Whatever your opinion about Sunday’s Australian GP (a farce of mismanagement and tire failure; the most exciting race for years, or; something in between), I’m guessing you were thinking at its conclusion something like “Never seen anything like that before!”
For my own part, I have never photographed anything like that race before, simply because there has never been a MotoGP race with a mandatory, scheduled pit stop before.
When the news first broke in the Media Center that the race would be divided into two sections by a mandatory pit stop, I started imaging in the fantastic images this would make possible.
But as I considered where I would set up in pit lane to photograph the mayhem of riders coming in to swap bikes, an announcement made its way through the media center that all but the official Dorna photographers would be banned from pit lane during the race.
The casual MotoGP fan may not realize just how much Grand Prix motorcycle racing means to the British. Similar to the long tradition of success for American riders, British motorbike history includes some great champions and an important legacy of cultural contributions to top level racing.
It has been a while since the British had a premier class champ, but just as America dominated for over a decade with Roberts, Spencer, Rainey, Lawson, and Schwantz, the British once ruled the two-wheeled world with such legendary names as Sheene, Read, Surtees, Duke, and perhaps the greatest of them all, Hailwood.
So the British Grand Prix is simply a weightier affair than a MotoGP race in a country without decades of tradition haunting the grandstands and paddock. This is especially true when there are British riders contending for victory in their home race.
Perhaps Cal Crutchlow wasn’t a favorite for victory, but many in the paddock feel that if any current rider is going to join Ben Spies as the only other non-alien to win a dry race, it will be Crutchlow, and if that is to happen, where better than at Silverstone?
The longer you spend trackside at a given circuit, the more you think you know what that circuit has to offer. The good shots are in this turn in the morning, that turn in the afternoon, and so on. It’s easy to hang on to this belief in spite of all evidence to the contrary.
The fact is that small changes in location or perspective can turn a good image into an amazing one. I see this all the time when shooting at a track such as Catalunya or Phillip Island, where the trackside view of the circuit is not limited by large fences and their gaps. Often a turn looks good from one spot, but if you move a few steps farther along, the perspective changes dramatically.
But the more days you spend shooting at a given circuit, the easier it is to think you have it wired. Laguna Seca is getting to be like that for me. I’ve been attending and photographing races there as an amateur and then a pro for many years. Good friend and fellow photographer Jules Cisek and I were commiserating in July about our shared feeling of being a bit bored with our home track. The weekend before we’d both been at the Sachsenring, he for the first time, I for the second, and that had seemed like blissfully undiscovered country.