(watch here for more on this event as photos are published!)
I love vintage racing events, and the SVRA Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational at Indianapolis Motor Speedway became an instant classic event when it premiered last year. I attended the Saturday events of the 2015 show, and despite a little mid-day rain, it was another successful vintage show.
Two years ago, Indycar decided that since they had every Indycar team around basically camped out in Indy for the month of May, they might be able to go ahead and get another race in on the road course that's inscribed within the big 2 1/2-mile oval... and thus was born the Angie's List Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
Having visited IMS in the past, I knew how challenging it is to shoot as a spectator -- in fact, I vowed not to go back unless I was credentialed. A week or so before the GP, though, I saw a post from Angie's List saying they were giving away some tickets, so I tossed my name into the hat, and Angie came through for me, and off to Indy I went.
As is normally the case at an event like this, there was action throughout the weekend, but I only made the drive over for the main event on Saturday, but they started the day fairly early with practice sessions and supporting races for the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights series.
I rented a couple of great new telephoto lenses for the weekend, so I was eager to try them out. Here, Sigma's newest 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sport lens does a great job of focusing on the subject and nicely blurring all that kitty litter in the foreground.
Also along for the day was Canons new EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens. Watch for a review on these two lenses later -- it was a real treat to shoot them one after the other at the same event.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) is absolutely a bucket-list venue for any racing fan, and while it's obviously best-known for its oval configuration and huge marquis events, road course weekends like this are a great way to experience the track in a slightly more manageable state of frenzy. Still, there's no getting away from the aura and mystique of the Brickyard; a race at Indy is one you'll never forget.
Mystique notwithstanding, Indy can be a tough place to shoot as an amateur, though. It's maddeningly difficult to find a fan-accessible vantage point that isn't obstructed with catch-fencing. Here, one of the Pro Mazda cars works its way toward the Hulman Ave., infield straight -- right past the turn-3 stands that are covered for this road-course event. This shot is framed near the wide end of the Canon 100-400 lens in order to pick up the stands in the background, but if you plan on shooting on this end of the track, be sure to bring a lot of lens -- even the 100-400 wasn't really enough reach down here.
Moving around past the infield straight, turns 7-10 offer a couple decent vantage points to view competitors at fairly close range. By this time, the final Pro Mazda race of the weekend was underway. Although these cars are smaller and down significantly on power compared to the Indy Lights and IndyCars, the drivers tend to make up for it for completely ignoring the fact that passes like this are unequivocally impossible. Great fun to watch -- all three of these guys escaped with honor and mount intact.
A warmup session for the IndyCars gave me a chance to do a little panning -- there really aren't too many spots for this at IMS. Here's Helio Castroneves moving right along in his Chevy. You'll notice a pretty dramatic difference in the "aero" kits between this and the Honda's -- pay special attention to the front wings.
Next up was the Indy Lights feature race -- here, former F1 hopeful Max Chilton is forming up with the field just before the final turn leading to the green flag. This is another good vantage point for amateur photographers. The last time I visited IMS, the Rolex sports cars skipped this section of track, heading straight out around Oval-turn-one instead.
One of the really nice things about this particular vantage point is that you tend to see cars stack up a bit, which really adds some visual interest to a shot.
There was a brief intermission following the Lights race, which turned out to be fortuitously-timed. Weather threatened on and off all day long, but it turned out that the only rain we actually got fell exactly between scheduled events. As the rain cleared and the track dried, the main event festivities got rolling in earnest. Drivers paraded in open cars -- here, Helio Castroneves waves while Juan Pablo Montoya looks forward to getting his race in gear.
Here's the flyover from the opening ceremoneies -- a perfect example of getting caught in the wrong mode. I've shot enough prop planes over the years to know about slowing the shutter down to blur the props, but when these guys appeared overhead while I was in "race car" mode, I shot with the settings I had. The Canon 100-400 did a great job of stabilizing this hand-held shot, though.
The Honda two-seater gives one fan at each race a chance to ride along on a pace lap with Mario Andretti -- I'd sign up for this any time! Even though this car won't reach the same sort of speeds that the racers will, I'm sure it's a fantastic experience for all of the fans lucky enough to win this great perk!
