Ed Fahey

Adventures – Saloon,Sportscar/GT racing

Archive for September, 2010

ITCC Rounds 7/8 – The Finals

Posted by Ed Fahey on September 29, 2010

Catch me if you can...

Rounds 7/8 of the Irish Touring Car Championship and again at Mondello, except this time on the longer 3.5km ‘international’ circuit that in the past was used for the British Touring Car Championship, so I concentrated most of my efforts on the longer track, as there are a few interesting sections on it not to mention the cars can stretch their legs a bit more.

Instead of a race overview, Ill be describing what I was actually doing on this day – the role of official photographer, interspersed with what happened during the races.

In the points, Martin Tracey in his Westward Engineering Ford Sierra RS500 just needed good results to secure the championship, with Stephen Maher in the S Maher Construction BMW M3 Compact in a similar position to take the rookie championship.

A different view of Mondello

Out for qualifying and a slightly different area I found to take pics was the outside of Turn 3 – purely for the climb and drop into Turn 4, making Mondello Park look like Lime Rock Park almost. Its a rarely photographed part of Mondello and Im surprised more photographers dont go there. Maybe its due to the long walk or that you need a 4×4 if you want to drive there…

Turn 3 also backs onto Turn 5/Lola which is one of the faster bends on the track, so a quick run (through mud and wet grass usually) and you have 2 decent corners to photograph. With there being 3 ITCC sessions today (qualifying and 2 races) there was more time to move about the track.

In qualifying it was Brian Sexton in the Jomo Engineering Mitsubishi Evo 6 on pole, over half a second ahead of Martin Tracey in the Westward Engineering Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth and Johnny Whelan in his very yellow Bikez.ie Peugeot 306 making up the Top 3 on the grid with Barry Rabbitt in the Tuning Factory Integra 4th. Unfortunatley for Sexton, the Evo expired during qualifying and sadly for him he was unable to take his place on the grid, so Tracey and everyone else moved up a spot.

Action - everywhere

Onto the first race and I head to Turns 7a/7b a double right hander and one of the main overtaking spots on the International track, as its at the end of a reasonable length straight so its a prime outbraking spot. This corner is a good bit into the ‘lap’ so any early attacks are over and the race is settling down as they approach me. Tracey is already pulling ahead as usual, excpet he has Whelan not too far away and who closes right in under braking for 7a. These 2 pull away slowly leaving Rabbitt, Philip Burdock in his B-Racing Honda Civic and Tomas O’Rourke in his Ferrybank Motors Opel Astra to squabble among themselves, while all down through the field there are battles, there are not any cars on their own, everyone seems to have at least one car to battle with, which makes for some great photos, but with only 8 laps I had to move along quickly to capture different angles of the action, so from 7b, about half way up, then onto the apex of Turn 8/Birranes bends to catch the cars riding the kerbs.

Squabbling For the record Matrin Tracey held on to win, after being pushed almost the entire way by Johnny Whelan, who then suffered braking issues and ended up in the gravel at turn 3 as a result, but it was good to see Tracey being given a bit of a run instead of casually walking away with the race.

After this exciting race, could it get any better? Yes it could!

Race 2, and I decided to go on the inside of the approach to Lola which backs onto Devaneys, a double left hander which then leads the cars back into Bikeworld and rejoins the shorter track, so I could walk between the 2 bends and get more of the frequent action and like the last race was almost entirely groups of cars circulating rather than cars on their own.

Into Lola...

