhaugh, JRM, Karun Chandhok, Le Mans, Leena Gade, LMP, Luffield, Marcel Fässler, Mechanics, Medal, Media, Motorsport, Olympics, Peter Dumbreck, Photographer, Pit lane, Podium, Practice, Prototype, Qualifying, Quattro, R18, Race, Radio Le Mans, Silverstone, Snetterton, Strakka, Team GB, The Loop, Tim Baillie, Village, Warm Up, WEC, World Endurance Championship.