The thoughts of Chris Gurton on motorsport, his photography, his work and his life in general. The thoughts, views and opinion's expressed in this blog are those of Chris Gurton and not necessarily those of any publication that he contributes to.

Posts tagged “Media

Baying for a Crash.

It’s now become quite obvious that if you are an organiser of a mainstream motorsport championship or event and you want some coverage in the national media, then all you need to do is get someone to have a big crash. If the driver involved in that crash is a popular ex Formula One driver, then all the better. You’re guaranteed a few column inches somewhere in the back pages and even an article on the BBC’s ‘Formula One is the only form of Motorsport’ website.

Sadly, this seems to be the only way the FIA World Endurance Championship can get any coverage in the British Media. Mark Webber’s huge accident in Sao Paulo on Sunday make it on to the BBC website, thanks to the loose Formula One connection, and also into a few national newspapers. I even heard it mentioned in the sport on Absolute Radio’s breakfast show. Those of you who saw it will have winced and be extremely relieved that Mark is OK. It’s a testament to safety in sports car racing that people can walk away from such impacts.

There must be better ways for Porsche to get some publicity of their World Endurance team?

There must be better ways for Porsche to get some publicity of their World Endurance team?

But what really annoys me is that despite the media coverage, I have not seen a single report from these national news outlets that has mentioned the winner of the race. Porsche’s name is all over reports as the car Webber was driving, but no one mentioned that the second Porsche car in the race took victory. Not only that but after a titanic battle with the number 8 Toyota which saw the two cars split by just 0.170 of a second after six hours of racing.

On the subject of the number 8 Toyota, where were these journalists desperate to grab attention with pictures and news of a devastating crash that could have claimed the life of a racing driver, when just two weeks ago, the drivers of said Toyota, the Swiss Sebastien Buemi and British racer Anthony Davidson claimed the World Championship? A British driver winning a World Championship and no one was interested in reporting it.

Image: Chris Gurton Photography

Anthony Davidson: A British sporting World Champion the media aren’t interested in.

Sadly it’s the same for that great motoring institution, Rallying. You don’t get any media coverage of it unless a spectator is sadly injured or killed. As was the case with reports from the Jim Clarke rally, and this tiny piece on the BBC sport website about the Grizedale rally which thanks to really poor reporting suggests an incident far worse than that that actually took place.

I’ve been at touring car races where crowds cheer when someone crashes. I’ve spoken to people who have stated they only like motorsport when there are crashes. How would these people like it if they were involved in an accident on the M25 and witnesses stopped, got out of their cars and started cheering? Is this really the mentality of people these days? Is it what people want? Is that why the media love a good crash story because it gets more attention? I really hope not. We all know the situation with Jules Bianchi so must realise that accidents and crashes are a serious matter.
Surely as motorsport fans we all want to see close and exciting racing. Crashes don’t really add to the excitement. Having been at LeMans when there have been two particularly nasty accidents, the silence of a quarter of a million spectators is chilling. The only cheering was when news that in both cases, the drivers were ok. Sadly that isn’t always the outcome.
We all know motorsport is dangerous. Competition is close and drivers push themselves to the limit and sometimes beyond, so accidents will inevitably happen and thankfully, those baying for crashes are in the small minority of fans. But the mentality of these people needs to change and the media needs to do its bit in helping that and not encouraging it. So please stop with the ‘Crashes make good stories’ attitude. Oh, and BBC, Formula One isn’t the be all and end all of motorsport, there is so much more out there. You can’t even get the rights to show a full season of F1 live so how about investing a bit of money in showing other live motorsport?

 

Rubens: Always happy!

Rubens: Always happy!

I guess the only positive to come from the Mark Webber accident is Rubens Barrichello’s instagram photo. I’m pretty sure if Rubens was to visit you in hospital he’d do a pretty good job of cheering you up. But is it just me, or does he look like an excited expectant father about to witness the birth of his and Mark Webber’s bizarre but superhuman love child?

