Hankook 24H Silverstone 2016
From TCR spec touring cars to old Diesel BMWs.
Everything from a VW Golf to a Vortex V8 tube frame racer.
Including the outright winner, Rollcentre Racing.
Client: TCF Sportscars, Freelance
Location: Silverstone GP, Towcester.
Winner: Rollcentre Racing Team Abba
Ever since I first thought, ‘Whats this Le Mans thing then, Ill watch an hour of that’ and got stuck into a full 24 hour race I have been a devotee of endurance racing. The first event I covered professionally was the Britcar 24 Hours at Silverstone and just like RadioLeMans.com say, my year runs from June to June.
With that in mind I have always targeted the Silverstone 24 Hours as one of the keystone events in my season and I saw no reason to change that for the first running of the meeting under new owners, Creventic.
Thankfully the 24 hour race has passed into Creventic’s care from Britcar Ltd which should give the race a chance to prosper. The incompetent management from James Tucker damn near killed the event off more than once under his stewardship but has come back again now he is out of the way. I suppose I should be grateful to him for starting the event off in the first place but the track record of lies and obvious bias towards certain teams just leave me glad he is gone.
The championships he once administrated have been passed into the care of Claire Hedley, his one time General Manager who now heads up Hedley Cowell Events Ltd and put on a good show the week before the 24 Hours. HCEL also put on one of the support races for the 24 but more about that later. The 24 Hours though is a big and expensive proposition and is really best left to a specialist planner, like Creventic.
The Dutch company have been organising the 24H series for almost a decade and last year got FIA recognition as a championship. There was a problem with them going business as usual at Silverstone though, the legendary NIMBYism of the average Northamptonshire resident.
The 24 hours has been beset with noise complaints for years and the one good thing that Tucker managed was to negotiate agreement with the locals and Silverstone’s two county councils to host a 24 hour race. Unfortunately in order to get the race back he agreed to stupid noise limits. 102db noise limits are hard for even a SEAT Leon to hit, the GT3 cars that make up the bulk of the normal Creventic grid will have significant difficulties.
Thus the Touring Car Endurance Series was born. A three round series for cars below GT4 spec which started at Silverstone last week before heading off to the Slovakiaring and Meppen.
The important bit here is Silverstone because I headed that way on Friday morning for the start of the action, armed with new equipment, the raw ingredients for several gallons of coffee, and for the first time a second shooter.
My wingman for the weekend was my good friend Paul Davies. Paul has been around the motorsport paddock for years, I think he may have photographed Barnie Rubble at the Bedrock Grand Prix but really he is a single seater man at heart. Touring cars occasionally capture his interest but the real reason I dragged him out to Silverstone was the sports prototypes.
Even with that I had to make my biggest mistake of the weekend, letting him handle the catering!
Qualifying action got underway in the early afternoon and we were both very busy covering as much of the circuit as we could. The field really was quite impressive, especially given the lack of exotica which usually accompanies a 24 hour endurance race. Working the pit lane also netted us a couple of extra clients which was very nice indeed but required a revision to the shooting plan.
The biggest problem on Friday was that I only had Paul until after day qualifying. He also shoots basketball and there was a big game in Worcester that night. It gave me the task of covering night qualifying alone.
Night quali did nothing to alter the grid, that was done in post race scrutineering where three of the top six cars were all knocked back for ride height infringements. Unfortunately for us, one of our clients was pinged and knocked out of the top ten. All that night qualifying was for was to get each driver though three laps in darkness to familiarise themselves with the track.
I started off down by Brooklands with panning shots. Part of the mega pre-event bank account draining session was focused on low light equipment so a new Canon speedlight was added to the kit bag with ‘Second Curtain Sync’ capability along with a couple of new f2.8 lenses especially for low light shooting.
Time to get a little technical. the f number on a lens indicates the maximum aperture of the lens. Basically, the lower the number, the wider the aperture and the more light gets to the sensor. Most lenses are f4 or above, if you want to go lower you need to add significant numbers to the budget.
Second Curtain Sync relates to when the flash fires during an exposure. Usually the flash fires when the curtain or shutter is at its widest which illuminates the full image but obliterates any light trails you may have captured. If you use second curtain sync on a longer exposure the sensor records the light trails then the flash fires just before the shutter starts to close again.
I started trying to use this technique but quickly caught the attention of the race director. Apparently I caused one of the BMWs to go off at Brooklands. Thankfully Silverstone has more run-off than Heathrow so the car didn’t hit anything but a marshal was dispatched to tell me not to use the flash.
Down went the shutter speed and up went the film speed which cost me my light trails but otherwise I was very pleased with the results. One of the downsides of whacking the film speed up so high is a grainy picture but several of the images were crystal clear, showing that I had tracked the subject very well but I wasn’t getting anything spectacular. I headed for the pits to do some work there.
The pits was like a party. There were 20 British teams in the pit lane, many of whom I know from Britcar and British GT race meetings so it was a very social trip down the lane. Then I bumped into the owners of Simply Race in Milton Keynes and it got even more social. Even so, I managed to get some good images and as the flag flew at the end of the session I was pleased with my work.
It was off to the hotel to process the images and get a good nights sleep. Some images got processed, but the good nights sleep bit fell short. It could have been the uncomfortable room, or it could have been the lack of dinner nightmares of dancing salad leaves as I remembered Paul was getting the lunch. Damn but I wanted a burger!
Raceday dawned and as we were covering one of the support championships we had to be at the track early. I pulled into the circuit just after nine, having stocked up on McBreakfast given the culinary horrors I knew were to follow. I wouldn’t leave the circuit again until 1800 on Sunday.
Before we get all racey I want to run down a couple of highlights from the entry list. These were the cars that I wanted to do well, some for business reasons and others because I just liked them. Two of them make the grade purely for an attempt at satirical social media engagement.
