Six Hours of the Glen

Six Hours of the Glen

It will be a busy summer for me this year as I’ve been retained as a photographer by PRN, a Canadian motorsports publication.  Nearly all of my weekends will be monopolized by attending regional races and concours in addition to my commitment to cover the Women’s Rogers Cup Tennis Championship for a Canadian tennis website.

I just returned from a most satisfying weekend spent at the famed race track at Watkins Glen in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, only about five hours drive south of Toronto.   I was there to cover the 50th running of the Six Hours of the Glen, a historically important race of the IMSA series.   Throughout the 1980s, Mazda dominated the GTU category with their rotary engined Rx7 race cars which were legitimately derived from the road going models sold in their dealerships.   I felt it appropriate to drive my old 1985 Rx7 to Watkins Glen and also as spiritual support for the today’s Team Mazda’s DPI Prototype race car.  My car is loud, cramped, and without air conditioning is very hot on a typical summer’s day.  It was 31°C.   I could say I did it to put me in the proper frame of mind of what a race car driver would experience after six hours on a demanding track in a punishing hard core race car, but I would be lying.  I do it just to prove to myself that I still can and that I’m not yet too old.

I took the E-M1X and the E-M1.2 as backup body.  I used the Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO and Zuiko 300mm f/4 PRO with and without the MC14 tele extender with the X and a Sigma 85mm f/1.4 with Metabones Speedbooster 0.71x Ultra (equivalent 60mm f/1.0) with the Mark 2 body.  I used the X to shoot the moving cars and the Mark 2 to shoot people with all that wonderful background bokeh.   I wore a small backpack to carry one of the lenses not mounted and had my hands free by mounting both bodies onto a Cotton Carrier worn like a vest.  I needed my hands free so that I could ride the E-scooter I brought with me which allowed me fast and wide range of movement around the race track to give shots varied and fresh backgrounds lest they become derivative.  I rode nearly 10 km on race day and could never cover that much ground on foot and I could shoot until the last minutes of the race and still make it back to the victory podium to capture the celebration.  I saw many middle aged photographers with 3 FF bodies and telephoto lenses go out to only one spot on the track and basically stay there.  With so much gear and no mode of transport and a fading physique there is diminished motivation to get that iconic image, and that’s what you see in magazines today.

 

 

I’ve been following Team Mazda’s struggles over the past four years in IMSA racing and felt that this year (in fact this particular race) everything was finally in perfect alignment for a Mazda 1-2 victory.  The following are the edited images as they appear in PRN to showcase my motorsports photography and how well the Olympus m43 system works professionally.  I’ve covered technique in another blog entry from last summer.

