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 “WEC

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?


WEC Silverstone Review: Toyota Wins Opening Race!

 

Image copyright: Chris Gurton Photography

Toyota claim the first victory of the 2014 WEC season.

 

6 Hours of Silverstone – the opening round of the FIA World Endurance Championship – was dramatically clinched by Toyota, who skilfully kept their cool despite the torrential rain.
Although the race was ended early due to torrential rain, Team Toyota, which consists of Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Nicolas Lapierre, not only left Mark Webber’s Porsche and both of the stunning Audi R18 e-trons in their wake, but they also clinched the win from their sister team too, Alexander Wurz, Stephane Sarrazin and Kazuki Nakajima.

Considering the difficulty of the weather and track conditions, the legendary Mark Webber seemed content with a podium place on his debut WEC race, sharing the glory with Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley. In comparison, this year’s Silverstone was Audi’s worst performance in 3 years.

Image copyright: Chris Gurton Photography

Audi were to have a disastrous race.

Audi’s Gamble
Straight from the green, Audi’s Lucas Di Grassi set off at a record pace, immediately attacking Alex Wurz of Toyota in his TS 040 Hybrid. This excitement was short-lived for Di Grassi however, as he took the Club Corner too wide towards the end of the first lap, allowing Sebastien Buemi of Toyota to claim second place. Porsche were also disappointing towards the end of the first lap, with Neel Jani dropping from third to sixth position.

Image copyright: Chris Gurton Photography

Neither Audi R18’s were to finish the race.

Running into traffic on lap 14, Toyota’s Alexander Wurz lost first place to Andre Lotterer, and Audi has their first lead in the race. However Audi decided to gamble while other cars were being called into the pits for wet tyres, and soon after Di Grassi crashed heavily into the barriers, sliding off the track at Woodcote. The Audi driver managed to get the R 18 e-tron back to the pits for some quick cover , however with a damaged monocoque the car was too badly damaged to continue the race, with Di Grassi looking understandably devastated.
Webber’s Return
It wasn’t just Audi that experienced car damage at Silverstone either; Porsche’s Neel Jani suffered severe tyre failure and subsequently lost his left wheel, but after 15 minutes in the pit Porsche successfully retuned to the track. Audi’s day continued to go from bad to worse however, as Andre Lotterer lost 25 seconds to Sebastien Buemi after sliding off the track at Stowe. Finishing sixth overall after a lengthy stint in the pits, Lotterer and Audi certainly had 6 hours to forget at Silverstone.

Image copyright: Chris Gurton Photography

Mark Webber was to pick up a podium on his Debut WEC race on Porsche’s return to the top category in endurance racing.

Timo Brenhard was replaced by team mate Brendon Hartley after Porsche’s 52nd lap pit, with the New Zealander showing his talent behind the wheel by hauling the R 18 e-tron back to fourth. With three hours to go, WEC Silverstone then settled into the traditional endurance test, and it really was anyone’s race. However Audi’s bad luck wasn’t quite over, with Treluyer hitting the barriers at Copse and bending both front wheels.
After 21 minutes of the safety car, Porsche’s Hartley pitted and gave up the seat to the fan favourite Mark Webber, allowing the Australian his first taste of WEC racing in 15 years. As the final two hours of Silverstone positioning remained the same, the rain made conditions unsafe to say the least, with the safety car came out once again, followed by red flags stopping the race.

Image copyright: Chris Gurton Photography

The number 7 Toyota was to claim second place behind its team mates.


Team & Moment of the Year

Happy New Year to you all. I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all my blog readers a prosperous 2013.

The third part of my review series see’s my team and moment of the year from last season. As with the previous posts, feel free to get in touch and let me know who your team of the year were and what your moment of the year was.

Team of the year: This, for me has to go to the Toyota LMP1 team. On the back foot from at the beginning of the year with little time to develop the car before the start of the World Endurance Championship, it looked like Audi were going to go unchallenged all year thanks to the withdrawal of rivals Peugeot. No one expected much from Toyota and with Sebring being used as a test and the team not entering the Spa race to concentrate on getting the car ready for Le Mans, Audi had nothing to worry about.

Image Copywrite Chris Gurton Photography.

