Thursday, August 4, 2011

Follow Me To Mid Ohio for Indycar & American LeMans Series Battles

IZOD Indycar Series points leader Dario Franchitti crests the hill in Mid Ohio's "esses"
My first trip to Mid Ohio was in 1982, a scant three years after CART was formed back when the late Jim Trueman owned the track and Red Roof Inn signs were everywhere. I went as a spectator that year and I recall shooting a Tom Sneva spin in the esses with my puny camera equipment and thinking there's got to be a better way. Two years later, I started my journey as a motorsports photographer at the Indy 500 with United Press International and my life has not been the same since.

I had to miss last year's Indycar/American LeMans Series weekend due to a credential snafu, but that has been rectified and my assistant and I will be leaving early tomorrow morning to begin working the event. in 2009, I made the trip solo for all three days of on track activity and remember sitting in Victory Lane after the Indycar race Sunday afternoon feeling totally spent, as the weekend was hot and humid and I had walked untold miles to shoot what I needed for American Motor Journal. Naturally there was rain mixed in during the weekend, as it always seems to rain at least once during the Indycar weekend at Mid Ohio. I can't even count the number of times it has rained, then stopped and dried up, then rained some more, making tire choice an essential element of any team's race winning strategy. That is one of the things I love about this race weekend. The weather is unpredictable. Wets, reds and blacks will probably all get used. Driver talent means more here than almost anywhere. Hills, valleys, blind corners, the kink. Signature turns like the Keyhole, the Carousel and the esses - also known as "Madness". Much to like as a photographer.

Scott Dixon navigates the keyhole in 2009
This year the IZOD Indycar series points battle is headed by Dario Franchitti with only seven more races to go, including this weekend. In 2009, Scott Dixon dominated this race and won. He needs to have a similar weekend to make up ground on his Target Ganassi teammate Franchitti and Penske rival Will Power. Scottie D cannot jump past Power into second place in the series points standings this weekend, but he can sure add a lot of pressure to the championship race if he does well and Dario and Power have trouble. Lord knows trouble can be just around the next bend at Mid Ohio, and with the recent announcement of several drivers being placed on probation by Indycar, everyone will need to mind their manners and get to the final pit stop so the real racing can begin. Dario and Power are likely to continue their season long battle at the front as each now has four wins with Power the most recent winner at Edmonton two weeks ago. After this weekend, there are three road courses and three oval tracks remaining to close out the season, so if anyone is going to make a championship charge, this is the weekend to get it started.

Two Compuware Corvettes compete in the ALMS GT class.
Aside from the physical beauty and natural competitiveness of the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course is another reason I am thrilled to be going back this weekend.  The multi-class racing in the American LeMans Series is a spectacle in itself. The machines are simply gorgeous, have a variety of engine notes which reverberate through places like Thunder Valley leading to the Carousel, and the series provides intense sports car action all around the track. All the big names in high end sports cars compete tn the same time with the full blown prototypes:  Corvette, Porsche, BMW, Jaguar, among others.  It would be nice if there were more prototypes and I sure wish the Audi diesels would come back to the ALMS, but you can't have everything. As the ALMS is a leader in environmentally friendly motorsports competition, it will be great to witness and photograph the variety which is a hallmark of this great series.

Dyson Racing ran an ALMS Mazda prototype in 2009

Another reason I am excited to get back to Mid Ohio is I had the chance to drive the course myself in 2006 when I took the competition driving course in the Acura Mid Ohio School. By no means does driving an Acura TSX compare to what the Indycar and ALMS drivers will do this weekend, but in my mind's eye, I see every corner and rumble strip as though I were behind the wheel. I drove faster than I ever had in my life then and loved every second of it, so I understand why these pros enjoy coming to Mid Ohio so much. And I am fortunate to have the chance to take their photographs while they wring this course's neck for the next three days.

My next blog post will most likely be from the racetrack, and it will be my 300th post since starting this blog in early 2007. Much has changed in my personal life since then but the constants have been racing photography and hitting the road to chase this crazy passion I have for motorsports. I hope you catch the bug soon. If you do, then look me up at the track. Or follow me on Twitter @alleygroup. See you soon!

Flying Lizard Motorsports will be back with their signature Porsche in the ALMS GT class this weekend

1 comment:

Steve Alley said...

Great preview! We'll see you in two days.