Ed Fahey

Adventures – Saloon,Sportscar/GT racing

Archive for the ‘Sportscar Racing’ Category

Belgian Brilliance

Posted by Ed Fahey on June 21, 2011

2011 season is go!Time to get back on track with coverage from 2 trips to Belgium for Rounds 3/4 of the GT1 World Championship at Circuit Zolder and Round 2 of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup at Spa Francochamps

First to Zolder for GT1 and it was my first time at this track, Belgiums ‘other’ race circuit after Spa, after a quick blast up the motorway it was into a large forest, just as the GT1 cars were let out for their first practice session, the sounds of the GT1 cars echoing through the trees is a motivator like no other. This was also the first event for my new camera – a Nikon D7000 D-SLR, which replaces my D300 as the ‘main camera’ but Ill be keeping the D300 also. The D7000 took a little getting used to with numerous teething problems on the 1st day, but nothing too major and it was more a case of me being unfamiliar with it – a quick read of the manual solved everything – RTFM!

Martin Bartek - Gone but not forgotten

After a Friday of exploration it was time to get down to the proper action on Saturday and Sunday, mainly GT1 practice, qualifying and 2 races, although the weekend was a sad one, as in the week leading up to the event, Martin Bartek, founder of the Matech team which had prepared the GT1 and GT3 Ford GT’s for racing had passed away, so on Sunday morning a group photo of the Marc VDS and Belgian Racing Ford GT’s, adorned with Swiss Flags was arranged to remember and give respect to Martin.

For practice and qualifying I went into the forest around the back of the track to try and combine cars and nature, if such a thing is possible that is, a great tip given to me by the ever resourceful John Brooks was to go to the cut outs in the fence at

The Crest

the Klein chicane on the track, to get a nice shot of the cars as they came over the crest before approaching the Gilles Villenueve chicane and then deeper into the forest, a very enjoyable track with natural backdrops and not buildings. Onto the qualifying race and an unfortunate feature of the GT1world races this year has been contact of some shape or form at the first corner of the first lap, so predicting this, about 30 photographers had positioned themselves at the

Sign here please

entrance to the Earste corner, waiting for the inevitable  – we were not to be disappointed as the front row All-Inkl.com Lamborghini Murcielago and Young Driver Aston Martin DBR9 touched, scattering the pack to avoid the spun cars and promoting the SRT / Exim Bank Team China Corvette C6R into the lead, a lead which driver Nicky Catsburg held almost

Ooops - was not expecting that (or was I)

to the pitstop window as Fred Makowiecki finally got past after threatening for a good 24 mins beforehand, but once again it was the HEXIS Aston Martin team who pulled off the slickest of slick pitstops to get their car, now driven by Clivio Piccione into the lead. This was not to last though as Marc Basseng in the second All-Inkl Lamborghini was gradually reeling him in and made a move at the Jacky Ickx chicane, which is the last corner on the track, there was a tiny amount of contact but it was enough to retire the Aston out of a certain victory and allowing the All Inkl team to take their first GT1world race win.

Flame on......

Onto the next day and a quick 20 mins of warmup for the GT1 cars then the championship  race, just enough time to get the de facto flaming Lamborghini shot, then into the paddock for the autograph session, time to get shots of the drivers signing their lives away, then a review on the laptop and then time to get ready for the gridwalk and then the championship race, full of the usual stunning grid girls, and anxious looking team bosses, drivers and mechanics, along with some drivers getting in character.

Onto the race and I decided to go right onto the apex of Earste corner, safely behind the wall, ready to either catch a dramatic shot of the pack being unleashed or another coming together, again it was a coming together as Ricardo  Zonta in the Sumo Power Nissan was a bit to eager at the start, pushing the DKR Engineering Corvette into his Sumo Power team mate Jamie Campbell-Walter and into the wall, eliminating all 3 cars on the spot, and forcing me into making a hasty retreat behind the safety fence as both the Nissans were heading straight towards me at one point, at least myself, marshals and 2 other photographers beat a retreat, unlike one who sat unfazed as the out of control cars and shards of carbon fibre flew right towards him…

After a safety car period to clean up the mess, I shot a few pitstops and the outside of the Ickx chicane, then saw the footage of the earlier accident

This fool was lucky...

that had occured, and realised that I was too close for comfort,and was then called to the media office – I thought I was in trouble, but the stewards wanted my photos as evidence against the (foolish) photographer who had not moved, as I was commended for diving for cover, Id rather miss a shot than possibly never get another shot again. My photo is now used on the media briefing documents as an example of what not to do, the photo that is, rather than the photographer. The most important factor is – always have an escape route

Onto Spa and Round 2 of the ILMC, a circuit which was due a revisit after the 24H race in 2010. This race is traditionally the preview to the Le Mans 24 hour race and this year was the 1st race for the new Audi R18 TDI LMP1 car, against its new rival the Peugeot 908, sadly the Aston Martin AMR-One was withdrawn as it was not ready for the race, citing development issues, but there were almost 60 cars in the race over LMP1,LMP2,LMPC,GTE-PRO and GTE-AM classes, 5 separate races at the same time – which during practice and qualifying proved messy with all of the sessions red flagged with big crashes – enough to have the session abandoned due to the crash barriers/tyrewalls  needing repair/replacement, hopefully the 6 hour, 1000km race would not be safety cars every 25minutes. What was concerning was that most of the accidents were caused by slower/faster cars overtaking, 2 does not go into 1, especially at the level we are at here, but a few of the gentleman drivers should stick to lower level racing or sitting on the pitwall wearing a headset rather than a helmet…

After qualifying was ended early due to barrier damage and a totally destroyed OAK Racing LMP1 car, the 3 Audi R18’s were 1st,2nd and 3rd on the grid

Need for Speed

with the Peugeots scattered further along the grid, due to their qualifying strategy of last second runs being ruined due to the red flags, but would the Audis run away at the front?

Onto race day and the Audis had intended to power off into the distance, even when Allan McNish spun on lap 1, but they were not expecting the 3 Peugeots to casually make their way through the field until they were behind and  starting to pass – all within the 1st hour, strange when the Audi physically looked faster, blasting around the track silently like a stealth bomber, the noise of the tyres and aerodynamics as loud as the engine – not quite what most expect from a racing car but the engineering and technology behind it all is very impressive and already used on roadcars – these days a diesel powered car is as good as the petrol powered version…

What made this race unusual from a Spa point of view was the weather – not one drop of rain fell for the 3 days I was there, given that Spa is famous for its downpours, or 1 side of the track is dry the other is wet, this was unusual and welcomed by all – given that the previous years 1000km race had to be stopped and then restarted due to a power failure in the pit buildings caused by heavy rainfall.

GT Battles - always close

So what of the race? Apart from 1 Peugeot 908 being pushed down the field due to a suspension problem it was one way traffic for Peugeot, taking advantage of Audis collision damage with other cars and teething problems with the R18’s, not to mention being faster too! LMP2 class was a fight between the 3 Oreca 03 cars and the Strakka Racing HPD ARX-01D, the Orecas scoring 1-2 with the HPD arrived in 3rd at the end. The GTE- PRO and GTE-AM classes proved the most exciting and close racing with a Ferrari 458 vs Porsche 997 vs Corvette C6R vs Aston Martin Vantage vs BMW M3 battle. The fastest Porsche and Ferrari clashed at the start, leaving the Felbermayr Porsche down on laps but the AF Corse Ferrari survived to win, just ahead of the Hankook Ferrari and BMW M3, in the AM class the IMSA Matmut Porsche won ahead of the Larbe Corvette and another AF Corse Ferrari 430, The class victory for the one-make FLM cars went to the Pegasus Racing entry.

