And snow, sun, dust, fog, rain. Indoors and outdoors, at the track, in the forests… Streaming eyes and sunburn from time to time, chills and blisters at others. Still no tears though. Just another year of Speedhunting. My opening thought is little different to my fellow Speedhunters: that it’s only through looking back at my picture archive that I’ve been able to put context on the passing of another year, let alone being able to remember what actually happened during the last 12 months. Going back and choosing pictures is a surprisingly tough and time-consuming thing to do: I echo what Mike said in his summary, that pictures are often triggers for personal emotions as much as anything else.
(Above) Kadett makes a splash
Like a lot of you, I’ve been yearning for more rally coverage here on Speedhunters, and bit by bit we’re getting there. Sean tagged along with the WRC in Mexico, and I hit a number of classic events and shows through the year. This Opel Kadett splashing through the water was from my visit to the Eifel Rallye in August, but there had been plenty more in the months previous to that. In fact, let’s start back in January…
My year had started off in Norway with a last minute trip to Gatebil On Ice. Having witnessed the autumn Rudskogen event the previous September, seeing the same cars on a very different surface was wild. Kitted out in ski gear, standing on a creaking (hopefully) frozen lake, surrounded on all sides by sideways cars driven by grinning Scandinavian lunatics, the hangover I felt the next day after the late night partying made the whole thing even more surreal and hard to believe.
Daytona is one of the world’s most iconic tracks: the name conjures up decades of racing on sand and tarmac, and even if the oval road course isn’t necessarily a killer layout, the fact it’s Daytona still resonates. I was out there to see the launch of the new Z4 GTE car, but can’t deny that the highlights were the passenger laps in the M3 GT2 courtesy of factory pilot Maxime Martin and the hour or so I got to spend with a Daytona veteran of yesteryear, this beautiful 1975 CSL.
Following snow chills and then sunburn, good old British mud brought me back down to earth. The Race Retro show in February was the perfect warm-up for larger events I’d attend later in the year, with the opportunity to catch rally legends from 50 years of the sport doing what they do best. Off the leash, they soon turned the clipped grass and pathways into a muddy, slippery fun park. 60, left over crest, cut!
I still hoard precious catalogues from attending the odd international motorshow as a kid, so being able to attend the Geneva Auto Salon in March, perhaps the most glamorous international show, was quite an event. The traditional season opener, this year was made even more special by the big guns facing off against each other with extreme new hypercar launches. McLaren, Ferrari, Bugatti and Pagani were all left gasping in the wake of the ultra extreme Veneno. Love it or hate it, you couldn’t ignore it…
Back across the Pond later that month, I found myself in upstate Connecticut, following up a lead on a very special Chrysler: the one owned by John Lennon during his New York residency. I’d arrived slightly freaked out, when my iPod had randomly played a Lennon cover just as I pulled up to the owner’s residence; I was told that wasn’t an unusual occurrence. The size of it was equally confusing, like a supertanker wallowing around on a go-kart wheelbase, but it was a hell of a machine.
Varied didn’t begin to sum up the opening salvo of 2013: come April I was heading down to the south coast of the UK to hit up the opening round of the European Rallycross Championship. Rallycross has to be one of the most ferocious motorsports out there: a cross between drag racing, rallying and cage fighting.
The legendary Brooklands oval is relatively close to home for me, though I don’t get there as often as I’d like. The arrival of a leviathan Mercedes-Benz dealership on site seems to have done nothing but good for the crumbling track and its reputation, as the showroom is backed up by a simply breathtaking collection of classic Mercedes road and race cars, all open to the public. The following month, I’d be able to see this car’s descendant smashing the Group C field at Donington.
I feel all Spinal Tap about the McLaren F1 road car. Should I even look, let alone point? So to sit in one… I saw them in racing guise on TV every so often, and had models and books, and eventually caught a rare glimpse of one in the wild – but the chance to have an F1 to myself for a morning to shoot was a quasi-religious experience. I had to ask twice whether I could get inside (‘to get a better angle’) as I didn’t believe the answer had been affirmative the first time of asking. In the classic papaya orange, it just doesn’t get any better than this.
McLaren’s dalliance with road cars in the ’90s has now become considerably more industrial in scale with the launch of the MP4-12C. In parallel with the F1, a racing version wasn’t originally planned, but customer pressure forced McLaren’s hand – and this was the result. All wings and splitter, the GT3 puts to bed any issues people might have with the base 12C looking too conservative: this thing is a beast!
You can’t beat visiting a classic Grand Prix circuit. I love the thrill, the tingle up the spine, of imagining the vision of cars that have driven on the tarmac over the years. Sometimes I find myself daydreaming, imagining back to yesterday and believing that I can hear the guttural sound of a Cosworth V8 and James Hunt’s McLaren M26 muscling around the deserted track. Was it real? If I was back in 1976 shouldn’t I have been at Jarama rather than Barcelona? Maybe it was a dream after all…On a roll from here to eternity
Through a relentless April and May, rushing around the UK from event to event and factory to factory, I knew things wouldn’t slow down from here on in. So it was almost a shock to attend the BHP show at Lydden Hill in purely a photographer’s role, rather than also thinking about story lines. For once I had the liberating position of being able to think more about the how rather than why. And as a former Beetle owner the bug hasn’t left me…
We’ve been proud to partner up with Aston Martin at a number of events this year during their centenary celebrations, and at their Nordschleife parade I had a fantastic time experiencing the track whilst leaning out of the window, part of 100 Aston Martins out on track. It’s not often you can be out on track and have time to drink up the epic rollercoaster that is the Nordschleife.
