One of the advantages to living in northern Ohio is my proximity to one of the best road courses in the entire country; the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington. The 2.258 mile course has 13 corners and loads of natural elevation changes. I had an opportunity to go as a photographer for this past weekend’s festivities and it’s definitely a much different experience over being there as a fan.
Having the photographer vest allows you access to the pits most of the weekend, as well as right up to the fence the entire weekend. This means you can get much closer to the action than any of the fans. They even cut slots out of the fence to make it easier to take pictures through, though some are big enough for debris to come through if you aren’t paying attention when a car crashes.
One thing you don’t necessarily expect is the amount of rules that there are compared to other events I’ve been too and covered. A mandatory photographer meeting laid down the ground rules for both the Pirelli World Challenge and the IndyCar race. Videography of the IndyCar race is strictly forbidden, unless you are part of a special group allowed to record. The television networks own the rights to all coverage. The Pirelli race was a bit different; as long as you don’t post the entire race on YouTube they’re pretty much cool with video. The practice session above was for the GT/GTA/GTS class when there was a mind-blowing 53 cars on the track at one time!
The other thing you don’t really prepare for is the walking, and climbing. Road courses are great for action and really demonstrate driver skill. But without a golf cart to ferry you around, expect to do a lot of hiking to get the next shot. There aren’t a lot of places to get over the crowd fences to get up to the action, so climbing and hiking are all par for the course. The great thing about Mid-Ohio is that there are some grandstands, but most of the area is natural hill seating and open areas. There really are some epic locations to get up close and get photos.
The other photographers were very professional and courteous even though I was obviously new. I’ve been to technology events where everyone is pushing and shoving each other out of the way to snap a picture of a gadget that ends up not even being produced, but when it comes to the automotive space there is a certain amount of mutual respect that really needs commended.
All of the races that weekend fell under the Honda Indy 200 banner, but my favorite to watch were definitely the Pirelli World Challenge cars. The GT/GTA/GTS class is filled with exotica such as the Lamborghini above, and they all sound excellent. The Cadillac racers were so loud I seriously though I was going to go deaf as they drove by.
For pure racing enjoyment though, the TC/TCA/TCB classes of cars were extremely fun to watch. Sure, they were mostly Mazda Miatas, Fiat 500 Abarths, and Honda Fits, but the racing was just epic. Watching them drive the wheels off their cars, fighting for position and sliding everywhere was just fun! Also, rain didn’t stop them from running their races, which made it more challenging for the fearless drivers but even more fun to watch!
If you get a chance to get out and see one of these races, definitely do it! Yes, the headlining IndyCar racing is great, but there is some serious talent out there at a variety of levels, and packing all of this entertainment in one weekend is a good value. I promise you that’s not a paid endorsement; it’s just good fun!
I’d like to thank Jason Carroll of Square1 Photography who allowed me to get press access to the race and also let me use some of the photos he took. I took photos, but they aren’t in the same league as his.
Speaking of the Fiat 500 Abarth (which doesn’t sound much different in race-prep than it does on the street), here’s some raw video of the noises that car makes from when we reviewed it.
Chad Kirchner is a freelance automotive journalist with a sincere passion for the industry and helping people. He’s a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and the Texas Auto Writers Association. When not writing about the latest automotive news or vehicles, you can catch him at car shows around the country. Be sure to check him out on social media, including Google+, Twitter, and his website.