Monaco: Into the Pits

The ritual of race photography begins by obtaining the photo credential.  The degree of difficulty varies race to race with the Monaco Grand Prix being toughest of all.  Until I actually arrived in Monte Carlo I had no idea how small an area it was. Days before the race the city was filling up with people and the congestion had only begun. I had heard that there were over four thousand applications for media credentials and I knew only a small percentage would be granted. Before Monaco I stopped in Paris to get a FISA card. The Fédération Internationale du Sport Automobile was the organizing body of motorsport and with a letter from Road & Track and some other references they issued me an ID card.  But the Automobile Club of Monaco has been running the race since 1925 and they have a nearly impossible situation granting credentials on their hands.  In their press center I presented my letter, my FISA card and my ID from the American Society of Magazine Photographers none of which seemed to impress the media official.  Panic was rising in me when Bernard Cahier walked over.  Bernard was an extraordinarily influential F1 journalist/photographer who was President and founding member of the International Racing Press Association.  Bernard asked the official what the problem was and after listening calmly repeated that I was an American photographing for Road & Track and had come a long way.  Then he simply stood there, not moving and silently stared directly into the eyes of the press officer who began to fidget, look through all my documents again, shrug and finally issue my credential.  Afterwards I caught up to Bernard to thank him and he smiled and said “It was nothing.”  I was now on the huge list of people in racing that Bernard Cahier had generously helped and I was deeply grateful.

The next day I walked down the streets towards the racetrack.  I followed the fencing until I came to an entrance that said authorized persons only and I walked through showing my hard won credential.  Suddenly I was in the pits and surrounded by what seemed like chaos.  The pits in Monaco were the most crowded and cramped I’d ever seen and I was having a hard time believing I was actually there.

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