The worst part of any MotoGP weekend is without doubt the traveling. Sitting around airports is monotonous, especially when traveling alone. No matter how meticulously you prepare, something will almost certainly come along and throw a spanner in the works.
When travelling to Amsterdam for the Assen race weekend it was the French air traffic control strike. Prior to that I had been fog bound in the Isle of Man on my way to Jerez. This time it was staff sickness which left me sitting around Gatwick airport for an extra three hours while the airline tried to sort it out.
I didn’t arrive at my hotel at Berlin airport until gone midnight. My plans for a relaxing that evening, watching the world cup with a couple of German beers, were ruined. Receiving an upgrade on my hire car did make up for the delay, and made the unrestricted German Autobahns fun.
Ask someone to name a motorcycle race held on public roads, chances are they will say the Isle of Man TT. The TT is not the only road race, far from it. In fact in a little over a week, practice for the Ulster Grand Prix begins, one of the most popular races on the road racing calendar.
For those of you not familiar with the event, it is held on the 7.732 mile Dundrod circuit near Belfast in Northern Ireland. The Ulster, as it’s referred to by road racing fans, was part of the inaugural Grand Prix motorcycle racing season in 1949, a place it held until 1971.
Unlike the TT’s time trial format, it’s a mass-start race and in recent years has been given the tag “The Fastest Road Race in the World”. The lap record currently stands to Bruce Anstey at an average speed of 133.977mph. Road racing legend Joey Dunlop holds the record for most wins with 24.
A question I pose to my photographer friends: why should I go to your site on a regular basis? For most of the photographers I work with, their websites are more like digital portfolios — selections of their best work, maybe a couple lines of prose to art things up, and a contact button. If they’re really savvy, maybe there are password-protected customer galleries available too…probably being hosted on SmugMug or some other prosumer service.
I get why that is the case, this is the online version of the physical portfolios that photographers used to carry around (some still do) to peddle their wares to editors and fans on race day. Maybe a few years ago, that is the kind of website I would have made as well. Show off my work, get my name out there, I’m starving damn it, buy my prints! Ah, but alas that’s not the kind of website that thrives in the cutthroat digital landscape — we want more, and for free.
As a publisher, I’m constantly juggling the interests of the photographers I work with with the needs and expectations of my readers. I want 10,000-pixel-wide shots that anyone can download without a watermark; that is after all what I would want if I was a reader of Asphalt & Rubber, and that is standard I use when trying to make decisions about this site. “Would I want to read this?” is a common question I ask myself.
For photographers, the game has traditionally been the opposite online. In a world of right-click-save-as, the opportunity for someone to snatch a high-resolution photo for just about any purpose is an easy one. There’s not much that can be done to stop it — for every trick, there’s a workaround. A for every click, money is being taken off the table. They only way to make sure your photo isn’t stolen when publishing online, is not to publish it, and even then…scanners.
I feel the plight for my photographer friends, and perhaps if my own shots were any good, I’d feel just as defensive about my hard work swirling around the interwebs with nary a check coming to my inbox. The game is brutal, and by the time you’ve finally “made it” as a bona fide pro-shooter, you’re on the backs of your feet trying to protect what you’ve worked so hard to earn.
Over the course of our many adventures, I’ve had the fortunate ability to debate these ideas with my good friend and colleague Scott Jones — maybe you’ve heard of him.
I absolutely love Scott’s work, he might be one of the most technically gifted photographers in the MotoGP paddock, and he has an amazing ability to pick-up on the subtleties of situations that are happening in a fraction of a second. I love the fact that I can look his work a dozen times, and each time come away seeing something I didn’t pickup on before. For as much of a bromance that we have brewing, I have however never been much of a fan of his website.
Sitting down to write about Catalunya has proven difficult. As far as Grand Prix weekends go, it went without a hitch.
I did have a minor problem with the GPS when I arrived in Barcelona. I entered the coordinates to my hotel and it came up with an address in Zaragoza 5 hours away. After a brief moment of panic, I came up with an ingenious idea. Why not try inputting the address, that did the trick.
For most of the grand prix I’ve covered this year, I’ve been fortunate enough to get a photographers vest. Having a vest gets me on the grid on race day, which provides a good opportunity for portraits of the riders, particularly as the tension starts to build.
Shooting the grid does however pose the question of where to shoot the race. If you have a scooter it’s not an issue. As I don’t have one, I have to plan ahead and either shoot around the start area or take my chances with the shuttle bus.
At Catalunya I didn’t have a vest, which therefore gave me a little more freedom to pick my location for the race. Also the layout of the track enabled me to go to several locations and get back for the podium without having to rely on the shuttle or cover too much ground on foot.
The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is one event I always look forward to on my annual calendar. It’s an event like none other on the globe. The 14,110 ft mountain is my canvas to do as I wish. It is refreshing. Fun. Exhausting. Frustrating. Dangerous. Nearly every emotion that could be thrown at a person in one week is something you are guaranteed to feel on this mountain.
My first year, 2012, I was in sheer awe of the mountain and the event itself, and it was even more special working with Ducati. My second year, 2013, I was overwhelmed with a sense of being part of history as Sebastian Loeb rocketed past me in his special built Peugeot 908 on course to obliterate the standing record. But this year, the mountain had a different feel. And not in a better way.
I was back working with Ducati. I love the team. I love the company. I love the brand. I don’t get to shoot motorcycle racing much, but when I do, it find it to be an exciting and exhilarating challenge. But this year, the mountain had changed. The race was soulless. It had no energy. It had no atmosphere.
What I do not want to do is make this a smear post. Or rain on the parade of a 92-year-old race. But change is needed. Some of you may have read my series of tweets from Sunday afternoon. I stand by what I said. Nothing was said in anger. Only frustration for the event that I very deeply care about. So what has changed?
Pikes Peak race day is a whole rainbow of emotions. At sunrise, you’re excited. Anticipation of the day is overwhelming. The thousands of cars filing up the two-lane mountain road are filled with people excited to see these gladiators tackle the famous mountain.
By 7:30 am, the first bikes are lining up to make their run, and the energy is reaching fever pitch, with the sun still low in the sky and the light near perfect. One by one, the bikes roar off, up the mountain. Then it comes. Red flag.
They’re a common sight at Pikes Peak, but immediately this one feels different. My friend on the summit texts me and says it’s serious and that Flight for Life is on the way. This is not how you want to start the race. We are not even an hour into the day.
An hour and a half later, an official walks up to the pole-sitter, who is next to go, whispers something in his ear, and the rider immediately drops to his knees, and puts his head in his hands. Bobby Goodin has passed away on the mountain in something of a freak accident, after he cross the finish line. It is the worst possible way to start the day. But the race goes on.
It’s hard to get back into the racing energy when you know something like this has happened. Add to that the sheer number of red flags don’t allow you to get back into the groove and keep your mind off of the tragedy that has occurred.
Many many hours later, and many many many red flags later, the day is done. Romain Dumas has claimed honors for the four-wheels. And Jeremy Toye, on a Kawasaki, has taken honors on two wheels — incredible since he wrapped the bike around a tree on Friday morning.
But despite the successes and the triumphs of many…..the day is still marred by many mistakes on the mountain. Horrific traffic, poor organization, and far too many red flags. It was not Pike’s Peak’s best day.
Respect for the mountain is not a question. It is a demand.