Ed Fahey

Adventures – Saloon,Sportscar/GT racing

Posts Tagged ‘Ford’

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 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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ITCC Rounds 4/5

Posted by Ed Fahey on August 11, 2010

Rounds 4 and 5 of the Irish Touring Car Championship (ITCC) and back to Mondello Park for a damp, exciting and controversial race. I had been absent from Round 3, due to being at Le Mans so was welcomed back to Mondello with the traditional Irish weather of rain. It was going to be an interesting day.

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.

There would be 3 ITCC sessions, qualifying and 2 races, with the grid for the second race being decided on the results of the first with a partially reversed grid.

With a full grid the action was to come thick and fast and for some people a little too quick! Its amazing what rain can do to either upset or improve motorsport, to see who is more prepared both in terms of driving and car setup/tyre selection…

Qualifying Onto qualifying and its a hike to Turn 3, a double apex right which leads into a small crest. The double apex catches people out and it also one of the best out braking/overtaking spots on the track. The wet conditions on and off track mean its an interesting hike out there with mud and wet grass to avoid but its worth it as its one of the few corners of Mondello where you are down low, almost at track level, as opposed to being up on the banking that surrounds most of the track, then after I had got my safety shots, it was time to get creative with some very low shutter speed stuff and zoom bursts. 1/40 - I can go lower!

Later it was back to the pits and unlike most sportscar events I attend there was little pit activity, so not many oppurtunities to get candid photos of people, but then again most of the ITCC cars dont have upwards of 10-15 people to look after them, its mainly the drivers themselves who double up as mechanics or have some dedicated friends who come along to help, but the amount of comradery is high with ontrack rivals always helping each other offtrack whether its borriwing tools or full on repair mode, as the more cars on track the better with more competition! After a wet start it finally appeared that the weather was set to clear up for the first race

Race 1 Start!

Onto race 1 and this time I decided to go to Turn 1 or Honda as its better known to get the usual shot of the cars rushing to the first corner and the expected panel bashing that would occur here also. Its best to bring the shutter speed up reasonably high here to freeze the cars as they rush to the corner. Also the fact I was viewing the cars ‘head on’ meant that there were no wheels visible so the effects of a high shutter speed are not as noticeable with the small amount of spray giving the ‘movement’  aspect to the photo also. The first corner was clean with no major contact and the race seemed to be settling down until some sloppy driving let to both heavy contact and a lot of pushing on turn 1 with 3 cars eliminated immediatley and a lot of repair work needed afterwards in the pits but for some cars it was game over for the day. The safety car was deployed twice during the race and ended up finishing under it also, Barry Rabbitt in the Tuning Factory Integra had been on course for a win, but an oil fire led to a retirement in the closing stages and allowing Martin Tracey in the Westward Engineering Sierra to win, his 3rd of the season.

Race 2 StartRace 2,I positioned myself at Turn 2, which also gives easy access to Turn 4, and the rain started to fall not long before the cars went out so some took a gamble on slicks, others wets and some with wets on the back. The weather gods decided the rain was to stay so those who went for a full wet setup reaped their decisions. At turn 1 there was a bit more argy bargy except this time it appeared far more deliberate with a retaliation or 2 from race 1 and it ended up with people getting their hands slapped severly in the form of endorsements on their race licences.

For me it was a case of protect my lens from the rain,and keep the rain off it so no drops of water were present to ruin the photos, as there is nothing worse than ruined pics, when it is something avoidable! After about 5 mins the rain stopped falling, but it didnt stop the cars from being affected by it, Turn 2 is notorious when it is wet and I will nearly always position myself there when it is wet, to catch people being caught out by it, as you must take it lightly and not attack it as you would in the dry, a spin is often the result! Nobody spun, but there were a few ‘moments’ to be caught!

With the partially reversed grid there was a lot more overtaking than normal as the faster cars made their way through to the frontSplashdown...., but with a few hard charging performances midfield also, mainly Philip Burdock in the B-Racing Civic who after a midfield start was into second place and slowly reeling in Martin Traceys Sierra, so this made for a few photo oppurtunites as the bright orange Civic passed and outbraked several, eventually coming within sight of Traceys black Sierra, but it wasnt to be with water pump failure sending the car into retirement, but at least not engine failure and the car will be back for Round 6.