So enough of the race, what about photography? Having loved my trip to Spa in 2010 I was relishing my return there, and covered almost every

Race Start

decent spot on the track for photography. I had wanted to get the start of the race from the outside of La Source, but the organsiers only allowed 10 photographers to be there, which probably was a good idea given the amount of people there. They also had the top of Eau Rouge/Radillion as a red zone, which disappointed many, but after Christophe Bouchots massive high speed off in the Level 5 Lola-HPD where he ended up in the tyrewall which most photographers would normally stand behind, again this was seen as a fair decision. Personally the Les Combes – Bruxelles section is my favourite part of the Spa circuit for photos as there are so many different photo oppurtunities there and its easily accessable also, 5 mins to move around and easy to move between the inside and outside of the track. This is where I chose to shoot the start, at the end of the Kemmel straight, the first part of the lap where the cars have to slow right down and weave through the Les Combes chicane, then downhill to Bruxelles and onwards. For the pits its time to negotiate to firstly get a pit pass, then on with the fireproof overalls and move about, constantly watching for cars entering/exiting and generally staying out of the way, if you do that, your fine!

Once again Belgium shows its love for GT and Sportscar racing, both events were exceptionally well attended and the crowd present to get drivers photos and autographs was amazing, if only other countries took it this seriously! Ill be back

 

© Ed Fahey June 2011

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Preview – FIA GT1 World Championship

Posted by Ed Fahey on March 23, 2011

The 2011 FIA GT1 World Championship starts soon at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, so here is a quick rundown of the runners and riders along with an analysis of each team and how I rate their chances.

As with 2010 all of the races will be streamed live on the GT1 website

Maserati are absent from the 2011 season, so Vitaphone Racing will not be defending their title, which leaves 5 of the 6 ‘brands’ from 2010 present. There has also been some team changes; Matech, Vitaphone, Hegersport and Phoenix Racing will not be returning, and there are 2 new teams; Exim Bank Team China and JRM Motorsport  which are detailed below. 3 of the 5 brands are shared teams – with the teams working closely together and not ‘rivals’ as such. Also the rules stipulate there must be 4 cars per brand on the grid.

There are no new car models for 2011 either – the previously proposed Alpina B6 had to be dropped due to homologation issues, and the Lexus LF-A was a bit of an internet rumour that was blown out of all proportion when certain websites ran the ‘story’.  There will be new cars in 2012 as this is the last year of both the Aston Martin DBR9 and Corvette C6R Z06, most likely GT3 cars will be upgraded and there are plenty to choose from!

Below you will find the list, in alphabetical order of the teams and drivers of the 2011 FIA GT1 World Championship

Please note photos of certain cars may be updated over the next few days, also not all drivers will drive in every race, I have indicated this where the information is known

Aston Martin – Aston Martin DBR9

Photos – racemedia.be/Young Driver AMR

HEXIS AMR – France                                                                                                                              Young Driver AMR – Germany

3 – Clivio Piccione / Stef Dusseldorp                                                                                                                 7 – Tomas Enge / Alex Muller

4 – Christian Hohenadel / Andrea Piccini.                                                                                                      8 – Darren Turner / Stefan Mucke

The final year of the DBR9 and the only brand on the grid for 2011 with an unchanged team lineup. French team HEXIS had 3 wins in 2010, and only a constantly changing driver lineup over the rounds held them back from pushing harder at the front. Clivio Piccione returns, partnered with Dutch newcomer Stef Dusseldorp, while 2010 GT3 Europe champion Christian Hohenadel is paired with Andrea Piccini, who put in some solid performances in 2010 in both the Hexis Aston Martin and the Phoenix Corvette. Young Driver were also at the front in 2010 with 3 wins and if they had not have been disqualified at Round 2 in Silverstone they might well have taken the fight for the drivers championship to the final round, but even though Darren Turner and Tomas Enge have been split into different cars for 2011, their co-drivers are as strong, Enges co-pilot is former Vitaphone man Alex Muller, whereas Turner shares with fellow AMR factory driver Stefan Mucke. Another strong driver lineup and expect some good results here.

Chevrolet – Chevrolet Corvette C6R Z06

Photo: endurance-info.com

Exim Bank Team China – China                                             DKR Engineering – Luxembourg

11 – Mike Hezemans / Nick Catsburg(RD1 only)                                  47 – Jean-Claude Police / Laurent Cazenave

12 – TBA/TBA – car will not be at RD1                                48 – TBA/TBA – car will not be at RD1

The last year of the Z06 and for round 1 at least we only have 2 cars in the grid instead of 4. Despite taking 2 wins in 2010 the Corvettes endured a poor season – off the track as much as on it. After being fast at round 1 in 2010 the balance of performance adjustments slowed them right down at RD2 – coupled with the loss of 1 of the Phoenix cars in a fire – which didnt return until RD5 at Spa – and then this car was withdrawn ‘at its owners request’ for the rest of the season leaving Phoenix with 1 car and exclusion from scoring points for the rest of the season. The other Corvette team for 2010, Mad Croc Racing was a combination of Corvette teams Selleslagh Racing Team and DKR Engineering which had a mixed season, which apart from the final round at Argentina was a consistent season with points, and running at the best of your abilities when your drivers have more money than talent, and when sponsorship deals fall through leaving you unable to race – as neither Mad Croc car made the track at Argentina.

Moving onto 2011, Phoenix have gone but Selleslagh (running as Exim Bank Team China) and DKR remain – with for the moment, 1 car apiece. The rules require 4 cars per brand, but it has been said for future rounds that both teams will acquire an extra car – with only 8 C6R Z06’s built and 3 of the remaining 6 being unavailable it will be interesting to see what happens.

Longterm Corvette driver Mike Hezemans returns to the Exim car with former Megane trophy driver and fellow Dutchman Nick Catsburg, while French GT pairing Jean-Claude Police and Laurent Cazenave share the DKR car, with the Exim car having a slightly stronger pairing, but both should mount a challenge. Lets hope there are 4 Corvettes ontrack at some point in 2011 – which only happened at Abu Dhabi,Silverstone and Spa in 2010.

Ford – Ford GT Matech

Photos – Belgian Racing/Marc VDS Racing

Belgian Racing – Belgium                                                                                                               Marc VDS Racing – Belgium

9 – Antoine Leclerc / Vanina Ickx (Rounds 1-2 only)                                                       40 Bas Leinders / Marc Hennerici

10 – Martin Matzke / Milos Pavlovic                                                                                         41 Frederic Makowiecki / Maxime Martin

The distinctive Ford GT’s return for their second full season and without the Swiss Matech team who had originally conceived and developed them which has closed down. The newly formed  Belgian Racing have taken over the Matech cars and will be closely working with Marc VDS racing to run their cars during the season. Matech took 2 wins during 2010 and hopefully these cars will be at a competitive level in 2011.

