FANATEC GT World Challenge Road America

One of the disappointments I have in covering motorsports is that I am limited in how far I can travel. Being a small independent outlet, all expenses come out of pocket. This year was particularly hard. But this is something I knew when I embarked on this venture, and I just have to endure it. It just saddens me though that I only get too cover some of my favorite series once or twice a year. This is especially true when it comes to sports car racing in general, and GT racing in particular.

This past weekend I got to see the form of racing I like best, GT3 and GT4. Road America is a perfect venue to showcase the FANATEC GT World Challenge America. Four miles, fourteen turns, and changing elevations provide the perfect place to show off the capabilities of both cars and drivers. I’m always happy to see a healthy field of cars on track. The GT4 class not only had a good number of entries, but offered a true Battle Royale throughout the entire field. While Stevan MCaleer and Eric Filgueirus drove their RS1 Porsche Cayman to victory by a healthy margin of 15 seconds in race 1. Race 2 would be more closely contested with only 8 seconds separating the top ten finishers.

Among the other truly enjoyable battles, was the battle in the TCA class between the Mini of JCW and the two Subaru BRZs of TechSport Racing. These three cars stayed bumper to bumper throughout the race, with the mighty Mini coming out on top with a pass in the final laps. At the location where I was shooting from, most of the people around me were focused on this battle.

As for the premier series, GT World Challenge North America, there was plenty of exciting racing as usual. If you are any kind of sports car fan, there is no way you can dislike this series. Top marque’s and drivers whats not too like. It was a weekend of highs for some, and lows for others. Winward Racing swept both races, Top series contender Crowdstrike / Riley MotorSport had nothing but bad luck. A DNF in race 1, and a strange incident with a hood in race 2. Both of these occurred on lap 1 of each race. In the second race George Kurtz and Colin Braun would soldier on hoodless to finish one lap down, but salvage some points. Series leading K Pax Racing while not having an ideal weekend, did what they could and overall managed to have a fair weekend and retain their points lead. The original field was thinned somewhat due to incidents in practice and qualifying. One of the more notable was the number 13 Triarsi Ferrari which fell victim to the kink, as did a few others that weekend.

There was but one disappointment for me. That was in GT America. It was not due to the quality of racing, and I enjoyed seeing Andy Pilgrim victorious again. It is in the length of these races. This was one aspect of the original Pirelli World Challenge I did not like. I like the concept of this series which allows for slightly older GT2 and GT3 cars to still compete. I like the idea of GT3 and GT4 cars on track at the same time. However in many cases just one full course yellow can take away as much as half of the race. This sentiment was echoed by many fans I talked to. It may just be my opinion, but I believe these races should be at least 50 – 60 minutes so that even in the event of a caution, we get to see more racing action. This not withstanding it is a fantastic class with lots of action when under green flag conditions. One of the most anticipated things was the Calloway Corvette. Having Corvette on track with all the other top GT3 contenders just seems right. I haven’t heard if Chevrolet was planning to make a true GT3 version of the current model, but if they do it would be well received.

All in all it was the expected great racing weekend (despite the weather man being wrong every day). As for me there is no place I would have rather been but trackside.

Joel

Robert Wickens: Climbing to the Top Again

One never knows until it happens to them how they will react to adversity. Without going into the psychology of it, the responses can vary widely from those who give up immediately, and just shut down and decide it’s all over for them, to those who try to overcome it and then give up feeling it is too hard. Then there are those who from the start are planning how they will overcome or beat the obstacle put before them.

From 2005 on Robert Wickens career was on a steady upward trajectory. From Formula BMW, through various European formula series, and DTM before eventually ending up as a test driver for Schmidt Peterson racing. His big IndyCar break came when he had to drive the number 7 car in practice for the Kohler Indy Grand Prix at Road America. Driver Mikhail Aleshin, after competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, was not able to get back into the U.S. in time to start the race weekend due to visa issues. It was announced later in 2017 that Robert would be joining the team full time for the 2018 season.