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Trophy of the Dunes

This weekend saw the British GT championship head to Europe for rounds Eight and Nine at Zandvoort in Holland for the ‘Trophy of the Dunes’. So, naturally, I was there too and a great weekend was had.

Having got the overnight ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland, myself and my travel companions, Photographer Tom and Adam along with Journalist James, arrived at the circuit after a 50 mile drive on Friday morning. None of us had visited Zandvoort before but the formalities of signing in, getting our passes and photo bibs was no problem and we had found our way to the media centre without any issue. There was a lot of racing on the timetable but we were only there to cover the British GT, however we decided to use an early Dutch Supercar Challenge session to give us a feel of what the circuit was like.

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

British GT Headed to Zandvoort in Holland for the ‘Trophy of the Dunes’

Thankfully any red zones, the area’s that photographers are not allowed in for safety reasons, were clearly marked and the circuit was fairly easy to navigate round. The trouble with visiting a new circuit is that you can never be too sure where the good angles are and a lot of time is spent hunting them out and trying different spots to see what works and what doesn’t. This was definitely the case this weekend and the two 55 minute practice sessions were spent in various sections of the track trying to cover as many area’s as possible.

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

Sparks fly as the United Autosport Audi heads up the hill.

The Circuit is right beside the sea with the beach just a few hundred meters behind the main grandstand and the track weaving between sand dunes. Static caravans and a bizarre Centre-Parcs which seemed to be a tower block of apartments provided some of the backdrop that the dunes didn’t. The undulations helped provide some good angles and perspectives on the 2.676 mile circuit and the sand below our feet was certainly a change from the norm at a race track. The weather was humid and dry for the first session but the locals had said it can be changeable. This was proved right as the skies darkened and the rain fell before the second practice session at the end of the day. As the cars took to the track the rain did ease but standing water in some area’s did prove some challenge for the drivers.

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

The rain caused some standing water.

As the day drew to an end, it was time to head to the apartment we had booked. It was only a mile or so from the track and in the town. This was handy as although we spent a long time walking around trying to find a supermarket, we didn’t have too far to go. It was good to see there were a couple of British TV channel’s on the TV including the BBC.  The evening was spent drinking beer and eating burger and chips while looking through the days photos and deciding where to go for the other sessions during the weekend.

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

I’ve never experience static caravans as a backdrop at a circuit.

Saturday arrived and the Qualifying session was first up. I headed to the far side of the circuit to shoot this and the view from the top of the hill was pretty good. The weather, albeit humid, was cloudy and during the qualifying session there was a light shower which made for some interesting qualifying times for the races. It was going to make for some interesting racing.

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

The weather was changeable during qualifying.

Race one was to take place at the end of the day so there was quite a wait till then but the time was filled with photo editing and watching some of the other racing taking place throughout the day. I had decided to head out to the far side of the track again but work my way back the opposite way to which I did earlier during qualifying. The racing was good but I couldn’t help feel like I struggled somewhat with my camera. I just wasn’t feeling happy with some of the angles I was getting so spent a lot of time moving around. This also led to myself almost bumping into a startled deer amongst an area of long grass and bushes. Luckily it didn’t run onto the track. The race seemed over a lot quicker than the one hour and I was left a little disappointed with the photos I had taken.

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

I felt I struggled behind the lens over the weekend.

Sunday was a new day however and after an evening of watching the delightful Rachel Riley on Strictly Come Dancing I was hoping I could make amends and get some good images. The overnight and morning rain had stopped just in time for the 10 minute warm up session which I spent in the pit lane.

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

I spent the warm up session in the wet pit lane.

There were a couple of sections of the circuit I still hadn’t explored which I had planned to visit during the second race. The rain had gone and the sun was out ready for the second GT race and I had decided to capture the start on the outside of the first corner. I was a long walk to get there but thankfully a guy in a golf cart took me most of the way. I knew I would have to walk a long way back to get to the rest of the race from the area’s I the wanted to be, but I was hoping the start shot that would take in the whole of the long pit straight would be worth it.