So 2 interesting and at times controversial races were over, time to try and capture some of the tired but happy faces at the end on the podium, and for once people are more than happy to smile for the camera as the trophys and bubbly are presented not to mention the traditional spraying that quickly turns into a spraying fight, but its the one side of motorsport that always raises a smile!

View the full gallery here

The next round will be at Mondello on August 22nd


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Le Mans 24 hour race 2010 – Part 1 – Buildup

Posted by Ed Fahey on June 18, 2010

24 hours, day,night and day again

This is it, the holy grail and mecca of sportscar racing, the longest day, night and day of the year. After following it on tv, magazines and online for many years, 2010 would be the year that I finally attend the worlds greatest race – The Le Mans 24 Hour Race – albeit as a spectator rather than media, but I wouldnt let this affect my enjoyment too much and in the end it didnt.

I was well aware of the track and layout from TV and various computer game simulations but it still does nothing for the track, be it be the drop at the Esses or the sheer speed that some cars take Tetre Rouge at, not to mention the sheer size of the crowd that attended, well over 250,000 people, which compared massively with the smaller crowds to be seen at other sportscar events, but being that Le Mans is almost a festival, of course more people will come and being a week long event stay for a while too, in the massive campsites, but for me a hotel looked more inviting, especially with the poor weather in the week leading up to the race.

In the museum, not going anywhere fast

Arriving for the first day of track action on the Wednesday preceding the race and what better way to start than the circuits museum, full of interesting cars and also some notable Le Mans winners and participants – The 70’s Porsche 917 (restored for 2010),Matra 670C,Renault Alpine A442, and Porsche 935,onto the 80’s with the Rondeau M379, Porsche 956, Courage C28 and Jaguar XJR9, through the 90’s with such cars as the Mazda 787B,Toyota 94C-V,Peugeot 905/905 Evo,Dauer Porsche 962 and Porsche 911 GT1-98, then onto the last decade – Bentley Speed 8,Pescarolo-Courage C60 and Audi R15 TDi, it was great to see them all, but Im not a fan of seeing them stationary in museums, Id rather see them ontrack, but given the 917 has been recently restored theres hope for them all yet.

Onto the 1st practice session,on the Wednesday preceding the race, which lasted 4 hours, preceded by a pitwalk. Id rented a Kangaroo TV before the event, not expecting to win the 2 free pit passes that were on offer, well luck was on my side for a change and I won the pit passes,big thumbs up to Kangaroo TV, so into the pitwalk to get closer to the cars and drivers. Im not one normally for saying much about atmosphere, but here you could feel it, the drivers looking edgy, some stood looking around, others repeatedly practiced driver changes, trying

Corvette racing drivers and pitcrew about to practice driver changes

to save even a second here or there, the mechanics were double checking everything or practicing tyre changes, this is a dangerous track, and the last thing you want is mechanical failure, yet the mechanics seemed calm as it was only practice, qualifying would follow later that evening in the dark. Onto the first practice session and I watched from the Dunlop chicane, just before the famous bridge, then onto the Esses on the outside leading to Tetre Rouge then Tetre Rouge itself. For qualifying I stuck to the inside of the Esses, quite a place to watch the cars at night.

This was the first time Id see full works diesel LMP1 entries from Audi and Peugeot run, the most impressive thing about them was the acceleration from the massive amounts of torque they have onboard and the speed – but that was it, the fact they are a few seconds a lap faster than the petrol LMP1 cars and stupidly quiet made them dull to watch, they might aswell have been in their own class. Was also the first time for me to see cars from the American Le Mans Series, mainly the highly sucessful Acura/HPD ARX01c LMP2, run by Highcroft Racing and Strakka Racing and the GT2 class Corvette C6R’s, with 5.5L V8’s instead of the GT1’s 7 L V8, but still sounding amazing with the devilish thunder soundtrack that is a big V8! Another new car Id not seen before was the BMW M3 GT2, one of the 2 cars entered today was the well publicised ‘art car‘ and the last new car for me being the Rocketsports Jaguar XKR GT2.

BMW M3 GT2 - Art Car

Onto the second night qualifying session on Wednesday evening, I went right to end of the track, the Ford chicane which leads onto the Start/Finish straight, the chicane breaking up another flat out straight and also being the pitlane entrance, so it was interesting to see cars entering the complex slowly or quickly, trying to leave enough space ahead for a fast lap, still despite being one of the slowest parts of the track, people still got it wrong.