In our house there are four vehicles, one is a van and another is my Adam. There is an older model Ford Focus and a Peugeot RCZ, filial loyalty had to put me in favor of the Team K-Rejser Peugeot RCZ. I did ask if I could borrow my sisters RCZ for a playdate with a friend but for some reason she said no!
There were also two Toyota GT-86 entered under the Rogue Motorsport banner. Rogue are Britcar 24 runners of old and they never go for the normal way of racing. This year they opted to run a couple of GT-86 road cars, with just the basic safety upgrades required to go racing. They also decided to do away with the big lorry and drove the cars from the workshop in Coventry to the track, whipped off the plates, did a bit of sport, whopped the plates back on and drove ’em home again.
Add to that their unique way of sending up the arctic exploration boat naming farce. One of the cars was #RaceyMcFastCar while the other #SpeedyMcRaceCar.
My favorites were another double though. The Team Altran 208s were stunning looking beasts. Despite the fact they were running 1.6t engines, they also sounded fantastic. They could well have been troubling the noise limits at times too.
The CUP1 class was also good, despite only having two entries. Both were BMW M235i race cars, one by Duwo Racing and the other by MP Motorsport. The Duwo Racing machine was very colourful and a joy to shoot but it was the MP Motorsport car which really caught my interest. Significantly better prepared than the last car MP ran at the 24H at Silverstone it carried one of two crews who have previously won the race outright.
Last time Mark Poole and Richard Abra won the race it was in an Aston Martin GT3 car, acquired at short notice from the nearby AMR factory at Banbury. To hit the aforementioned horrific noise regulations it had half an oil refinary attached to the back end and was delivered to the circuit on the Thursday after the team’s Ferrari expired in testing. This years effort looked a lot more professional, but didn’t score the same success.
Strictly speaking the first order of business was warm-up but it was only a short session and we took the decision that we would have plenty of time to get shots of the cars in a 24 hour race so we instead spent the time catching up on the photographic backlog from a full days shooting. That made our first session of the day the last race of the Britcar Prototype Series.
Paul was lead shooter for the support categories so he went out to get the trackside images while I focused on clearing the decks ahead of the main event. I popped out for the podium shots as Paul was at the opposite side of the track for that session, then we attacked the lunch that Paul had provided. Meat, cheese, bread and horrendous levels of salad!
There were two other support categories which raced between the last prototype race and the start of the 24 which let us catch up more so at the start of the race we were all up to date. We had a couple team shoots to do before the cars headed out to the grid so we headed into the pit lane but before we did I shifted my car out to Copse corner and got the start shot lens ready in the boot.
Our two teams were already primed for the shoots so we headed to the pits and got both shoots done, dodging cars headed out to the grid during the second one. The cars had to get out of the pits so we set off for the grid. I took one car while Paul took the other so we got a good range of grid shots, taking in a few other cars while we were there but our focus was on the new found clients. When the marshals cleared the grid I headed off for the traditional start shot while Paul set off for the Link.
The link is an area of the circuit used when either the national or international layout is in use. It quite literally forms the link between two sections of the Grand Prix layout, shortening the track. When the GP circuit is in use it forms the link between the two infield sections which allows a photographer to get two angles on the close pack, before the cars spread out too much.
After Copse I started heading out towards Club corner but had shot there during qualifying so I changed my mind and headed to the inside of Hangar Straight then the inside of the Vale. All of this took a couple of hours so I headed back to the media centre to ingest the photos and prepare for dusk.
Going back out I headed for Maggots and Becketts, climbed into a disused marshals flag stand and got the only slip of red sky I could find. The shoot was cut short by the arrival of rain though, which quickly became quite heavy. That put paid to the traditional light trails shots, the rain drops distort the light and the effect is poor. Back to pit lane was about the only option so I spent a bit more time there, then started the task of processing and uploading images.
About 0130, after several offs for several cars, when the rain was at its heaviest I decided to grab a little sleep. I set an alarm for 0430 and laid out under my desk, Paul had retreated to his car by this point but the Adam is a little small for getting kip in so I was stuck with the floor.
Note to Silverstone, a softer floor would be nice.
I was ready and waiting in the decreasing drizzle by sun up, down at Luffield for some nice shots but the cloud didn’t agree with me. All I got were some dull and grainy shots, with less than 30 surviving from over 100 exposures. It didn’t help that the new 300mm f2.8 lens decided to fail on me either but I got some pictures that I was happy with and headed back to the media centre for a quick regroup with Paul.
The Sunday of a 24 Hour race at Silverstone is my exploring day. I pick one area of the circuit and go hunting every angle I can find to see what comes out. This years target was the Wing and with the weather playing ball now, clouds lifting and everything drying up nicely I headed out, parked up at the Abbey end and headed into the pit lane.
Somehow I lost about three hours wandering around the Wing, (the race was running out of the heritage pits) snapping away. A bit of lunch later it was time to get ready for the end of the race. Again, we split our two team clients between us and got ready for the final moments of the race. The celebrations from all teams, even those who finished well down the order, reminded me why we do what we do.
The podiums came fast after the race so we shot that then headed back to the media centre. Thankfully we had no clients who needed a quick turn around on images so we packed away, loaded the cars and headed off to our respective homes.
It was a great race, well organised and with respectable media facilities. Not saying we were impressed, but Paul and I are already planning the excursion to Slovakia for the next round of the championship. If we can get the clients agreed ahead of time, its off to eastern Europe.
Riley MkXXII TDC
#32 Radical SR8
An average of 25 per car if you include the prototypes
Thats a round trip and doesn't include driving around the circuit.
Cups of Coffee
It's natures energy drink.
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