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

It was a long walk to get the start shot on the outside of the first corner.

I had spent the first few minutes of the race at the first corner before the long brisk walk back to the area’s I wanted to get to. I had sacrificed about 15 minutes of shooting to get the start shot so needed to make the remaining time count. Again, there was good close racing on show and I was feeling happier behind the camera and quite pleased with some of the results. I had just got to the last place I wanted to be before the end of the race and was feeling more content. The circuit was great and I think if I was to visit again I would hopefully get a bit more out of myself knowing now where some of the good angles are.

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

I managed to get a few good angles during the second race.

We left the circuit late afternoon to head back to the port to get the overnight ferry home. It was the end of a good weekend that I had enjoyed and spent in good company. Holland is a really nice country and everyone was very friendly, plus they do good chips too so I hope to visit again soon. Maybe the British GT championship will be back next year.

To read full race reports from the weekend, visit the Checkered Flag website here.

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

I’d be more than happy to visit Zandvoort again in the future.


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.

Cars were preparing to head out for Saturday Practice when I arrived in the Pit Lane.

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.

German Efficiency: The Audi Pit Stops were perfect.

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 LMP cars were incredibly quick through Abbey and Farm Curve.

The cars were spectacular

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.

Etienne Stott and his Gold Medal

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.

The Toyota Hybrid was eerily quiet in the pit lane.

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 podium celebrations bought a brilliant weekend to a close.

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


Behind the Fence

I often get told two things during a race weekend while I’m there taking photos by members of the public. That I am lucky to have a media bib because you can get great photos and that it is hard to get decent photos from the spectator area. One of these statements is true to a certain extent and the other is false.

Yes, I am lucky to have a media bib. However I certainly don’t take it for granted and I deem myself very fortunate, but it is not without a lot of hard work that I have been given the opportunities I have. On the flip side, being able to take great photos is down to your own ability, creativity and making the most of the situations and opportunities you get. I’m not saying my ability or creativity is great though. I made a conscious decision to really push myself harder this season, try new things, work on areas I wasn’t so good at and be more creative and if I didn’t improve then I would consider the situation at the end of the season and decide whether to continue or not.

I made a decision to push myself and improve my photography and work on areas I wasnt so confident with. One of those areas was within the pit lane. A place I now spend more time in than I used to.

There are a lot of great photographers I admire and are the driving force for me to push myself and explore new possibilities when it came to my motorsport photography. I am always learning new things and it’s great to continually try things to see what works and what doesn’t. I would rather have a handful of really great photos from a weekend than 200 average ones. I am never one to blow my own trumpet, in fact, an ex girlfriend told my mum the day she walked out on me that she hated the way I am not confident enough in my own ability. Maybe so, but I would rather other people judge my work and decide if it is any good or not. This season it seems the general census of opinion is that my work has and is continuing to improve and now I can return home on a Sunday evening and be really pleased with some of my images. Yes, I still take some duff shots and not all of my experimental images work. I just don’t share them.

This leads me on to the second of the two statements. You can get good photos from the spectator areas. You just need to explore a little more to find the right places. A good photo doesn’t necessarily mean a close cropped image of a car or bike. A good image is something that is pleasing to the eye. I like images that capture atmosphere, surroundings and the mood of the event even if I may not necessarily be as good at that than others. I like images that tell a story and show creative thinking. Yes, photography is subjective like all art forms whether it be pictures, sculptures or music. What one person likes, another may not so I am not saying you have to agree. But if you think you can’t get any good photos from the spectator side of the fence, maybe you need to think about whether photography is for you.

I set myself a little project to try and prove that you can take good photos from the spectator areas at circuits.