Sir Jackie Stewart Grandstand at Turn #10, top (sixth level).
Sir Jackie Stewart Grandstand at Turn #10, top (sixth level). All the grandstands at Watkins Glen were replaced in 2012 and this one celebrates the famous Scottish F1 driver with 8 races at the Glen winning twice in 1968 and 1972.
Mazda #77 warms up for qualifiying lap.
Mazda #77 warms up for qualifying lap. Mazda #77 driven by Englishman Oliver Jarvis prepares for his qualifying lap on Saturday morning.
Mazda #77 shatters the Watkins Glen lap record to seize pole.
Mazda #77 shatters the Watkins Glen lap record to seize pole. Jarvis shatters the standing record by 2 seconds with a 1:29.639 lap to seize pole position for Team Mazda/Joest’s third time this season. The Mazda RT24-P has the smallest engine in the field but has displayed impressive speed albeit beset with reliability issues.
Mazda #55 Jonathan Bomarito prepares to drive.
Mazda #55 Jonathan Bomarito prepares to drive. American driver Bomarito confers with pit crew prior to his pre race warm up lap.
Mazda #55 drivers plan race strategy.
Mazda #55 drivers plan race strategy. Codrivers Jonathan Bomarito and Harry Tincknell exchange brief words prior to the start of the Six Hours of the Glen.
Mazda #55 Harry Tincknell enters the cockpit.
Mazda #55 Harry Tincknell enters the cockpit. English driver Tincknell prepares for his warm up lap in Mazda #55.
Mazda #55 driver Olivier Pla finishes his warmup lap.
Mazda #55 driver Olivier Pla finishes his warmup lap. French driver Olivier Pla betrays no impression regarding his completed warmup lap.
Mazda #55 codrivers in conversation.
Mazda #55 codrivers in conversation. Bomarito and Pla have an animated exchange of words after their warmup laps.
Mazda #77 driver Timo Bernhard prepares for his warmup lap.
Mazda #77 driver Timo Bernhard prepares for his warmup lap. German driver Timo Berhard dons his gear in preparation for his warmup lap.
Team Mazda/Joest pit crew member.
Team Mazda/Joest pit crew member. Modern safety standards require pit crew members to be attired for combat. Fortunately race day weather was very mild with low humidity.
Pit crew adjusting front tire pressure.
Pit crew adjusting front tire pressure. Likely responding to driver feedback, adjusting front tire pressure will vary the over/understeer dynamics of the car.
Pre-race fan walk pit lane.
Pre-race fan walk pit lane. open pit lane walk for all fans just prior to the start of the 50th running of the Six Hours of the Glen.
Percussion band in pit lane.
Percussion band in pit lane. The requisite percussion/marching band walks the pit lane. Downbeat Percussion are prolific, they played two gigs the very next day in Niagara Falls to celebrate Canada Day!
Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian
Team Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian. Changes in IMSA regulations this year require fueling by autonomous tanks. Driver can remain in the car and pit crew can work on the car during the fueling process. #86 is an Acura NSX, remember that!
Quick disconnect reconnects.
Quick disconnect reconnects. It appears that the unidentified driver is reconnecting the steering wheel prior to taking to the track.
#6 Penske Acura driver Juan Montoya showing his office to one of
#6 Penske Acura driver Juan Montoya showing his office to one of his daughters. Colombian driver and decorated F1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya (JPM) splits his time on the phone and with one of his daughter in the #6 Acura ARX-05 DPI car.
Juan Pablo Montoya relaxing before the race.
Juan Pablo Montoya relaxing before the race. Famed Colombian driver JPM occupies his down time playing a race simulation on his phone.
The WeatherTech Girls
The WeatherTech Girls. WeatherTech is the leading sponsor for the entire IMSA race series and the WeatherTech Girls bely the frankly boring, unsexy but excellent quality floor mats that the company manufactures. Race Girls have a long tradition but in this era with more and more female drivers is it not time for some Race Boys?
50th Six Hours of the Glen formation lap.
50th Six Hours of the Glen formation lap. Opening formation lap at the Essess.
50th Six Hours of the Glen formation lap.
50th Six Hours of the Glen formation lap. Penske/Acura #6 (Montoya/Cameron) qualified second but a tire pressure alarm forced that car to start the race at the very rear of the pack.
First accident after the green flag.
