Utah Grand Prix American Le Mans
Yesterday I covered the Utah Grand Prix American Le Mans series race at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah. It was fun and very challenging. This was the second time I have covered the event and was it was just as fun as the first.
This is a completely different style of racing than most Americans may be accustomed to.
Where most racing here is based on covering a certain distance in the shortest amount of time like the Daytona 500; 500 laps with no time restrictions, an American Le Mans race is about covering the most distance in a set time period; X laps covered in 2 hours and 45 minutes. Plus there are a lot of left AND right hand turns, go figure.
Also, there are four different classes of cars on the track at the same time which makes for some interesting situations during the race.
But one of the biggest differences is the types of cars. Porches, Acuras, Ferraris and the like. As it was explained to me by Jeff Holms of Gil de Ferran Motorsports (Gil de Ferran is a legendary former Indy car racer who won the Indy 500 and is now an owner/driver in the Le Mans series) there is huge difference in technology in the cars. He explained that a Nascar race car is typically valued at $200,000, and an Indy car is valued at about $500,000 but a top class Le Mans car is valued at well over $1 million.
Even the types of sponsorships are different. In Nascar you may see teams sponsored by WalMart or Budweiser beer where in the Le Mans you see Nordstroms and Patron.
Lowe’s Fernandez Racing’s Acura ARX-01b
de Ferran Motorsports’ Simon Pagenaud, left, celebrates with driver and team-owner Gil de Ferran after winning the Utah Grand Prix American Le Mans race Sunday, May 17, 2009 at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah.
To those considering covering the event next year I would highly recommend getting there early. Even if it is to get table space to work at in the photographers work room. The local press like myself make up a very small portion of the race photographers on the day of the event. Many are seasoned professionals who travel the world covering motor sports and really know what they are doing. Many be a little salty to the local press. Lets face it, these guys make their living traveling the circuit and we local guys just come out only so often. But if you can engage in a conversation with one, listen carefully to everything they are saying. They really understand the sport inside and out and know how to create story telling images.
Also, although it is uncomfortable and sweaty as hell, get there early enough to get a fire suit. You can shoot the outer perimeter of the track without a suit, but if you want to get into the pits and really get in close to the action, taking the time to get there early enough to get a suit and its associated uncomfortableness is worth it. Plus, there are only so many shots of cars screaming past you can shoot on the track. And the chances of you being in position for the one wreck on a winding 3 mile course is about slim to none. You can do what I did and throw the suit in your pack while hiking the track and get it on when you get to the pits. At least in the pits you have a chance to add a little variety to your photo report.
The crew Robertson Racing LLC races to service their Ford GT MK 7 during a pit stop.
Corsa Motorsports’ Ginetta-Zytek 09HS driven by Johnny Mowlem races out of the pits
Also be ready to do some hiking around the three mile course. There were two photographer shuttles running with a goal of being able to pick you up every 20 minutes. But on race day it is more like 40 minutes. I think that has to do with all the photographers and the fact the shuttles have to traverse through the paddock where there are a ton of spectators milling about.
I ended up walking about 2/3 of the course with a camera and 400mm f2.8 lens over one shoulder, a hip pack with water and assorted gear and a camera with a 70-200 on the other shoulder.
I am still recovering from a allergic reaction to prescription drugs ( see prior
entry here) and went into the day at about 70 percent of my normal strength. Well, after covering the race Sunday and state track and MLS soccer the Saturday night before the race, I am beat up and have grape fruit swollen knees and my shoulders have swollen up like they have oranges stuffed under the skin. I am taking the day off today to recover (Naproxen, the anti-inflammatory of the gods) but over all I am getting healthier and stronger and imagine I will be up to full speed in a day. It was just a tough physical weekend.
Deseret News photographer and friend Jeff Allred, left, and myself hanging out on the turn one photo stand prior to the start of the race.
My girlfriend Dayna getting a moderate sunburn with her dad while making their way through the paddock looking at cars.
Also, water and sun-screen. Pretty self explanatory. However my girlfriend came out to watch the races with her dad and forgot the sun-screen. When I got home I found her battling a moderate sunburn and a mild case of heat stroke.
Over all I really like covering this style of racing and look forward to more of it in the future.