So with all this in mind, whilst at Brands Hatch for the Britcar, Formula 2 & GT Open Championships at the weekend, I set myself a little challenge. I decided to spend a little time in the spectator areas to see what I could come up with. Brands Hatch is one of my favourite circuits and probably the best UK circuit for the keen amateur photographer as there are many good places to photograph from behind the fence. Especially on the Grand Prix loop. I know this as I used to be one of the many spectators with my camera taking photographs at race weekends. It is where I honed my somewhat basic skills and learnt a lot about motorsport photography.

During a couple of the sessions, over the weekend, one of the GT Qualifying sessions on Saturday and the Formula Junior Race on Sunday, I went and stood on the inside of Druids hairpin to see what I could do. Despite the odd looks I was getting from some of the public and the woman who seemed convinced I was taking photos of her whilst I set and locked the focus on my camera I enjoyed myself. Working with the surroundings and capturing the cars from a different perspective, I feel I managed to get some nice photos.

Despite the odd looks I was getting, it was worth it. This is one of my favourite photos from the weekend.

I’ve put some of the photos together in an album on my Chris Gurton Photography Facebook page here.  I hope to add to the album throughout the season and I also hope that maybe I have helped quash the belief that you can’t get good photos from behind the fence. So for all those keen photographers out there, don’t be afraid to be different and try new things. Make the most of the places you can get to, the surrounds around you and do your own thing. Don’t get jealous of the guy next to you who has expensive brand new equipment and a top of the range camera and lens. A lot of my equipment is second hand and there are a couple of photographers I really admire who don’t have the latest or the really expensive gear and their photos are fantastic. Remember, it’s not the size of your lens that counts, it’s what you do with it.

But most of all, have fun and enjoy your photography.


Twenty Two Thousandths

After a pretty rubbish week, I was looking forward to last weekend. My favourite British Race series was to be making its yearly visit to my favourite British racing Circuit. The British GT Championship was to be competing on the Grand Prix circuit at Brands Hatch and I was really looking forward to it.

Having spent the few days on the run up to the weekend checking the weather forecasts, things were looking good. I’ve been luck so far this year with the weather and I was again this weekend. Just a couple of brief showers on the Sunday afternoon were nothing to worry about. I always pack my waterproofs though just in case.

Saturday provided an opportunity to try some different perspectives

The Saturday morning was spent on the Druids shooting the GT Practice session and the F3 qualifying. I wanted to try a few different things to see what worked and what didn’t. Some stuff came out well, some didn’t. I found a nice new angle too during the F3 qualifying so I will remember that for next time. It’s always nice to capture a nice ‘Through the Trees’ shot too and with Brands one of the few circuits in England where you can do that, I made sure  I got a few in the bag. I was enjoying myself and the time flew by.  So I was soon back in the media centre checking out what I had captured.

F3 qualifying from Druids

The weather was still fine and dry in the afternoon as I headed out onto the Grand Prix loop for the second GT practice session and the first of the weekends three Formula 3 races. I decided to start at Stirlings, a known quantity for me and a good place to get a variety of shots, before walking back round the inside of the circuit as the session progressed. I got some useable stuff here but the sun was beginning to be an issue so whilst at Westfield bend waiting for the start of the F3 race I decided to cross over to the outside of the circuit so the sun was behind me.

I had never been on the outside of the Grand Prix loop and once I was there I was glad I had made the decision to cross over. There were some really great angles and new places to explore options and I was pleased with the results I was getting. I shot the F3 race and decided I would come back for the GT race on Sunday.  The final session I needed to shoot was the GT qualifying and I wanted to be in the pit lane for that so headed back at the end of the F3 race. The day had flown by and I was really looking forward to race day.

Sunday’s action was due to start at 10am with a 10 minute warm up session for the GT’s so I had a bit of a lie in. I headed to the garages and pit lane for the quick warm up session to get a few driver shots. I went to Druids to capture the action of the short 20 minute F3 race before lunch and getting my stuff prepared for the main two hour GT race. Watching the start of the F1 race on the TV in the media room, rain started to fall. I could see blue sky in the distance so was confident it would be a passing shower. However, I’m not trained meteorologist so it was time to break out the waterproofs to take with me just in case.

