Risi Ferrari first and last laps of 2016

20160128-28091349215Risi Competizione had quite a year with their new Ferrari 488 GTLM in IMSA competition.  The car was so late in delivery that the team got a quick shakedown at Fiorano in Italy before being shipped to Miami and delivered directly to Daytona.

This photo is the car’s very first lap to be turned on US soil.  The team worked feverishly to ensure it would be ready for practice.

Risi ran an incredible race.  No crew pit penalties and only one driver penalty due to avoidable contact meant little contact with race officials.  Contact inflicted by one of the Ford GT cars damaged the Ferrari’s rear diffuser.  Repairs cost the team four laps and the team ultimately ended up running the last 6 hours without a rear diffuser altogether.  The class was incredibly competitive and tight and the team’s 6th place in class was a sparse reward for a very strong debut.

Fast forward to Road Atlanta for the last race of the season at the Petit LeMans.   Risi dominated the class and took a very popular win.  This photo is taken as the car entered pit lane and made the turn into victory lane.

20161001-20161001-076a4967The two photos provide bookends to quite a busy season for Risi.  Congrats and best of luck in 2017!

 

IMSA Radio Post-Race

img_20161001_212623580_hdrThe IMSA Radio (and Radio Le Mans) team is the world-wide voice of sportscar racing.  With a team of broadcasters led by the dulcet tones of John Hindaugh, they bring the passion and speak to the sportscar fan.  Where other broadcasters might be forced to presume little audience knowledge or speak to surface issues like celebrity participation, the IMSA Radio team is talking about lap counts, fuel stints, historical precedent and lap times.

While they make it look easy, clearly there are years of craft and passion that have built to the current day and material work behind the scenes.  They take pride in the quality of the broadcast and aren’t just looking to “be on the radio” or “announce sports.”  They have done the difficult, invested their own resources, struggled through awful travel logistics, rented the terrible hire car, stayed in the dreadful hotel, and worked with the skeptical sponsors – all because they love racing and want to make it work.  Motor racing is in the blood and it runs deep.

To be fair, the sport owes a debt of gratitude to the team.  They have brought fans together, brought new fans to the sport, given sponsors an engaged platform and injected life into the sport.  They unabashedly acknowledge that calling the races is the fun part – the work happens before and after the race.  The members of the team spent a ridiculous amount of time in hotels and on airplanes and often have different teams covering different races at the same time on different parts of the globe.  They operate in widely varied conditions and settings, bringing a minimum of their own equipment along to each race.

This photo was taken of John Hindaugh and Jeremy Shaw just after the conclusion of the Petit Le Mans.  John and Jeremy were sorting through the finishing order, the stories that arose during the race, and a bit of question with the rules for the Magnus Audi at the finish.  Presumably, the pictures on the screens are a commercial from the television coverage.  Thanks much to John and Jeremy, pit reporters Jim Roller and Shea Adam, and Eve Hewitt who put it all together to make the broadcast happen.  Thanks much to them and all the other IMSA Radio and Radio LeMans team who provide more quality content at more races than all but the most dedicated sportscar fans can consume.

Camera Settings – cell phone photo

Mazda Welcome Race Fans

img_20160929_120539322While a sportscar paddock in the United States is generally far friendlier and more accessible than almost any other form of top-tier motorsport, there are some teams and drivers that do more.  Mazda not only supports racing through many forms of sportscar, open wheel and prototype racing, it also affirmatively takes measures to bring fans close to the action.  Mazda and all of its drivers are active and transparent on social media and in press releases.  Its staff is easy to find and always happy to talk.

A very tangible example is this simple sign perched at the edge of the Mazda paddock area.  Mazda is the only team anywhere in the paddock that forms a walkway into the garage between the cars.  Yes, there are belt barriers to give the crew space to do their work, but you can get very close without being a VIP or getting a special invite.

It is a small, but very tangible effort that further increases the engagement between the fans and the sport – and certainly must leave a favorable fan impression of Mazda in the process.  Well done.

Camera Settings – cell phone photo

Thursday Paddock – Thank you to All

img_20160929_120133670The paddock is the fullest on Thursday.  Support races have not been run.  Teams have not yet encountered early issues or crashes that might send them home early.  Four different series ran during the Petit Le Mans weekend – the headline WeatherTech series, the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Series, the Porsche GT3 Cup USA and the Mazda Prototype Lites.  That’s a lot of cars, a lot of drivers, a lot of crew members, a lot of tires, a lot of fuel, a lot of officials, a lot of media, a lot of corner workers, and a lot of track and safety staff.  On this Thanksgiving Day, it is particularly appropriate to say thank you to all.

Camera Settings – 1/2000, f/2, ISO 100, 67mm.

A Day at the Track

076a2898It is always great to see a parent share with a child the things that they find magical.  The child will find their own way and particular things may or may not excite them or become a sustained interest, but having the opportunity to go to the track and share the sights, sounds, and smells is a gift to both parent and child.  This child seems to have found himself with a bird’s eye view as this trio heads down the hill towards the paddock.

There were many kids at the Petit LeMans and credit to the adults that brought them for the adventure.  Kudos to the crews and teams that readily invite the kids in for a closer look, install them in the driver’s seat, and make sure they get some photos to take home for a memory.  Those interactions may only last a few seconds or a minute, but that experience may be a highlight of the event and most adult motorsports fans can look back and recall similar interactions that were formative.  The best marketing for motorsports isn’t about fancy campaigns or social media metrics.

