2013 Barcelona 24 Hours. Behind the mayhem

crankandpiston takes you behind the camera lens at the 2013 Barcelona 24 Hours to show you just what it is like to capture a full day of racing action, and carnage.  

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At the start of the year I had never shot a 24-hour race, or a race even a third of that length. We’re now into September and I’ve just returned from Spain having shot my third 24-hour event of the year, the first two being in Dubai and at the Nürburgring. And I’m completely spent. You see, these endurance events are quite a departure from my usual touring car escapades, with bumper rubbing and paint swapping exchanged for strategy, efficiency and – above all – endurance.

My third sojourn into the 24-hour endurance world was the Barcelona 24 Hours, and the weekend started at 4am on Friday with a dash to the airport, an occasionally bearable budget flight and several hours tracking down a Spanish hire car. All of which meant that I arrived a little dazed at the Circuit de Catalunya – home of the Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix – already knackered and with a full 48 hours of non-stop action still to go.

A quick stroll down the paddock confirmed that the usual diverse selection of teams were in attendance. The cars ranged from those that appeared to have been driven straight off the showroom forecourt to home-grown machines only vaguely resembling their road-going counterparts. Plus of course the usual selection of Aston Martins, Porsches, Ferraris and Mercedes’.

Before long, it was time for qualifying, with all drivers required to complete three laps. The already high-pressure session was intensified by a sudden and impressive deluge of rain (this seems to keep happening to me) complete with thunder and lightning. The obligatory six-hour night practice session later on gave me a chance to experiment with night shots. It’s always fun but even with modern cameras and their high ISO speeds, it’s a good idea to hunt down sections of the track that are lit by other cars, street lighting and even buildings.

Come Saturday morning, I was on a swamped Barcelona 24H grid, complete with meticulously prepared cars, fresh-faced drivers, team personnel and all manner of fans and media representatives: as you can imagine, wielding a camera lens in that situation can be a tad tricky. At 12pm, we were ushered off the grid ahead of the formations laps, and after a seemingly endless green flag sighter, high-pitched engine sounds signaled the arrival of a snarling 58–strong pack, and the start of the race. Requisite start shot taken, there was just time to get some stock racing images in the bank before heading off to seek out interesting angles.

I always enjoy shooting from spectator areas. On the one hand I like finding frames that members of the public (whom often bemoan trackside photographers and their trackside access cards) don’t find, but I also think it tells a story about the event. You can see how many spectators are in attendance, whether they are standing with elation or bored too tears watching a processional race.



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