First accident after the green flag occurred within the first incomplete lap at the high speed Essess, the tire track evidence speaks for itself. Corvette #4 and Mercedes AMG #33 were eliminated from the race.
GT Daytona contender Turner Motorsports #86 BMW M6
GT Daytona contender Turner Motorsports #96 BMW M6. The driver of the BMW M6 has a quick glance at the row of photographers. The car finished second in its GTD category.
GT Daytona Pfaff Motorsports Porsche GT3 R
GT Daytona Pfaff Motorsports Porsche GT3 R. Some Canadian content for our readers. Pfaff also fields two Canadian drivers, Steve Hargrove from Surrey, BC and Zach Robichon from Ottawa. The team finished 6th in GTD.
LMP2 contender PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports #52
LMP2 contender PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports #52 Oreca. First place finish in the LMP2 category where only two cars competed, although it did finish 10th overall and ahead of one DPI car.
Bus Stop chicane traffic.
Bus Stop chicane traffic. Several winning cars happen to bunch together early in the race at the “Bus Stop” chicane at Watkins Glen.
Bus Stop chicane traffic V2.
Bus Stop chicane traffic V2. Again some winning cars happen to collect early in the race at the Bus Stop chicane at Watkins Glen.
GT Daytona contender Team Montaplast by Land #29  Audi R8
GT Daytona contender Team Montaplast by Land #29 Audi R8. #29 Audi R8 is more Canadian content with Markham, ON driver Daniel Morad. The car finished 8th in GTD.
GT Le Mans contender Corvette Racing #3 Corvette C7 R
GT Le Mans contender Corvette Racing #3 Corvette C7 R. After losing sister car #4, Corvette #3 soldiered on and finished second in GTLM. Here exiting corner #9 at Watkins Glen. (as an aside, I always wonder if using a circular polarizing filter would eliminate the reflective glare on the windscreen and allow us to more clearly see the driver. But then would I even have enough time to adjust the filter and take the shot too?)
Mazda #77 in the lead.
Mazda #77 takes an early and commanding lead from the start and continues the lead through the first third of the race. On the rising straight between Corner #7 and Corner #8 overlooking the neck of the “Boot” at Watkins Glen.
DPI contender JDC Miller Motorsports #84 Cadillac DPI V-R
DPI contender JDC Miller Motorsports #84 Cadillac DPI V-R is sitting out a timed penalty in pit lane for an unknown infraction. Two hours earlier it had tangled with Lamborghini #77 in Turn #5. (you need to qualify to shoot in the pits during the race since its a dangerous area so one workaround is to get to the highest level of a grandstand so that the catchment fencing is no longer in view and shoot at high focal length, e.g. Zuiko 300mm + MC14)
Mazda Duo command the lead at Turn #1.
Mazda Duo command the lead at Turn #1. With under two hours left in the race, Mazda #77 driven by Tristan Nunez and Mazda #55 driver by Olivier Pla command the lead despite being on different race strategies. The duo is being held up by #5 Action Express Cadillac who is two laps down but refuses to cede position like he should (since he is not in contention for the lead).
Penske Acura #6 is in  third place at Turn #1.
Penske Acura #6 is in third place at Turn #1. Despite starting the race from pit lane after the rest of the grid has cleared, #6 overcame the lap deficit by the 3rd hour and continues to threaten Mazda on Acura’s quest to win a third consecutive race this season.
Whelen Team Engineering  #31 Cadillac DPI V-R
Whelen Team Engineering #31 Cadillac DPI V-R. The Whelen Team is having a bad day. In the early minutes of the race, the car cut a tire and went off Corner #8. It lost a lap struggling to return to the pits and another lap as the team struggled with replacing the rear wing and engine cover. They finished 7th and lost the points lead to Penske Acura #6.
JDC MIller Motorsports #85 Cadillac DPI V-R
JDC MIller Motorsports #85 Cadillac DPI V-R. Also not a great day for the other Cadillac DPI team. #85 was also beset with misfortune after #96 Turner BMW M6 made contact with it at midrace breaking one of the Cadillac’s wheel. After it was replaced the car continued to run well as shown here.
GT Le Mans contender Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67 Ford GT
GT Le Mans contender Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67 Ford GT ultimately takes third place in the GTLM category.
Fourth and final yellow flag caution.
