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My first WEC experience!

Please head over to the gallery page to see my photo’s of the event:

https://tomclancyphotography.wordpress.com/2014/04/24/6hrs-of-silverstone/

The Le Mans 24hr race of the World Endurance Championship (WEC) has always interested me as a real spectacle in motorsport, but being abroad and with coverage on pay-to-view TV it’s never been something that I could just jump into. So last year I began thinking about going to the 6hrs of Silverstone as a way to introduce me to the sport; something which was boosted when Mark Webber announced his move to the sport with Porsche from F1. I booked my tickets!

The sun was shining as I arrived at Silverstone just after 9.00am on Friday morning. I should have guessed the circuit wouldn’t let me off that lightly with the weather and stepping out of the car I was suddenly hit by the circuits classic wind chill; extra layers were quickly applied! Walking in to the track, I soon made my way over to The Wing paddock area.

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The WEC paddock (photo taken from iPhone)

WEC Practice 1 didn’t start until 11.55am and being a less busy day I was hoping that I might be able to see Mark Webber at some point before this for an autograph.

The open access to the paddock is something else that had really attracted me to this event and it’s something I wish Formula 1 would perhaps find a way to bring back. Walking down to the Porsche garage it was great to be in amongst the teams as they set up for the day; it helped build the excitement and make you feel much more a part of the action.

Tyre’s were being prepared

Porsche even had pushbikes for the team to get around on

Outside Porsche there was a small group of people waiting for a glimpse of Mark Webber. It had definitely been the right decision to try and get an autograph from him at this time as it was only going to get busier and in fact it was only a 15mins wait before he was seen walking through the paddock!

I was really impressed with the time Mark spent with the fans, he made a real effort to sign for as many people as he could on his way to the garage and even engaged in conversation.

Mission accomplished!

Now to make my way trackside and start taking some photo’s.

Crossing under to the outside of the circuit at Copse corner, the old National Pits Straight was the first place I experienced the WEC cars and immediately I was struck by the impressive sounds that emanated from the cars, as well as how different they all sounded. The turbocharged engines were a joy to listen to as the cars accelerated out of Luffield and through Woodcote!

Being Friday the vast majority of grandstands were closed and it was proving difficult to find places from which to photograph the cars around this part of the circuit that weren’t compromised by fencing; my 70-300mm lens also seemed to have developed a fault where it would snap in and out of focus. But I carried on regardless and settled down at Luffield for a while watching the cars through the infield section and exiting the hairpin.

The Brooklands, Luffield section of track, overlooked by the BRDC clubhouse

After lunch I made my way to the International Pit Straight and it was photographing from here that I was blown away by the Le Mans Prototype (LMP1) cars! Their incredible grip and speed around Club corner allowed them to simply hunt down any other car in front of them and their sheer acceleration out of the corner powered them to majestic overtakes down the main straight.

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The Porsche LMP1 overtaking the Ferrari 458

They were in a class of their own and it was an absolute joy to watch them!

I came back to Silverstone on the Saturday to spend some more time trackside photographing the cars from Club and the International Pits Straight during Practice 3, before making my way back over to the paddock.

A bustling paddock (photo taken from iPhone)

It was much busier, but particularly around the Porsche garage where this time there were multiple crowds waiting to see Mark Webber and I was thankful I’d been there on the previous morning! His fellow driver Brendon Hartley was out and about signing autographs and filming an interview. It seemed a far more relaxed environment for the WEC drivers than those in F1; being less recognisable to many meant they were free to walk around the paddock largely uninterrupted. Jackie Stewart was also there, but what was even more of a surprise was so was Adrian Newey! ‘Why aren’t you in China for the Grand Prix?’ I thought, and it turned out that like so many others he was there to see Mark Webber too. It was funny hearing the Silverstone radio commentators joking that he might be there to learn a thing or two about the LMP1 energy recovery systems and power trains given Renault and Red Bull’s early season struggles.

I decided to watch Qualifying from the infield, something I hadn’t really done at the circuit before and it also allowed me the opportunity to photograph the cars moving from left to right.

The crowds gathered at Club corner (photo taken from iPhone)

I had a fantastic two days at Silverstone with the World Endurance Championship. They do a great job of making you feel involved with the sport throughout the weekend and it’s a fantastic sight to  watch. I’ll definitely be going to more events in the future!

