Trackside Tuesday: Up Over Down Under

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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.

This received a cool welcome from the photographers, as we saw this opportunity for unique images taken away as quickly as it had appeared. But with some reflection we realized it was was clearly the right move. Had Dorna not made this decision, nearly every photographer with pit lane access would’ve been there for laps 8-11, making an already hectic scene even more dangerous.

So instead we huddled in groups to plan strategies, considering where we might go to get some perspective of the pit lane action during the bike swapping. We considered the roof that overlooks pit lane, but that was also taken away as an option because it’s used for the VIP hospitality viewing.

Across the track was no good because of distance and the fence that separates the track itself from pit lane. Neither end of pit lane offered a good vantage point, even if we could convince security to allow us to shoot from there.

In the end, only the Media Center itself seemed viable, even though we knew it would be packed with photographers as the only decent option. In fact we were all very lucky that this happened at Phillip Island, where the Media Center has floor to ceiling glass facing pit lane. Any many other tracks, shooting from this space simply wouldn’t have worked at all.

The Media Center was crowded when I came in from shooting the first third of the race. Given the pace with which the riders appeared, jumped from one bike to the other, and departed, we had to pick a garage to look down on and try to capture one bike change. The spaces over the Yamaha and Honda garages were tightly packed with shooters hoping to get something good.

I picked Marquez, and my efforts to shoot through angled, reflective, and green-tinted glass produced a couple of acceptable images, the above example being my favorite. Though Marc’s helmet and shoulders are sharp, his feet are blurred with the movement of leaping over his second bike, and the perspective of looking over the action from up above is not bad either.

From pit lane the Dorna shooter got these and I have to say I like the view from up over just fine, though I would’ve like the chance to get a variety of riders rather than having to stick with one spot and wait for the chosen rider to appear.

Once Marc left pit lane, most of us returned to the track to document the race’s conclusion, making the bike swap itself little more than a pit stop for photographers, as well.

Thus it turned out to be quite different from what I had imagined when we first heard about the scheduled pit stop. But it was also part of a memorable weekend, and from now on I will look for opportunities to shoot though the media center glass when that seems a possibility for something different.

Scott Jones is a professional photographer who covers MotoGP and WSBK for racing industry clients as well as racing websites and publications in the U.S. and Europe. His online archive is available at Photo.GP, and you can find him on his blogTwitter, & Facebook.

All images posted, shared, or sent for editorial use or review are registered for full copyright protection at the Library of Congress.

Photo: © 2013 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved