THE RACE CARS
I photographed two types of racing cars in two different forms of competition: Formula One or Grand Prix cars and Sports Prototype and Sports/GT Cars in the World Endurance Championship.
Both are road racing series that can trace their origins back to the earliest forms of automobile competition. While some would argue the first automobile race took place the moment there were two cars, in 1894 the first organized races appeared. They were long city to city competitions designed to test the viability of the newly invented automobile. The Gordon Bennet Cup run from 1900 to 1905 introduced nationalism into automobile competition and the Automobile Club of France created the first Grand Prix in 1906. Fast forward to the 1930’s and the international tensions in pre-war Europe surfaced as battles fought on the racetrack in Grand Prix and endurance races.
From these foundations the modern era of Formula One began with first race of the World Driving Championship at Silverstone in 1950. In 1958 the Formula One World Constructor’s Championship started and this is significant because each team in Formula One designs and builds their own car. As a result, it is a competition to see who can creatively interpret the rules and produce the most sophisticated technologically advanced racecar. Innovation is the backbone of F1 and results in an extraordinary arena of automotive marvels. My brief time photographing F1 coincided with a remarkably fertile period of invention. I was in Las Vegas in 1982 for the introduction of the John Barnard designed carbon fiber composite chassis for the McLaren team. I saw the last efforts of the ground effects cars before they were banned in 1983 but was further amazed by the continued development of aerodynamics. I was also fortunate to witness extraordinary years of engine designs from the Cosworth DFV to the mighty Turbo Era.
Formula One Cars are lightweight (540kg/1,190lb), single seat open wheel vehicles powered by a four stroke engine with a maximum number of 12 cylinders or less. Its displacement must be 3000cc or less without supercharging, and with supercharging 1500cc or less. Performance statistics give no clue to their ferocious ability to accelerate, brake and corner. Photographs and television only hint at their actual performance. Watching a Formula One race trackside is like watching fighter jets in competition at ground level. A friend described them as rocket sleds. There were many moments when I didn’t believe what I saw.
I photographed at the following Grands Prix: 1982: Long Beach GP, Las Vegas GP; 1983: Long Beach GP, British GP (Silverstone), Germany (Hockenheim), Austria; 1984: Long Beach GP(CART), Dallas GP, Detroit GP, Monaco GP; 1985: Austrian GP, Belgian GP, British GP (Silverstone), Dutch GP, French GP (Paul Ricard), German (the new Nurburgring), Monaco GP.
I also photographed at the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1984 and 1985. The first Le Mans was in held 1923 and the current race distance of 13.629 km/8.469 miles is a combination of a permanent race course and closed public roads. It is a contemporary descendant of those early city to city races and winds itself through the La Sarthe countryside in a rough triangle between Le Mans and the villages of Mulsanne and Arnage. Drivers the love the track because it feels like you are actually going somewhere. There are multiple categories of cars ranging from sophisticated purpose built prototypes to production sports/GT cars. Teams of drivers, engineers and mechanics compete for 24 hours in a test of endurance and reliability as well as outright speed. The longest and most exciting days of my motorsports life were at the Le Mans 24 hour race and without exaggeration it was a profound experience.