Despite the name of the team, Belgian Racing are only fielding 1 Belgian driver so far and the only female driver on the grid to boot – Vanina Ickx, daughter of sportscar legend Jacky. Vanina has tried a diverse range of 4 wheeled motorsport, so only logical she gives GT1 a go, she is paired with French GT driver Antoine Leclerc who moves up to GT1 after GT3 and French GT. Serbian single seater graduate Milos Pavlovic is paired with GT3 driver Martin Matzke to complete the newest team on the grid.  Marc VDS enter their second full GT1 season with team manager/driver Bas Leinders sharing with Marc Hennerici who had some good runs with the Phoenix Corvette,while over in the second car Frederic Makowiecki, who moves across from Hexis AMR is paired with Maxime Martin who keeps his seat from last year

Lamborghini – Lamborghini Murcielago LP670 R-SV

Photos – endurance-info.com / Ed Fahey

Swiss Racing Team – Switzerland                                                 All-Inkl.com Münnich Motorsport – Germany

5 – Karl Wendlinger/Peter Cox                                                     37 – Marc Basseng  / Markus Winkelhock

6 – Max Nilsson/Jiri Janak                                                             38 – Dominik Schwager / Nicky Pastorelli

The Italian bulls return for 2011, Swiss Racing Team take over the Reiter engineering cars from 2010 after their forgettable season running Nissan GTR’s, so hopefully if how the Reiter cars ran in 2010, especially in the latter half of the 2010 season is repeated this year they will have a season to remember rather than forget. The most sucessful FIA GT driver of them all, Karl Wendlinger is paired with ex-Reiter driver Peter Cox, which makes for one of the stronger pairings on the grid. Max Nilsson stays on with the team for 2011 and is joined by Czech Jiri Janak. The only way is up for Swiss Racing in 2011. All-Inkl/Munnich Motorsport return with Marcus Winklehock being the only new driver in the team, sharing with team manager/driver Marc Basseng. Nicky Pastorelli and Dominik Schwager return for 2011, another pair of drivers who are also doing a ALMS campaign, but unlike the others they are in the same car in ALMS. All-Inkl had podium finishes in 2010 so the Lambos should provide a spectacle in 2011.

Nissan – Nissan GT-R (R35)

Photos – racemedia.be / Rich Sams

Sumo Power GT – United Kingdom                                                  JR Motorsport – United Kingdom

20 – David Brabham / Jamie Campbell-Walter                                                                            22 – Michael Krumm / Lucas Luhr

21 – Enrique Bernoldi / Ricardo Zonta                                                                                     23 – Peter Dumbreck / Richard Westbrook

Nissan had a very 90/10 season in 2010 as opposed to 50/50 – Sumo Power GT were at the front and winning whereas Swiss Racing Team were at the back. This has been resolved somewhat with all 4 Nissans now being run by the same ‘team’ both Sumo Power and JR being owned by the JRM Group, so resources and information can be shared, as this team has former Ferrari F1 man Nigel Stepney as technical director.

Regarding drivers it cannot be argued that Nissan have the strongest lineup on the grid – twice ALMS Champion and a man with plenty of GT/Sportscar experience over the years David Brabham, dovetailing a ALMS season with GT1 paired with the always impressive and 2000 FIA GT Champion Jamie Campbell-Walter. Former Vitaphone and F1 driver Enrique Bernoldi joins ex Reiter, and 1998 FIA GT champion Ricardo Zonta in an all Brazilian lineup, while at JRM, Nissan stalwart and former Super GT champion Michael Krumm is joined by fellow German Lucas Luhr, who will be juggling a GT1, ALMS and VLN racing programme in 2011, while driving the other car are Peter Dumbreck, another consistent pilot and Richard Westbrook who put in some fantastic performances at the wheel of the Matech Ford GT in 2010, Westbrook is another to be doing selected ALMS rounds in 2011. These 4 cars would be the favourites on paper.

Pre-Season Verdict

With the previously dominant Maseratis gone it will be a difficult season to call, at least initially. Each car brand won at least 2 races in 2010 so when the BOP adjustments are complete it should provide a spectacle, particular when success ballast is ‘rewarded’. Being consistent will be more important than a handful of wins, but of course scoring as many points as possible is what is needed to win the championship.  Initially I feel Young Driver AMR and Sumo Power/JRM will be at the front with the Marc VDS Ford GT’s being the ones who could spring a surprise. If the car is running well Swiss Racing Team will be another to watch along with the Corvette teams, but given it is a brand new season with tried and tested (and proven) cars, it will be anyones game in 2011.

Race Dates:

26/03/11 Yas Marina
10/04/11 Zolder
08/05/11 Algarve
15/05/11 Sachsenring
05/06/11 Silverstone
03/07/11 Navarra
17/07/11 Paul Ricard
04/09/11 Ordos
23/10/11 Curitiba
06/11/11 San Luis

GT1 TV : www.gt1world.com

Spotters Guide: http://spotterguides.com/fia-gt1-2011-guide

© Ed Fahey 2011

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New – Car Features section

Posted by Ed Fahey on March 21, 2011

New for the site is a car features section, and I begin with a car rather dear to my heart – click  here

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An Interview with The Boss – Stephane Ratel

Posted by Ed Fahey on February 5, 2011

The Boss - Mr Ratel

Every motorsport series needs a Boss – or to put it more officially a class co-ordinator and for FIA GT1/3 its this man, Stephane Ratel, who also serves as both founder and CEO of these series. The informed Sportscar news site DailySportsCar have interviewed him and the links are below, which for a change you do not have to pay to read, as DSC is majorly a paid subscription site

PT1: GT1

PT2: FIA GT3 and Blancpain Endurance Series

PT3: The Future

Makes for interesting reading – mentions of Lexus entering GT1, GT1’s future, returning to racing in the USA, but sadly GT2 is no more for FIA GT and GT3 is seen as the long term option, with the possbilities of upgrading GT3 cars to GT1 spec among other things.

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Photos of the year 2010 Part 2 – Continental Cruising

Posted by Ed Fahey on January 6, 2011

Part 2 of 2 of my personal photos of the year 2010 and the stories that accompany them along with the basic shooting data. Some are photos I like, some are ones others like and some were just lucky shots that worked, and there are plenty of others that I just couldnt fit in! This time its the 2 trips I made to continental Europe for the Le Mans 24 hour race and the Spa 24 hour race. Both were several day excursions to catch each day of action and were most enjoyable.

Le Mans pitlane, Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans,France. Nikon D300, Sigma 18-50 F2.8, 1/1600, F3.2,  ISO250

Practice, practice,practice – the Corvette Racing team about to practice driver changes at Le Mans. Its the Thursday before the big race and already the tension is slowly rising, although the guy on the right smiling with the stopwatch lightens it somewhat and the guy to his left with the videocamera raises the tension again, although at that exact moment he was probably the most concerned!

Le Mans qualifying, Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans,France. Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/125, F4,  ISO1600

Night Moves – GT2 class Porsche 997 negotiating the Esses at Le Mans

The main excitement of long distance endurance racing to me is racing at night, for both the excitement and the sheer speed, it seems even faster at night than in the day

Le Mans qualifying, Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans,France. Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/80, F10,  ISO2000

The Thrill of the Chase – GT2 class Corvette ZR1 leads unidentified Lola LMP coupe

Night time requires different techniques – The auto focus works harder, will often hunt for a focus point (and miss) and then combined with manually controlling the cameras shutter speed and aperture results in a far more frustrating experiance with a lot more wastage – but when shots come out they are good!