The 24 Hours itself proved to be a game of two halves, with utterly torrential rain ruining the overnight phase. Did that lessen the challenge for all involved? Hardly, and the positive was at least there were cars left that could still compete come the drizzly dawn. 170 cars in those conditions would have meant decimation.
That’s Indianapolis the corner of course… Frankly, you can’t claim to like sports car racing and not have a soft spot for Vipers. The glorious Iron Age machinery that dominated GT at the turn of last century now runs in slightly more modern trim, but is still gloriously over the top. I couldn’t wait to see them at the Le Mans 24 Hours, and could barely wait to get trackside for the first practice session. A very warm welcome back to Le Mans, Chrysler.
24 hour races are an all-arms struggle, and the coming of the dawn is just another hour ticking over for the teams and drivers. But there’s more emotion in the tribunes, an appreciation of the survival aspect. With the cars emerging from the darkness into the half light, fans around the track struggle to see if ‘their’ car has made it thought the night – and if so, in what state. Fatigue might be kicking in, but the joy of a 24-hour race keeps you going.
As part of my little mini-trek around France for Le Mans, I also ticked off another couple of places I’d been meaning to visit: the Montlhéry oval near Paris, the notorious Charade track near Clermont Ferrand and then the Musée Matra at Romorantin, a temple which revels in V12s. There are few things as beautiful, either visually or aurally.
If the Goodwood Festival Of Speed was a person, you probably couldn’t help but probably dislike them, purely through jealousy. Too good looking, too knowledgeable, too popular… The best of everything. Polite. Inclusive. Just generally the nicest person possible. Curse you, Goodwood! This year was no different, with an almost frustrating amount of incredible machinery on show that even the expanded four days of the event struggle to give enough time for. The concept cars display on the lawn was simply stunning – they were all beautiful, with this Mercedes C111 just one jewel in a studded crown.
Although I absolutely love the sprawling paddocks and show runs up the hill at Goodwood, I do like getting my feet dirty. The long trek up the hill to the Rally Stage is a must, and was the second step on my lightweight but improving rally calendar. With the claustrophobic trees hemming in the narrow, twisting stage, it’s easy to get caught in the emotion of the moment and think that perhaps you’re in a Finnish forest – especially when an airborne Toyota comes flying past you, trailing dirt and dust, leaving you with the pops and bangs as it disappears behind the trees.
I slotted in a scouting mission to the Eifel Rallye the day before the Spa 24 Hours. Driving for six hours seemed like a sensible idea before a round-the-clock sports car race, after all… But was it worth it? A dozen or so quattros, Martini-striped Lancias and more said yes. And they jumped! If the crest on the Goodwood Rally Stage allowed a vaguely square-on launch, the tarmac hump on the second Special Stage of the Eifel was more like a ski jump…
This year’s Spa 24 Hours marked the first time I’d managed to make it out for the mass driver parade from the circuit down to the old town itself. Sometimes things just line up in the viewfinder that you know will make an interesting picture: this was just one of those moments.
Shooting at night is equal parts ecstasy and panic. Cameras now have such good lowlight performance that they can carry on gathering light well past dusk, reducing the machine gun flashing that surely must send the drivers crazy. Shots like this make me forget the tiredness, the aching feet and sore shoulders, the resignation of the long walk back to the media centre, and instead instil a sense of serene calm. These are the kind of moments when taking a picture would feel superfluous, if it wasn’t a job: I just want to enjoy the sensory overload of the low light, glowing brakes, revving engines and blinding headlights.
When four digit horsepower figures are the norm, you know you’re somewhere special. I dropped by extreme Porsche surgeons 9ff to see what madness they’d been up to. Quite a lot, it turned out. As if their tuned-up 911s aren’t impressive enough, the range of GT9 spaceframed turbo destroyers tipped me over the edge. And I’m a sucker for Gulf colours. It was like they were doing it deliberately…
I just stood there laughing. I mean, almost every car going past was shooting out flames so long that I could have sat back at the hotel and shot the race from there. It’s was as close to heaven as I could ask to get: a field of classic monsters from the DRM era, including more M1 Procars than should be legal, enough Porsche 935s for me to have a funny turn and a whole slew of other rarities. The Oldtimer Grand Prix at the Nürburgring: another moment of disbelief for 2013.
The one that got away
In fact, there were many that got away this year; events where clashing schedules or looming deadlines prevented either delving deeper, or, as in the case of this year’s Goodwood Revival, even managing to get a story up at all. It’s a topic I’ll be addressing later; as mentioned at the beginning, for a lot of us this is the first chance we’ve had to take stock of 2013 and Goodwood is just one place I’d like to revisit. Stay tuned!