I won’t go into the details of Robert Wicken’s 2018 Pocono accident as this is widely known, and not the focus of the story. What astonished me most is the extent of his injuries. This is what makes his come back all the more amazing. In spite of this, shortly after awakening in the hospital, he told the world he would race again, and win.

Through much painful work (which he kept everyone updated on), he managed to get strong enough to test drive Michael Johnson’s Hyundai Veloster with hand controls at the Mid Ohio Race Course. Johnson was another paralyzed driver who drove for Bryan Herta Autosport and had given them a podium finish with co driver Stephen Simpson.

It has now been three years of hard work recovering from the 2018 accident that left him paralyzed, and as he told us then he would race again, and win. In his first race back, driving a Hyundai Elantra for Bryan Herta Autosport, he and his fellow Canadian driver Mark Wilkins scored a podium finish in the Michelin Pilot series at Daytona. But if he has taught us anything, it is that just being on the podium is ok, but it is not a win. With the amount of determination he showed just to get back racing, you knew it was only a matter of time before he would win outright. Saturday June 25th 2022 Robert fulfilled his dream of being a winning driver once again finishing first in the TCR class with Mark Wilkins. He followed that up with a win at Mid Ohio, this time with Gabby Chaves as his co driver.

There is no way of saying how far Wickens will go from here, but the level of determination and perseverance exhibited by this one man is nothing short of inspirational. How many of us can say we could do the same? How many of us would even try? Who knows – I can’t even answer that question myself. What I do know, just from a brief talk on the false grid at Mid Ohio, is he expects to win every time he climbs into a car. When I asked him how he felt about the race that day, without any hesitation he said “we will win, that’s what I’m here for”. There was a confident matter of fact look in his eyes when he said it that told you he truly believed it. Oh, and yes, he did win that day.

 

Joel Love

Rob Edgcumbe

Speed and Sport Shorts: Memories

I’ve known about the Vintage Indy Registry for some time now, but had never seen it in person. Members of the registry painstakingly preserve vintage Indy cars between the years of 1930 and today. Like most who witness this spectacle, you wish the the cars would go a bit faster than parade speed. However you have to remember many of these cars are one of a kind, or the only one left in existence. To spin or wreck one would be an immeasurable loss. So like me you overlook this, and feel privileged just to see them at all.

This brings me to my point. I was 12 in 1968 when the STP Lotus Turbine made its debut at Indianapolis. I was so enamored with this car that I had pictures from magazines, built models of it, and even had the Hot Wheels version. At the SONSIO Indy Grand Prix, I got to live a dream. I not only was able to see and photograph it, I also got to hear the turbine in person for the time. A lot of fond memories of my childhood came flooding back, and I am still savoring them today.

Joel

Motorsports in Black and White ll

Black and White motorsports photography while once the norm is now a speciality form of photography. Many try it, few do it well. In this day and age fo high megapixel color photography, black and white gets relegated to a seldom used, or just lost art form.

When considering wether too process a photo for black and white, the first thing you have to understand is that not every shot will look good in this medium. Shots with busy and distracting backgrounds will not work. Next you have to consider the subject matter. Dark blue, green, and black cars or bikes are likely to lose a lot of detail in conversion, and just look like a badly underexposed image. Packs of multiple vehicles close together will leave the viewers eye wandering trying to find the main subject of the shot.

When going through your work, look for shots with one or two subjects isolated on a relatively clear background. This will take the viewers eye directly to the main subject. From there they can explore the rest of the image. If the background is slightly blurred, that makes it even better. Overcast and rainy days also lend themselves well to black and white. All in all you should choose your subject matter carefully.

As for tools, any image editor will give you good results as long as you take the time to learn what you can do with the tools at hand. Spend some time experimenting with sliders and filters to squeeze the most you can out of your software. Just selecting convert to black and white from a preset menu will give you mediocre results at best. I’m partial to NIK Filters Silver Effects for black and white conversion. There are several other stand alone, or plug in programs out there, but this is my personal favorite. So all that is left to do is jump into the deep end, and see what you can create.

