So here’s just a little thought exercise. You are not at race track, nor are you watching racing on TV. Someone says “vintage sports car racing”. Now what image or images pop into your mind. Ah yes, I can hear the wheels turning. The trick is not to think, but let your mind react to the phrase.
For me there are a few images that come to mind. One is of a car that is not even one of my favorites, but still says vintage sports car racing. If the phrase was just vintage racing, then none of the cars in this article would come to mind. However by narrowing it down to a specific catagory, then you come up with completely different results. British sports car racing yields yet another set of results.
So, I will show you what I came up with and let you ponder what you came up with.
When you are shooting an event, it’s easy to not see details in what you are shooting. Things are coming at you so fast you don’t have time to focus on the nuances. The other day I was going through a folder of images I shot at a vintage event a year ago at Blackhawk Farms Raceway, when I came across a shot of a Mini painted with the British Union Jack on it. So I decided to edit it for social media use. While looking for the best shot to use, I noticed there was something very different about some of the shots.
In hindsight I guess I should have noticed that the car seemed to be coming back around to where I was shooting fairly quickly. It wasn’t until I found a rear shot that that I discovered that the other car was in fact a Wolsely with the same livery. From there it was a trip to Google to find out just what a Wolsely was.
Wolsely Motors was founded in 1901 by (of all people) Vickers Armaments. Makers of the famed Vickers machine gun which was used by the British in both world wars. The most obvious difference is the front grill. From there you start to notice the other subtile differences. But overall there really aren’t that many. The car in these shots are 1960s vintage, but not having the entry list, I’m not sure exactly what year. So here’s to the Wolsey. The car I never heard of until recently.
Doing last minute travel prep, and thinking ahead to this weekend. FANATEC GT World Challenge and International GT Challenge, team up once again at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indy 8 Hour. I was looking through the entry list, and see that last year’s winner the Craft Bamboo team are back to defend their victory. Looking at the drivers of this Mercedes AMG, it’s not at all surprising that they are a favorite. There is Maximilian Götz, Jules Gounon, and Raffaele Marciello, who has to be one of the top 3 GT drivers in the world. As always in an 8 hour race, anything can happen. However barring any unforeseen circumstances, they are the ones to watch.
There was much fanfare at the launch of the Ferrari 296 GT3. It looked to be a worthy successor to the very successful 488 GT. However its first outings were less than stellar as they seemed to struggle to find proper race pace. All that was to changed at the 24 Hours of Nurburgring. I watched the qualifying for that race, and was amazed as the Ferrari out paced the entire field in every sector. They not only went on to win the race, they set the first sub 7 minute lap with a 6″58.7 lap time.
Meanwhile in the U.S. racing series, they still had not broken through with a win. That changed August 19 at Road America with a pole position start, and a race win. Manny Franco and Alessandro Balzan drove the Conquest Racing 296 GT3 masterfully in both qualifying and in the race. As a Ferrari fan it was also a good day for me. They went on to duplicate their feat the next day, and sweep the weekend.
Meanwhile in Europe, A 296 scored double podium at ESTORIL by winning first the 6 hour qualifying race, and the 12 hour main race. And it goes on from here with many series having plenty of racing left in their seasons. As more customer cars become available next year, I hope to see more of them on grids throughout various series, especially here in the U.S.,and many more podium finishes.
Testing is an essential part of auto racing, and there are many reasons why teams do it. Baring any unforeseen problems, most testing is done in the off season. However if you are moving to new equipment, and it is late in arriving, you could find yourself behind the eight ball compared to other teams.
But these are not the only reasons for testing, and not the only times it is done. If part way through a season your car is performing as well as you feel it should, you schedule test at various tracks. Most test sessions are private, and may only consist of one team. Others may be in conjunction with teams. They are however open test that take place before certain big races. Most are open to the press, and maybe a few fans.
Such a test took place recently at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was for IMSA cars participating in the upcoming race to take in September of this year. For this test there was a very good reason. IMSA has not been to Indy since 2014.That was at the time of the IMSA Grand AM merger. The cars of today are a far cry from those that were there in 2014. The top prototype class has evolved from the Daytona prototypes of that time, to the DPi cars, to the new GTP Hybrid cars. I have no doubt that even for drivers who were there in 2014, that there will be a bit of a learning curve.
Thirty three cars participated in the test, from GTP, LMP 2, LMP 3, GTD and GTD Pro. There were cars from the Michelin Pilot series who had their own sessions. There were very few mishaps, although it take the #60 Acura a few laps to figure out turn 12. Otherwise the day I was there was quite smooth. I am sure those who were there now have the basis of a notebook to work from on how to set up their cars for race weekend.