Le Mans Group C qualifying, Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans,France. Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/125, F9,  ISO320

Racing Lines – Group C qualifying in the rain.

Its rare you can combine two loves – shooting in the rain under cover and Group C! For the qualifying session I was present in 1 of the massive tribunes (grandstands) so a different viewpoint was presented, then in the few moments after the rain had stopped, but the track had yet to fully dry some nice rooster tails and reflections were present. You cant control the weather, so you may aswell use it to your fullest advantage

Le Mans Group C qualifying, Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans,France. Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/125, F7.1,  ISO320

Les Couleurs – One of the most colourful 962 liveries is enhanced by the damp track conditions.

Im not one to reply on post processing to greatly enhance my images but a little ‘tweak’ here and there often makes a difference. I see and use it as a tool rather than a safety net and often some slight adjustment makes a big difference, as long as the basic colours stay the same and the green grass is green afterwards and not yellow!

Le Mans qualifying, Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans,France. Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/200, F9,  ISO320

Track Impact – the three most talked about cars of Le Mans 2010 together ontrack at the Ford chicane

Who would win Le Mans 2010? Audi with their R15 TDi plus, Peugeot with their title defending 908 HDi FAP or would anyone care and instead be gawping at the BMW M3 GT2 ‘Art Car’ ? In the end it was Audi who won, after Peugeot failed after breaking one of the cardinal rules of motorsport – ‘If it aint broke, dont fix it’ . The BMW was another retirement.

Le Mans qualifying, Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans,France. Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/3, F4,  ISO320

Fencing – Racing Box Lola-Judd LMP2 accelerates hard out of Indianapolis on the way to Arnage

Le Mans 2010 was the only event of 2010 where I did not have a media pass. Not one to let this affect me too much, but sometimes you must improvise to get rid of fences. Sometimes though the public areas are raised so you can get a better angle on shots, aslong as you lower the shutter right down to blur out the fence and adjust the aperture to suit. One of my personal favourite shots of 2010

Le Mans qualifying, Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans,France. Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/50, F5,  ISO2500

Night chasing – OAK racing LMP2 Pescarolo-Judd leads Racing Box Lola-Judd LMP2 away from Arnage into the night

Another one of my favourites and one that needed patience. With no daylight left and the floodlights at Arnage aimed at the corner itself rather than away, I realisied that the powerful headlights of the cars would be useful to provide lighting for a good photo – but the car behind needed to be reasonably close, took a while but I was happy with the result.

Le Mans warmup, Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans,France. Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/160, F4,  ISO250

Arty Farty – The BMW M3 GT2 Art Car – designed by Jeff Koons at Tetre Rouge

Tetre Rouge, just before the Mulsanne straight and 1 of the more common spectator areas at Le Mans. judging by the photographic equipment some people were carrying, more than a few photographers didnt get passes for 2010 either or were not bothered!

Le Mans race, Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans,France. Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/200, F4,  ISO400

Into the night – Lola-Aston Martin LMP1 car heads into the falling light during the 24 hour race

Another example of being creative, this and the next shot were taken from the bar that overlooks the pit exit on the start/finish straight

Le Mans race, Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans,France. Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/100, F4,  ISO400

Spirit of Speed – racing into the night, but none of these cars would finish the race sadly, but as the sun lows the atmosphere certainly increases

Le Mans race, Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans,France. Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/2, F2.8,  ISO400

Hotel Paradiso – 24 hour Nirvana!

Le Mans race, Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans,France. Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/30, F5.6,  ISO800

The Wee Hours – and the race goes on

Taken at 03.36 at Mulsanne corner, the Corvette at the time was running second in the GT2 class, one of the last photos I took during the darkness, before getting a bit of rest!

FIA GT1World free practice, Circuit de Spa-Francochamps, Spa,Belgium. Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/125, F11,  ISO400

The finest corner in the world – Eau Rouge – with my favourite lighting, the sun shining after a light shower, almost a rainbow present!

FIA GT1World free practice, Circuit de Spa-Francochamps, Spa,Belgium. Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/100, F4,  ISO250

The sun has dried up the rain now, but its still a little dark after the rain, the lighting though and the cars headlights make for some decent lensflare

FIA GT1World free practice, Circuit de Spa-Francochamps, Spa,Belgium. Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/125, F13,  ISO400

Eau Rouge from the opposite side, with a rooster tail – It doesnt get better than this

I could easily fill this post with pages and pages of Eau Rouge phtoos – have a look at my Flickr for plenty of Eau Rouge rain shots

FIA GT2 Europe 24 hours of Spa, Circuit de Spa-Francochamps, Spa,Belgium. Nikon D300, Sigma 18-50 F2.8, 1/30, F2.8,  ISO200

An ambience shot I like, I dont take enough of these, its a 2011 resolution!

FIA GT1World qualifying race,formation lap, Circuit de Spa-Francochamps, Spa,Belgium. Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/800, F3.2, ISO200

GTR’s forming for battle – formation lap of the qualifying race and some fervent brake and tire warming is in progress.

FIA GT1World qualifying race, Circuit de Spa-Francochamps, Spa,Belgium. Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/250, F4.5, ISO200

Flaming balls of fire – Its not when a Murcielago flames its when!

My favourite shot of the year. A simple case of waiting for just the right moment and then click! Didnt need to get a second one!

Blancpain Lamborghini Super Trofeo Race 3, Circuit de Spa-Francochamps, Spa,Belgium. Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/125, F4.5, ISO200

Crash – running out of braking – or talent?

I know that the combination of 560bhp 4×4 Lamborghini Gallardo SuperTrofeos and some wealthy but mostly amatuer drivers would hit disaster sooner or later, but I was not expecting it to happen right infront of me! One of several lucky shots taken during the Spa weekend

FIA GT1World warmup, Circuit de Spa-Francochamps, Spa,Belgium. Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/250, F4, ISO320

Modern cameras dont like the very bright headlights of racecars, so its a case of setup and ensuring you are not looking directly into the headlights

FIA GT1World Championship Race, Circuit de Spa-Francochamps, Spa,Belgium. Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/800, F4, ISO200

Charge! Well over 14,000bhp is released as the pack races down towards La Source

Not one of my best shots of 2010, but one that gives good memories of a great weekend

FIA GT1World Championship Race, Circuit de Spa-Francochamps, Spa,Belgium. Nikon D300, Sigma 18-50 F2.8, 1/640, F3.5, ISO200

Getting close at La Source

Another great corner – you can literally reach out and touch the cars as they pass, like Eau Rouge, I could fill the page with La Source pics

FIA GT1World Championship Race, Circuit de Spa-Francochamps, Spa,Belgium. Nikon D300, Sigma 18-50 F2.8, 1/500, F2.8, ISO200

Nissan pitstop – a fine study of the results of often military like training and precision

The pits are always dangerous – moreso when there is a race on. A pitstop can win or lose the teams race so its best to stand well clear, I stood in the garage for this one and caught the 2 main elements, the tyre changers and the drivers swopping. Only later did I notice Sumo Power GT team boss James Rumsey watching the stop, in the top left of the photo

FIA GT1World Championship Race, Circuit de Spa-Francochamps, Spa,Belgium. Nikon D300, Sigma 18-50 F2.8, 1/2000, F2.8, ISO200

Celebration! – Frank Kechele celebrates his first GT1 win with one of his team members

Right place and time for this one, despite being in the middle of the ‘scrum’ I stood my ground and was rewarded with this emotional shot

FIA GT1World Championship Race, Circuit de Spa-Francochamps, Spa,Belgium. Nikon D300, Sigma 18-50 F2.8, 1/1000, F2.8, ISO200

Catch! – Another right time and place shot, was heading back to the media centre and I turned to see this mechanic walking under the podium ready to catch the bottle to continue the celebration, a quick ‘seize the moment and click-click-click’ shot

FIA GT Spa 24 hour race, Circuit de Spa-Francochamps, Spa,Belgium. Nikon D300, Sigma 70/200 F2.8, 1/400, F6.3, ISO400

Depart de 24 hours – Race start!