Toyota lead Audi briefly at Silverstone

However, Toyota showed glimpses of things to come, and despite not finishing either car, one due to ‘That Crash’ the Toyota team did lead the race at one point. Since then, the team have become stronger and stronger. Podium finishes at Silverstone….. And Finally a race victory at Fuji underlinded their ability and now have Audi looking over their shoulder. The German marque’s years of Dominance in Endurance racing looks under threat from a Team who are now serious LeMans and WEC championship contenders.

Image Copywrite Chris Gurton Photography.

Toyota look set to be serious WEC Title contenders and Le Mans Winners

See who the rest of the Checkered Flag Team picked as their Team of the Year Here.

Image Copywrite Chris Gurton Photography.

Audi win the Nurburgring 24hr

Moment’ of the year: There have been a number of great moments this year and I am grateful to have experienced some personally. There are too many to mention and it is difficult to pick out one in particular, but personally, my first visit to the Nurburgring for the 24 hour race is a stand out moment and one that bought many memories I will never forget. But I also think the 40th running of the Nurburgring 24 hour race produced my moment of the year in terms of the overall result. Finally Audi had conquered the Green Hell and took their first victory in the notoriously gruelling race. This contributed to a remarkable chain of results this year for the German car giants as 2012 saw them also take wins in the Bathurst 12hr, the Spa 24hr, the Zolder 24hr And of course a 1,2,3 and 4 at Le Mans. It just underlines the true extent of German efficiency and reliability.

What were the moments of the year for the TCF team? Find out Here.

The All Conquering Audi Endurance Race Cars.

The All Conquering Audi Endurance Race Cars.


No UK 24 Hour Race

Last weekend saw the last race of the year on my hectic 2012 calendar, the Britcar production cup night race at Brands Hatch. Despite the miserable weather, it was a good day and a great race. However there was one part of the day that left me somewhat disappointed. It was announced that there would be no Britcar 24hr race next season.

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

Despite the miserable weather, the Production Cup Night Race provided some great racing.

The UK has a thriving motorsport scene and is probably the hub of motorsport technology. Lots of F1 teams are based in the UK, there are superb championships such as British GT, Formula 3, and British Touring Cars going all the way down to well entered grass roots level. The UK is also home to some great circuits such as Brands Hatch and Silverstone. Yet next year there will be no 24 hour endurance race in Britain.

There are successful 24 hour races held across the globe, which are always well attended. Obviously the likes of Le Mans and Daytona 24 hour are massive events and so too is the Nurburgring 24. But races in Belgium, Dubai and Spain are also becoming increasingly popular. Endurance racing has a huge following of hardcore racing fans across the globe and also within the UK. There are thousands who make the trip across the Channel to Le Mans or Nurburgring each year to get their much needed fix of live 24hr racing. So why, when the UK is such a big player in the word of Motorsport can we not host a popular and well supported 24 hour race?

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

24 hour races such as the Nurburgring 24 attract plenty of fans from across Europe.

Without going into details, I understand costs and budgets have a huge influence on the demise of the Britcar race, but fields have been in decline and with less than 30 cars taking part in this year’s race, it was, to be more than fair, a poor turnout. It also felt like the spectator numbers had also taken a nose dive too compared to previous years. But even when the field was 60-70 strong, the crowd numbers still, personally speaking, seemed somewhat disappointing. Maybe more could have been done to advertise the event, maybe more could be done to create awareness of the series as a whole, or maybe the lack of big European teams and well known drivers that enter the other 24hr races doesn’t generate interest. Perhaps Top Gear could come back and have another stab at racing round the clock.

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

Sadly there will be no Britcar 24 hour race in 2013

I know it’s hard to organise a high profile event and it takes a long time to but create a quality race that attracts big names and manufacturers, but sure the UK deserves something of that scale? Ok, so the UK circuits probably don’t have the charm that the likes of la Sarthe, Spa or the Nurburgring Nordschleife but it’s not that that’s causing the stumbling block. It needs a backing from a good motorsport organisation. Whilst I really like the Britcar race series, would they ever be able to take their 24hr race to the next level? Recent years suggest not. I know the likes of the SRO already organise the Spa 24hr race as well as a number of superbly run and supported race series including the British GT that is continually getting stronger and stronger, more high profile and increasingly well supported and entered. So with a series of this nature running in Britain that already has the rest of Europe standing up and taking note, maybe there is still chance of a top 24 hour race in the UK becoming a regular feature that will get fans not just across Britain in attendance, but fans across Europe too.