After a full day of preludes, the IndyCars finally took the track for the feature race -- above, Takuma Sato works through the infield twisties in his Honda, and below, Marco Andretti nears the end of a lap as he approaches the main straightaway. The Sigma did a great job throwing the car in back out of focus to draw attention to Marco's car in the foreground -- this is exactly what you want that f/2.8 glass for.
Here's a look down the long infield straight -- aka Hulman Blvd, as seen (barely) over a guarding fence (notice the grey in the lower-right). This is absolutely one of the vantage points where better access would be welcomed, since this is an area that typically features quite a bit of action, and shows a great iconic background, too.
As the race unfolded, the sun began to set over the main straight, throwing a beautiful golden cast across the turns 8-9-10 complex. Rookie Francesco Dracone is no doubt trying to find a suitable place to let Helio Castroneves overtake -- Francesco finished down a couple laps to the leaders.
Imagine my surprise, having driven to Dayton to see some vintage airplanes, only to find a phenomenal collection of WW I-vintage cars on display, as well. What a great bonus!
Like any static display, I look for the shapes and patterns that defined these cars, and like other car shows, I've tried to do so in a way that makes these photos about the cars more than about the hustle & bustle of the show itself. Luckily, these old carriages are just packed with spectacularly-intricate details.I just loved the materials, workmanship, and detail on these machines. It seemed as though all the parts we keep hidden away on modern cars are left right out in the open on these cars, and even though all the parts were built to a particular purpose, the craftsmanship that went into building each of them is evident.
Once every two years, a unique collection of aircraft descends on the grounds of the United States Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH. This is the Dawn Patrol - the largest collection of WW I-era aircraft I've had the pleasure to see flying.
As you might imagine, most of the flying machines are replicas -- very close mimics of the actual vintage machines, but updated for safety. This is most easily-seen by glancing under the cowls of these airplanes, where power plants have been been updated to be a little more reliable. Nevertheless, the aircraft look great, and dozens of pilots and crew in period costumes help set the mood as well.
Among the attractions in the air was a staged dogfight. Of course, the Fokker came out on the losing end, and after setting down, the pilot was taken prisoner in "no man's land". Like any military reenactment, a little historical context will help you appreciate the things that are being shown, but fans of all ages can appreciate these great old planes in the air!
Finally, no WW I reenactment would be complete without the infantry, so without further ado, here's the infantry:
Also in attendance over the weekend was a marvelous collection of vintage cars -- I'll post those separately, so watch for them if you liked these photos.
Years ago, Road America was the first road course (and among the first race tracks) I visited. The sports cars, Camel GT racers and Indy cars I watched 25 years ago fueled my early love of racing, and the beautiful track in eastern Wisconsin remains a favorite of mine.
Living in Ohio now, it's not as convenient for me to get to this great track as it used to be, but my son and I were happy we could get there for this year's Continental Tire Road Race Showcase -- a very full weekend with Continental Cup sports cars, Tudor sports cars, and supporting races including Porsche GT3's, IMSA Lites, and MX5's. Simply put, if you love sports cars and road racing, it's tough to beat a lineup like this.
Given all the racing to fit into this weekend, there was action on-track as early as Thursday, with testing sessions for the Continental Cup cars and supporting series, but we didn't arrive until Friday - in time to get our campsite set up and catch some practice sessions and qualifications for the series that raced on Saturday. If you've never been to Road America, arriving on a practice day can give you a great chance to get to know the track, and at 4.3 miles and 14 turns, there's a lot of track to see.
Friday was also a great time to preview the teams and cars running at these events. Even though both the Continental Cup and the Tudor series are regularly televised, there's something pretty fantastic about seeing these cars live. These Astons, for instance, were not only drop-dead gorgeous, but their V-12's were absolute screamers -- just fantastic to see in person.
Amid all the on-track activities, the paddock was also quite active. It was a great time for the Core Autosport team to practice changing nose assemblies; sadly, it would turn out later they'd need to put those skills to work.
