Access All Areas 1. Introduction
Hello and Welcome to my first and only official blog about my adventures as a Motorsport photographer. I hope you enjoy reading my ramblings and hopefully I could help some of you with any tips I have picked up along my journey so far... Some of you may already know me, but I shall formally introduce myself... Im Frank, I was born in Wales and and spent all but one of my 30 years living in the South of England, namely Hampshire and Wiltshire for a while. As a youngster, I fell in love with motorsport watching Formula 1 with my dad and following my hero Damon Hill in his Williams FW18, for the whole of the 1996 season which resulted in Hill claiming the Formula 1 World Drivers Championship. This passion continued, watching legends like Micheal Schumacher, Mika Hakkinen, Juan Pablo Montoya and latterly Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. I could go on... From Formula 1, my Motorsport taste moved to Touring Cars with the release of the PlayStation 1 game TOCA Touring Cars. I instantly loved it. At this point I didn't know that the game was based on an existing Championship, with all of the names and teams that raced in the game.
In May 1999, I was taken by my dad and brother to our local track, Thruxton, to see these cars up close for my first ever motor race. The British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) was enjoying its heyday of its current regulations. The one thing that stood out from the weekend happened on the Saturday during the qualifying session dubbed the "One Shot Showdown". Each driver would get just one lap to post the fastest time they could in order to determine where they would start the second race of the day on the Sunday afternoon.
Most of the drivers had completed their laps and next up it was the turn of Honda lead driver James Thompson in his Accord. James was visibly quicker through the first corner, Allard, a sweeping right hander, but as he got midway through the corner the back end of his Honda broke loose and sent him into a four wheel drift across the tarmac and onto the grass. James floored the throttle to try to correct his error by turning into his slide and furiously spun the front tires to regain control, at this moment his car disappeared into a cloud of tire smoke, grass cuttings and the noise of his engine bouncing off of the rev limiter. I braced myself for the impact against the safety barrier... but the impact never came... By the time the dust and smoke had cleared, James managed to wrestle his race car out of what could of been a very nasty accident and continued on his one chance lap... Although the lap time wasn't anywhere near where he wanted to be on the track, he was just thankful of having a car to race if it wasn't for his lightning reactions, nerves of steal and clean underwear... Seeing this incident in front of my eyes made me think "THIS IS FREAKING AWESOME!" and James became my favourite driver for many years. So growing up I knew that I wanted to be part of the BTCC circus one way or another. There was no way I would make it as a driver so I decided I wanted to pursue a career as a Touring Car mechanic. I left school with very poor GCSE grades and was fortunate enough to be accepted into Sparsholt College to study Automotive Vehicle Service and Repair for two years, the first year was known as AV1 and the second year AV2, to which I passed both courses with Distinction in each. After the second year I decided that getting hands on experience would suit me better than another year at college, AV3. I found an apprenticeship close by to home and in local proximity to Thruxton Race Circuit, I joked at the time, it was a sign. However, fate and/or Lady Luck hadnt read my script and whipped the rug from underneath me as the apprenticeship fell through at the last moment and it was too late to try to enroll at college for the third year.
(above) This picture is of the late, great Colin "If in doubt... Flat out!" McRae in his Citroen and (below), Petter Solberg in his Subaru Impreza leaving the Service Area in Swansea. These images were taken on a college trip to the Wales Rally GB 2004.
So, going from knowing what I wanted from life to being stuck in retail didn't help me one bit and I realized my dream of being a Touring Car mechanic was slipping away from me as I was getting older. More important things were on the horizon like learning to drive, getting insurance, tax and fuel etc. If I wanted to go back to college after taking the year out to gain money, I would of had to paid for my tuition as I was of a certain age. So as I said, I have remained in retail since I left College and still in retail now.
The one thing that stayed constant was my love of Motorsport, whether it was because it was a weekend spent with both friends and family or the shear spectacle of the on track action and buying into the championship story that was being told more or less every two weekends. Years went by, seasons opened and closed, so we come to 2015... My personal situation wasn't much better, still in retail, still struggling to pay bills, however I had been promoted to Assistant Manager at a clothing retail store. I treated myself to a new camera and lens I upgraded my Sony a290 and my Minolta 70-300mm lens to a Nikon D2X and a Sigma 150-500mm lens, which I am still using today. I thought I would be a bit clever and see what I could achieve in the sense of getting my face and name about... So, I asked a few Facebook groups Editors to see if they wanted images for their pages... I was rejected a few times before Ryan at BTCT (British Touring Car Talk) mentioned a new Page that was up and coming with promise, focussed on giving anything from grass roots racing to BTCC exposure, especially those that didn't always get TV exposure. I spoke with Ian of Startattheback and a partnership was born. As a complete shot in the dark, Ian helped me achieve one of the experiences of my life... I applied for Media Access to the 2017 BTCC Media Day where the press shot the teams, drivers and cars for the coming seasons press releases and magazine covers, not to mention TV! When I heard the news I would be sharing the same piece of tarmac with drivers and teams I had grown up watching, just WOW! I shook all day with excitement and disbelief! But this is story for another blog! Mentions Startattheback - Facebook BTCT - Facebook