Carlos Sainz Jr ‘Trough the Trees’

The GT race was the one I was really looking forward to and as I headed out the rain had now stopped. I wanted to capture the start from Druids with the cars coming up the hill. As the pit lane opened and the cars headed out to form up on the grid, the rain started again causing a greasy surface which would add to the excitement at the start of the race. By the time the cars were released from the rolling start, the rain had stopped but the track was still slippery and the cars were on slick tyres. With a few spinners and some of the field taking it steadier than others there were a few position changes. Thankfully, I had my pocket radio so could tune into radio Brands to keep track of the commentary and what was going on. This was to prove invaluable out on the GP track where there are no tannoy speakers.

The GP loop provides new angles and perspectives.

I shot the first few laps from the outside of Druids hairpin before making my move to the Grand Prix loop. I headed to the bridge on the main straight and walked up the outside of the track along Hawthorn Hill. I was to spend the rest of the race working my way around the outside. Trying new angles and perspectives a brief shower whilst I was at Dingle Dell wasn’t going to ruin my enjoyment.  I was keeping up to date with the race action on the  radio and I was glad of it. The race was proving to be pretty exciting. The Nissan GTR of Alex Buncombe and Jann Mardenborough that started in ninth was now in the lead with the other Nissan GTR of the Hetherington brothers Benji and Freddie was making its way through the pack too and was up to fourth before disaster struck.

Benji Hetherington had pushed just a bit too hard through Stirlings and two wheels up on the kerb on the exit was enough to spit the car out and into the barrier on inside. It was a heavy impact and a relatively long safety car period was to follow to allow the recovery of the car and repairs to the barrier. It was a disappointment as the white Nissan was due a good race and things were looking good. The pit stops and drivers played out soon after the safety car period and It was Jann Mardenborough now in the leading Nissan. Oliver Bryant had taken over the BMW Z4 and was up to second place and trying to close in. Each time Bryant closed the gap, Mardenborough seemed to have an answer and kept him at bay just a couple of seconds behind. Keeping track of the commentary whilst continuing to capture what was unfolding on track with my camera the time was flying by but I wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen.

Whilst the Nissan and BMW battled out at the front, Jonny Adam was now in the Aston Martin setting very quick times. He was catching the front two at quite a rate but with quite a deficit to make up, would there be enough time with the 2 hour finish time in sight. It looked like he could make second place but would still need to pass the BMW once he caught him. Sure enough, the flying Aston was to steal second place at Paddock Hill bend on the penultimate lap. Onto the final lap and the Aston had the Nissan in its sights. Could the Beechdean car take an unlikely win just two weeks after a full rebuild thanks to its heavy impact with the wall at Rockingham just two weeks ago?

The BMW was unable to hold off the hard charging Aston Martin

I was at sheen curve on the last lap. I could see the Nissan approach with the Aston in close attendance and the BMW not too far behind. I watched as they rounded Stirlings and now not even a cigarette paper could separate the rear of the Black and Red Nissan GTR and the front of the Blue and White Aston Martin. Out of sight I had to rely on the commentary. After defending the final bend, the Nissan had the inside line but the Jonny Adam moved to the outside. It was to be a straight drag to the line. Side by side the pair crossed the line. A second or two passed after the flag had dropped while the commentator waited for the timing screen to update. Who had one?

Incredibly, after 2 hours of racing and 74 laps of the Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit, just twenty two thousandths of a second split the pair. That’s 0.022seconds in numbers. The closest British GT race finish in history. The spoils went to the Nissan. Just. It now made it six different race winners from six races and five different manufacturers. What a finish. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough for you, Jann Mardenborough confirmed that this, his first GT race victory had come exactly 365 days after he won the Playstation GT Academy. It really was fairytale stuff. I was beaming. I had witnessed an awesome race and my favourite British race series had produced something truly special on my favourite British race circuit.