Article inspired by Kurt Roussell @ Fast Car Photos.

Joel

The Story Within the Story

It is to me the story within the story from this weekends Michelin Pilot race at Road Atlanta. The race crowned a season champion in the form of Jan Heylen driving the number 16 Porsche for Wright Motorsports. However the real story for me was the winning TCR car, the number 5 Alfa Romeo Giulietta driven by Tim Lewis and Roy Block.

So, why is this the real story to me? It is the fact that this plucky little TCR car this year managed to overcome a number of reliability issues that has plagued it for the past two years. Wins at Road America and Road Atlanta, and top 5s at Lime Rock and Sebring made it one of the most successful seasons to date. And then there I the matter of carrying on the tradition of one of the oldest names in motorsports. I am always rooting for this car simply because of the racing heritage it carries with it.

Joel

My Choice, GT

It’s the kind of subject that can spark endless arguments and debates, but I just have to get it out there. For me the only type of racing I can see myself never getting tired of is GT racing.

In my youth the first kind of racing I ever paid any real attention to was Formula 1 and IndyCar. Not from being able to attend any races, It was from reading about these series. I read anything I could get my hands on about racing in general. There was a newsstand in front of the “L” station near my house, and the guy who ran it knew I was interested in auto racing, and would get magazines from his distributor and hold them until I came by. It was in reading the varied magazines I bought from him that I discovered sports car racing such as, Can-AM, and Trans-AM racing.

Before this it was IndyCar, NASCAR, and Drag Racing. Being from the inner city midwest, that was pretty much all we heard about. Upon reading about the different road racing series I began to lose interest in IndyCar, and later NASCAR. However these were still the only televised series, so I continued to follow them for the most part. On the rare occasion they would show sports car racing on TV, it would be edited to fit within a 60 to 90 minute time slot with commercials. Lots of commercials.

My interest in IndyCar faded after some time, but returned when they began to run majority road courses. The cars and level of competition has improved immensely in the past decade also. As for NASCAR, my interest level dropped significantly when they decided the words “Stock Car” in their name was no longer relevant. Then there is also the matter of 40 plus car fields (at least 10-15 of whom should not be out there) riding around in a circle waiting for someone to cause several of them to crash into one another.

So with all that said just what brought on this whole line of thought? Watching the TOTAL 24 hours of Spa, and one of the most exciting endings I have seen in some time. Seeing Dries Vanthoor’s Team WRT make the perfect call to switch to rain tires just before a downpour to get the race lead from Ferrari. Then watching Alessandro Pier Guidi recover from a huge deficit to catch, then pass Vanthoor on the outside in the rain and drive the Iron Lynx Ferrari 488 to victory. It started me to thinking just how many times I have seen close, exciting racing like this in GT racing. Then there are the intangibles for the fans that go along with this type of racing.

For all the technological brilliance that goes into Formula 1 and Prototype race cars, they are never something you can (or will) ever see yourself owning or driving. While cars in GTE, GTLM, GT3, and especially GT4 are you cars you can aspire to someday owning. You see many of these same cars on the streets of your town, you know the names, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Corvette, Aston Martin. All the way down to the GT4 ranks where you see Mustang, Camaro, Elantra, and Supra. Picturing yourself behind the wheel of any of these cars is not hard given the right circumstances.

 

So the rest of you enjoy your Formula 1, NASCAR or any other racing you are into. I have nothing against any other form of racing, and I shoot many of them, but if I were forced to choose just one, it goes without saying that it would be GT racing.

Joel

MotorSports in Black and White

Black and white photography in motor sports seems to have always been a matter of necessity more than choice. At the origins of auto racing it was pretty much all there was. Photography and racing are two technologies that grew up side by side. In later years as color film became more prevalent, and less expensive, it was only natural that many photographers would take advantage of it. But in being able to present it to the public at large there was yet another more important hurdle to overcome, printing.