Camera Settings – 1/400 shutter speed, f/8, ISO 100, 105mm.

Viper Friday Morning Driver Change Practice

076a2937It certainly isn’t a novel insight to note that success on the track stands on the foundation constructed well before the race starts.  One of those key elements is the fluid changes of drivers on pit stops.  With three drivers in each car for the Petit LeMans, coordination is critical.  Team owner Ben Keating and driver Jeroen Bleekemolen were joined by Marc Miller for the event.  While Miller is a competent driver and has been in the Viper before, he is not a regular pilot.

Watching the driver change practice, Bleekemolen is clearly the leader.  Soft spoken but firm, he guides and directs the switches.  Even though each of the drivers has gotten in and out of a race car thousands of times, it is far easier to lose significant time in the pits than to gain it on the track.

This photo was taken at the end of the last practice before qualifying.  The three drivers have just finished practice and are doing a quick de-brief on the pit wall.  The practice must have paid off as the Viper took the GTD win in its last IMSA outing with Bleekemolen in particular driving an epic race.

Camera Settings – 1/320 shutter speed, f/13, ISO 100, 24mm.

P3 for LM P3 Class in 2017

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The 2016 IMSA Petit Le Mans was the last race for the Prototype Challenge formula.  The new P3 closed-top platform is coming for 2017.  While much remains to be seen in terms of which customers buy and run which cars, a Ligier JS P3 car with ESM Racing stickers in black bare carbon fiber was on display next to the team’s transporter.  No announcements have been made, but it was great to give fans a chance to see the future.  Further down the paddock, a red Ave-Riley P3 car also on display in front of the Viper transporter (Riley ran the Viper racing program).

While it is the class that gets the least amount of respect and attention, the Prototype Challenge formula was never intended to last this long.  2017 will bring a very different look for the prototypes in IMSA.  Even the class will be renamed from “Prototype Challenge” to “LM P3.”

Camera Settings – 1/80 shutter speed, f/5.6, ISO 100, 56mm.

Bleekemolen Takes the Win in final IMSA Race for Viper

076a4934At the final IMSA race for the Viper, Jeroen Bleekemolen drove an epic race together with co-drivers Ben Keating and Marc Miller.  Bleekemolen is one of the best professional sportscar drivers in the world and excels in whatever he drives.  He and his team knew well before the end that the Magnus Audi team would be running into regulatory trouble due to their failure to meet minimum drive time requirements for their amateur driver.  Regardless, the dice over the last few laps with Andy Lally was excellent.  Lally edged around Bleekemolen to cross the line first, but Bleekemolen knew that he didn’t have to risk too much to claim the win.

The checkered flag flew for the Viper after 385 laps, seeing the GTD win and 17th overall.  The checkered flag also fell on the Viper program in IMSA.  Major Kudos to Viper dealer Ben Keating for supporting the effort, paying the IMSA manufacturer fee to keep the car on the track, and driving at a competitive level.

While the Viper is done, the team will continue in 2017 with a brand new AMG GT3.

Camera Settings – 1/320 shutter speed, f/4, ISO 2500, 98mm.

Mazda Heartbreak

076a4823The Mazda prototype team had a troubled fuel injector that produced flames during the late stage pit stops.  Soldiering on and contesting third place, the team continued.  Only 10 minutes before the end of the race, a smoking Mazda appeared under the Turn 11 bridge and made the turn down the hill onto pit lane.  Driver Joel Miller steered next to a safety vehicle as the rear of the car burst into flames.  He jumped out and prevented the car from rolling while the safety team doused the fire.  Ironically, the conflagration was only yards from victory lane where throngs of fans, photographers, and officials were awaiting the winners. Before the blaze, reporter John Dagys had noticed the flames during the pit stops and correctly predicted in the media center that the Mazda’s time was likely growing short.

Full credit to Mazda and their PR representative Jade Gruss for being consistently transparent about the program and the problems encountered by the cars throughout the season.  It would be easy to be more elusive or more generic about the problems.  They are transparent in press releases, active on social media and available at the track.  Mazda has been the plucky little program that tries, and tries, but just hasn’t been able to break through to be a consistent threat for wins.

With full apologies to Mazda and Joel Miller who would prefer not to see their prototype in flames, the shot is unique because the event happened so close to the end of the race that most photographers were getting situated in victory lane and had no good angle on the shot.  I was fortunate to be setting up for a different shot – the checkered flag being waved over finishing cars – and was immediately across the track for a direct look at the flaming Mazda.  The 2016 Petit Le Mans also marks the end of the Mazda Lola program with new regulations leading Mazda to a different program for 2017 which they recently unveiled at the LA Auto Show.

Camera Settings – 1/400 shutter speed, f/4, ISO 2500, 280mm.

Night at Road Atlanta

076a4697About 50 minutes before the end of the Petit Le Mans and Road Atlanta is in full darkness.  The paddock and hospitality areas are fully lit and very active.  From this shot, pits for BMW and Mazda are visible with the Risi Ferrari crew laying out for their last pit stop of the event.  Rows of transporters line up behind pit lane – in some cases, crews have already begun to break down the tents and infrastructure of the paddock.  Atop the hill, hospitality for Audi clearly shows the famous four rings highlighted in red.  The Porsche tent is visible to the left with the Lego 919 still welcoming visitors.

Scenes like this add to the unique experience that is endurance sportscar racing at night.

Camera Settings –  1/100 shutter speed, f/2.8, ISO 1600, 105mm.  Taken without a tripod or monopod.