Please head over to the gallery page to see my photo’s of the event:

https://tomclancyphotography.wordpress.com/2014/04/24/6hrs-of-silverstone/

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F1 comes to London

“The DriveTo Be 1st – Wednesday 26th June 2013 4pm – Compete against the Lotus F1 Team drivers”

When I read this on twitter I knew where I wanted to be that day! Could this be an opportunity to meet Kimi Raikkonen?

I have to admit I was dubious.  Surely if Kimi was going to be there wouldn’t they have mentioned him by name? It would be a huge draw after all.  Instead, the term ‘Team drivers’ (of which Lotus has five) seemed to have been carefully chosen to cover all eventualities. But he hadn’t been at the last Lotus store event, so I remained hopeful.

Fortunately a second reason to be in London for Formula 1 that day also presented itself. The FOTA (Formula One Teams’ Association) Fan Forum would be in town ahead of the Silverstone Grand Prix; with both Team Principles and Drivers there to answer questions from the fans. I was fortunate enough to secure a last minute ticket!

London looked glorious in the sunshine! Having arrived early I had a bit of time to spare, so I decided to spend it in St James’ Park…

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I wanted to get to the store early to see what the situation was and whether there had been any more news on the driver line up.  I was one of the first to arrive, and it wasn’t long before I got my answer as to which drivers would be there…

Lotus F1 reserve driver Davide Valsecchi was the first to make his way out of the store, where he began to run through a few rehearsals for the event later on.

Davide Valsecchi and his volume filled hair!

Quite a crowd had begun to gather and a queue began to form. It became clear that many had also made the journey here to see Kimi. The event was being held to launch a new range of Lotus merchandise and you would have the opportunity to have this signed by the drivers; but who would that second driver be?…

The answer to that question came soon enough, as next out the door came Lotus race driver…………. Romain Grosjean.

The ever expressive Romain Grosjean!

Whilst his arrival signalled to everyone waiting that unfortunately Kimi wasn’t to be there that day; it was still a great afternoon!  I got to meet some great people whilst waiting in line and it was fun to be a part of the product launch, taking in the atmosphere and meeting the drivers!

This mannequin was the closest I got to meeting Kimi Raikkonen that day

Hopefully next time Kimi!

After the Lotus event it was time to head in the direction of Tower Place near the Tower of London for the FOTA Fan Forum.

It was an exciting event to be a part of! Hosted by BBC Radio 5 Live F1 reporter Jennie Gow, the line up included Team Principles: Sam Michael (McLaren), Claire Williams (Williams), and Graeme Lowdon (Marussia) for the first round of questioning… followed by Formula 1 Drivers: Valtteri Bottas (Williams), Max Chilton (Marussia), Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso) and Martin Brundle for the second round.

Great questions and very interesting answers. Valtteri Bottas but particularly Daniel Ricciardo impressed me, coming across really well! I’m not sure Daniel ever stopped smiling; which everyone seemed to really appreciated with good applause for his responses!

After the event the drivers did a few signings, which luckily I came prepared for!

All round it was a great day, a fantastic experience and the perfect way to kick off the British Grand Prix weekend early!

Photo’s and a Video Stream of the Fan Forum can be seen over on the FOTA website: http://www.fota.co/2013/06/25/fota-uk-fans-forum/

The spontaneous David Beckham road trip

Click here for Photo Gallery

On Thursday 16th May 2013, David Beckham announced that he was retiring as a footballer.

By midnight that night, Me and my Sister had decided we would be going to France, to watch his final home game for Paris Saint-Germain on Saturday night.

Could we do this?… we had asked ourselves. It would be by far the most spontaneous thing that either of us had ever done! Had we the time to drive to Paris and back in a weekend?… neither of us could really afford it… there wasn’t even any guarantee that he would feature in the match! The idea seemed crazy!

Both being such fans of his, my Sister had always wanted to see him play, we knew that we would regret it if we didn’t at least try.

The decision was too difficult! We even flipped a coin at one point… but with 3 heads in a row (David Beckham was heads… because he has a head… logic dictates) it seemed even the coins were willing us to go!

Sod it!

Life’s too short. We decided we were going to do it!

And with that, last minute match tickets, a hotel and the Eurotunnel were all found and booked!

France, here we come!