To bring the news and action of racing to the interested masses required the ability to write the story as well as publish photos from the events. At the time auto racing began, it had not been that long since the ability to print photos in magazines and newspapers had been invented. Half toning, a process of using dots of ink of varying size and intensity to form a picture, had only been developed in the 1890s. This allowed publications to use actual photos instead of illustrations to present the news. When it came to sports, and auto racing in particular, the only other limiting factor of the day was the camera equipment available at the time.

Large box shaped cameras of the earliest days required a tripod, and a very brave soul willing to stand mere inches from speeding cars to capture the action. What we are able to do today (and from farther away) with our digital cameras, and 500mm lenses would probably seem like alchemy to someone from the 30s wielding a Graflex Speed Graphic with a fixed focal length lens.

In today’s world, black and white photography in motorsports is a very much overlooked tool of the trade. When you look at old racing publications of the 50s through the mid 80s you will notice that only the cover, and a few center pages are in color. This was mainly due to the printing cost as well keeping the publication’s need to keep the magazine at a reasonable price. So most of the ordinary shots were relegated to the black and white pages. Those thought to be the best were given the color pages.

Today we have the luxury of choosing the shots that are best suited to black and white. We have the ability to make exposure and lighting adjustments to enhance the image and mood we are trying to convey. What we can do in a few hours of post production on a computer, would have taken days with chemicals in a darkroom. Thus we get to use it more as an art form. While this was the intent of all photography at one point, the demands of the commercial world soon beat that out of us. While black and white in motor sports is largely overlooked, when it is used, it is often done with mediocre to abysmal results. Mostly because the photographer doesn’t take time to learn the tools they have at hand, and many don’t take time to determine whether the shot is well suited to to the medium. When done correctly, the results can be quite stunning. Tools such as levels, curves, dodging and burning can go a long way toward adding contrast, and breathing life into what may otherwise be a flat image.

Landscape and portrait photographers were among the first to fully understand the power of black and white photography. Color film became available in 1904, yet many chose to stay with black and white. Looking at the work of Ansel Adams, Walker Evans and Gordon Parks and trying to imagine them in color yields disappointing results. I’m sure they understood that the very essence of photography was the difference between light and shadow, and color could not adequately portray this.

So what’s a photographer to do? My solution is to make a cup of coffee, find a comfortable place to sit, and re-read one of my books on the basics of photography. Not digital, or film, just photographic technique. This normally resets my brain, and makes me think a bit more before I shoot.

Joel

Single Make Series

Overview

The car pictured at the top of our story is a Maserati Grand Tourismo of the now defunct Maserati Super Trofeo series. This series suspended operations at the end of their 2016 season, and has not come back since. One of the primary reasons was due to the age of the car. As of this date it is now a thirteen year old platform that still has not been updated. Conversations I have had with Maserati at first promised a return of the series with a new car, and now a statement that they are refocusing their efforts on a luxury SUV line. While the series was very competitive and entertaining, this was not enough for a company with one of the oldest names in Motorsports to keep it going.

This highlights what can happen to a single make series when it’s manufacture loses interest. Thankfully for us there are other single make series who have not suffered this fate. This brings us the long way around to the focus of this article, single make series. These series are sometimes called “spec” series. This is technically not true. On the enthusiast or club level this is a more accurate term. Also in development series such the Road to Indy series the term may be applied. In single make series drivers are from all levels of proficiency, although a driver may be listed as an amateur, it only means they do not make they’re living as a race driver. It has nothing to do with driving ability.

Porsche GT3 Cup

There is no shortage of Porsche only series around the world. Some even run by Porshe themselves as driver development series. Since 2005 this popular U.S. and Canadian series has provided some truly exciting racing. Many of its drivers honed their skills here before moving on to other series. There however a few gentleman drivers who continue to run here either full or part time. One note to add is that this series through the years has had some of the best liveries seen on a race car.

Lamborghini Super Trofeo

While having been around since 2009, Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America has only run since 2013. With the addition of North America, it is another three continent series. There are four classes of competition. Pro, Pro/AM, amature or AM, and LB Cup. This has become one of my personal favorites. Many of its drivers compete here as well as other series, often in the same race weekend. It has a mo ster season finale with cars and drivers from all three continents competing against their own region first, with the top points earners moving on the the finals to complete against the top drivers from the other regions.

