Blog: IMSA at LRP

Blog: IMSA at LRP

For me, race cars and photography go together like peas and carrots. I never really understood that saying. Probably because I think peas are closely aligned with d-con, but that is for another day. I got to shoot my favorite subject matter, race cars, at my favorite place, Lime Rock Park, yet again, for the IMSA Northeast Grand Prix. I was there both Friday and Saturday, July 21-22, 2017. Friday was a practice and qualifying day and Saturday was race day.

The first session on Friday was a free practice for the Continental Tire Sportscar Series (CTSS). The CTSS is a great series. Comprised of two classes: GS (Grand Sport) is made up of everything from GT4 spec McLarens, Aston Martins and Camaros; and ST (Sport Tuner) is made up of smaller bore cars like Mazda Miatas and Mini Coopers. The ST cars are more closely related to the street legal cars you can buy right off the dealership floor. I chose to shoot this first session from the outside of Big Bend.

I stayed out on Big Bend for the second session, free practice for the new IMSA Prototype Challenge. I had high hopes when I heard this new series was going to be there and it did not disappoint. I think the P3 cars are beautiful and really cool. For a support series, you can’t ask for much more.

The next session was an hour long free practice session for the Weathertech Sportscar Championship cars. Lime Rock was the first GT showcase of the year for the Weathertech series so it was only the GT classes. GT Le Mans, factory built race cars to ACO GTE spec many of which had raced at the 24 Hours of Le Mans only a month prior, and GT Daytona, which are GT3 spec race cars which are legal in racing series all over the world. WTSC is arguably the best GT racing on the planet, certainly in the States. For this session I wanted to get the cars coming at me head on so I started at the Bailey Bridge to catch them accelerating off of West Bend. This location also provides for a great going away shot with armco that can be used as foreground element.

I then crossed over the Bailey Bridge to the inside of the track and walked the fence line along the back straight to the uphill chicane and No Name Straight. There are a number of interesting sight lines along here if you look for them.

I used a fence post and the slope of the hill to frame the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari going through the chicane. I like the results a lot.

I finished this session by shooting up the No Name Straight. The intermittent clouds in the sky were providing interesting areas of light and dark providing for opportunities like this one:

At this point, I broke for lunch and met my father at our campsite for an hour or so of downtime. This meant that I missed the second free practice sessions for both CTSCC and PC. After lunch I went to one of my favorite locations to shoot from: the outside of turn 4. From here you get a couple of different vantage points. Head on coming off of turn 4, going away down the No Name Straight, and a cool pan shot with the paddock, the specator bridge  and the Lime Rock tower in the background. The diversity of shots you can get from here make this a favorite spot of most of the Lime Rock regulars. I guess that’s why when I got there I ran into a gaggle of fellow photogs, a veritable who’s who of LRP shooters. Dom Miliano, William Hauser, Michael DiPleco, David Yowe and Greg Clark to name a few. I can always tell I’m in the right spot when I’m surrounded by such talent.

I started the session using the Nikon 200-500 f5.6 which I’d rented from LensRentals.com. I absolutely adore this lens.
I then switched to my tried and trusted Nikon 80-200 f2.8 to get a wider view. I’ve shot entire race weekends with just this lens. It is extremely capable.
William Hauser let me try his Nikon 600 f4. This is a lens I will likely never own so it was a really cool experience.

The first day wrapped up with qualifying sessions. Late in the day I like to head to the Back Straight which extends from the top of the uphill to West Bend. The low, late afternoon, sun can create some fun shadows to shoot through and around on this part of the track. It is especially good around Memorial Day and Labor Day, but in July I was a little skeptical about what I would get. Turns out, it was perfect. First up was the GTD category. I shot this from the top of the uphill section. I have found that some of the best shots from here are going away. I like the way you can use the light, shadows and armco to frame the cars as they race down to West Bend.

There was about a 10 minute break between the GTD and GTLM qualifying sessions so I hiked down the dirt road that runs parallel to the back straight and set up at West Bend. This shot is best at this time of day as the aforementioned shadows streaking across the track create a great contrast. If you can time the cars going through the shadows you can get some interesting images.

The qualifying sessions put a wrap on day 1. Day 2 was race day and it started early. An 8am photographers meeting meant I was out of my tent good and early. My biggest concern for day 2 was that, since I was camping, I wasn’t sure I’d have enough battery power to get me through the day. I’d brought 3 fully charged batteries for my camera and had gone through 2 of them on day 1. But, regardless, it was what it was and I had to get through as much of the day as I could. I met up with my good friend Wayne Deslauriers in the meeting and we wandered out to our first location, the bottom of the Downhill.

This is one of my favorite spots. I know I keep saying that, but I really love it down here. You get a great sense of the speed the drivers carry down the hill and on to the Sam Posey Straight. First on track for the day was a warm up session for the GT Le Mans and GT Daytona cars. Wayne hadn’t ever shot from this location so it was good to take him down to a spot where he would get some new and interesting photos.

From there I let Wayne decide where we were going to go to shoot the CTSCC race. He wanted to shoot the back of the track so it was time to make the long walk to the flag stand at the top of the uphill. Since I was rationing battery power I didn’t shoot this race much, but, I did take advantage of some favorable light.

The night before my Dad and I had gotten into a conversation about how pictures of race cars don’t tell the whole story of racing. The whole story is told by including photos of the people involved. So, Wayne and I made sure to make it to the pre-race fan walk where driver portraits and atmospheric fan photos were plentiful.

Porsche factory driver Patrick Long in pit lane before the start of the Northeast Grand Prix
The pre-race fan walk was extremely popular.
As were the Weathertech racing grid girls.

 For the start of the race, we went to a spot under the spectator bridge at the end of the front straight and planned to walk the guardrail to the Esses. I was hoping for a great shot of the start, with the front rows racing each other side by side to turn one, but the pole sitting Porsche 911 RSR got such a great jump on the rest of the field that the shot didn’t really present itself. However, from this spot, once the cars are up to speed, you can get cool shots of the cars nose down, hard on the brakes, as they head into Big Bend. Or, you can shoot through the crowd as the cars exit Big Bend. This is a tough shot and requires a slow shutter and steady pan.

I worked the whole guardrail along the inside of Big Bend and the Short Shoot then walked to the inside of the Downhill. At this point I was nearly out of battery power so I wandered back to the Left Hander to burn thorugh what little power I had left.

It is always nice to see big crowds on the hillside and they are never bigger than they are for IMSA weekend.
The #3 Corvette Racing C7.R accelerating out of the Downhill and on to the Sam Posey Straight.

And that’s a wrap from the 2017 IMSA Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park. It was an amazing weekend spent with amazing people. Next up for me is a week ocean side in Maine for my annual trip to Hermit Island Campground and my next trip to Lime Rock will be Labor Day weekend for the 35th Historic Festival. Below is a selection of some of my favorite shots from the Northeast Grand Prix. Enjoy and thanks for reading!

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Posted on: August 4, 2017Shawn Pierce
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