Motorsport comes in many shapes and sizes and, despite having had the opportunity to experience many of them over the years, I have never previously been to drag racing. The NHRA’s Northwest Nationals were taking place at Pacific Raceways in Kent, just south of Seattle, and I went to experience what drag racing is like in person. Sure, I had seen this on TV before, but I wanted to know what it was like to attend an event in person. Does the TV coverage give you a full feel for an event or does it just skim the surface? I won’t keep you in suspense. The intensity of being there in person is hard to describe but my goal is to try and give you some understanding of it if you have not been yourself.
Pacific Raceways is located in the city of Kent, approximately 15 miles southeast of downtown Seattle. It is a great racing circuit that holds regular events throughout the year. The circuit encloses the drag strip with access to the stands south of the strip by walking across the circuit. The stands and the pit areas are very open and exposed on a sunny and hot day like those over the weekend of the competition. However, the area is surrounded by trees including some of the parking area and many of the fans were set up in the shade of the trees when away from the action. When walking from one side of the track to the other, you are walking across the holding lanes for the next vehicles to race so you can get great access to the vehicles and the crews as they wait their turn.
Organization of the competition
As with any form of motorsport, there are many classes of vehicles taking part. As a newcomer to this type of racing, I was unfamiliar with the nuances of the different classes but, as the competition unfolded, it wasn’t difficult to distinguish between the performance levels of the different cars. I say cars but there were also bikes taking part and they demonstrated phenomenal performance too. The competition was spread over three days with various levels of qualification and knock out racing. The announcer team did a good job of keeping everyone up to speed with what was going on while the TV crews were also hard at work as sections of the event were being broadcast live.
Some of the cars were very recognizable as modified road vehicles. Modified is, of course, the important addition there. They had been significantly beefed up in the power stakes, but they also had modifications to the wheels and tires and often to have stabilizers on the rear to counter the tendency to pitch up as the large amounts of torque go through the rear axles. As I mentioned above, there were also bikes although these were the lowest and widest bikes I had ever seen. They also had rear supports to keep the front wheel on, or almost on, the ground.
Then you get the long-nosed cars that fit the image of what a dragster might be. These do come in various classes, of course, and it took me a while to get what a difference in performance there was between some of the lower-class vehicles and the highest class. These are the Top Fuel dragsters. The performance difference between them and the lower classes is like night and day. Finishing things off is the Funny Cars. Again, phenomenal performance but in a more conventional looking body shape albeit one that hinges up at the rear to access the internals of the vehicle (and the driver).
One of the great aspects of motorsports is the access to the pits. Drag racing is no different and the crews were quite closely packed together but managed to still allow good access for those wanting to watch the teams busily at work pulling apart and reassembling their machines. For the high-end vehicles, it was clear that they were stripping things down to basics between runs. Given the incredible power that the highest performing cars produce, it is no surprise to find that they will strip them down each time to check that everything is in top condition. As you walked through, the blocks would be out on stands with the heads off being checked and worked on. There was a flurry of activity for the leading teams. Even the smaller entries had a lot happening in their space.
The pits also provided space for a little of the hospitality side of things. For the smaller entries, this meant having some chairs out to relax on in the downtime but the bigger entries had extensive space for guests and team members to sit in and enjoy themselves when racing wasn’t underway (or even if it was!). The sponsorship that comes with the high end of any sport means taking care of the sponsors and they could spend time here consuming a little of what they had paid for!
Besides the competitors, the pits also had large trucks in support of the tire demands of the competitors. Goodyear and Hoosier were parked up next to each other. I peered inside these vehicles to see what they were carrying. Racks of tires of all sizes were loaded up and the tools for mounting them were out on the ground ready for use. Some tires – new and used – were stacked by the trucks and you could get a closer look at the size and nature of these tires.
There are many important aspects in a drag racer, but the tires are the point of contact when trying to accelerate so they take phenomenal stresses. As they accelerate, the tires deform as the rotational speeds pull the tread out from the center of rotation. These loads require complex engineering to give the grip, performance, reliability and confidence that the racers need. When you look at image of the tires as the vehicles accelerate, you see how the sidewalls deform as the wheel rotates and the surface grips the track. This is both amazing to look at and indicative of just how much the tires have to be designed to accommodate.