Ferrari Challenge

First run in 1993 Ferrari Challenge is what known as a series for “gentlemen drivers”. Participants purchase and maintain their own cars, and pay all entry fees, sometimes with a little sponsorship help from friends. The level of talent pretty much runs the gamut from pure amateur to professional. Like similar series, there are divisions in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

Saleen Cup

This is the latest in the single make series. Starting mid 2019 with the development of the Saleen S1, this looks to be an entry level series for new driver development. Starting in mid season 2019, there are plenty of bugs yet to be worked out. Some with the brand new Saleen S1 developed for this series, and street production. Others with competitors and racing rules. There is not a lot that can be said about this series just now having only a partial season under its belt. What can be said is that it looks to have a lot of promise. One cool idea for its inaugural season was using historic liveries from famous race teams.

Mazda MX5 Cup

Exciting, competitive, close racing, and fun. These are just a few of the descriptions you will hear to describe the Mazda MX5 Cup series. Boring, dull, uninteresting. These are terms you will never hear to describe it. You would be hard pressed to find any other sports car series this closely contested. More often than not the winner is decided on the last lap.

Wrap Up

The series listed are either pro or development series run in the the United States, and Canada. There are many more amateur, hobbyist, or local single make series.

Joel

Vintage Beauties

Shooting vintage racing has provided me with something that no other form of racing that I shoot has. That is the ability to go back to my youth. But even more than that, it gives me the ability see up close the race cars I could only dream about back then. Being a model car builder, I built all of my favorites in pains taking detail. Now being able to see the real thing driving at speed as they did back then gives me a feeling I just can’t properly put into words. So long live these vintage beauties, and may they continue to race long into the future

Joel

Vintage Can-AM

Can-AM produced so many iconic cars there is not space to include them all. These are just a few of my favorites.

McLaren M6a
UOP Shadow DN4
McLaren M8f

Vintage Trans-AM

I was truly in love with Trans-AM. If I were older, and had money, I would definitely bought a 70 Mustang.

1972 AMC Javelin
1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302

Vintage Formula 1

We will end with a few vintage Formula 1 screamers. If you have ever heard these V10 and V12 monsters, you will know what I mean by screamers.

1997 Jordan 197
Williams FW19
Benneton 197

GT 3 Racing

It’s the sort of topic that comes up when you are sitting around chatting with friends. You also see it on social media. It goes something like this. If you were stranded on an island what record, food, or other possession would you want to have with you. Sometimes its one item or three. But the concept is the same.

So the other day I was thinking how could I apply this to motorsports, and this is what I came up with. You are stranded on an island with a big screen TV which receives a different auto racing series on each channel. You have to tune to one, however once you make your selection the TV can no longer be tuned to any other channel. It will pick up only the channel you choose from now on. What will it be, Formula 1, IndyCar, NASCAR, NHRA, Prototype, maybe Moto GP or MotoAmerica. You get the point.

I’ll let you ponder what your choice will be, but for me the choice was easy, GT racing, and GT3 in particular. I have had different favorite series through the years, but I always come back to GT. I wish I could say for sure why, but I believe it isn’t any one thing. The one that first comes to mind is they represent the finest in automotive engineering that is available to the public. They are not purpose built cars that are designed only to be used on track, but modified versions of street cars, albeit expensive ones. None the less they inspire dreams, and give us something special to wish for. Then there is the shear variety of cars.

– Ferrari
– Porsche
– BMW
– Lamborghini
– Audi
– Mercedes AMG
– Acura
– Lexus
– McLaren
– Aston Martin
– Bentley

 

Also the level of competition in these series around the world is hard to match. And then there is the option of cheering for a favorite driver, car make, or team. I’m sure after I am finished writing this I will think of more, but that should give you an idea of my thinking on the subject. Now you can mull it over and come up with your own favorite.

joel

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