After a long drive and one sleepless train journey under the sea, we arrived in Calais at around 2pm, and began the further 3hr drive to Paris. But the sun was shining and the countryside looked glorious! As the afternoon and the city approached the clouds came overhead, but it didn’t matter, we still couldn’t believe we were doing this! My first experience of driving the Arc de Triomphe roundabout is one I won’t be forgetting any time soon… every man or woman for themselves and who needs lanes, road markings, or even to drive it a circle!

After checking into the hotel, we decided it was probably best that we start walking in the direction of the stadium, not knowing exactly how long it would take to get there and needing to collect our tickets before the game. It wasn’t too long before we began seeing more and more people walking in that general direction and the excitement and anticipation began to build! The stadium appeared…

The Parc des Princes

Things were going to plan; the drive, the hotel, we had arrived at the stadium on time, collected our tickets… but as we took our seats still the biggest detail of all alluded us. Would David Beckham play?

As the teams made their way on to the pitch for the warm-up, we soon got our answer that he was at least in the team selection!

Then came the starting 11 announcement. He was in!! and not only that, but the players and coach had made him Captain for the night!

The atmosphere inside the stadium was incredible! PSG had already secured the French Ligue 1 title (their first in 19 years!) in the previous away game and this was clearly the time to celebrate!

The PSG fans didn’t stop singing all night

PSG themselves put on a confident display and would eventually go on to win the game 3-1.

We got to enjoy 81 minutes of watching David Beckham play…

before he was substituted for a celebratory ovation. The match stopped as he turned 360 to thank the supporters and begin his final walk from the playing field. Team mates crowded round to embrace him and join in the applause that rang out from the fans in honour of a true footballing hero and legend. The support shown towards him in the stadium was a joy to behold!

When the match was over the entertainment continued as the Ligue 1 trophy celebrations kicked off with music, lights shows, flames and fireworks. The fans welcomed the players back into the stadium individually as they were called up to the podium. David Beckham took this moment to thank everybody for his time at the club. With the team fully assembled PSG lifted the silver wear and were crowned Champions of France!

The celebrations were incredible! 

David Beckham was lifted into the air and joined by his three boys on the pitch as the players took to a lap of honour to thank the fans for their support.

PSG Celebrate!

It had been an incredible night. Walking back to the hotel we genuinely couldn’t have asked for anything more from it! Yes it had been a long trip, and yes we still had the return journey ahead of us, but we had done it and it had been even better than we could have imagined!

The following morning we took in the Eiffel Tower and stopped off in a coffee shop for breakfast before leaving Paris at around 10.00am for the Eurotunnel home.  The sun was shining by the time we reached Calais and was there to welcome us as we drove off the train into Folkestone; where we had set off from only 26hours earlier.

Be spontaneous.

Never give up on your dreams.

See more photo’s here

Senna Exhibition at Donington Park

One of the biggest draws to this years Donington Historic Festival – Click here for Photo Gallery – had to be the Ayrton Senna exhibition!

2013 marks the 30th Anniversary of the first time Senna got behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car and it all began at Donington Park when in 1983 he had his first ever test in Keke Rosberg’s Monaco GP-winning Williams-Cosworth.

1983 Williams Cosworth FW08C

Ayrton Senna’s times and approach impressed Frank Williams, but it was with Toleman that Senna chose to start his first year in F1 with the following year; and a motor-racing legend was born.

1984 Toleman TG-184-01 Hart Turbo

The 1985 Season saw him take another step forward up the grid, replacing Nigel Mansell at Lotus. He took his first ever Pole-Position in this car at Estoril by over 1 second. Come the race, Senna put on a wet weather master class; leading every lap as well as setting the fastest lap-time as he took his first ever Grand Prix win by over 1 minute.

1985 JPS Lotus 97T

Senna joined the McLaren team in 1988 and went on to win 3 World Drivers Championships with the Woking based outfit in 1988, 1990 and 1991.

10 years after his first test there and now a triple World Champion, Senna returned to Donington Park in 1993 for the European GP, as the circuit hosted its first Grand Prix in 55 years. It was a race that would become one of his most iconic. Torrential rain made the track treacherous, but starting 4th behind the dominant Williams of Prost and Hill (as well as the Benetton of Schumacher), Senna drove as though racing in the dry. He took the lead by the end of Lap 1, but this would be swapped back and forth with Prost as the circuit dried, only to be rained on again. But as everyone else dived into the pits for wet weather tyres, Ayrton chose to stay out on slicks. By the end of a dramatic race, he took the win by an incredible 80 seconds ahead of Damon Hill in 2nd place!

