Media Day, the Official launch of the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC), this would also be the very first time that I would be in a media capacity thanks to Ian Mutch, Editor of the Facebook group Startattheback. I had thought about this day a while in advanced and because I knew I would be in complete awe of the whole day, I thought it would be a good idea to buddy up with someone who knew the ropes. I asked and a friendly face duly obliged... Eric Barnes of Barneshaw Images took me under his wing for the day, showed me the ropes and made sure I didn't get run over by racing cars because I was walking around with stars in my eyes! I owe you one Eric!
The day started at 5am for me as the venue for Media Day was at Donington Park, a 2 and a half hour, 142 mile drive from Hampshire. When I got there, the first thing to do was to get in line to sign up, get my tab-bard for the day. Talk about luxury! Breakfast was also laid on for the Journalists attending. This is where I will be completely honest, although the breakfast was free and you could of had anything you wanted, I didn't have ANYTHING! I was too nervous and excited and trying to stay out of the way. Once Eric turned up and we introduced ourselves to each other I began to relax and take in the event instead of letting it run passed me in a complete blur...
So the time had come for the proceedings to begin, teams and drivers being asked to step on to the stage to be interviewed, by commentator royalty, Alan Hyde, whose voice is instantly recognizable to those who attend regular race events up and down the country. Various topics were covered including the big Manufacturer returning to the series, Vauxhall and its star lineup of young gun Senna Proctor and the returning Touring Car ace, Tom Chilton. This announcement really had me excited as it was through the late 90s and the 2000s until 2009, Vauxhall had produced Championship winning cars for some of the series top racers, including Jason Plato, James Thompson, Yvan Muller and Fabrizio Giovanardi.
After the final interviews had finished, the Photographers (that was me!...) we asked to make their way out into the pit lane and onto the track where two pods were set up ready for us to make out own space as this would be where the race cars would be driven towards us, in team formation in some cases, for us to shoot and then driven between the two pods and onto the grid for the main shot to be taken... Again, completely in awe of the whole event as I was actually walking into a live pit lane where cars were being driven and it was these cars that I had followed since I was a teenager. The first cars were ushered through to have their pictures taken and I had the wrong lens on my camera, completely the wrong settings for outside shooting and I had to slap myself to wake up and get in the game...
Once all of the cars had been shot and filmed for the ITV4 live TV Coverage, it was then the turn of the drivers to be centre stage, in front of the flashes on the cameras. Drivers with helmets doing their best Power Ranger, superhero pose. Few did it better than BMW front runner, Rob Collard. From there the drivers were lined up in a 'Class of 2017' shot, which can be seen at the top of this post.
After lunch, there was a 3 hour test session so teams could continue their testing program, to make sure they had the cars exactly how they wanted them because they turned a wheel in anger. This would also be the first chance for the entire grid to work out their opponents and she if they have got a better start than the others.
This would be my first adventure, walking the safety barriers and getting closer than I ever have to a race car being driven in anger... It gave me such a huge adrenaline rush and a huge buzz, it will stay with me for a very long time! Along the way I bumped into some more friendly faces in Ian Cutting of Ian Cutting Photography, who has been very helpful and complimentary of my work, which coming from fellow 'togs means a great deal to myself, as I am sure it does to other photographers hearing good things from their peers. The image (above) is of TeamHARD member Will Burns, coming into a really hard braking zone, so much so the front discs are glowing red hot because of the pressure being put on the pedal to slow the car down for the following corner...
Here are a few images of BMW driver Andrew Jordan (top) and Mercedes racer Adam Morgan (below), as I try to convey the speed at which these cars are driven through my images.
Cars, cars... all around! Under the watchful eye of Eric, we made our way back to the pit lane where cars, drivers and team members were in full swing, which meant having to keep an eye on everything around at all times as well as trying to get that magic shot you spotted... Again, being honest, I was happy just snapping away and taking the whole experience in. I stood on the pit wall and no more than a metre from me on my left was a fully operational pitlane and on my right was a fully functioning race track that had between 20-30 race cars flying passed me doing over 100mph...
Rob Austin in his Handy Motorsport Toyota Avensis in the pitlane (top) and Mat Jackson piloting the striking Shredded Wheat Ford Focus racing over the Start/Finish Line (bottom)
So there ended the best experience of my life. It was time to hand my tab-bard in and start making that 3hr journey home with a head filled with memories and 3 memory cards full with images to go through and select the best ones.
Up to that point, I didn't think that anything could top it... but that is for another blog!
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