Fourth and final yellow flag caution. With about an hour and a half to go, LMP2 #38 collides with the #911 Porsche and #25 BMW in the Boot and the final and fourth yellow flag rises. Here Cadillac #5 rushes past the recovery and cleanup vehicles even though he is not allowed to improve his position during the yellow flag.
Still under the yellow flag.
Still under the yellow flag. GT Daytona contender Scuderia Corsa WeatherTech #63 Ferrari 488 at a leisurely pace under the yellow flag ultimately finishes 3rd in GTD.
One hour and seven minutes to go, and the flag is green!
One hour and seven minutes to go, and the flag is green! The yellow flag allowed #6 Acura to vaporize the Mazda lead to nothing. #6 and Mazdas #77 and #55 pitted together and Montoya/Acura won the race out of the pits and seized the lead for the first time. Here Montoya is shown as top speed through the Esses as indicated by the increased wheel rotational blurring and lateral background blurring. My panning speed also had to increase which I’m proud to say was spot on given the sharp focus of the race car. (as an aside, some photographers used a monopod to stabilize their massive lenses and pan smoothly, I just turned off the horizontal sensor stabilization and achieved the same result)
GT Le Mans contender Porsche GT Team #911 RSR
GT Le Mans contender Porsche GT Team #911 RSR. Recovering well from a collision made by LMP2 #38, #911 goes on to win the GTLM class by only less than half a second over Corvette #3.
The Mazda Duo chase Montoya for 16 laps.
The Mazda Duo chase Montoya for 16 laps. For the next sixteen nail biting laps, the Dynamic Duo chase Montoya in his Acura for the lead as the clock counts down the final hour.
LMP2 Performance Tech Motorsports #38 Oreca
LMP2 Performance Tech Motorsports #38 Oreca. This car was responsible for so much strife during the race and finished a remarkable 2nd place in the LMP2 class – when only two cars competed in that class. And an equally remarkable 20 laps down. Included here for Canadian content since one of the drivers in Cameron Cassels of Coldstream, BC.
GT Daytona Winner, Meyer Shank Racing #86 Acura NSX
GT Daytona Winner, Meyer Shank Racing #86 Acura NSX. I told you to remember #86.
Forty minutes to go.
Forty minutes to go. Mazda #55 driven by Harry Tinckwell manages to find a passing line in Turn #8 and takes the lead from Montoya. Now Mazda #77 needs to find its own solution (and does!).
The race is over.
The race is over and Mazda #77 codriver, American Tristan Nunez is walking towards Mazda #55 to congratulate team mate Harry Tincknell for winning the Six Hours of the Glen.
Mazda #77 Oliver Jarvis emerges.
Mazda #77 Oliver Jarvis emerges. Jarvis wins 2nd place in a neck and neck 1-2 finish but he doesn’t appear particularly pleased as he emerges from Mazda #77. Did the team receive orders to allow #55 to win?
Don't forget, always wear your sponsor's hat.
Don’t forget, always wear your sponsor’s hat. Oliver Jarvis is handed a Michelin hat to wear immediately after he removes his helmet. Those photo ops must be perfect.
Mazda #55 enters the victory podium with an extra passenger.
Mazda #55 enters the victory podium with an extra passenger. Mazda’s North American Motorsport Director John Doonan hitches a ride with Harry Tincknell and the winning Mazda #55 as they enter the victory podium. The Japanese characters on John’s paddle says hisshõ  “to be sure of victory”.
Mazda #55 at the victory podium.
Mazda #55 at the victory podium. John Doonan is with Harry Tincknell. Mazda #55 is shown with the failing engine cover that refused to stay closed during the last 12 minutes of the race but it apparently was not severe enough to extract an aerodynamic penalty.
Victory  .... Chocolate Milk?
Victory …. Chocolate Milk? John Doonan shares his victory drink of chocolate milk with Harry Tincknell. It was a ritual drink that Doonan shared with his father when they raced at the track.
You can't spray chocolate milk.
You can’t spray chocolate milk. A jubilant Harry Tincknell upends the mug of chocolate milk over the head of John Doonan, Mazda’s North American Motorsports Director at the victory podium. But why is the Michelin Man trying to clean Harry’s racing suit?
There really is enough to go around.
There really is enough to go around. Harry Tincknell hasn’t forgotten his team mates Jonathan Bomartio and Olivier Pla and has found plenty of chocolate milk at the bottom of the mug. The Michelin Man confoundingly continues to try and clean off Harry’s racing suit!