Off we go for 24 hours and Im in the small crowd of photographers at Eau Rouge to capture the pack racing up Eau Rouge for the first time, there might be loads of people with the same shot, but sometimes thats good too

FIA GT Spa 24 hour race, Circuit de Spa-Francochamps, Spa,Belgium. Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/30, F8, ISO250

Need for Speed – Ford GT entering the Les Combes complex

Had to fit one of my zoom bursts in somewhere, they dont always work out but when they do, they are most satisfying!

FIA GT Spa 24 hour race, Circuit de Spa-Francochamps, Spa,Belgium. Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/250, F4, ISO250

Lucky Break  – in more ways than one!

The sole Mosler MT900R of the race takes a trip across the gravel at Les Combes, but continues – This is also my luckiest shot of the year, as I was about to change memory cards (with only 2 photos left) and heard the Mosler approach so decided just to click off a shot as it passed – and then into the gravel it goes, and the photo came out better than I expected. It always happens when you least expect it, same as the Trofeo crash seen earlier, you just gotta be ready to act quickly!

FIA GT Spa 24 hour race, Circuit de Spa-Francochamps, Spa,Belgium. Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/250, F2.8, ISO250

A Dab of Oppo – sideways Lamborghini Gallardo at Bruxelles

Readers of the brilliant Sniff Petrol website will be familiar with A Dab of Oppo – the Gallardo is a bitch and I spanked it! Another lucky shot,heard tyre screeching, turn around and shoot!

FIA GT Spa 24 hour race, Circuit de Spa-Francochamps, Spa,Belgium. Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/250, F2.8, ISO400

Darkness Descends at Pouhon

The beauty of the summer is that sunset is a slow gradual process, rather than the sudden darkness that arrives in winter. As such you can experiment with lighting. Also a brief shower had enhanced the lighting slightly, just the way I like it!

FIA GT Spa 24 hour race, Circuit de Spa-Francochamps, Spa,Belgium. Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/100, F2.8, ISO3200

2200 and the darkness has set in so time for some proper after dark stuff before those media shuttles stop running!

FIA GT Spa 24 hour race, Circuit de Spa-Francochamps, Spa,Belgium. Nikon D300, Sigma 18-50 F2.8, 1/160, F2.8, ISO800

Pitstop at night, not as frantic as a GT1 stop but still plenty to see and not get too close to!

FIA GT Spa 24 hour race, Circuit de Spa-Francochamps, Spa,Belgium. Nikon D300, Sigma 18-50 F2.8, 1/1, F2.8, ISO400

Eau Rouge by Night

A self explanatory photo, 0100 and the race is not even at the half way point…

FIA GT Spa 24 hour race, Circuit de Spa-Francochamps, Spa,Belgium. Nikon D300, Sigma 18-50 F2.8, 1/30, F2.8, ISO400

Leading pitstop – the leader pits at 0245

German Precision – watching BMW Motorsport performing a pitstop is akin to a finely cherographed dance routine, no mistakes and swiftness

FIA GT Spa 24 hour race, Circuit de Spa-Francochamps, Spa,Belgium. Nikon D300, Sigma 18-50 F2.8, 1/30, F2.8, ISO400

Happy Faces – A job well done for Trackspeed, satisfaction all round!

And so ends the review of 2010, not every shot could be included here but they are all on my Flickr under Le Mans and Spa!

Happy New Year and heres to 2011!

Ed Fahey – January 2011

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Photos of the year 2010 Part 1 – Island Hopping

Posted by Ed Fahey on December 28, 2010

2010, a year of changes, development and adventure, both home and away, and Part 1 of 2 of my personal photos of the year and the stories that accompany them along with the basic shooting data. Some are photos I like, some are ones others like and some were just lucky shots that worked, and there are plenty of others that I just couldnt fit in! For Part 1 its the pick of the photos I took in Ireland and the UK, during ITCC, FIA GT1 / FIA GT3 rounds and Rallycross

ITCC Round 1 – Mondello Park, Ireland; Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/1000, F4.5,  ISO250

Tomas O’Sullivan leaps from third place on the grid to lead ITCC Rd1 going into Honda corner.

The official beginning of the biggest series in Irish circuit racing in 2010 – The Irish Touring Car Championship. What began as a desire from several Time Attack competitors and racing drivers to bring a proper saloon racing class back to Mondello quickly developed into the only over subscribed class of 2010 – an outstanding acheivement given Ireland is still in the grip of the most crippling recession the country has ever seen. The racing was close and exciting and although there were only 2 different overall winners during the season it didnt matter given the amount of battles down through the field the entertainment was everywhere and not just at the front.

ITCC Round 2 –  Kirkistown,Northern Ireland; Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/500, F6.3,  ISO200

Martin Tracey rides the kerbs at the Chicane on his way to winning Round 2 of the ITCC.

At the front of the pack, the ITCC was all about one man in 2010 – Martin Tracey in his stunning black Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth, with 1980’s BTCC parentage, taking 7 wins out of 8, but he nearly didnt win at Round 2 as he was pushed all the way by Brian Sexton with his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6 and only running low on fuel stopped Brian taking round 2 after the duel of the year

ITCC Round 2 – Kirkistown,Northern Ireland; Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/640, F5.6,  ISO200

Brian Sexton gets away with murder at Colonial during lap 1 of Round 2 of the ITCC.

Martin Tracey won this round but he was pushed almost the entire way by Brian Sexton, Brian qualified on pole position and almost threw it away totally at Colonial which is the first slow down point at Kirkistown, only the Evos 4wd saving him!

FIA GT1 World Championship Round 2, Silverstone, England; Nikon D300, Sigma 18-50 F2.8,1/200, F2.8,ISO200

Corvette C6R being warmed up ahead of the qualifying race, this photo does nothing for the V8 noise!

I got the chance to photograph the FIA GT series twice during 2010, but it was almost only one oppurtunity as the Icelandic volcanic mountain Eyjafjallajökull spewed hot ash into Europes airspace grounding flights as a result,almost affecting not only my trip there, but also the teams!

FIA GT1 World Championship Round 2, Silverstone, England; Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/200, F6.3,ISO400

Italian V12’s into the Arena.

