2024 British GT at Silverstone

Last year I wrote about a trip to Silverstone for the British GT. This year I returned to Silverstone for the 2024 British GT Silverstone 500. This was the first time I’ve been back to Silverstone since last years race. Having read several reports from other photographers about the changes to the viewing areas, I was somewhat apprehensive about what I would find I was also worried how this would affect the ability to get good images.

This would also be the first time using my Nikon Z8 with two new lenses at Silverstone. I was also trying out a new monopod and head to support this new glass due to the weight. During the Media Day at Donington Park, I found that they can get heavy over the course of a full days shooting.

I arranged to meet another photographer, Dave Nairne, who I first met at last years British GT. We agreed to meet up in the public car park just before 8am and then head into the circuit. David Harbey would also be visiting, although not as early as the two of us. Both are regular contributors to the Piston Click website.

Remembering the weather we experienced last year, which was so bad that qualifying sessions were cancelled on Saturday, I was hoping for better for the 2024 British GT. I left home about 6am and although it was cold, the sun was out. That was until I got within a mile of the circuit. Then the rain started. Once parked up and while waiting for Dave to arrive, I checked the weather again. Thankfully, the rain was forecast to be minimal in the morning and drying up around 11am.

First Practice Session

After a brief discussion, we decided to shoot the first morning practice starting at Farm Curve and Village. We would then work our way around The Loop to Aintree. Also attempting to shoot the inside of Chapel and the outside of Beckets along the way.

We found that these places are mostly unchanged and allow you to get fairly close to the fence. The track is also quite close to the fence in a few of the locations in this area.

At the locations where the track was relatively close to the fence, I struggled to completely eliminate the fence from my images. This was particularly evident trying to shoot at shorter focal lengths ( < 200mm) to get wider, environmental images. I don’t recall having this issue with the D850 and Sigma 100-400mm lens. I also don’t recall it being an issue when shooting the Media Day at Donington Park. Although for most shots at Donington, I could shoot over the fences.

Second Practice Session

The location we chose for the second practice session was the exit of Club. We stopped off at the Silverstone Museum for a coffee between sessions. Annoyingly. the museum was the only place on this side of the circuit that was open for refreshments on Saturday. The only other places that were open were in the paddock or behind the grandstand on the National Pits Straight.

After a fairly long trek from the museum and around the hotel, we arrived at our destination. On arrival, we discovered the area we wanted to shoot from is no longer accessible. The whole area from the start of the Hamilton Straight back around Club to the end of the Vale grandstand is no longer accessible. You can get to the fence line at Vale, but it’s a pain. You have to walk all the way around the back of the Vale grandstand and then walk back along the fence line.

Undeterred, we got set up intime for the start of the second practice session. We started shooting at the inside of Vale and the entry to Club. Through the practice session, we moved along the fence line, continuing to shoot from various locations heading back towards Stowe. We finished the session photographing the exit of Stowe. This yielded some decent shots and provided a little more variety. Both front, rear and panning shots are all possible along with eye level shots as the cars exit stowe.

Qualifying for the 2024 British GT

We decided to start the afternoon qualifying sessions at Aintree, we had found a promising spot during the first session that had photographers windows in the fence. These gave a view of Aintree and the Wellington Straight toward Brooklands giving some varied angles. On arrival were informed by a marshall that the stewards were moving people away and the area had been designated a “red zone”. Something to do with the concrete crash barriers not being bolted down. We tried shots from a few other places but weren’t really feeling it and so moved around to the inside of Brooklands and Luffield. This is a decent place that can give you a few different angles and shots, albeit through the fences.

Once again, it’s quite close to the track and I found at the shorter focal lengths and wider angles I was seeing too much evidence of the fencing in my shots.

I didn’t even try shooting from the Luffield terraces. Now the fences have been raised, you have no chance of shooting over them. You’re also too far back to effectively make them dissappear, however wide of an aperture you can use.

Sunday – Race Day

For the 2024 British GT race, I would be enjoying the hospitality of the Brooklands suite courtesy of the company I work for. The CEO, Andrew Gilbert and his co-driver Fran Rueda wer driving the number 84 McLaren 720s GT3 for Optimum Motorsport. He very kindly arranged hospitality, garage access and access to the grid for twenty five members of staff. It’s a great experience, highly recommended and it will give you a behind the scenes look at the cars and the work done by the whole team in the pitlane. A big thank you from me to everyone involved in arranging it and looking after us all day.

My thoughts about Photographing the 2024 British GT

Throughout the day, my Nikon Z8 performed flawlessly. The autofocus system and subject recognition still amazes me, even after twelve months. The version 2 software upgrade has improved on this already amazing AF. I use a hybrid AF setup (wide area with subject tracking handing off to 3D tracking) that I shamelessly stole from Hudson Henry. If you want more details on this configuration, you can watch his video on YouTube

As I mentioned above, I did have issues shooting through the fence and getting enough blur to remove it from my images. This was mainly at shorter focal lengths. I shot most of the day with the Nikon Z 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 VR S along with the Nikon Z 180-600mm f5.6-6.3 VR. 

Neither of these lenses have an aperture wide enough at the shorter end to completely remove all evidence of the fences. That is unless you can get within inches of the fencing. At Silverstone, you’re mostly about a metre back from the fencing. This makes wider environmental shots difficult and impacts sharpness at the longer end. I will probably be at Donington Park at the end of May, so I may look at renting something a little faster (f2.8 or f4) for this to see if this improves the situation.

My Thoughts on the Changes at Silverstone

I was quite disappointed with the changes at Silverstone. Some of them I was expecting, having read other photographers accounts. Others were just annoying, like being moved from a “red zone” that wasn’t a red zone earlier in the day.

While I appreciate the need to do everything possible to ensure the safety of the spectators, some of these changes have nothing to do with safety. Having talked to a member of staff that looked after us in the hospitality on Sunday, it turns out that the cretins of “just stop oil” are to blame for a lot of the changes. This is certainly the case for the area around the exit of Club corner and the start of the Hamilton straight.

While safety has to be paramount, it shouldn’t detract from the spectator experience. Most of the grandstand seating on the national pit straight now can only view the track through fencing as well. This doesn’t make for a great spectator experience. On the Saturday, which is mainly open practice and qualifying for the GT3 cars, the majority of the people I saw at the circuit were carrying expensive camera equipment. So why go out of your way to alienate a large amount of your paying customers. It seems now that Silverstone is purely focussed on making money from the extortionate prices they charge for the F1 weekend, and everything else is secondary. My advice if you’re an aspiring motorsport photographer is forget Silverstone, go to a local track. You’ll enjoy the experience much more.

Final Thoughts

All in all it was a decent day at the 2024 British GT, and much dryer than last year. I came away with some decent images and had good company for the day which always makes it more fun. A massive thanks to Dave Nairne for the caffeination and the banter.

Look out for another post about my weekend at Silverstone. This one will be focussed on the new monopod and gimbal head I was using. I’ll let you know how it performed and what my thoughts are on using it for motorsport. There will also be additional posts from Donington if I make it there, and maybe the two Daves will be there also.

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Thanks for stopping by.

Andy Signature

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