Trans AM Americas Road Racing Series

Growing up in the big city, my only exposure to racing was occasional television broadcast. Only the Indianapolis 500, and the Daytona 500 were regularly broadcast. Every so often ABC’s Wide World of Sports would show sports car racing, or drag racing. I never attended a race in person until I was an adult. But that never impacted my love of cars, and racing. I had been reading books and magazines about racing since 5th grade, and read every thing I could get my hands on.

One day (I don’t remember when) I came across a race on tv I had never seen before. What excited me about it was the cars competing were Mustangs, Camaros, Challengers, and Javelins. The cars that most of us kids stared at in countless magazines and ads, were racing on a road course somewhere. I had discovered Trans AM racing and wanted to know more.

In front of the “L” train station near my house stood a news stand. The guy there knew me as the kid that always came by looking at car, and racing mags. When he got something new he thought I might be interested in, he would put it aside until next time I came by. The day I came by to ask him if he could find something on Trans AM, He reached under the counter and handed me a magazine on sports car racing. From then on I followed the series as best I could, built models of most of the cars, and also started following Can-AM racing as well. Now here we are many years later, and I still feel the same excitement watching Trans AM as I did back then

From its beginning in March of 1966, Trans AM has had a long and varied history. It has gone through many phases to get to where it is today. Their own history on their web site list the several different era’s it has gone trough. Trans Am’s darkest period came in 2006 when SCCA Pro Racing shut down the series. It didn’t come back until 2009. New rules based on GT1 brought renewed interest, and its popularity has steadily climbed since then. Still after all the ups and downs, it’s evolution from production based cars, to tube frame purpose built cars, the excitement level has never waned.

Trans AM has gone through more changes since it’s beginning than most other racing series of the same age. Having been started in the (win on Sunday, sell on Monday) days of racing, it didn’t take manufacturers long to become interested and start investing money in teams with their brand. Another trend that continues to this day is the desire of top drivers from other disciplines to compete in this series. Todays drivers range from 16 year old kids starting out, to championship winning veterans who have retired from other series, and now race just for the enjoyment of racing. Then are the pure Trans AM vets who have been in the series for their entire career.

Todays top tier fire breathing Trans AM cars are a world away from the cars I first saw. Although the bodies are made of differ4ent materials, they are still true to what a Trans AM car was, and should be. Todays series is split in multiple categories, TA, and TA2 are the most popular. When you see these machines on track, it is easy to understand why. Todays TA2 cars most resemble the original cars, and this always the most crowed starting grid.It’s been a long time, and my hair was a different color, since I first discovered Trans AM. But the feeling I have about this series is still the same.

Joel

 

 

The Color of Racing (Liveries)

If you had a race car, put a number on it and painted it white, it would still be a race car, Maybe a very fast race car. It just would not be very interesting to look at. Now imagine every other car in the race were painted exactly the same, things would be kinda of dull. In the past most cars were painted one color. This was usually the color that represented its manufacturer (with maybe a stripe or two). Through the following years, cars began to become more colorful. Later still graphics and liveries began to be more multi color, and more complex graphic designs began to appear.

Here we have an example of an iconic logo that all race fans will immediately recognize.
Here we have an example of an iconic logo that all race fans will immediately recognize.

Today with the advent of vinyl wraps, you can adorn race cars with just about anything you can imagine. This could be anything from a sponsor, to the team itself, or even a cause or charity. However sometimes you are locked into whatever your sponsors logo dictates. If you are lucky you can find a way to incorporate it into something artistic and tasteful. If not you could end up with a very ugly haphazard looking design. Some teams have what have become iconic liveries, and sponsors have to tailor their logo to fit them.

This extremely colorful livery has the name “Sparkle Farts” not my idea.
You must be joking.

Here are some examples of what I feel are well done liveries. Some are lucky enough to not have to worry about a sponsors design, and are able to do their own thing. I often tell people the photographers dirty little secret is that it is not always the fastest car on track that gets the most pictures, it’s the best looking.

Joel

A good example of a sponsor logo becoming the livery.
A good example of a sponsor logo becoming the livery.
This short lived series (Saleen Cup), used some of the most famous liveries from racing history on each car.
A livery that shows support for a cause.
In past years Porsche GT3 Cup (now Porsche Carrera Cup) was known for some very clever liveries.
In past years Porsche GT3 Cup (now Porsche Carrera Cup) was known for some very clever liveries.
In past years Porsche GT3 Cup (now Porsche Carrera Cup) was known for some very clever liveries.

Unpublished #1

Every photographer I know has them, lots of them. Images that were taken at an event but were never posted or published anywhere. If you are like me, many have never even been edited. So when I am going through archived folders and run across one or more I think are worthy of publication, I copy them to a folder named hold for processing. Then from time to time when I am looking for something to post online, I go to this folder first. Most times I find what I need there. With that said I am going to start a new recurring series titled Unpublished to highlight some of these images, so they can finally see the light of day.