Race 2 and Barry Rabbitt was the man on the move, getting into second behind Johnny Whelan, behind Martin Tracey who led from the lights. Whelan then overcame Rabbit, Tomas O’Rourke then also got past Rabbitt, leaving him to scrap it out with Philip Burdock once again as he had done in the first race, and apart from the various retirements or the lead few cars thats the only recollections I can give of the race, since I concentrated on photos, given the fast and furious action going on all around me, overtaking and just general dicing, it was certainly the finest racing Id seen in a long time and all clean too with no deliberate contact! Martin Tracey stayed ahead to win and to seal the inagural ITCC championship, with Stephen Maher sealing the Rookie championship

My colleague Stephen, however was tasked with making notes of what happened during the day, and his report of the day can be seen here

Ed Fahey – September 2010

Addional photos from the day can be seen here

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ITCC Round 6

Posted by Ed Fahey on September 8, 2010

Preparing to qualify

Round 6 of the Irish Touring Car Championship and again at Mondello. Just one round today with a non championship race also. After the carnage of the previous 2 rounds it was refreshing to see the damaged cars back, along with stern warnings to play fair, as if you want full contact, go banger racing!

The weather was pleasant on this day too, with clear skies giving fine conditions, both on track and to allow for good photos, although personally I like dark skies too, but its one or the other unless you are at Spa!

Instead of a race overview, Ill be describing what I was actually doing on this day – the role of official photographer, interspersed with what happened during the races.

Qualifying and I decided to go to the inside of Dunlop, which is the last corner before going down the start/finish straight, a good spot to capture side on pans and also when people outbrake themselves and either lockup or end up in the big gravel trap around the outside of the bend if they get it wrong.. Also the pit exit is behind you so you can get the cars coming into and pits and nice shots of them going onto the start/finish straight.Qualifying produced only one drama, and one that I had anticipated – Paul O’Brien suffered a stuck throttle on his Scirocco and took a trip into the gravel as a result… I had gambled correctly and I got lucky. Not always though!

Gravel splashdown!

The short races coupled with the amount of action packed into them means its not possible to move between corners without the possibility of missing something, whatever that may be! For the race I decided to go to the Esses, one of the main overtaking spots on the track and away from Turn 1 (or Honda) completely, unlike most other photographers, who seem to stick to that corner at every single meeting… Their loss as it later turned out!

Time to leave!

The race itself didnt last long before 2 incidents occured which called for a restart – Jimmy Hughes in his Integra went off into, you guessed it the gravel at Dunlop while Brian Moore’s Impreza suffered a broken fuel line right infront of me and the car went up in flames quite dramatically, at first when the car approached it looked like he had lost a wheel with the flames looking like sparks as they licked under the car, but as soon as he realised what was happening and pulled up the fire quickly took hold, but the Mondello track team were quickly there to put it out.

Onto the restart and as before it was pole sitter Martin Tracey in the Westward Engineering

Trying to hold on..

Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth out front, pursued initially by Barry Rabbitts Tuning Factory Honda Integra, Tracey going on for yet another win, Rabbitt having to back off with a suspension problem, better to settle for second place rather than push and end up in the gravel. Philip Burdock in the B-Racing Civic and Donal Arundel in the shrill sounding Mazda MX6 were a distant third and fourth, with Stephen Maher in the his BMW 3-series

Midfield battle

compact fifth but behind them a close scrap for sixth with a train of cars going around constantly swopping places, but not swopping paint, which for a change made for some crowded photos throughout the race and not just for the first few laps.

The second race was a non championship, non points race so a few people elected to sit it out and let others have their fun, mainly the top 2 cars from race one. I decided to risk it and shoot from the outside of Dunlop as you can get the cars coming over the crest into the corner, and if someone else went into the gravel Id have a head on shot, but not this time.

The finishing results from the first race decided the grid so it was Philip Burdock on pole with Donal Arundel alongside. The real mover though

Side by side by side

was Stephen Maher who lept into the lead at the start but a spin put him back down the order somewhat and he then valiantly fought his way back up, to 3rd until mechanical issues sidelined him, elsewhere Phil Brennan in the Octane.ie Rover 25,Keith Rabbitt in his MINI and Paul O’Brien in his Scirocco engaged in 3 abreast racing down the strart/finish straight which made the grandstand jump to attention, a brief safety car period bunched the field up again but Burdock held on for his first ITCC win, not for points but still there is satisfaction about crossing the line 1st.

