Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mid Ohio Rolex Adventure - Pruett & Rojas Win For Ganassi Again

There are days as a racing photographer on the road when things just don't go your way and new challenges present themselves. Take this weekend at Mid Ohio for instance. My assistant and I hit the road race day around 8 in the morning and started out on the scenic route. We ran into traffic on the two-lane Indiana State Road 67, avoiding a brake check from some hillbilly who I had been trying to pass for miles. The we encountered road construction and an unexpected detour. When we got to the track we discovered there was a mix up on our event credentials and our names were not on the media list somehow. We talked to several people and got bounced back and forth between the media, Grand Am and Mid Ohio office personnel to no avail. Everyone was very nice and we were trying to figure out a "Plan B" when a nice fellow named "Jim" from the Mid Ohio staff was gracious enough to at least provide us with a cold pass so we could get into the paddock area, and we didn't have to buy tickets to get in.

That meant no access to the media tower, pit lane during the race or the trackside shooting locations where a "hot" pass was required. So we got parked and went down for the open pit lane walk and paddock looking for driver shots. We spent the race looking for places to shoot where there were holes in the safety fencing to shoot through, or gaps in the fence to get clear shots. It was frustrating and not what we were accustomed to, but we tried to make the best of it during the 2 hr 45 min main event with the Rolex series. Challenges often come up unexpectedly shooting a race. Batteries crap out. It rains. Someone gets in your way. But one thing I always try to do is bring home pictures. Last year at the Kentucky IRL race, for instance, I was not granted pit access during the race itself but I could go everywhere else. When it got down to the finish, I had to stand on someone's golf cart behind the pit lane fencing to get a clear view of the start-finish line but I still got shots of the photo finish. Mid Ohio is a bit different since it is a road race and not an oval track, and there are lots of different areas around the circuit that present possible shooting spots. The track itself is a beautiful layout with hills and mature trees as backgrounds. If you've never been there, I highly recommend it and the Rolex weekend is usually far less crowded than the Indy Car-American LeMans Series weekend in August will be. Come prepared to walk a few miles and bring rain gear just in case...

It was hot and humid so we just took the minimum gear we would need and went searching for driver pictures and interesting stuff during the prerace festivities. The Rolex series has some of the most beautiful race cars - the prototypes are wide and low to the ground while the GT class, dominated this year by Mazda RX9's, are brightly colored and just screamers of race machines. Of course we had to get the obligatory pix of ourselves on the scene like we always do and then we headed back to the keyhole to get ready for the start of the race. One of the great things about shooting a road race is you can go where the lighting is best. With the late afternoon start tailored for television, the keyhole is perfectly lit for the seeing inside the cockpits as the drivers wheel through that corner so it was a great vantage point to begin the race shooting. The bad news was the holes we could shoot through were few and far between without getting fence in the images so we kept walking and worked our way back to the esses for the second half of the race. It was an interesting and challenging day all the way around and I can't wait to go back in August. At least this time it didn't rain, although that was the one challenge I actually had anticipated facing and was looking forward to!

By the way: the Ganassi Telmex machine piloted by Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas took first place overall in the Daytona Protoype class and looked pretty much untouchable with Pruett behind the wheel. The race was filled with full course yellows and so it was a stop and start affair throughout. Joey Hand and Bill Auberlen stayed out front in their gorgeous blue and yellow Turner Motorsports Bimmer most of the race in the GT class and took BMW's first win in the Rolex Series since 2005.

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