Road America offers great paddock access for fans throughout the weekend, but on Friday, crowds are more manageable and teams tend to be about as relaxed as they'll get during the weekend. Here, Ohio legend Bobby Rahal greets a team member, and the AIM Autosport team was gracious enough to invite us into their garage for some pictures.
Saturday was a very busy day, with all classes on track and and one of the weekend's feature races. The MX5's were first on track in the morning, and although they don't provide quite the adrenaline rush of the "big boy" cars, these scrappy cars always put on a good fight. Here, a line of MX5's snakes down Thunder Valley -- one of Road America's iconic stretches of track. In the distance, Canada corner is visible. The hills on either side of this location provide a unique sensation for drivers and spectators alike as the cars near the end of the 4.3-mile circuit.
Following the MX5's, the Tudor cars took the track again, including the one-of-a-kind Nissan Deltawing, seen here working around Canada. It's a testament to the Tudor series that it consistently pits such a wide-ranging group of designs against one another. The Deltawing, despite its crazy-looking geometry, competed well against traditional designs, though it seemed visibly nervous in low-speed corners like this.
Saturday afternoon saw the first feature race of the weekend: the Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge. Although there are two classes of cars in this series, both classes are based on non-exotic sports cars and sports sedans. Save a couple of Aston Martins and maybe some Porsches, these cars are pretty mainstream: Camaros, Mustangs, Civics, and so on. These cars are very closely-matched and very scrappy, and action like this turn-5 melee is pretty typical -- especially after starts.
Toward the end of the race, the late afternoon sun catches another tightly-packed group of cars as they round Canada corner -- imagine the challenge of driving into that sunlight!
Following the Continental race, the Tudor cars made another appearance -- this time, each class took the track by itself for qualifying, where we saw some pretty spirited efforts to set fast times. This off at turn 6 won't earn a pole, and several other drivers pushed off in the same place.
Sunday morning was busy, with the second IMSA Lites race of the weekend, then Tudor warmups, GT3 Cup race #2, and MX5 race #2.
The weekend wrapped up with two more supporting races, making a very full weekend, indeed. If you left Road America without having seen your share of great racing, I'm afraid you just weren't paying attention, because the action on-track didn't stop all weekend long.
If you've ever considered a trip to Road America, I really should warn you that you're likely embarking on a life-long love affair. I've yet to meet a race fan who doesn't want to go back almost immediately after departing. In addition to friendly people everywhere you turn, the track itself is gorgeous. You'll often hear Road America described as very similar to Spa, and the similarities really exist on several levels. Like Spa, this is a long track, at 4.3 miles and 14 turns. A track this size has room for some great low-speed technical turns, but like Spa, it features some epic straights, and is considered a track where high horsepower and low downforce carry the day. Another feature shared with Spa is a fantastic variety of elevations. The photo above shows how "Thunder Valley" got its name, and is a great example not only of the elevation changes here, but of some of the outstanding vantage points available to fans.
Here, a look uphill from the infield road between turn 5 and the paddock, and another shot looking back downhill. This hill is mimicked on the front straight, and although it's sometimes difficult to tell when you're watching TV footage from Road America, this hill really affects the race off turn 14 up to the start-finish line. More than one race at Road America has been won by a strong motor on the last lap.
Hills like this continue throughout the grounds at Road America; indeed, the racetrack is nestled in the heart of the Kettle Moraine area of Wisconsin, and its glacial landscapes dominate the region. Turning right from the location above, the track heads up another hill under the Corvette bridge toward turn 6. On the right is one of the many hillside viewing areas, complete with a shady canopy that's welcomed by fans on sunny days.
In the paddock, Friday's businesslike atmosphere starts busting with fans by Saturday and Sunday. Many road courses open their paddocks to fans, but I've always found Road America to be particularly accommodating. On this weekend, fans who weren't glued to the track were able to meet the Tudor drivers at an autograph session held during a couple of the supporting races on Sunday morning. Alas, the line to meet Patrick Dempsey hinted that there may have been some fans who'd heard of him before he started racing!