1993 McLaren MP4/8

Ayrton Senna would sadly be killed the following year during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. However his supreme talent and life-loving personality had already established him in the hearts and minds of motor racing fans all over the world. He remains an inspiration to this day.

Adam Parr’s Comic Strip Competition

A quick follow up to the Autosports Show post…

Whilst Adam Parr (former chairman of Williams F1) was giving his interview, he mentioned a competition he was running on his website alongside his Graphic Novel release. The competition was to ‘come up with a 3 piece comic strip based on your favourite F1 moment’… the winners would have their comic strip drawn up by a professional illustrator.

Well after I got back from the show I only had two days before the competition closed to think about and design my entry. Luckily for me there was only one F1 moment for me to choose… the story of Kimi Raikkonen’s race winning drive at Suzuka 2005! But I also wanted to give it a comic book style twist and humour. Here’s what I came up with…

And well I only went and won! http://www.adamparr.net/competition.html

The finished illustrated print has arrived…

Can’t wait to get it framed!

Darren Heath Photography Exhibition

Darren Heath is one of, if not the worlds leading Formula 1 photographer and a huge inspiration of mine.

So when he tweeted last year to say that in February 2013 he would be holding an exhibition of his work at a gallery space in central London, I knew I had to go!

Come the day of the exhibition it was a cold and rainy day in London when I arrived, but map in hand I made it to the studio in good time and waited for the friend I was meeting to arrive. When he did we began our viewing of the almost 50 photographs on display.

Exhibition programme.

The work on show was incredible, each one providing a glimpse into Formula 1 history, each telling it’s own story. Some charged with energy, others full of emotion.

Already some of the more recent photo’s have become modern classics, like that of Fernando Alonso’s Korean Grand Prix victory that ended in near darkness. Others provide a window back in time on the late Ayrton Senna, or a pivotal moment in turbulent career of Michael Schumacher.

After looking around the exhibition we were fortunate to be able to spend some time chatting with Darren Heath himself about his work, about photography and about our love of the sport, sharing favourite moments and memories. A really nice guy, I think everyone who chatted with him really appreciated the time he had for us all!

My First Blog Post!… Autosport 2013

So here I go with my first post! As a huge motorsports fan and with the event not being one of my gallery pages, I’ve decided to kick things off with a look back at January’s…

Autosport International 2013 and Tips for attending

This year saw my first visit to the annual racing car show; craving a Formula 1 fix in the arduous winter break between seasons!

Waking early on Saturday morning, having already bought tickets for the event online I headed for the station. Unsure what to wear for the day, not sure whether Birmingham’s LG Arena would be hot or cold, I had dressed for the weather which was cold!… snowing in fact as I walked to Birmingham New Street to meet up with a mate and our train to the event.

The train stopped at Birmingham International. Located directly outside the arena it took just a short walk through airport-like corridors until we were at the show. Scanning a nearby map we headed for the nearest entrance through which the public were pouring…

We found ourselves first in the Oval Racing hall, an area dedicated to Rallycross, Oval Racing, Drag Racing, Road and Off Road Racing…

Colin McRae's Ford Focus.

Colin McRae’s Ford Focus.

Walking into the next hall we suddenly realised just how big the scale of this show was; the arena space was huge… ridiculously so! Excited and in awe of everything in front of us, we set off to try and locate the F1 Racing Stage.

Moving through the crowds you don’t know where to look, all around you’re surrounded by race cars, driving simulators, screens, merchandise stands and grid girls handing out freebies… this place would definitely take some exploring later!

Nigell Mansell's Lotus and Race Helmet.

Nigell Mansell’s Lotus and Race Helmet.

I’d read on twitter that the F1 Racing Stage was the go-to place for finding out about driver interviews and autograph signings for the day. It was also the place to find the cars from the 2012 Formula 1 Season!… this however turned out to be a bit of a stretch, as when we arrived we found they were obviously show cars, rather than the ones that had taken our hero’s had taken around the globe that year.

But still, all the teams (bar HRT) were there and provided some good photo opportunities nonetheless. And even better, on stage a show was just about to start! Timing!