The supporting entertainment
With so many people coming to view the racing, there is a need for lots of side activities to keep everyone entertained either while the racing is at a low ebb or if they are just looking for a bit of a change. Nitro Alley was the place to visit if you were looking for the personal appearances either by current stars or some of the legends of the sport. There were also competitions to generate side interest for everyone. Plenty of sponsor stands were available too so you could check out anything from food to ride on mowers if you were interested. The vendors were also out in force be it the official merchandise or supporting suppliers of racing related (and non-racing related) stuff. If you wanted to get your souvenirs from the day, you were taken care of. You also didn’t need to starve…
Something that I had not previously thought about when it came to drag racing was the conditioning of the track. When massive amounts of instant acceleration is the name of the game, it is all about how well you can put that force into the track and that means grip. The NHRA staff is constantly monitoring the state of the track surface. They are carrying a variety of specialist tools which I found both fascinating and baffling to watch. If they hadn’t been so focused on doing their job, I would have loved to spend some time talking to them about what they were measuring and how they were doing it.
The teams are also interested in track condition since it is pivotal to their own performance. It was not uncommon to see crew members with their own gauges checking out the start area to see what the track temperature was and to feel the condition of the surface. This surface was periodically enhanced by the track crews. They had a pair of what looked like road sweepers that went up and back on the course. Mounted on the back of these vehicles was a set of tires which were connected to a drive shaft that rotated them slowly in the opposite direction to that which they would have if they were rolling on the surface. This meant that they were constantly scrubbing on the track and laying down more rubber to enhance grip. Competitors and staff would then walk the track to inspect it and the sound their shoes made on the rubberized surface was indicative of just how sticky the ground was.
Comparison between seeing the whole process and seeing it on TV
Being at an event in person gives you the insight into how things actually happen in a way that TV coverage never does. The transition from one race to the next is actually pretty rapid but the appetite for waiting around in TV coverage is limited so the TV crews will be switching to interviews with racers or pieces to camera between runs. The result is that you only see the cars for the brief periods when they are racing. You miss out on the whole process of getting the car from the holding lanes to the end of the track and back again.
As the previous cars depart, the next ones are already lining up to take their place. As the cars approach, the track crew will hose down an area at the beginning of the track with water. This provides a location with low grip so the driver can spin up the tires and generate some heat in them. Spinning tires, lots of smoke and a brief burst of acceleration follow and the car will run through the start area and brake. Then it will back up to get into position.
For the Top Fuel cars, at this point, the crew will descend on the vehicle, run their hands across the tires to make sure they are pristine for the run and the driver will be checked one last time. Then the car will be guided up into position. From here, the electronic systems take over staging the cars with the “tree” of lights ahead of the drivers showing how close they are to the start position. As they get closer, the lights change in stages with both drivers progressively getting into place. When they are both on their marks, the lights indicate this, the engines are revved up and the lights go green. Then it is on as the cars hurtle forward and down the 1,000’ of the track.
Something I found quite surprising about this whole process was just how many people were close to the car while all of this was going on. Various members of the team will be standing close to the vehicle albeit behind it as it prepares to launch. Some might be filming this for future debriefing. It is a difference to other operations I have witnessed in the past where the areas are kept relatively sterile. Clearly this is something that has been going on for years and they have, no doubt, assessed the risks involved so I am not being critical of what is the norm. Instead, I am just unused to seeing things like this normally.
The competition itself
All of this has been a precursor to the main event. The racing itself. Large amounts of preparation from many people have all been in aid of the short and intense burst of acceleration 1,000’ down the track. The first thing you will appreciate in person is the sound. Even for the lower classes of car, the sound is intense. When the light sequence starts, the engines rev and then, when it goes green, it is full power with the engine wailing. The more powerful the engines become, the more intense this is. For some of the lower classes, I was able to make do with in ear hearing protection. However, when things got more serious, I had ear defenders over the in ear protection.
The Funny Cars and Top Fuel cars are an assault on the senses. What I want to do is convey just how dramatic they are but it is really difficult with words to express just how intense this is. Even when up in the stands, things are brutal. I was amazed to see how many people were watching without any form of protection. I kept in ear protection in even while watching from the stands.
The closer you get to the track, the more the sensory overload kicks in. The sound obviously increases but now the smell of the burnt fuel is more apparent. However, the pressure waves from the passing vehicles are what I found most impressive. The cars launch away so quickly, they are only briefly near you but, in that short moment, you get pulsing pressure from the engines that is almost overwhelming. I was standing next to the track for many runs during the course of the event but I think it is important to be honest and say that every run left me feeling startled. Yes, I knew what was coming but that didn’t matter. The sounds and the pressure of a vehicle going from a stand to incredible speeds in almost no time at all are beyond anything I have experienced before and I would include in that standing alongside a runways as a fighter jet takes off in full afterburner.