For the final qualifying section on Thursday,it was off into the forest at the Indianapolis-Arnage section, braking down from the longest straight into a 90 degree left, then a quick burst of throttle into a 90 degree right then off again into the forest. You literally see the cars for 15 seconds before they disappear again, complete with glowing brake disks and exhausts, just an amazing experiance. Also there was no circuit PA system in this section so instead of the French commentary all you could hear were the cars coming and going in the distance, unreal! The best sounding cars were any of the Corvette C6R’s; The GT1 Luc Alphand Aventures cars or the GT2 Corvette Racing works entries, the Gulf LolaAston Martin LMP1’s,the Oreca-AIM LMP1,The GT1 Matech/MarcVDS Ford GT’s the GT1 Aston DBR9 and the HPD cars including the RML run LMP2 Lola coupe with its HPD engine, whereas the OAK Racing Pescarolo-Judd LMP2 car was painful on the ears, like a drill! If the noise was too much, the excellent Radio Le Mans blocked out the noises with some great commentary and insights into everything.

Racing Box Lola-Judd LMP2 car at Indianapolis

An extra challenge for me at this event was that I didnt manage to get photo accreditation for a media pass, so it was looking for gaps in or over fences, not to mention shooting through the fence also, so with the right settings it was possible and rewarding and in many cases the photos were at a better angle due to being elevated slightly.

So much to see so thats it for Part 1, still to come the Group C racing that supported the race, not to mention the race itself!

Ed Fahey – June 2010

For more photos of the Le Mans Museum click here

For more photos of Wednesdays track action click here

For more photos of Thursdays track action click here

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ITCC Round 2

Posted by Ed Fahey on May 27, 2010

Qualifying

Round 2 of the ITCC and we are off to Kirkistown in Northern Ireland, Irelands ‘other’ permanent motor sport circuit. Unlike Mondello, Kirkistown is build on an old airfield so is a basically long straights connected by some fast and slow bends and chicanes including the notorious Debtors bend, a flat out kink leading into the 1st corner,Colonial. A similar track to Snetterton in the UK. An early start was needed as the track is 2 hours drive away as opposed to 30mins for Mondello, a scenic but interesting drive, whacking a duck with the car, certainly woke us up after the 5am start. Onto the track itself and the Snetterton comparisons continued with the constant wind and bad smell from the nearby sewage plant….

Not to be too concerned with the conditions but it was easy to see that this is a fast track, the strategically placed chicanes combined with the massive runoffs and the long straights, together with the heavily kerbed chicanes, which are the circuits main overtaking areas.

Riding the Kerbs

Onto qualifying and the ITCC grid were mixed into the local saloon racing series which inturn was mixed in with the local GT series, so the unusual sight was to be had of a Porsche 996,Ferrari 360,Lotus Elise and spaceframe Opel Tigra mixing it with the saloons, the northern ones consisting of a few ex BTCC / single make series cars too like V6 Vectras (remember them) and Seat Leons along with a very quick RX7. Kirkistown is a power track, so many of the fast Hondas from Mondello wouldnt have the power to make the most of Kirkistowns long straights, granted they would be fast through the bends and chicanes but left behind elsewhere. At the front, Brian Sexton used his Irish Time Attack championship-winning JOMO Engineering Lancer Evo in the touring car series after engine repairs to the Urban Per4mance Integra could not be completed in time, and set a searingly quick lap of 1:03.715, which was bettered only by GT-class runner Pat McBennett in his Lotus Elise overall. Round 1 winner Martin Tracey lined up second on the ITCC grid in his Westward Engineering Sierra Cosworth,with Barry Rabbitt (Tuning Factory CRX) and Tomas O’Rourke (Astra) were the third- and fourth-place ITCC qualifiers respectively, lining up alongside each other in 11th and 12th spot on the overall grid.

Race on!

The local GT cars were released 10 seconds ahead of the saloons and Sexton got a great start, but made a mistake at Colonial allowing O’Rourke, who had made an even better start than he had in Round 1 to temporarily get past, but sadly a broken throtte cable spelled the end for O’Rourke, it wasnt his day at all as he had some heavy repairs in the pits after losing a wheel during qualifying, all in vain, but as is often said – thats racing and he will be back. At the front Tracey had caught up to Sexton and this led to a titanic battle for the ITCC lead with both cars never more than 2-3 car lengths apart, the slick tyre shod Sierra and the semi slick Evo (4WD cars are not allowed to run slicks under ITCC rules) having the tough task of both lapping the slower saloons and having to give way to the faster GT’s. The Evo had the straightline speed whereas the Sierra had the cornering speed, so it was an interesting battle which lasted almost until the end of the race with the Evo running out of fuel, but Brian limped it home for second and for many people his performance was drive of the day.