Ferrari F2012

Ferrari F2012

Team Sky F1: Antony Davidson, Johnny Herbert, David Croft

The Sky Sports F1 Team were on hand to welcome everybody to Autosports International, tell us what would be happening throughout the day and to field questions from the audience on Formula 1, particularly their opinions on the 2012 season and what we could look forward to from the sport in 2013. After this we checked next door for the times of the autograph signings in order to plan the rest of our day around. The name that stood out on the list was Sir Jackie Stewart!… but others of interest included Paul di Resta and BBC’s Jake Humphreys.

Now knowing what times we had to be back here we were pleased that Jackie Stewart was later that afternoon, because it was nearing the hour in which we had booked our seats in the Autosports Live Action Arena!

This was in an adjoining hanger to the main exhibition and took us through a first hanger temporarily housing a Go-Kart circuit and Caterham Experience; both of which you could pay to try out. We arrived at the Arena just in time (again)!…

Hosted by Louise Goodman; here with Jake Humpreys.

Hosted by Louise Goodman, here with Jake Humpreys.

The show included supercar demonstrations...

The show included supercar demonstrations…

Stunt displays…

Celebrity drivers...

Celebrity drivers…

And glamorous grid girls!

And glamorous grid girls!

The show was really enjoyable and a very worthwhile hour!

Afterwards heading back to main arena there was still time before we had to head back to the autograph area; so we went to find one of Autosport 2013’s main attractions, the Sir Jackie Stewart Exhibition which could be found in Hall 20. This featured cars that celebrated his career, including…

The 1969 Matra MS80, in which he won his first world championship…

The 1971 world championship winning Tyrell 003.

The 1971 world championship winning Tyrell 003.

And the 1973 Tyrrell 006 that took him to his third drivers title.

And the 1973 Tyrrell 006 that took him to his third drivers title.

The cars were incredible! I’ve always loved classic F1 cars and their liveries, but seeing these in person I couldn’t believe the size of the rear tyres, and the beauty of the exposed engine work. Simply stunning!

Next there was just time to grab a quick bite to eat (a hot chocolate and blueberry muffin from Starbucks), before it was time to make our way back to the F1 Racing Stage for the autograph session.

When we arrived Paul di Resta was up on stage giving an interview; which we were able to listen too as we began queuing for him to come over and sign. However when he did come over he only stayed for what seemed like 5 minutes before leaving again. First autograph missed, the line became one for the next person up, Jake Humphreys. As we waited for Jake, Sir Jackie Stewart took to the stage and gave an interview. It was great listening to him talk about his career and answer the audiences questions!

Jake arrived and I was able to get a photo signed of when I’d met him at a Grand Prix. We then began queuing up for Sir Jackie, but by this time the line had become far longer than we had realised and we just hoped we make it to see him before his 20 minutes were up. Luckily we did!…

Luckily we did get to meet him!

Sir Jackie Stewart.

Thrilled to have met him, we headed back over to the F1 cars on display where I could grab a couple more photo’s, before another interview began! This time it was Adam Parr, former chairman of Williams F1, who was there to talk about his book about his 5 years in the sport, The Art of War, presented as a Graphic Novel. He also gave a fantastic talk where he spoke passionately about the future of F1 and how in it’s current form it just isn’t sustainable. It was incredibly inspirational; really must check his book out!

Adam Parr interviewed by David Croft.

2012 Red Bull RB8.

2012 Red Bull RB8.

Soon we had to start thinking about getting our train back, but before leaving the show, we spent some time checking out the merchandise stalls and chatting to the sellers about and amazing range of racing memorabilia that they had on display and about motorsport in general. It was a great way to end the day!

I had an amazing day at Autosport International 2013 and I definitely think I’ll be trying to make it into a yearly event!

Top 5 Tips for attending Autosport International:

1. Pre-book your tickets online to avoid queuing on the day and to choose your time and seats for the Live Action Arena Show.

2. When you arrive be sure to track down the lanyard collection office. Your e-tickets will only get you so far and you’ll need to present one to access the autograph sessions. The lanyard also comes with headshots to get singed if you haven’t brought your own pictures.

3. Bring a rucksack. There is food and drink at the LG Arena with the likes of Starbucks and Wetherspoons, you might want to bring your own with you; especially as it’s a long day out and there’s plenty to pack in and see! You can also use it to put clothing layers in.

4. Wear a comfy pair of shoes as there’s plenty of walking to be done!

5. If possible plan ahead. The show is huge and there’s plenty of things you could miss out on, so take a look at the Autosport International website to find out what’s at the show that year and what you might like to visit most.