For those who've had their fill of racing, there's a go-kart track, zipline, manufacturer exhibits, and plenty of refreshment stands to help break up the day. The zipline, incidentally, is another product of the naturally hilly terrain -- it leaves from the hill up by this food stand -- higher even than the spectator area above -- and glides down to the low ground near turn 14.
I'll see you there.
July is a great time for vintage motorsports in Ohio with the Vintage Grand Prix followed two weeks later by the AMA Vintage Bikes event. The vintage bike weekend seemed to draw a larger crowd than the GP, if you can believe it -- maybe because in addition to great on-track action from bikes ranging from pre-war Indians and Harleys all the way up to contemporary superbikes, there's also BMX racing and a sizable swap show set up.
The superbikes are all kinds of fun to watch. Not only are these great-looking machines, they also sound terrific, and the riders really know how to put on a show. Check out the commitment from some of these riders:
I didn't spend nearly as much time at the BMX track as the road course, but the riders there definitely looked like they were having fun. As you might expect, there were riders of all skill levels and competitive drive.
Just as at the Vintage GP, there's a featured marque each year at this event and this year's marque was Indian. I'm sure there would have been some nice old Indians at the event anyway but there were truly some beauties on display and on-track this weekend.
Of course, the paddock is also home to some lighter scenes -- check out the future biker catching some "Z's" between events, and who wouldn't get a kick out the leathers on this sidecar rider!
And finally, if you've never had a chance to see sidecar racing, this is almost worth the trip all by itself. These performers are certainly among the favorite performers of the weekend.Flickr album for this event to see even more!
One of my favorite events when I was young was the vintage event at Road America. I remember some fantastic cars on-track as well as row upon row of beautiful automobiles in the paddock. Living in central Ohio now, Mid-Ohio is my home track, and the Vintage Grand Prix is still one of my favorite events.
Each year, a different marque is chosen to highlight the show, and this year, the Mini Cooper was the featured marque. These little hustlers are always fun to watch, and there were close to 30 of them at the event this year. Surprisingly few of them showed the classic FWD form displayed by the 42 car here, and some were positively go-kart-like.
Of course, the microscopic scale of these little cars is always entertaining, too -- everything about these cars seems way too small to work at all, let alone work well as a race car. Michael Pinney's car shows off its compact powerplant here for an admiring observer.
Even though the Minis were undeniably cute, I always love watching the big boys, like this fairly contemporary Indy car. Being a vintage race, you generally see drivers being careful not to bend any of that precious machinery, but cars like this still manage to show some impressive speeds on Mid Ohio's 2.4 miles, and the V8's of the GT40's, Lola can-am cars and stock cars are music to the ears.
Each year, a quiet town just west of Columbus, OH, is overrun by scores of ground-pounding hotrods. The city streets around the Madison County Courthouse are lined with cars and their owners, and they take turns burning out down the street -- one right after another.
And it's fantastic. The Ohio Cobra Club, formed in 2004, has been putting this event on for a number of years. I first became aware of the show about three years ago when I noticed a Cobra heading toward a hotel in Hilliard, only to join up with a couple dozen of its closest relatives. I made it to the show in London for the first time two years ago, and after missing last year, I made a point to get back again this year.
Although most of these cars are replicas (real Cobras hovering around $1m are spending more and more time in climate-controlled garages), that's part of the charm of this show. People gather around the more interesting motors, interiors, paint jobs, and so on to swap tales of their builds or customizations.
You can find more photos from this event in this Flickr set.
This was the first year for the London Turn-Key Nationals, held this past weekend at the Madison County Fairgrounds in London, Ohio. Unfortunately, it was also the same weekend as the London Cobra Show, and I elected to go shoot that on Saturday. As luck would have it, there weren't too many participants on Sunday when I went to the Turn-Key Nationals, but I met some great people and got to shoot a couple of beautiful cars.
The louvers in the photo seen here are on the hood of a gorgeous Austin-Healy replica -- they're actually reflected in the hood just at the base of the windshield. I loved the abstract pattern in this shot.
Here are a few more from the show:
Central Ohio, USA
Photography At Speed
David is a photographer specializing in motorsport.