A few weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to attend the British GT Championship at Silverstone as a guest of Greystone GT and the British Racing Drivers Club. The CEO of the company I work for doing my day job was competing in the Silverstone 500, the feature race of the weekend.
The British GT Championship event was spread over two days, the 6th and 7th of May. The hospitality was arranged for the main race day, which was Sunday. I decided to buy a general admission ticket for Saturday and do a little photography. There were also a few support races including British GB3 and GB4. The access you get with hospitality is amazing and the BRDC has an amazing view of the Brooklands, Luffield, and Woodcote series of corners. It’s not that great for photography though. Trackside is much better and gives you far better photo opportunities.
I arrived at the circuit just after 8am ready for the circuit opening at 8:30am. The weather was grey and overcast, but it was dry. The forecast said that wouldn’t last, but I was hopeful. I packed up my gear and made my way to the circuit entrance. After a brief issue with the ticket scanners, I was in.
Previously I had photographed from the outside of Farm Curve, The Loop and the inside and outside of Abbey. I decided to see what other locations were like and headed up the perimeter road to the Hamilton Straight. Turns out I should’ve checked the circuit guides on the Piston Click website. More on that later.
It was quite by chance that during the walkout I got chatting with another photographer, David Nairne, and we eventually both ended up standing near the fence on the exit to Club Corner. While we waited for the action to start, we got chatting about our interest in motorsport. We also chatted about photography, gear and various other subjects.
When it became time to take some test shots and figure out camera settings, David realised he’d left the battery for his D500 grip in the car. As I also shoot Nikon, I had a few spare batteries that would work in the D500, but not the grip. I loaned him the use of a battery to save him from a long walk.
Free Practice 1
The first free practice session started out dry, although the track was still a little wet from the overnight rain. Most cars were out on wet tyres with a couple of cars chancing slicks. I got some good shots from the outside of Club.
Conscious of not staying in one place for too long and ending up with hundreds of the same shot, we moved further around Club Corner to get some shots of the cars going through Vale.
There was a red flag on the session while we were shooting Vale, so took the opportunity to move closer to the fence and get some closer shots at the apex of Vale. We were just getting set up and ready for the restart when we got word that the session wouldn’t restart.
We packed up again and decided to head over to the Luffield Hairpin for free practice 2. David had arranged to meet another photographer at the circuit at 11am. I waited on the Luffield Terrace while David headed back to the gate to meet the other photographer, who also happened to be called David.
David Harbey is an avid and accomplished motorsport photographer and regular contributor to the Piston Click website. He’s out almost every weekend at tracks around the UK and Europe. We spent some time chatting and getting acquainted while we waited for free practice 2 to get underway. The rain was steadily getting heavier as we set up our gear.
Free Practice 2
I spent free practice 2 photographing from various spots around the Luffield Hairpin. Some facing the exit of Brooklands, some on the entry and the apex of Luffield and some on the exit of Luffield and the entry to Woodcote. The rain was quite heavy now and there was a lot of surface water on the track. Luffield is a good location where you can get a number of different angles and shots without having to move far. The rain made for some interesting shots and this location gave me some of my favourite images from the entire day.
At the end of free practice 2, we decided to move again. Taking the lead from David who knew the track far better than me from a photographer’s point of view, we moved to a spot against the fence behind the Village B grandstand. We had just over two hours before the British GT championship qualifying sessions started.
After lunch and while we waited for the GT qualifying, the rain got progressively worse. There were three other races scheduled before the GT cars were back on track. Two Ginetta races and the open-wheel cars of the GB3 championship. The Ginetta GT Academy race went off relatively smoothly with only a brief safety car period.
The track was covered with standing water now. To pass the time, I decided to try some slow shutter panning shots of the GB3 cars. I experimented with shutter speeds down to 1/80th of a second. The sweet spot for me at 200mm was between 1/100th and 1/125th of a second to yield acceptably sharp images.
The GB3 race was interrupted by multiple safety cars as numerous cars struggled with the wet conditions and left the track. The race was eventually red flagged and we sought some shelter from the persistent rain while we waited for the British GT Championship qualifying session.
First on track would be the GT3 Amateur drivers. The circuit went green and before anyone could even complete a lap, several cars spun off and caused another red flag. The cars returned to the pit while the stranded vehicles were recovered. The images below will give you an indication of how bad the track conditions were.
The session was restarted once the track was clear but conditions were bad enough that more cars left the track on their out lap and the session was red-flagged again.
We were sheltered under the Village B grandstand while we waited for the session to restart. The safety car did several laps we assumed to test the track conditions. The time was just after 5pm, and the event was severely behind schedule now with a number of sessions still to complete. We waited, but there were still no signs of the GT cars back on track.
At 5:15pm we got word that the session would not be restarting. The track conditions were too wet to safely complete the remaining sessions. With that, we packed up our gear and headed back to the car park and headed our separate ways.
In spite of the weather, it was a really enjoyable day and I got a bunch of images that I’m really happy with. It was a nice change for me to spend the day in the company of two like-minded photographers with a passion for motorsport. I have made contact with David since the day at Silverstone and hope to meet him again at other events.
As I was back at the circuit on Sunday I booked into a hotel ten minutes down the road. I headed off there to dry out and get some much-needed food.
Sunday – Race Day & Hospitality
For race day, our base would be the British Racing Drivers Club (BRDC). It’s a really nice building with a roof-top terrace that overlooks the Brooklands, Luffield and Stowe series of corners. We would also have access to the paddock and the Greystone GT garage.
I arrived at the track around 8am to meet up with some colleagues who also had tickets for the BRDC. After a short delay, we received our passes and made our way into the circuit. We had parking inside the circuit and transport to the paddock which saved us a bit of a walk.
After grabbing some coffee, we headed into the paddock and specifically to the Greystone garage. We spent some time chatting with the team and drivers. We also got to watch and listen to them warm the car up ready for the race.
Lunch was included with the hospitality, a very nice 2-course meal served in the BRDC. Unfortunately, lunchtime coincided with the race start so it was a dash to eat and get to the viewing area.
We made it up to the terrace for the warm-up lap and the start of the race. As I said earlier, the view from the top of the BRDC is a really good vantage point to watch the action through Brooklands, Luffield and Stowe. My video skills leave a lot to be desired though.
This was a three-hour race, so plenty of action. Unfortunately for our CEO, his race ended prematurely just before the two-hour mark. A collision with a GT4 car during an under-take manoeuvre resulted in a puncture and damage to the car.
Endurance races are never that exciting for the majority of the time, but there was some excitement in the closing stages as the number 91 Century Motorsport BMW M4 chased down and eventually passed the number 78 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo.
I managed to get a spot near the pitlane entry as the winning cars made their way back to the garages and grab a few images.
I had a great weekend thanks to the hospitality arranged by our company and Greystone GT. The Saturday was also made more enjoyable by meeting two very nice, like-minded, photographers on Saturday. I’ve now got the motivation to get out and shoot more motorsports.
Until next time, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read my ramblings.