The weekend saw the debut of the new Silverstone ‘Arena’ GP layout which combines parts of the ‘National’ circuit into the GP layout, although sadly my favourite part of Silverstone, Bridge is lost. At least some good photo oppurtunites are given with the new section though, they will be even better when the development work is complete, as at the time I was there ‘building site’ would be the best description to give

FIA GT3 European Championship Round 1, Silverstone, England Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/1000, F2.8,ISO200

A GT3 battle on the Wellington straight, Gallardo vs Corvette

The weekend also saw the opening rounds of the excellent GT3 European championship, with almost ITCC levels of racing/overtaking going on, except with far more expensive GT cars instead of saloons. Always a joy to watch and photograph

FIA GT1 World Championship Round 2, Silverstone, England – Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8, 1/160, F8,ISO320

Sunday morning warmup, Maserati MC12’s through the spray at Luffield

With the short, 1 hour races and only 2 per weekend, you have to take every session in to maximise your photo oppurtunites, even if it means shooting in poor weather, but as long as my camera and I are well sealed against the water I enjoy shooting in the rain, throws a new perspective onto things

FIA GT1 World Championship Round 2, Silverstone, England – Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8. 1/200, F6.3,ISO400

Darren Turner/Tomas Enge lead Race 2 on their way to victory – which was short lived due to post race disqualification for a breach in ride height/skid plank regulations.

I like flame shots, it took a while to get this one, but it was worth it! Again shooting in the Arena section of Silverstone. As regular readers will know, some flame shots are easier to acheive!

FIA GT1 World Championship Round 2, Silverstone, England – Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8. 1/640, F8,ISO250

Raging Bull – Lamborghini Murcielago in the Arena section

Sometimes photos just work, whether its the angle of the shot, the composition, or in this case the use of lighting. The sun just broke through the clouds enough to light up the Lambo quite nicely. I dont mind that the shutter speed could have been much lower in this case.

ITCC Round 4 – Mondello Park, Ireland; Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8;  1/400, F2.8,ISO200

Chain Reaction – one mistake from the yellow Integra leads to calamity

Sometimes things happen without you realising they are happening until its too late, mostly when accidents occur, this was the beginning of a 4 car mini pileup

ITCC Round 4 – Mondello Park, Ireland; Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8;  1/400, F2.8,ISO200

Side by Side by Side

The diversity of the ITCC is shown with 3 abreast racing into Turn 1 of Mondello, just a well timed shot that might aswell be a posed shot

ITCC Round 5 – Mondello Park, Ireland; Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8;  1/320, F4,ISO200

Pulling away – Martin Tracey after taking the lead of ITCC Round 5 strides away to victory, lapping a good proportion of the field in the process

Like your own eyes, D-SLR cameras dont like looking directly into a cars headlights and cameras will compensate this leading to very dark photos, unless you know you way around the camera, in which case YOU decide what your doing rather than what the camera wants to do!

ITCC Round 6 – Mondello Park, Ireland; Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8;  1/160, F10,ISO200

Abandon Ship – Brian Moore makes a quick exit as his Impreza flames up at ITCC Round 6

Motorsport photography is about luck as much as it is about skill. You often see incidents occuring in the distance or see the aftermath, but occasionally it happens right infront of you…

ITCC Round 7 – Mondello Park, Ireland; Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8;  1/400, F5.6,ISO200

Fast and Furious – Stephen Maher ahead of Tom Fahy in a fairly intense battle through Turns 7a/b at Mondello Park

Another diverse ITCC race and one that sums up the close yet diverse nature of the series

Irish Rallycross Championship Round 4 – Mondello Park, Ireland; Nikon D300, Sigma 70-200 F2.8;  1/200, F4.5,ISO250

Opposite Lock – Andy Scott puts down the power exiting Rallycross 1 kicking up the dirt in the process.

As winter arrives the sun is lower, giving you a new angle on photos, provided the sun is behind and not infront of you!

And so ends part 1 of my 2010 review. Part 2 to follow with some proper long distance material.

Ed Fahey – December 2010

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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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Spa 24H – Day 3 – Curtain Raises into the night…..

Posted by Ed Fahey on August 31, 2010

Chicane

Running behind schedule a bit, so to speed things up a tad heres a review of the 3rd Super Trofeo Race, the GT1 World Championship Race and the first day of the GT2 Europe 24 hour race. Photos of all the scenes described can be seen in the Flickr links at the bottom of this article

It started early when the GT1 cars had a 30 min warmup session here. I decided to go to Chicane, or as it was better formely known – The Bus Stop for 10mins on the outside, a quick 5 min dash under the tunnel onto the inside of the corner and then 15 mins on the inside of the corner which included the cars entering the pit lane, which makes for dramatic photos with a nice backdrop as the climb up the small incline. I did a lot of experimenting with manual exposure also, as auto doesnt take kindly to bright headlights, and over compensates leaving totally dark and un-useable shots. There was then a warmup period for the 24 hour race cars, similar to the GT1 cars

Then followed the third and final race for the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo. Like the previous 2 races, fairly split out and as it was winding down I ended up in conversation with some of Blancpains own representatives. Given Blancpain watches can cost more than €90,000 I was surprised to see their photographic equipment cost rather less than that. Photographers from Ireland are rare at international GT race events, most people commenting with the amount of rallying in Ireland, why would I to travel, but people are surprised to hear there is little to no GT/Sportcar racing in Ireland.

And then it happened – the unmistakable sound of tyres screeching as 1 car got his braking point totally wrong and was skidding backwards at

Ouch!!

speed towards Chicane, just as another car was on the apex of the corner and BANG – heavy contact – and I got a photo, as he lost it then a series of him sliding backwards, out of control into the other car. It seems instinctive now for anyone interested in cars or motorsport in general  to turn towards the sound of screeching tyres, but only a photographer will instinctively raise his camera and press and hold down the shutter. Ill admit my shutter speed was too low but I was happy enough with what I got – I should have got photos of the Blancpain guys face, an equal mixture of horror and amusement, fuelling the argument that people only watch motorsport for the crashes….

Warming up the car before the race

Next up was the GT1 World Championship race so I went down an hour ahead of the race start to look around the pits and then follow the cars out onto the grid for photos of the cars, drivers, officials, team members and not forgetting the grid girls, as there is certainly something in that Belgian water… Most of the cars were still in the garages initially – albeit  jacked up with engines running and in gear, warming up engines and transmissions before driving out to the grid, the sound of the 7 litre Corvette C6R’s V8 pounding away along with feeling the exhaust gases pulsing against your leg is both impressive and a demonstration of the raw power that these cars possess, they dont even have be moving to be impressive.

Onto the grid and being professionals, the drivers wont give your camera the finger, or tell

There is certainly something in that Belgian water!

you to get lost, but usually they are so engrossed in mentally preparing for the race, or deep in conversation with their team personnel, they hardly notice the camera. Of course they can give you a thumbs up or a smile and a nod if required. The grid girls are a different matter though, smiling politely for the camera and being pros, dont need to be reminded to do so, and unless there is a crowd of photographers, dont even need to be encouraged to look into your lens either.

The hour passed quickly as the siren to clear the grid sounded and the cars were started up. I elected to shoot the start from just before La Source Hairpin, then onto the hairpin itself and later moving down into the pits to shoot the pitstops then down towards the chicane again, now that the lighting was better and the cars would be fighting for position, rather than following each other through, as they were in practice. The race started and despite the scrum on the end of the pitwall, I grabbed a spot for the start, 3 laps and then onto La Source, where most photographers were only staying breifly, as you could almost reach out and touch the cars they were that close, so it was easy to get photos.