I have taken many shots go this Jaguar, but none that I thought were more than just average and not worth doing anything with. But somehow I miss this one.

This is one of my more unique images, but if you are going to shoot driver change practice, get permission first as I did. A guy who came along after while I was reviewing my shots did not asked. He learned a few new German swear words.

Here we have an interior of one of Blackdog racing’s McLaren’s shot in the first year of them operating them.

Joel

The Original Lizard Returns

Original livery on a 2016 Porsche.

After having seen various iterations of their race liveries over the past years, many of us have longed for the return of the iconic Flying Lizard liver of the past. Well in 2023 we will get our wish. The beloved red and silver traditional livery will return on the number 46 Porsche 911 GT3 R (type 991.2). They will run a full season schedule in GT America.

From 2021, one of many different liveries we have seen over the years.

In addition they will run a multi car GT4 campaign with two Aston Martin Vantage GT4’s. One in a black, yellow, and white color scheme. Carrying the number 2, and driven by Jason Bell, with the other car in orange and black and carrying the number 8, will be co driven by Elias Saba, and Andy Lee.

I am sure for many fans it will be a welcome to see this livery again.

Joel

Motorsports in Black and White lll

While not the ultimate, I consider this image a good subject for black and white because it has only one distracting element in the background.

Once again we revisit one of my favorite subjects, Motorsports in black and white. His time we will look at subject matter. Which of the photos you have taken will look compelling in black and white. When you look at black and white photos of the past, shot by some of the greatest photographers such as Ansel Adams, Gordon Parks, and Walker Evans, you can’t help but think that the subject matter seems to have been made for the medium in which it was shot. After all color film had been around for some time, and these photographers could well have afforded to use it if they were so inclined.

Landscape, portrait, and street photography are some mediums that benefit most from black and white. Motorsports is quite a different matter. Just any old shot shot from anywhere trackside will not translate well into black and white.

As much as I like this image, the fence in the background is just a bit too much for my taste.

When I go through shots from an event, I look for certain criteria to determine if I can produce a compelling black and white image with it. The first, and most important is how many, or few distracting elements are in the foreground, but mostly in the background. Second, is it a dynamic shot that will draw peoples attention. Or will it just look like a car on a track. Third is the color, and livery on the car or bike. Wild multicolor liveries will just turn into a mess leaving the viewers eye wandering looking for a focal point which they will likely not find. So I tend to avoid these. Every so often I will look at a shot on the the cameras screen and know right away that I will convert it to black and white.

Here we have an image that I would never consider for black and white because there is just too much going on both on the track and in the background.

As with most things about photography, it’s all up to the eye, and taste of the person who presses the shutter. I can only offer my own personal views and options.

Joel

2022 Favorites (The year that was)

With it now being 2023, this seems like a good time to take a look back at 2022. The year was its usual mixture of both excitement and disappointment. But as I look at the overall, there was far more good than bad. I also got to make some new friends, and see some old ones I haven’t seen in awhile. What I present here are some of my favorite shots from last year, in no particular order. For photographers, what constitutes a favorite is not necessarily the most technically excellent shot, but the one that speaks to us and gives us the feeling that we accomplished something a bit little special. In most cases the average viewer may not agree, but this is why I call it favorites not best shots. As usual starting a new year I have no idea what is to come. For 2023 I will do as I always have and try to improve on what I have done in the past, and become better at my trade.

So I hope you enjoy what is presented here, and here’s to new opportunities in the future.

FANATEC GT World Challenge – Racers Edge Acura – Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Ferrari Challenge North America – Aaron Weiss – Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Moto America – Mathew Cunha / Hunter Dunham – Road America
Road to Indy, Indy Lights – Stingray Robb – Road America
OPC Michigan City Grand Prix – Husky Chocolate / Australian Navy – Michigan City Indiana
SCCA Blakhawk Regionals – GT2 TA Mustang – Blackhawk Farms Raceway
FANATEC GT World Challenge – Triarsi Ferrari 488 – Road America
Honda Indy Grand Prix – Josef Newgarden – Mid Ohio Race Course
FANATEC GT World Challenge – Turner Motorsports BMW – Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Trans-AM by Pirelli – Matthew Brabham – Mid Ohio Race Course
Moto America – Richie Escalante / Suzuki – Road America
IMSA Lexus Grand Prix- Acura DPi – Mid Ohio Race Course
FANATEC GT World Challenge – Crowdstrike AMG – Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Lamborghini Super Trofeo – Shehan Chandrasoma – Road America
Sonsio Indy Grand Prix – Josef Newgarden – Road America
Weathertech Sportscar Weekend – Pfaff Porsche – Road America

Ferrari Prominence and Triarsi Competizione

In following sports car racing, one of the trends that is watched with interest is the constant change of cars from season to season. It can be both fun and heartbreaking to watch as you anticipate what car various teams will be using from season to season. Different manufacturers rise and fall in prominence each year, and you feel a bit sad if it’s one of your favorites that begins to fade. This is also true of series and regions. Cars that are widely raced in Europe, may have a smaller presence in the U.S. and vise versa. At one time Aston Matins were few on most grids, now they are pretty much ubiquitous.

