Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring 2010

Corner Worker at T7 (Darren Pierson)

Corner Worker at T7

To me, Sebring is the start of the racing season.  Certainly we follow the Dakar and watch every televised minute of the 24 Hours of Daytona, but somehow they feel more like warmups.  Sebring is where it starts.

Last year, our spot was too close to the zoo and we ended up surrounded by people who, I am fairly certain, had no idea they were attending a motor race.  We did not make that mistake in 2010 and had a spot secured in the competitor paddock.  MUCH better. On one side we had a gentleman who treated us to an impromptu bagpipe exhibition and on the other a fine group of people, one of which was running in the IMSA Lites….er, Cooper Prototype Lites.  We had driven down Wednesday morning after taking a day break from Amelia and had quite a checklist upon arrival at Sebring:

  1. Acquire Credentials
  2. Locate shipping/receiving to pick up package
  3. Pick up golf car
  4. Locate RV spot
  5. Park and unload
  6. Start fire for St. Patrick’s Day Brisket
  7. Drink Dark Beer

We had most of this accomplished by 5pm, so we practiced #7 for several hours.  I think we got it right eventually, but since the photographer meeting was at 7AM the next morning, it seemed sensible to stop and go to sleep.

The photo meeting was the same usual excitement…don’t get run over, don’t go into pit lane unless you are orange, don’t put your gear on the wall.  That sort of thing.  Common sense.  The only people who need to be told these things are the ones who don’t show up for the meetings.  The ones who go out onto the track in sandals and shorts or try to go into pit lane during the race without a fire suit.  Don’t get me wrong, the meetings are important for safety.  We often are told about no shoot zones and tweaks to the regulations.  I just often think the people who most need the information are in bed asleep while I am up and wondering where the coffee might be.  I continue to digress, on to the cars.

Sebring is not the most scenic of tracks.

#16 Dyson Racing Team Lola B09 86 Mazda: Chris Dyson, Guy Smith, Andy Meyrick

#16 Dyson Racing Team Lola B09 86 Mazda: Chris Dyson, Guy Smith, Andy Meyrick

For the most part, its a tunnel of RVs and banners.  You have to work a bit to either completely mask the backgrounds by shooting really tight or by shooting at a low enough shutter that you blur out the scenery. There just are not many places where the background isn’t the thing you consider first.  This year, I started out shooting morning practice from just past T1 and continued to T4.  I really hate photo holes, but there are some good opportunities to be had in T4 if you frame correctly.  The hairpin is a mess to shoot from the inside and can have a very distracting background from the outside so I tend to shoot from just past the hairpin.  I guess I am saying that an iconic background from Sebring will require an effort.

In case you don’t know, Sebring races into the dark, so we as fans/photographers are allowed the great spectacle of night practice.  As a photographer, this means gobs of really long, colorful light followed by increasing ISOs and frantic wishes for the existence of a 500mm f2 lens (hopefully costing less than a kidney transplant).  Night practice is great, its a glimpse at Le Mans.  I love it.

#007 Aston Martin Racing Lola B09 60 Aston Martin: Stefan Mucke, Harold Primat, Adrian Fernandez

#007 Aston Martin Racing Lola B09 60 Aston Martin: Stefan Mucke, Harold Primat, Adrian Fernandez

Friday brings more practice and qualification.  I shot quali from the pits.  Quali was the pits.  The Peugeots (the diesel class) sandbagged around and drilled everybody.  Essentially, the leaders in each class went out, ran a few hot laps and then parked it waiting for someone to better them.  Boring.  The lone exception to this was the newly formed LMPC class where the #99 of G.E.T.G. Racing battled the #95 Level 5 offering back and forth to the checkers. Gunnar Jeannette took the pole with a .182 advantage.

#99 Green Earth Team Gunnar Oreca FLM09: Christian Zugel, Gunnar Jeannette, Elton Julian

#99 Green Earth Team Gunnar Oreca FLM09: Christian Zugel, Gunnar Jeannette, Elton Julian

Saturday, race day:  6:45AM photo meeting, pipers walking by in the dark, people trying to park their cars on top of each other. Forget the Pit Walkabout, too many people.  Head to T1 45 minutes before the start to hold your place.  Parachutes, flyovers, driver parade, recon laps, NAIL IT.

You don’t actually know much about the race while you are shooting.  A 12 hour race certainly affords you the time to check in and regroup, but unless you can listen to the Midweek Motorsports Anoraks howling away, you don’t really know that much about the race.  Cars just disappear, sometimes in a ball of expensive Ferrari flame.   You head towards the start/finish near the end of the race and pantomime at the other people waiting there…who’s in the lead?

The Hat Dance is annoying too long.  By the end of the podium ceremonies, when they gave trophies to the premier class, LMP1, all of the fans were gone.  40 nonplussed photographers on a creaking stand and a few team members were all that was left to see the champagne.  That needs fixed.  Maybe at Long Beach.  See you there!

#07 Team Peugeot Total Peugeot 908 HDI FAP: Marc Gene, Alexander Wurz, Anthony Davidson

#07 Team Peugeot Total Peugeot 908 HDI FAP: Marc Gene, Alexander Wurz, Anthony Davidson

All of my photographs from the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring are online for your viewing and download.  I have coverage of the American Le Mans Series, Cooper Prototype Lites and the Patron GT3 Challenge available.

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2 Responses to “Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring 2010”

  1. Scott Keller says:

    Darren,

    I’ve been a fan of your photography since Sebring 2009 when I discovered you on Twitter. It’s been fun following your tweets, and had no idea that you had a blog until today.

    I think I might have seen you at Long Beach, and I should have come up and introduced myself to you when I had a chance. But you were working and didn’t want to bother you at the time.

    Keep the blogs coming, because I really enjoy your insight.

    Scott Keller
    Fastmachines.com
    Motorpundit.com

    • Darren says:

      Yep, @scottie_vox right? Neither you or Chris Bailey ever seem to be able to hand me a beer 🙂 Thanks for the comments and always come say hi.

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