The baton has been dropped and is in need of some steady hands to pick it up. Or maybe, there are just too many 24 hour races already?

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

Could the success of the British GT be the platform for a new UK 24 hour race in the future?

Race report from the Britcar production cup race can be seen on the Checkered Flag website here. More photos from the Production cup can be seen here, and photos from the Britcar Open GT race here.

Finally, if you are a fan of endurance and GT racing, then there are still a few remaining copies of my limited edition 2013 A3 calendar available, featuring images from the Nurburgring 24, British GT, GT Open, FIA GT1 and WEC. Also you will receive a free A4 mounted print with every copy ordered. Just visit my website here for more details. Also, a range of prints from the race events I have covered this year are also available to purchase and would make an ideal gift for any petrol head and motorsport fan this Christmas.


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


The Wait is Over

So it is now upon us. The Motorsport season is here after a long winter of waiting. Of course there are some series that have already started, such as the World Touring Car Championships and the British Rally Championships, but for many, the first Formula One race of the season really marks the new season.

With new rules and regulations, new faces, teams and cars on display throughout the various race seasons, there is no doubt 2012 will be a great year filled with action, excitement and controversy. No matter which series is your favourite, who your favourite driver is, and which cars you like best, all motorsport fans long for this time of year to arrive. We’ve had sneak peeks of new cars and liveries, driver announcements and got our heads around any new rule changes and we just want the season to start.

Round one of the Britcar Championship Kicks off my year.

My first race of the season won’t be just yet though. It will be round one of the MSA British Endurance Britcar championships at Silverstone on the 24th of March. A race series I enjoy covering and one that has seen some changes this year. The new production championship will be running alongside the series, and new class categories’ for the endurance races. New teams and cars will be lining up and I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the new Bullrun Lotus Evora. With a 90 minute production race and a 3hr Endurance race to take place on the grand prix circuit at Silverstone, it is set to be a good way to kick off my season. If you are keen to get out and watch some great racing then I would recommend heading to the home of motorsport on that Saturday.

For me the start of the new motorsport season is a bit like going back to school to start the new year after the summer holidays. But in a good way. Meeting up with friends to swap stories of the closed season and share predictions for the year ahead, catching up with teams and drivers to get information on what’s new and their hopes for the coming year and seeing what changes have been made to circuits and facilities etc.

I'm looking forward to visiting the Iconic Nordschleife

Having filled in my calendar with dates of race weekends I’m hoping to be covering this year, there aren’t many blank weekends. Although I won’t be going to Le Mans this year, which I am disappointed about, it has been sacrificed for a reason. Two reasons in fact. The first being the Nurburgring 24hr race and the second being the Spa 24hr race. As I have never been to either of these iconic circuits for these two amazing races, it would be rude not to go and I can’t wait. The British GT series is running a European round at the Nurburgring the weekend of the 24 hour race which works out nicely. I will cover the British GT and stay for the quite mental 24 hour race. A similar situation occurs at Spa. The British F3 championship will be holding their race in Belgium the same weekend of the 24 hour race so for a huge endurance racing fan, this has worked out well.

On the subject of endurance racing, there has been some major developments in this discipline over the winter months. The new World Endurance Championships looks set to be a great series. However the news that Peugeot has pulled the plug on its endurance racing team comes as a disappointment for most fans. I will admit to not being a huge Peugeot fan after some disappointing race tactics I have witnessed, but I am sad to see their withdrawal. The French Marque are probably the only team who could challenge Audi and it now looks like the German’s will go unchallenged all season. The reforming of Toyota is of some comfort but it would be unrealistic to expect them to be challenging for overall victories in their first year. Also the recent unveiling of the new ‘Deltawing’ car set to take part in the 80th Le Mans 24 hour race this June is a radical new innovation within motorsport. Could this be the future of endurance racing? I guess time will tell. I’m not a big fan of the design myself though.  If Batman was to own a race car, I’m pretty sure this would be it.

The New Deltawing

So it’s time to settle into the new season of motorsport as Formula One from Melbourne is beamed to our TV’s and the 12hrs of Sebring takes place across the Atlantic and take comfort from the fact that motor racing is here. It’s good to have it back.