The Mazda mantra is “Never stop challenging” and this philosophy carried them to success after years of trying to win Le Mans.  Now that the small company is securely in the black with the success of products like the Mazda 3, CX-5 and CX-9, Mazda has reported it intends to go upmarket by developing its own straight six Skyactiv-X engine which may be shared with Toyota for their second generation Lexus RC model.   Continued IMSA success is also a stepping stone back to Le Mans where all the bespoke car brands compete in order to satisfy the bragging rights of their niche market of purchasers.

Photographically, I think the images with identifiable people in them have that really extra punch.  Even if it’s just the partial view of the drivers helmet inside the speeding race car.  As much as I am an avowed motorhead, I can easily admit that most race images are similar and boring.  That’s why my favourite image is the early one of the yellow Turner BMW M6, it’s not in perfect focus so technically imperfect but the slight blurriness of the hood in contrast to the sharp relief amidships and back give the impression that it is leaping forward.  And then the pièce de résistance is the clear sharp view of the driver’s visor further giving the impression that he’s staring at you like Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver.

 

Addendum:

I was reading an issue of Autoweek and spied an Acura advertisement on the back cover featuring the Acura/Penske #7 DPI car at speed.  Very similar to the shot I took of Montoya in #6 late in the race when he finally seized the lead.  Acura probably paid big bucks for a big professional to come in with his FF Nikon to take that shot but I would say that mine with the m43 system is arguably sharper and with the more relevant car since #6 has been winning much more than #7.  You decide.

AcuraComparo

Addendum #2

I alluded earlier to the crippling weight of equipment inhibiting the professional photographer from getting dynamic, unique images.  This is clearly an advantage of the m43 system since I insist on being as mobile as possible when shooting something like an auto race where the event occurs over a sprawling, large area.   I saw some young photographers rent electric golf carts to help them carrying all their heavy equipment to multiple points along the race track but some races like the Toronto Honda Indy or any of the Formula E races occur within metropolitan city centers on closed off city streets.  These race tracks are hastily constructed with multiple layers of fencing, very restrictive to photograph and very restrictive to move amongst.  In the recent Toronto Indy I was trying to approach Turn #8 where two accidents occurred but the designed pathway had been zipped tied shut and the organization could not seem to communicate corrective measures even when this was raised with management during the race morning’s photographers’ meeting.   Management also promised to speak to Security to allow photographers to walk by pit lane en route to Turn 8 as a compromise solution, even those without Pit Lane passes since we weren’t actually going to dangerous pit lane but walking past it.  But Security would not let me do that.  No wonder that legendary motorsports magazines like UK’s Autosport and Italy’s Auto Sprint end up with boring and derivative images like these:

Autosport1

Autosport2Autosprint1

In addition to bad management, heat and physical toil have an impact on demotivating photographers to get those exciting dynamic race images.  The m43 system kept me carrying minimal weight, kept me cooler and my underdog determination also fueled my resolve to get something worthy of being a professional photojournalist.  The below are mine that Autosport and Auto Sprint really owe to their readership, not the tired and jaded half hearted efforts of their staff photographers.

Sage Karam driving the SmartStop Sefl Storage car of Team Carlin

Simon Pagenaud in the DXC Technology car.

Pole position by Frenchman Simon Pagenaud.

I found that the coverage by France’s Auto Hebdo more nuanced with regard to Toronto as the setting of the race, and after all Canada was French first.  So we had better photographs featuring some interesting Toronto architecture.

Screen Shot 2019-07-24 at 7.23.59 PMScreen Shot 2019-07-24 at 7.24.08 PM

And these are mine:

Pagenaud woud go on to win the race.

Alexander Rossi will claim third place in the race.
I think Auto Hebdo cropped in too tight in their photo and left out the top of the iconic 1927 Princes’ Gate with the Winged Goddess of Victory, at Toronto’s Exhibition Center.