I’m sitting here in the media center at Road Atlanta watching a very wet support race. The track is looking rather flooded right now and yesterday’s extreme heat and humidity is rapidly fading from memory. But before we swamp the site with coverage from the start of Petit Le Mans 2009, I want to quickly convey what I got up to yesterday.
Early start times seem to be the defacto standard for international level motorsports events and Petit Le Mans is no exception. Linhbergh and I were expected to report to the Media Center at Road Atlanta for 07:15 for the photographers’ briefing.
This meant getting up before sunrise, bleck! You can see we’re both looking like zombies in this shot.
There are strict safety rules that you have to follow at these events and the organizers make sure there is no question as to what is acceptable behavior. Here Andy Blackmore is reading up on the protocols.
So photo vests in hand we had a look around the paddock and stopped in to say hello to our friends at Falken. We actually don’t know too many people in their sports car team as it’s almost 100% a different operation from the drift squad.
I just had to grab a snap of this Viper… it was exuding serious amounts of badassness…
We then reported in with the BMW crew.
Linhbergh and I are shadowing Tommy Milner as he’s going to be writing a guest blog for Speedhunters about his Petit Le Mans experiences.
Practice was about to start so I headed over to the pitwall to see the session from the perspective of the Rahal Letterman team.
Note the Three Ms for driver names: Milner, Mueller and Mueller. Some kind of M3 theme happening there!
I was pretty excited to see our Speedhunters logo adorning the number 92 car. We’ve never had our logo on such a high profile race car previously!
Behind it the number 90 car was also ready to go out on track.
For this event touring car ace Andy Priaulx is doing a guest appearance. We’ll look at his experiences at with the car in more detail soon.
Tommy seemed pretty chilled out as the session got under way. It’s just a normal day at the office for him.
It was his team mate Dirk Mueller who had the honour of doing most of the session running.
After one installation lap the car came back into the pits for some standard checks. The engine had been changed the day before, so the team wanted to make sure everything was ok.
Like any international level race, Rahal Letterman Racing have two booths set up on the pitwall to monitor progress and control the proceedings. Each of the monitors is showing a different camera feed, allowing the team to spot the M3s on different parts of the course.
The man himself, Bobby Rahal keeps a watchful eye over the race team’s activities.
Without access to the team radio or the monitor bank, I had very little sense of what was happening out on track. But our team of shooters were on course capturing some fantastic images.
It’s funny how the more events I go to around the world, the more I bump into people I know. This is “Scamp”, a race engineer from Dunlop whose dedicated to the M3 program. I originally met him at the Autosport Show in the UK this past January through Andy Barnes from EDC/Time Attack.
So as the two M3 GT2s pounded around the circuit Tommy and crew were left to wait for its next stop. Tommy is watching the lap times and camera feed built in to the front of the control booth.
Here’s the car coming in for some checks and new rubber.
After each tire change Scamp would report to the pod to show the engineers the data from the last set of rubber to come off the car.
Speaking of tires Rahal Letterman have a guy whose job it is to clean the wheels as soon as they come off the car. Talk about professionalism!
BTW I’m not allowed over the pitwall, but John Brooks, being the THE MAN in these circles has full permission to walk about the pit lane. There are several levels of photo accreditation at Petit Le Mans and John has a lot more rights than Linhbergh and I.
Tommy eventually got himself a radio so he could listen in on the pits-to-car communication.
I decided to leave him here to shoot from across the pit straight, back at the BMW pits.
Along the way there I spotted the Falken Porsche sitting in the pits. You can see the team is cleaning out gravel from the car. Apparently it had suffered a little trip into the gravel
There’s John with his special “Red” all access photo vest.
By the time I got into position across the track, Tommy had donned his race helmet and was ready for action.
I should also point out this is the first time I’ve seen the Peugeot being driven in anger. With its low line silhouette the prototype certainly looks the part and seems untouchable in the speed department this weekend. Petit Le Mans 2009 is Peugeot’s event to lose.
In terms of outright pace, Audi’s just don’t seem to be able to compete. However they have some amazing talent behind the wheel, so perhaps this will make a difference.
Eventually the ’92 BMW came into the pitlane. Tommy is about to jump down into the pitlane.
The driver change was done with the same type of urgency you’ll find from a racing pitstop. in the blink of an eye, Tommy was in the car. Here Dirk helps him get the belts tight.
And then Tommy’s away!
Unfortunately for him the ’90 car immediately had an off which broughtout the red flag.
So the Tommy had to come back in and wait for the track to get cleared. Note all the crew members watching the replay of the incident.
And then the session was on again for a few minutes…. I tried my hand at a few trackside shots, but the session ended fairly quickly.
As I walked back to the media area, completely drenched with sweat, I spotting this blacked out M3. Looks pretty serious!
Ok I hope you liked this little vignette into what happens on the pitwall during a practice session. The race is going to be starting in an hour or so and I need to get prepped to start our coverage.