The final two rounds take place soon at Mondello except on the full international circuit, and it will be interesting to see what changes if any to the racing this will bring.

Ed Fahey – September 2010

For more photos click here

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Spa 24H Day 4 – The morning and day after the night before – not in that order

Posted by Ed Fahey on September 2, 2010

Into the night

00.30 on Sunday and we have just passed into Sunday of the Total 24 Hours of Spa, only the hardcore spectators are left along with the hardcore media – including me, even though Ive just changed my socks,tshirt and Im logged onto facebook for the last hour trying to recharge my batteries, despite the large amount of caffine Ive consumed. There are still 15 hours of racing to go and with no circuit floodlights only the pits complex is the only area of the track devoid of total darkness, so its down to float around the pits and shoot a few night time pitstops. At the moment  the  #78/79 BMW Motorsport M3’s are out front, after AF-Corse led early on with their #2 GT2 Ferrari 430 but the leading Porsche teams – BMS Scuderia Italia and IMSA Matmut are not far behind.

So down to the pits and unlike the GT1 race there is no 20min window to stop in, so while stops may be fast, there is not a massive rush to change tyres,drivers and refuel, although in many cases repair work is needed or brake pads are changed, and many cars are circling bearing battle scars, and plenty of cars have more than their fair share of duct tape holding them together. Again the signs of a stop are when the mechanics assemble in the pitlane, although they are sometimes asleep/resting in the

Taking things easy

garage and need gentle persuasion to get up and get ready, and not all stops are scheduled – usually when they rush out its for an unplanned stop – especially for the Sport Garage Alpinas, which lost a wheel each over the course of the race. It must be quite frustrating for repairs to be undertaken and then the car returns 1 lap later, as the problem still persists. In many cases offs or contact lead to mis-alignment of the car, which can make it harder to drive and makes it wear its tyres unevenly leading to punctures,blowouts and more damage or retirement, so its out with the alignment gauges and bits of string to try and have the car aligned correctly.

The rate of attrition is high and there have been plenty of retirements, mainly mechanical problems,and a fire, but as of yet no big crashes and thankfully no injuries. BMW are still in the lead and watching 1 of their pitstops is a fine display of German precision. Pit rules require refuelling to be done separate to tyres, so when the car pits only the drivers can swop as the car is refuelled, then when this is complete the air jacks deploy and the car goes up for all 4 tyres to be changed, all under the watchful eye of the pit stewards, as the last thing any team wants is a drive through or stop and go for a pit rules infringment that is easily avoidable. Any repairs/checking that needs to be done, perhaps a change of brake pads and a quick clean of the windscreen/headlights (as the cars are now filthy dirty) or a windscreen tear-off (as seen on F1 drivers helmet visors) and the car is away back into the night, in most cases the mechanics can sit back down, or receive a de-brief from the team manager and then go back to observing the timing screens or GPS screen, showing each cars position ontrack. I shot quite a few stops, aslong as you are not in the way, you blend into the background and the pitcrew dont seem to worry you are taking their photos candidly.

BMW Pitstop

Its getting close to 4am now, so time to walk up to Eau Rouge for a night time shot of the cars at the top and bottom of the famous hill, the bottom shot is easy, just rest the camera on the pitwall, 1 sec exposure, set the 5 second countdown timer and done. The top view was a little harder, as Id to shoot with my monopod so it meant a steady hand that was already tired from being awake since 7am. Shot attained, its time to head back to the media centre for some sleep, some media prefer to rest in their cars, but a quiet desk will do me for some zeds – as the Red Bull, Coke Zero,Mars bars and free cans of Mad-Croc handed out in their thousands yesterday can only keep you going so much – a bit of rest works wonders.