Am I a convert to drag racing and will I be going again? I don’t know. It was a fascinating change of scene from the other types of racing I have experienced and I am very glad to have done it. The intensity of it and the process were all great and would be good to do again. Whether I shall search it out to cover in the future, I wonder. To do it justice, I would have to become a lot more familiar with the details of the classes and the nuances of the teams. We shall see…
Article and photos by Rob Edgcumbe, Speed and Sport Journal west coast correspondent.
Is there such a thing as pure automotive beauty? Of course there is, that’s a silly question. Though the years car companies such as Ferrari have proven this numerous times. It’s easy to marvel at the beauty of todays sleek stylish cars, but it is also easy to forget, or take for granted the style and beauty of their past works of automotive art. Most peoples vision of a Ferrari is the 308GTS from the tv show Magnum PI, or the 348 Testarossa from Miami Vice.
Scuderia Ferrari was founded by Enzo Ferrari 1929, and while under the banner Alfa Romeo brought them fame and their first racing success. However by 1938 the relationship soured and Alfa absorbed all of the Ferrari assets. They also fired Enzo Ferrari and imposed a four year ban on him being able to race under his own name. Undeterred, in 1939 Ferrari went to work anyway on the Tipo 815. After the war years of 1939 – 1945 Ferrari was on track under their name with the 125 S. This year also saw them score their first success as a company with six wins. Although their fortunes have been up and down through the decades, with some of their best years coming between 1957 – 1965, they remain very competitive wherever they race today. Their new Hypercar Prototype has already already won The 24 Hours of Le Mans, and has been on the podium in most of the other races they have participated in to date
Here today we will take a glimpse at some lesser known Ferrari’s. I feel very luck to have had the opportunity to shot these amazing cars recently. It is always a thrill for sports car lovers to see such beauty on track, at speed, in their element.
Some years ago while on my way to attend my first vintage race, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I thought it might a bunch of guys with vintage cars driving slower than race speeds just showing off their cars. I figured at best I would come away with some nice shots of unique old cars. The reality however was completely different, and very surprising. Not only did they race at full speed, they did so as if the cars had just been made. Sliding, spinning, and bumping and beating on each other as if that model years class championship was on the line. I was hooked at once.
However (for me anyway) the best was yet to come. About halfway through the morning a class of of cars I did not know existed came on track. The per war class consist of cars made from the beginning of auto racing, up to about 1955.
It’s at this point I have to tell you a little something about myself. I have been a huge history buff since 5th grade. I spend my Sundays when I’m not on the road watching history documentaries on one of six different streaming channels I subscribe to.
So seeing these beautiful old cars, many of which I have only seen in pictures, on track in front of me was truly amazing to me. Most of the photographers I shoot vintage events with like the later model faster cars. But for me (in my head) I try to imagine what it had to be like back then to see something go that fast for the first time. You have to remember in the early part of the 20th century a fast horse could keep up with a locomotive. So if you lived in a rural area, had had not seen a train before this would have amazed you to see.
Now we fast forward to 2023. I was attending the SVRA Speed Tour event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I saw on the schedule that there would be a pre war class, and assumed it would mostly consist of cars I had seen in the mid west before. But you always hope you will catch a few new ones. To my surprise, it did not have any cars I had previously seen. The cars were from a group called Ragtime Racers, the majority of which consisted of cars from 1909 to 1938. For me this is the ultimate in vintage racing. Cars from the very inception of auto racing. One offs, limited editions, and modified early production cars. Most hand made, with the limited number of tools available for automobile production. Many of which were modified or repurposed tools from other disciplines.
I hope I get another opportunity to see these marvelous machines again in the near future.
Yet another exciting qualifying session, with a few surprising results. Pato O’Ward and Alex Palou had been the fastest in practice, but only Palou made the fast six with a fourth place grid position. The front row will consist of pole winner Colton Herta with Graham Rahal next to him. While pole position doesn’t guarantee victory, it gives you the opportunity control race strategy at least at the beginning of the race.
Another Independence weekend and once again the NTT INDYCAR SERIES rolls into the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course for the Honda Indy 200. Also competing are the Road to Indy ladder series, Indy NXT, USFPRO 2000, and USF 2000. As last year Pato O’Ward tops the first practice with Alex Palou close behind. If you look at the past winners of this race, it is anybody’s to win. While there there have been several multiple winners, there has not been a back to back winner since Scott Dixon in 2011 & 2012. However it turns out, it is sure to be exciting and eventful. The same holds for the other series.