Getting close at La Source

Then onto the most interesting part of the race – the pitstop window, approx 15mins where each car had to pit to change drivers and tyres. From previous experiance at Silverstone, I knew you had to keep your guard in the pits, as photographers are unimportant and it is essential you dont get in the way, thankfully I didnt, but I did see 1 photographer being forcibly removed from a dangerous spot, as he was right in the path of an approaching car. A ruined stop can mean a ruined race so the last thing you want to do is be in the way, as it can be both embarrasing and expensive as the removed photographer dropped his camera in the process… Its important to watch out for signs – the most obvious one being mechanics bringing wheels out and another standing in the pit lane with

Ready for the pitstop

the lollipop, ready to wave their car in, along with the second driver, helmetted up and ready to go. I shot several stops, some from inside the teams garage which is the safest place to be, some from the outside, behind the car and others alongside. During 1 of the stops for the All-Inkl.com Lamborghinis the wheelnut sheared and fell off just as the car left, leaving the car as a retirement and driver Marc Basseng, who had just got out fuming as all his earlier efforts were now for nothing. Such is motorsport and I dared not go near Basseng as he was not in a position to have his feelings recorded, nor was the angry team manager, who annoyed at component failure, couldnt blame anyone in his vicinity. As I walked down the pits toward chicane I noticed friend and fellow photographer John Brooks, who instead of doing what I was doing, was stood half way up the pitlane shooting each stop – but then again his massive 500mm F4 lens means the entire pitlane is photographable from one position. Food for though when I have plenty of money and want a new lens…

Pitstop window now closed, and down to Chicane where a safety car period to recover debris has bunched up the pack to make for nice group photos and then at Chicane as the cars climb up the brief incline leading onto the Start/Finish straight, as the group bunched up in a sprint towards the end. Just as the last lap board was shown I wanted to get a shot of the winner receiving the chequered flag, but the way the fences were in the pitwall meant this was impossible, so I quickly went to the winners enclosure, where the top 3 finishers pull up to be greeted by their teams, I was luckly to grab a spot right infront of the 1st place marker, so the winning driver, the #25 Reiter/Blancpain Lamborghini of Ricardo Zonta and Frank Kechele would be infront of me. Despite the huge scrum of photographers and Reiter team personel I stood firm at the front of the enclosure and got a

A Job well done

perfect shot of Kechle as he celebrated with his team. The podium was raised so the photos from there are at a bad angle, but I was in the right place at the right time to catch 1 of the Matech mechanics catching the champagne bottle, dropped down from the podium to celebrate their 3rd place, and amazingly he caught it perfectly and didnt drop it! I then took in the press conference afterwards but it all seemed slow and tame compared to the race.

The 24 hour race was due to start at 16.00, so time to grab lunch – in my case a jumbo hotdog and frites (or chips). Unlike some other blogs Im not one to minutely describe my lunch,or upload photos of it, but the Belgians certainly have perfected the art of chip preparation, instead of shovelling them out of the fryer like they would elsewhere, they are gently tossed and salted before being presented to you in a paper cone as opposed to a soggy bag along with ketchup or the famous mayonnaise… I consumed quite a few of these cones over the weekend…

Onto the race and I decided to go with the flow and shoot the start as they tackled Eau Rouge/Radillion for the first time, then down to Les

24H Start

Combes. I didnt shoot the 24H grid though, as lunch and chatting got in the way as always. Onto the 24H start and they were started on the old start/finish straight which leads onto Eau Rouge, rather than the new Start/Finish which would have meant La Source being the 1st bend, with a very clean start as the race was for 24 hours and not 24 minutes, there would be plenty of chances for overtaking. Onto Les Combes via the media shuttle, then a slow walk to Bruxelles,Pouhon,and onto the Fagnes/Campus section which is almost the entire track that is accessable, access to the Blancimont section being restricted to marshalls only.

Something has fallen off

Plenty of photos taken and of course the instincts were required more than once,when the sole Gravity Mosler took a trip through the gravel at Les Combes, when 1 of the Gallardos came sideways thorugh Bruxelles or when 1 of the BMW 645’s lost a wheel at Fagnes, which was then followed by one of Spas famous downpours, so on with the raingear.

No sooner had the rain stopped, the clouds broke to reveal the sun, although sadly with no rainbow to be seen, maybe the next time it rained – which thankfully was never, as apart from a brief downpour at 3am there was no rain for the rest of the race. Given Spa’s reputation for rain, this was quite a shock and a relief to everyone, but as always I was prepared for it! On my return to the media centre I was greeted with much laughter and mockery, as the TV camera at Fagnes had picked me up pulling on my raincoat, broadcast to the world, but at least the commentator was kind enough to describe my brief moment of tv fame as ‘conditions getting worse for everyone’.

At night, Les Combes

Unlike Le Mans, Spa is not lit at night, apart from the pits complex a brief excursion to Les Combes was the only night time track shooting planned, also the media shuttles stopped running at 23.00 and wouldnt return until 09.00, so some rest was planned in the small hours and some pit shooting, as there is always plenty to see and scenes to capture, the human element being the biggest part of endurance racing;  happiness, anxiety and ultimately fatigue, it affects us all and in different amounts.

Ed Fahey August 2010

See Photos from the GT1 Championship Race/SuperTrofeo here

See Photos from the first day of the 24 hour race here

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Spa 24 Hour Race Day 2 – Support Acts – Flaming Good!

Posted by Ed Fahey on August 24, 2010

Trofeo Race 1 entering Eau Rouge

Onto Friday at Spa Francochamps and the first of the weekends races, the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo . A one make formula, everyone racing identical Lamborghini Gallardos, with 4wd,steering wheel mounted paddle shift gear changing and 570bhp. The series is mainly aimed at amatuer gentleman drivers rather than professional race drivers,but a few pros drive them also. The nature of most one make series, along with the varying skill levels meant that an interesting race would hopefully be in prospect along with a crash or two. The crash would happen on Saturday, but the prospect of an exciting race was a slight anticlimax as the skill levels meant the pack would split up very quickly with cars going around on their own, or in small packs of 2/3. At least you could still listen to the glorious V10 noises as the cars lapped around during their 40 min race. At least the weather held during the race and thankfully it would for the rest of the day also. So, the first of 3 SuperTrofeo races was slightly boring, would the following GT1 qualifying race be any better?

Racing down the Kemmel Straight to Les Combes

The first big race of the weekend, the GT1 Qualifying race and I elected to go to Les Combes, the S bends just after the long Kemmel straight for some overtaking, and to get nice and close to the cars as they battled it out. The first photo I wanted was a group shot as they blasted down the Kemmel straight, just starting to brake as they came past me. For this I knew I needed a high shutter speed to freeze the cars as they were coming almost directly at me, as their wheels would not be visible, it wasnt a big issue to use a higher shutter speed. Before long the race was on, led by the #11 Mad Croc/DKR Engineering Corvette C6R, it was quite a sight to see and especially hear the Corvette leading the pack, the rumbling roar of the 7 litre V8 engine, flat out in 6th gear at almost 190mph towards Les Combes, then dropping a few gears accompanied by a quick flame from the exhaust. The flames were not easy, with most of the GT1 cars its a quick flicker of flame, with the exception of the Lamborghinis, which emit a big  ball of flame, a bit easier to catch and far more dramatic, which Ill come to shortly!  The only mistake I made while shooting down the Kemmel straight, was that Id left the depth of field too shallow, so while the first 2/3 cars were sharp, the others were too blurred, but then it depends on what you are looking at also, but lesson learned for next time!