Myself as a Ferrari lover, had noticed a downward trend in their use here as compared to Europe and Asia. 2022 saw a bit of a change in trajectory compared to the last few years. In part this can be attributed to the emergence of Triarsi Competizione. With two to three entries per race in Fanatec GT World Challenge North America, and as a major player in Ferrari Challenge, they seem to have ignited renewed interest in the 488 GT. I can’t help but feel the the new 296 GT3 will spark even more interest in the brand, and we should see the prancing horse once again prominent on many future grids.

Sample of entry prominence by Series (in no particular order)
– FANATEC GT Europe: AMG, Audi, Mclaren
– FANATEC GT North America: AMG, Lamborghini, Acura
– FANATEG GT Asia: Audi, AMG, Porsche
– IMSA: Porsche, AMG, BMW,
– British GT: AMG, Aston Martin, McLaren

This may not be 100% accurate, I’m just doing it from memory. It is just meant to show the variety of makes, and where they are popular. We are now in a new year, and there have already been announcements of teams switching to different brands. And so it goes on, and will continue to.

Joel

Farewell to Prototype Challenge (Sort of)

Besides the DPI class, we say farewell to the Prototype Challenge class, Again. I wrote pretty much the same story in November of 2017. That was when the open cockpit PC cars which were based on the old P1 design were phased out. 2023 will see the end of the current Prototype Challenge series.sort of.

IMSA is debuting a new series known as the VP Racing Sports Car Challenge. It will consist of 10 sprint races over five weekends, and will feature current LMP3 cars and GT4 cars. While the LMP3 cars will keep their current designation, the GT4 cars will be designated as GSX. These will be single driver races with no scheduled pit stops. Drivers must have either a bronze or silver rating.

While I understand the concept of the series, I’m still a bit puzzled about the logic behind it. If there is a similar series running anywhere else in the world I have not seen it. But not being on the inside, I am sure the is a sound rational behind the development of such a combination. As time passes, I’m sure I will come to understand it better.

joel

A Fond Farewell to DPI

Change is a natural part of motorsports. Every year brings new cars, new teams, new drivers etc. However sometimes these changes are quite large, and ushers in a new era for a particular series. The last time this happened in IMSA, was 2017 with the entry of the DPI Prototype class. After the mishmash that came with combining the original P1 class and Daytona prototypes of the old Grand-AM, it was an exciting and welcome change. Since it’s inception it has provided a consistent number of entries, and some of the best prototype racing we have had on this side of the pond for some years. Gone were the days of only 2 or 3 prototype cars per race. Sure, even in DPI, cars came and left, and so did teams, but the field size remained healthy and consistent.

So with that said, we now bid a very fond farewell to the DPI era. Having brought us many hours of great racing, it will be missed. But it is not a sad farewell as what comes next promises to be every bit as exciting. The new GTP (LMDh in Europe) looks to be a new chapter in prototype racing which will carry the series forward worldwide for many years to come.

This however is not the only class leaving next year. I will cover that in the next post. I will leave you with a few of my favorite DPI shots through the past years.

Joel

Speed and Sport Shorts: Tough Shots 1 (Rain)

When shooting motorsports much of what you shoot can be considered tough shots, but there are those situations that require a great deal more work and patience. Those who normally shoot slower moving, or stationary objects don’t appreciate the challenge of shooting really fast moving targets. You have track, lock onto, compose, and capture a subject that will only be there for a few seconds or less. Even with all of that there are other variables that make things more challenging. In this first post we will discuss one of them, rain.

Unlike NASCAR or IndyCar on the oval tracks, sports car racing doesn’t stop for rain unless it is so hard that it forms large puddles on the racing surface. Otherwise they switch to rain tires and continue. For the photographer this means putting on rain gear, covering your camera with a protective covering, and most likely standing in mud or a puddle to get the shot. While it can be very tough conditions to shoot in, the results are very rewarding.

So while the fans put up umbrellas, or run for cover, you will see these intrepid individuals covered in plastic carrying large cameras headed in the other direction, into the rain to try to capture what may be some of their best shots of the year.

 

Joel

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