My dad doesn’t understand that talking at a motorsports course is futile. He does this every time we go to Mid-Ohio, he did this at Road Atlanta. Seriously dad. Race cars are loud. I don’t mean like, white cars, and black cars, and Hispanic cars, I mean like, Grand-Am touring cars.
What I’m trying to say is that yesterday I went to the Grand-Am race at Mid-Ohio. Myself, being a motorsports enthusiast, I was of course excited about this endeavour. Sort of. It’s kind of hard to get excited about going to races, because you know you’re going to get there in the morning, you’re not going to leave till the evening, and the whole time you’re there, you’re going to be walking around on uneven terrain, under the sun, while it’s 35 degrees, or like, 90 if you don’t believe in common sense.
I woke up at 7AM, got there at about 10AM, and spent the next nine hours walking around the infield and outfield. According to my dads pedometer, we walked a little over seventeen kilometres. You know that the end of the day, you’re going to be miserable, you’re going to get wicked sunburn, and it’s not that you’ll have blisters on your feet by the day’s over, you’ll have feet on your blisters. It sucks. But you do it anyway, because it’s awesome. When you’re there, walking the grid before the race, seeing the cars up close, then watching them from as little as 50 metres away, it’s awesome. The cars scream with a howl that TV can’t capture. When the cars are going under the bridges while you’re on them, the entire thing shakes from the decibels the cars are pumping out. Racing cars that are built to the spec and level of Grand-Am cars are amazing machines, the amount of engineering that goes into them is intense. While Grand-Am cars aren’t engineered to the same level as Formula 1, or DTM cars, they’re still wild. They are very serious cars that for me, would be scary to drive. I’m an okay driver, but I know that if I were behind the seat of Daytona Prototype, the pit crew would have to clean a few dozen kilograms of sand out of the car after I hit turn one. Fortunately, I wasn’t driving, only spectating, and taking pictures. I have never done motorsports photography, and have no idea how to do it. I still don’t, but I have a camera, a 300mm lens, and I’m a motorsports park*, I’m going to be taking pictures, dang it. Whether or not they’re going to be good, I’m going to get them.
*I now realize they’re called motorsports parks, because for petrol heads, they’re like a fucking amusement park. Some people like to go on rides, some people like to have their hearing permanently damaged by going to races.
Before the race, they had all of the cars on display in pit lane, and let you walk the grid. Some of the Daytona Prototypes had their doors open, and all the GT cars had their windows down so you could get a peak inside. I saw this in one of the cockpits, and it made me laugh.
As always, click my pictures to embiggen.
And I saw this in another cockpit.
That’s a map of the course. I’m not sure the driver ever consulted it, however I still hope it helped him out during the race.
While I was poking around pit lane, checking out all of the cars, I saw a photographer with a photography pass laying down on the ground, pointing his camera into the cockpit of one of the Daytona Prototypes, but couldn’t get the shot because there were too many people in the way. I looked at him, and he gave me the ‘What can you do?’ shrug. I’m not sure what type of shot he was going for, but I’m sure he saw something. I know that when I see something, I want to get the shot, and I will shoo people out of the way to get it. Not everyone will do this, I get that, common courtesy is a good thing to have. When I’m shooting, I don’t have that. If I want the shot, I’ll push you out of my way to get it. You only get one chance to get shots, if you’re not a photographer, if you don’t have a camera in your hands, concede, step away, this is a photographers one chance to get this shot. The photographer takes precedence over the gawker. Like I said, not everyone believes that, or thinks like that, but I do, and this guy was either having problems, or wasn’t a big enough asshole to enforce that. He wanted this shot, but wasn’t going to get it, because he was being courteous. He has a photography pass, he’s obviously here on business, so I decided to help him out. I’d be the asshole for him. I leaned way into the cockpit, and started intentionally bumping into people, and I kept hovering around the side of the car, getting way too close to people. I backed into a kid and heard his mother scold him for not watching where he was going. After that, except for the photographer laying on the ground. there was no one around the side of the car. I stood in front of the car to keep people form getting to the side, which is when the photographer got his shots. I asked ‘Did you get it?’, he then looked at me, and you know how when you mouth the words ‘thank you’ so you don’t want someone else to hear it, and you emphasize the words? He did that, only he also said ‘thank you’ out loud. It felt good, I like helping out my fellow photographers.
My dad and I spent about an hour looking at the cars in pit lane, scoping out the cockpits, commenting on various things. My family has one common ground; motorsports, we’re all enthusiastic about it, though my dad and I have the most severe cases of the motorsports bug. We can spend an hour looking at Grand-Am spec cars and going ‘hmm yes the different Porsche teams have different airfoils on the cars and the spoilers seem to be different, I wonder how that will play into the straight following turn three, and going into the kink?’, we’re motorsport nerds. We stuck around the pits till they said ‘All right, shoo, it’s time to race’, which is when I decided to head over to the keyhole (at Mid-Ohio that’s the hairpin after turn one (it’s turn one assuming you’re not running the chicane, which they weren’t)). I had scoped out this spot earlier in the day to find a good spot for shooting, and had shot the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge prior to the Grand-Am race. We’re not going to be seeing any of those shots, because I had no idea what I was doing! I still don’t, but that race was simply a lesson. I knew where I wanted to be to get the shots I wanted, so a half hour before the first lap, I trekked up to the viewing mound at turns two and three (that’s exactly what it sounds like. A mound that you sit on to view the race, clever name!), scoped out my spot, and thought ‘please oh god people with photography passes don’t get in my way’. They didn’t, hooray! When the cars started rolling around, I started to take pictures. Ed, taking pictures? Do go on! No, really. This is my first day doing motorsports photography, so I had no idea what I was in for, I just knew pan with the car, stop the aperture down to get the focus on the cars, angled shots can look slick (I’m not sure how tacky that is), and cars look better coming over a crest. The latter is why I set up at the keyhole.