Through the chicane

Apart from the epic battle at the front there was action all down the field, both ITCC and the local saloon series. Barry Rabbit in the Tuning Factory CRX recorded another 3rd place and once again was fighting with a misfire all day. Jonathan Brady was 4th, the Tuning Factory Integra having a race long battle with Stephen Mahers Civic, both rookie ITCC drivers, the highest qualifying rookie, James Collen in his Supercharged Peugeot 306 was an early retirement but will be one to watch in the future. Another race long battle was at the rear between Keith Rabbitt in his MINI and Fran Kearns in yet another Civic, who had to battle with a broken clutch aswell as an aggressive MINI pilot, Kearns earning the days hard charger award for his performance.

Round 2 of the ITCC was a resounding success, Round 3 will take place at Mondello on June 13th, but alas Im away to Le Mans in France for the 24 hour race.

Ed Fahey – May 2010

Click here for my Fotopic Gallery of this event

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FIA GT1 World Championship Round 2, Silverstone May 2010

Posted by Ed Fahey on May 13, 2010

Entering Maggots

The 1st post of my new wordpress format blog, its off to Silverstone for Round 2 of the new FIA GT1 world championship. Round 1 at Abu Dhabi had been an interesting if slightly unbalanced affair with the ‘Balance of Performance’ (BOP) testing, designed to make the racing closer not working with some cars having a massive advantage and others an equal disadvantage. Rumours abounded of sandbagging/cars set up wrongly during the BOP testing and there were threats made by more than 1 team to boycott the event unless the BOP rules were changed, whether it was more or less ballast added to a car or a bigger or smaller air restrictor fitted. Sense seemed to have prevailed preceding the round with relaxations to some cars (Aston Martin,Nissan and Lamborghini lose weight), others have weight added (Corvette & Maserati) with the Rd1 winning Ford untouched. Also the     Lamborghinis had slightly less restrictive air restrictors fitted while the Maseratis had a slight increase

Rolling lap of Race 1

So what changes did the BOP give? For a start the Astons and Nissans were instantly faster with the Corvettes and Maseratis somewhat slower with the Fords in the middle of the pack and the Lamborghinis still in the midfield, if a little closer to the front. The Nissans/Astons infact being a bit too competitive, with the  2 Astons and a Nissan taking the 1st 3 slots for the qualifying race on Saturday and transforming this into a HEXIS Racing Aston 1-2 and 4th with the lead #1 Vitaphone Maserati snatching 3rd after the compulsary pitstops, with the #22 Sumo Power Nissans in 5th. The 4th place #7 Young Driver Aston would have finished higher were it not for a drive-through penalty for a pit rules infringement, and as it turned out, the stewards room would ultimately decide the outcome of Sundays championship race.

So, rulebooks aside, was it good? In a word – YES it was! There is still nothing like seeing some of the worlds finest and fastest supercars racing together, the sight and especially the sound. From the sweet sound of the Lamborghini V12 to the eardrum pounding, ground shaking Corvette V8 or the high revving V8’s of the Ford GT and Nissan GTR and the more conventional but still perfect V12 sounds of the Aston Martin and Maserati they were all there to be savoured, and enjoyed. For approx 5 mins of each race I put down my camera and just feasted my senses, primarily sound on what was racing around the track and just admiring the cars for what they were, then it was back on with the ear defenders and back to capturing them at their finest. The relatively cheap entry tickets combined with open grandstands and paddock leads to a rather relaxed event compared to F1 or MotoGP, where a grandstand seat costs slightly more! GT and Sportscar racing appeals to the purist whereas the general motorsport fan would visit F1, whereas MotoGP has an almost cult like following globally

MadCroc Corvette C6R in the new Arena section

The weekend also saw the debut of the new Silverstone Arena track layout,  which loses the legendary, blind, downhill left-hander at Bridge in favour of a new, slow right-hander and a hairpin that leads on to the old National straight, now renamed the Wellington straight. But although the ribbon was officially cut on the Thursday before the event, a great deal of work remains to be done  ahead of the British Grand Prix in July. The new pit complex on the straight after Club corner has only just been started, and will not be used until the 2011 F1 race. Elsewhere, while the tarmac and runoff areas of the new track section were sufficiently complete to allow racing to take place, the surroundings were a mixture of mud, tarmac, construction vehicles and stacked-up pieces of grandstand waiting to be reassembled, and combined with the poor weather made a lot of the track become a swamp. Im glad I brought boots as opposed to my normal flat shoes and my rental car needed a good wash afterwards, as it resembled a 4×4 after being put through its more natural environment!