I only get an hours rest as Im awoken by the commotion at 05.20 following the sudden news that the #2 AF-Corse Ferrari and the #50 Phoenix Audi R8 have collided heavily at the Paul Frere curve while lapping a backmarker GT4 Porsche and are now both out of the race, the Ferrari had just gone ahead to lead the BMW’s and was running in 1st overall while the Audi was close to the GT3 leaders – so in effect 2 leading cars have been taken out due to being a little impatient while passing a backmarker. The cars are recovered back into Parc Ferme at the top of the pits complex and the damage is present for all to see, leaving the #79 BMW with a reasonable lead over the GT2 Porsches. The fact the Ferraris driver, Eric Van Der Poele and Anthony Kumpen in the Audi are good friends

Night Racing...

(probably not after this!!) and former team mates only compounds the issue. Not long afterwards the second #51 Phoenix Audi R8 hits the barriers at Radillion, just after Eau Rouge and retires.

Like Le Mans, as the sun rises you feel more energy returning, even though there are still 9 hours of the race to go and judging by the various changes in class leads (GT2,GT3,GT4 and GTN) nobody wants to win any of the classes. GTN is the only secure class with the BMW’s so far ahead and with good reliablilty while the 2 remaining GT4 cars both Aston Martin V8 Vantage’s only need to cross the line and stay out of everyones way to ensure they get on the podium. The biggest class is GT3 which sees plenty of competition and lead changes, but GT2 looks set to profit from the  #79 BMW if they fall short, ‘if’ being the important word in this statement as GT2 contains the leading Porsches and the sole remaining Ferrari. The #78 BMW has been slowed by a few minor issues but is still a threat. Like every momentous sporting occasion it aint over til its over! Often the morning after is the hardest time on everyone as the real tiredness kicks in and you are thankful for the small bit of rest you had, coupled with a heavy, high in protein

Driver error

breakfast to keep you going, off on another slow trip around the circuit via the media shuttles and for the second time I manage to capture the #81 Mosler going into the gravel this time at Bruxelles – camera curse? The rate of attrition was really showing now and less than half of the 40 cars that started will eventually finish, not to mention how dirty the cars were and the amount of cars carrying battle damage, with duct tape bandages! The fresh morning air woke me up though and if you feel tired its better to keep moving, shooting the few places Id not shot during the previous day, the outside of La Source, the outside of Bruxelles and finishing on the old start finish straight to get both the winning car passing its pit and the podium celebrations, as these to would be held on the ‘old’ podium.

And then, like the day before – it happened – at 15.20 with 40 minutes to go, the lead #79

The Morgue...

BMW suffered a broken tie rod and was pitched into the barriers at Fagnes as a result. The slow limp back to the pits and the resulting extended stop to repair the damage losing the car its 2 lap lead over the #23 BMS Scuderia Italia Porsche 997 GT2, gifting the red Porsche the overall win,and allowing the #16 IMSA-Matmut 997 GT2 into second, which paid off keeping the pressure on the BMW’s for the preceding 23 hours, despite a gallant fightback by the BMW after repairs were complete, it was not enough and 24 hours and 541 laps later the #23 Porsche took the chequered flag with the #16 Porsche second on the same lap with the #79 BMW third, 1 lap down and the #78 BMW fourth, another strong comeback. Fifth was a good reward for the #1 Ferrari, and sixth was the #53 Mühlner Motorsport Porsche 997, the first GT3 class car home, with the #59 Jota Sport Aston Martin V8 Vantage in 22nd and was the first GT4 class car home. For a full race result, click here

The End!

So at the end of 4 days, Ive come to the conclusion that Spa is the finest race circuit Ive been to so far. The natural flowing layout combined with the inclines, backdrop and the infamous weather makes the perfect atmosphere for sportscar photography, coupled with the circuits history. This was more enjoyable than Le Mans – you can have all the atmosphere of Le Mans, but nothing beats a good location and setting and Spa definatley beats Le Mans in that aspect! – I will be back for certain!

Ed Fahey – September 2010

For photos of the second half of the race click here

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