365 days after winning the GT academy, Jann Mardenborough takes British GT victory

I stayed to photograph the final F3 race of the day knowing that it was just never going to match the excitement of the GT race. I headed back to the media room and was met by beaming faces all round and discussion of the incredible scenes that they had witnessed. A video still from TSL timing’s camera aimed at the finish lane showed how close the GT race finish really was. It was a fantastic weekend and I was so glad to have witnessed it.

For the full race report visit The Checkered Flag.

My GT images can be seen here on my Facebook Page and Flickr album and my F3 images can also be seen here on my Facebook Page and my Flickr album.

Photo Finish; What 0.022s looks like. The Closest finish in Bitish GT History.

I now have two weekends away from the circuit, before my next event which is again back at Brand Hatch on the Grand Prix circuit for a bumper weekend of the F2, GT Open and Britcar. If it is half as exciting as the British GT race, it will be a good weekend and I look forward to finding some more new angles and locations to shoot from.


Motorsport Coverage

During last weekend, one of the world’s greatest sporting events took place. However, many people didn’t even realise that this great event was even taking place. Why? Well because whilst the media were so busy boring everyone to death with excessive coverage of 22 men and one ball, the fact that over 150 men with two balls, made of steel, had descended on a small town in France to take part in a real challenge of attrition had been over looked.

I am of course talking about the 80th running of the Le Mans 24 hour endurance race. One of, if not, the greatest motor race in the world. I had hoped to be writing about the amazing race. The return of Toyota and the promise they had shown. The future of the sport with the running of the Nissan Deltawing. Race safety following Anthony Davidsons huge crash. The great battles throughout the strong field and the winners and losers in each category alongside the fact that I genuinely believe that Andre Lotterer could claim Tom Kristensen’s crown as ‘Mr Le Mans’.

Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer & Marcel Fassler took their second successive Le Mans victory with Audi.

Unfortunately one thing really got to me over the weekend and the following few days which I have turned my attention to as it is a subject I feel quite strongly.

The coverage Le Mans got within the British Media was minimal. Many motorsport fans will know there are many websites out there that provide motorsport news as well as magazines like Autosport and Motorsport News are easily accessible. Also, Eurosport need to be applauded for their full coverage throughout the 24 hours, despite the constant advert breaks. However, not everyone has access to sky, including me. I only managed to see what I could by subscribing online. But what about reaching the wider audience? I saw nothing about the race on the BBC News. I was at work over the weekend and whilst there I listen to radio 5 live all morning. They have a half hour slot at 5.30am-6am for a sports round up. There was not mention of the race that was going to take place on Saturday morning and only a brief mention on Sunday morning, which was probably only down to the Anthony Davidson accident. They mention his incident quickly before saying British driver Allan McNish was currently leading the race. At that point, Allan McNish was not leading the race, his number two Audi was actually a lap down on the leading Audi.

I checked the Sunday Times sport supplement. Quite a few pages full of sport. Not a single mention about Le Mans. Nothing. The Monday papers weren’t much better either and if it wasn’t for the huge Davidson crash, then I’m pretty sure there would have been no mention of the race at all. Is this an example of what the public really want to read about? A few paragraphs about a huge accident and one sentence on the winner?

Sadly, if it wasnt for Anthony Davidson’s huge accident, mainstream media coverage of Le Mans would probably have been non-existant.

Unfortunately, the refusal of the mainstream media to acknowledge the existence of Motorsport outside of Formula One and Moto GP is having an adverse effect on the sport at all levels. I say Moto GP, because despite what someone told me on twitter, the race at Silverstone over the weekend did actually get a lot of coverage. There was even a section on my local news, Look East, about the upcoming race and again on the Monday after. Over the weekend there was a lot of talk and coverage of the race on 5 live and again, on BBC Radio one, it was mentioned in every half hourly sports bulletin on Monday morning. I am of course not complaining about this. It is of course a good thing, but a quarter of a million fans were at Le Mans and it is deemed not news worthy? Give me a break!