DBR9 at Les Combes

Next, onto the Les Combes complex itself, and judging by the amount of photographers here, it was a popular spot, you can get close for a nice clear shot and being a chicane the cars are usually bunched up together. Also the short, 1 hour GT1 races with compulsary pitstops keep the action close, so its often more like touring car racing than endurance racing, with the cars racing in groups rather than split up individually, with more than a little rubbing going on…

Rubbins Racing

Theres a lot more to motorsport photography than front 3/4 pans and my fave aspect is trying to get flame shots. All of the GT1 cars shoot flames, but some more frequently and more importantly BIG flames, none moreso than the 4 Lamborghini Murcielagos, nearly a flame on every gearchange, so I positioned myself on the run into Bruxelles, the hairpin after the Les Combes complex, saw the #37 All-Inkl.com Murcielago coming, so ensuring I was in continous burst mode, held my finger down as I panned it, with a massive flame emitted, checked the review screen on my camera and result…

Anyone got some burgers for the BBQ?? It occasionally takes a second or third attempt to get a flameshot this good, but for once I had caught a winner first time so didnt even try to capture a second. Now all I need is to catch the flicker (rather than the flame) that occasionally emitted from the Nissan GTR and Ill have a flame shot from all 6 models of car that compete in the GT1 World Championship…

Despite concentrating on flames and getting close, there was still a great race going on, right to the end, with a great 4 car battle being particularly close, with the #6 Matech Ford GT holding off 3 Nissan GTR’s, both Swiss Racing Team cars, #3/4 and the #22 Sumo Power car, with light contact between all 4, the Ford coming close to being spun if 1 of the Swiss cars had not backed off, but a little rubbin’ is allowed in racing!

For the record the #11 Madcroc/DKR Corvette C6R took a lights to flag victory, followed by the #25 Reiter/Blancpain Murcielago with the #8 Young Driver Aston Martin DBR9 in third place, an exciting race on an exciting track.

Spin = doesnt win

Next up was the second race for the Super Trofeo, so I elected to stay in the same area, for plenty of overtaking and maybe some rubbing, but once again the driver talent proved otherwise, with the grid too spread out, the only action of sorts was a massive spin for the #1 car, an earlier mistake pushing the car down the field, and trying to make amends he spun again at Les Combes – yet by the time he had rejoined and headed onto Bruxelles, he was still ahead of 3 cars…. I guess some race in the SuperTrofeo just to give their Gallardo a hard run around some of Europes finest circuits.

The qualifying for the 24 hour race took place the day before, like Le Mans took place in darkness, and with the Spa circuit having no lighting apart from the pits complex, I elected to spectate and see how insane night running was, words cant describe it, and I was now pumped up for the following days 24 H race, preceded by the second GT1 race, and the third SuperTrofeo race

Ed Fahey – August 2010

See more photos on my Flickr

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Spa 24 hour Race Day 1 – Buildup

Posted by Ed Fahey on August 19, 2010

Eau Rouge

After Le Mans, I could feel a slight addiction for 24 hour races coming on, so some researching led to flights being booked to Belgium for a trip to Spa-Francochamps, arguably the finest racing track in the world for the 24 Hours of Spa, along with 2 rounds of the GT1 World Championship and 3 rounds of the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo .

After a preview to the weekends weather was given on the drive to the circuit, a 50/50 mixture of rain and sunshine we arrived to find a clear sky, but with the clouds never far away. Spa is renowned for its weather also, which throws another element into the already fantastic circuit, it can go quickly from sunshine to rain and back again due to the circuits location in the Ardennes Forest, high in the mountains. The location also lends itself to some great elevation changes for a great challenge to the drivers, never mind the photographers.

24H free practice

So onto the action and after signing on to represent SportsCarInsider for the weekend it was off to the La Source Hairpin, the first corner of the track, just as the GT2/3/4/N class cars that would contest the 24H race were coming onto the the track for their first practice session. La Source is the slowest corner on the track and also the closest you are to the cars, so close in that a lens with focal length of more than 70mm is too much, I shot here with my 18-50mm F2.8 lens as opposed to my more regular 70-200 F2.8. I might have a general lack of enthusiasm regarding F1, but at least when F1 visits a circuit the facilities tend to be excellent, reflected by the Spa media centre, which is by far the biggest Ive been in so far, with great facilities and plenty of desk space, and even good LAN speeds.

One thing that often frustrates me about visiting a new track is finding the access points onto the track side of the fences, at Spa they are few and far between so plenty of hiking is needed between gates, but after day one Id found most of them so it was not a big problem, just stay on the safe side of them and you are fine.

Eau Rouge, again!

After the 24h cars had finished warming up, it was lunchtime, so a quick wander around the pits and then onto the best corner on the circuit and arguably the best corner in the world – Eau Rouge for GT1 practice. All the TV clips, stories and photos still dont prepare you for it, like Paddock Hill bend at Brands Hatch, what appears on TV to be a gentle hill is infact almost a vertical rise, taken in 5th gear, a right left flick and if taken exactly results in a perfect line through Radillion at the top and then will lead you onto the long Kemmel straight. It is possible for 2 cars to run side by side through Eau Rouge, but its rare to happen, as the results of a mistake at Eau Rouge/Radillion can be spectacular and often lethal as usually grip at the back is lost resulting in a total loss of control and heavy contact with the barrier.

While shooting at Eau Rouge, the famed weather made an appearence, as suddenly the skies darkened and before I knew it, it was pouring with rain. Id come to Spa prepared for this, so out with the rain cover for the camera and quick camera adjustments to cope with the darkened skies. Although I dislike getting wet, Ill freely admit, apart from dawn and dusk, rain often provides my favourite lighting conditions as it makes the lighting more neutral and predictable, together with rooster tails and better reflections off the tarmac, so flames and brake lights will appear to be far more dramatic. Not even 5 mins after the rain started it had gone, replaced by a grey sky for a few moments with lots of standing water, so plenty of rooster tail shots and headlights piercing through the spray

After the GT1 it was time for the Lamborghini SuperTrofeo practice, but given it was still wet, there was not much to be seen here, Ill be reporting

Pitstop practice

on what I thought of the racing later on, but being mainly gentleman drivers with a handful of pros it was very one sided. The GT1 cars being finished for the day I went down the pits for a closeup look at then and try to get the finer photos in and around the cars without the rush of a race or qualifying getting in the way. Also some of the teams were practicing pitstops, so a few photos of those also. Changing drivers, then changing 4 tyres might seem simple and straightfoward but there is a lot that can go wrong and the quicker its done, the quicker the car is back out into the race. So 6 practice stops in a row is not unusual, all run under the watchful eye of the teamboss with a stopwatch. What amused me the most was seeing pitcrew from the other teams observing each others stops, then the teams they had been observing, watching their pitstops. Having a fast car and drivers is only a small part of the racing, a fast pitstop and efficient pitcrew can often win or lose a race for the team, and seeing the body language resulting from a good/bad stop during a race says it all and will often affect the teams morale going into races.

Vitaphone pitstop practice

I spent quite a while floating around the GT1 pits, having a nice close up look and generally soaking up the calm before the storm atmosphere. Not something you would get in F1, as its so secretive at times, the garages remain closed, or with mechanics surrounding the cars, preventing lenses poking in, but not in GT racing and it will hopefully stay like this for the foreseeable future.

Unlike Le Mans, Spa is only lit around the pits complex at night so I elected to watch the 24 Hour qualifying and have a better scount of the track to find locations for Fridays races.

For more photos of Day 1 click here

Ed Fahey – August 2010

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