I feel pretty good about the shots I got at the keyhole! First time doing this, and for a first timer, I’m happy with the results. To start, I was just looking for pictures of cars. Ideally, I’d be taking shots that tell a story, a pass about to happen, some aggressive driving, the car getting slightly sideways as the driver guns it out of a turn, but to start, just pictures of cars. And these are pictures of cars!
I set up at a few different places at the keyhole, I went farther down turn three to get a different angle, more the side of the cars, and the cars leaving turn three, those came out okay, too.
I spent about 45 minutes at the keyhole (I’m saying keyhole too much, it’s starting to no longer sound like a word), and moved to the esses, which is the best part of Mid-Ohio. I haven’t been to Mid-Ohio in years, and in the time since I’ve visited, my interest in motorsports has grown, a lot. I’ve been around Mid-Ohio literally thousands of times in racing simulators, but going there in 2012, with a new appreciation of motorsports, the elevation changes in the esses are intense. You go straight up, then straight down. It is a wild turn, and very difficult to take. When you’re on the downturn, you’re losing grip, you have to be so gentle on the throttle to make sure you don’t lose the back end. I can never get it right, but the professionals can do it just fine for two hours and forty five minutes straight. I set up so I could get a good look at the crest, right before the cars go downhill, and got a few good shots.
I hate fences. When my friend Putz went to a Grand-Am race in New Jersey, I told him I’d have called the gallery ‘FUCK TIRE WALLS, AND FUCK FENCES!’, I didn’t have the tire wall problem, but I did have the fence problem. And seriously, fuck fences.
I spent I don’t know how long at the esses, though I didn’t stay stationary. I moved about 100 feet down from where I started, which gave me this angle, and let me follow some cars and do some totally sweet panning, brah, as the cars drove by, and still let me catch them as they crested over the esses.
This, however, I feel is my best shot of the day, because exhaust. Yes, the fence is very prominent.
I spent some more time there, and moved about another 100 feet down track, to catch them as they went under the bridge after the esses. This is where I tried some more angled shots. I’m not sure if it’s tacky, or if it’s like, motorsports photography taboo, but I did it anyway.
I tried walking a bit further down track, to turn nine, which is right after a crest. If you’re a driver on the course, turn nine is totally blind. If you’ve never been on the course, and you’re coming up on it, you’re going into the gravel trap, and you’re not coming out. However, professional drivers, they understand the course, some of them even have a map of the course taped to their steering wheel, they’re aware of what’s after this crest. I didn’t really like shooting here, because the backdrop made Mid-Ohio look like some sort of half-assed garage league motorsports course. It’s not! It really isn’t! Honestly! American Le Mans Series runs here, it’s a serious track! It’s one of my favourites, too. It’s an awesome track. But, this spot made the track look like shit.
I spent all but the last 20 minutes of the race at the carousel, which is turn twelve, leading into turn thirteen. I did this for two reasons; the sun was setting, light, yay, and because in racing simulators, this is the turn at which I have the most trouble. It’s almost a hairpin, but not quite, it’s not as tight, so you can still keep good speed through, and when you come out, you’re immediately going into the last turn, which kinks onto the straight, hitting it just right is kinda trick. I was there to take pictures, and take mental notes on how the cars handle the turn. Here are the pictures;
Here are my mental notes; Break hard and drop down a a couple gears, the apex is around where the rumble strip starts. Don’t hit the rumble strip on the apex, be close, and kiss the rumble strip on the way out, and don’t go flat out into the last turn.
I ended day at Thunder Valley, which is turn ten. Following turn nine, you go down into ‘Thunder Valley’, which is a dip after turn nine, a small kink at the bottom which is turn ten, followed by a crest into turn eleven, which then leads to the carousel. Since it’s a valley, sound waves have a lot of things to bounce off of, it’s almost…thunderous! I see what they did there. I did some pan shots here, got some decent ones, did some more angled shots;
And that was that! The race ended while I was in Thunder Valley. I did a bit more walking around, got into my car, and left. By the end of it, my face was completely burnt, my feet had turned into blisters, and despite all of that, I still felt pretty good! It wasn’t till this morning, when I woke up that I realized ‘oh my god I ate almost nothing yesterday and spent the entire day walking around’. So, I spent the morning eating all the food, and realizing I’m really knackered! My legs and arms don’t want to work, but it was still oodles of fun. I definitely want to do more motorsports photography, so I’m sure I’ll be heading to Mid-Ohio again, maybe later this year, who knows!