I am a great believer in supporting motorsport from club level upwards and in tough economic times any support is of great benefit. I also believe that the mainstream media have a role to play in this too. The reasons most sports are widely supported is the coverage they get. Football gets a huge amount of coverage on the TV, in the News, the papers and on the radio. This coverage gets people interested, excited and pumped up about the sport. The current European championships is a prime example. The papers are plastered with front page news of the England team and the news coverage is encouraging people to back their country and be proud. The Olympics will of course be the same and so will Wimbledon. Seeing these sports on TV and in the news gets people interested and wanting to see more or get involved.

Football fans seem to have no real issue with forking out three figure sums to see their team play for 90 minutes, but do many Formula one fans who know that the price of tickets to see it live realise they could go and see some of the sports stars of the future for a fraction of the cost for a weekends ticket at your nearest circuit.

Despite the great action on show, smaller race events struggle to pull in the crowds.

ITV have done a great job with their BTCC coverage and since they took over the TV rights, crowds at the circuits have steadily grown and it is being well supported. It shows that the coverage gets people through the gates. But what about other British Race series? The British GT and F3 championships are both top race events with the latter a proving ground for Formula One with many current F1 drivers having raced in the F3 series. Both the GT & F3 get a 25 minute highlights programme at 7am on Saturday mornings on channel 4, but is this really that great? Most people are still in bed then.  Below these race series, coverage is pretty much non-existent. Unless you have Sky of course which not everyone else. Motors TV do a great job of covering club events but this channel alone probably isn’t enough for those who don’t have sky to fork out for a full sports package just to get access to it.

British Touring Cars pull in huge crowds at every race.

We all hear about drivers struggling to scrape together funding and sponsorship, but who is going to sponsor something that just doesn’t get any coverage?  It’s a vicious circle. To get the coverage it needs the fans. To get the fans, it needs the coverage. Online media can only do so much. The national media need to step up to the plate. Apparently the BBC have a rally correspondent. How much rally news do you get on the BBC? I also heard they had a reporter at Le Mans. What was his Job? Did he do anything apart from stock up with booze at Calais?

There was a time when the BBC had a lot of Motorsport coverage at weekends including F1, BTCC, Superbikes, Rally, Motocross, Rallycross, Isle of Man TT, Sportscars, Trails and even Hillclimb. What do they have now? Moto GP and F1. They can’t even provide a full season of Live F1 anymore and it looks likely that when their contract runs out they will lose all live F1 coverage all together. So why don’t they start to show a bit of live motorsport from other British race series? The British F3 and GT’s would be a great start. Quality Championships featuring great drivers and stars of the future battling it out in awesome cars. Or how about a couple of Le Mans Highlight shows? Is that even too much to ask? The newspapers need to pull their fingers out too. How about cutting back slightly on the football overkill and dedication just one page to non F1 motorsport? And by that I don’t mean just writing about big crashes!

The future of F1? Rising star and current F3 driver Jack Harvey.

There are so many motorsport fans crying out for more coverage and so many more still to be reached. There are millions of motorsports fans throughout the world. They just don’t know it yet.

For extensive news and coverage of the Le Mans 24hr race, check out The Checkered Flag Website.


Tales from the Ring. Part Three.

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.

The MTech Ferrari took the British GT race 2 spoils

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.

The Worlds Best Drive Through?

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.

The lead cars appeared over the crest

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.

The slight jump provided a superb photo opportunity

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.

Cars rounded the corner and flew past me at arms length in front of the many fans

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.

Kleine Karussell provided another great photo opportunity

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.

Space was at a premium in the Pitlane

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!

Back to work for the Aston Martin team after the football had finished.

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……