Pondering

And so onto the main event, Sundays Championship race. The 3 Astons immediately pulled away at the start and would have disappeared only for the safety car to be deployed due to 1 of the Phoenix Racing Corvettes having pulled up, a fuel line failure leading to the rear of the car bursting into flames and retiring. The sole Matech Ford GT, winner of Round 1’s championship race at Abu Dhabi didnt even make the 1st corner, being eliminated in a clash with 1 of the All-Inkl.com Lamborghini Murcielagos which also retired not long afterwards. After 7 laps behind the safety car an intense Corvette/Aston/Maserati/Nissan battle was taking place before the pitstop window had opened, with almost touring car like overtaking and racing at times, mainly due to the race lasting only an hour instead of double or even triple that amount of time, so it wasnt a case of biding your time, always attack!

The BOP changes had the #22 Sumo Power Nissan almost at the front after the #23 car had been a victim of the pre pitstop scraps, the #22 car moving up to 4th, then 3rd, very competitive compared to the Swiss Racing Team R35’s which had been off the pace for the weekend, not helping by a big crash for the #3 car at the fast Stowe corner, resulting in heavy frontal damage and retirement.

In the end though,officialdom decided the race outcome. The second placed #9  HEXIS Aston of Thomas Accary was given a stop-and-go for its engine being restarted when the car was still on the jacks during a pitstop, but he failed to serve this penalty within the required 3 laps, so had 15 seconds added to his racetime, demoting him to second place. The winning #7 Aston of  Darren Turner and Tomas Enge was excluded because its mandatory underfloor skid plank was worn beyond the permitted tolerance, beleived to be less than 0.05mm’s. This promoted the #22 Nissan to 1st place, the #9 HEXIS Aston 2nd,the #25 Reiter Lamborghini of Frank Kechle/Jos Menten to 3rd, the #34 Team Triple H Maserati MC12 of Bert Longins/Mateo Bobbi to 4th and the #8 Young Driver Aston  of Stefan Mucke/Christoffer Nygaard 5th

Flamin'

In F1 I feel this may have been an apt decision to disqualify the winner due to the car not always staying ontrack, but then again F1 is the ultimate motorsport for most with their multi-million dollar budgets and state of the art cars, but not in GT racing where the GT1 World Championship consists entirely of private/semi-works supported teams, due to no works teams being permitted to enter. Also the poor weather and building site conditions made the track have less grip than normal where the track edges were muddy and dirty and had no grip so a trip over the kerbs/grass was often inevitable,whereas before drivers would be in full control and the amount of cars picking up punctures and having to pit or retire was testament to this, not to mention the dirt line up to the ankles on my boots and the muddy footprints everywhere….

Unlucky Number 7

An enjoyable meeting, helped by my media access pass with thanks to John Brooks /  Sportscarpros , and it was refreshing to see a lot of spectators at the event. Whether it was down to the 1st opportunity to see racing on the new Silverstone Arena layout, the new championship,fans encouraged by the live online streaming of all the events on the FIA GT1 website, or just to see the cars themselves racing, the interest in Sportscar/GT racing seems to undergoing a resurgence. Perhaps F1 and MotoGP are pricing themselves out of the market and being stuck to a grandstand seat instead of being free to move doesnt help. With Silverstones large amount of different corners and viewing areas, moving around the track is worthwhile, despite the massive debris fences that have now been erected around the track in preparation for MotoGP, ruining many previous good viewing locations. Being a keen watcher of MotoGP races and having seen what happens when crashes occur in MotoGP, where riders and bikes take to the skies, they are a necessity, and for once the nanny state health and safety laws might just be a good thing.

At least the cars run more or less unsilenced for now, in a weekend of two-fingered salutes to the environmentalists – Long may it continue!

– Ed Fahey, May 2010

Additional Photos can be viewed on my Flickr

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