24 Hours of Spa: the first half
I wanted to attend a 24 Hours of Spa race for a very long duration.
In 2017, I even went so far as to get media accreditation, but unfortunately I couldn’t go. After following the incredible coverage of the Nürburgring 24h on Speedhunters this year, I was motivated to apply for accreditation again. And this time I finally arrived in the Belgian Ardennes for the biggest GT3 race in the world.
Filming a 24 hour race is tough at the best of times, let alone when bad weather plays a part. In the hills of the Liège region, the weather conditions are constantly changing, so rain is almost expected during the race. But surprisingly, the forecast called for dry weather, and it stayed that way with a balmy 75°F (24°C) throughout the weekend.
Looking back, I think it’s safe to say that the steady weather took some of the excitement out of the event. I would have appreciated a strong shower to add some extra drama to the photos, but maybe that’s only because I’m back home now and haven’t been able to experience what surely would have been to misery, up and down endless hills. around the circuit in the pouring rain.
Practice sessions took place throughout Thursday, with qualifying on Friday evening. Even at this point, I had covered over 15 miles and climbed what felt like three million steps. As it was my first time on the circuit of Spa-Francorchamps, I wanted to familiarize myself with each corner, and that involved a few dead ends. The marshals, arguably the most loving people in the sport, have always been helpful.
The 2022 24 Hours of Spa TotalEnergies was the third 24-hour race I’ve entered, so I had a rough idea of how the day would go and what to expect. With that in mind, I took it very easy before the green flag dropped. I ate a healthy breakfast, stocked up on water and snacks, packed all my gear, and started thinking about where I would start the race from.
Eau Rouge, the famous first corner after the start – but technically the second corner of the circuit – was the obvious choice for a beginner like me, but positioning myself there meant missing the grid step and the unique perspective of what is happening. just before the race begins.
So I made a compromise; I settled in a place where I could watch the preparations for the grid from a distance, but also film the start.
At 4:45 p.m. the Audi R8 safety car was ready to lead the field of 66 GT3 cars for the warm-up lap that would kick off the 24-hour marathon.
In the space of minutes, nine different brands plunged into Eau Rouge and then climbed the Raidillon, kicking off a day and night of competition in the 74th edition of this race. of iconic endurance. I was standing just below the stands and was amazed at how the roar of the crowd was as loud as the field of racing cars.
There is one main reason why I love GT3 racing: even though there are many vehicle regulations, the engines are varied. You can easily distinguish between a BMW straight-six, a Porsche flat-six, the V8s of Mercedes-Benzes and Aston Martins and the Lamborghini V10. Additionally, there are different engine configurations and a mix of naturally aspirated and forced induction.
I guess what I’m trying to say is cars are not All The same.
In the first hour of the paint change, there were at least four tire punctures and a few spins.
And when a field is as big as this, it’s only a matter of time before someone makes a mistake and spills a pile of small pebbles on the track. At one point, the surface of Les Combes looked very vague.
It’s very easy at an event like this to get into a corner and shoot, so every once in a while I had to remind myself to keep looking for unique and creative angles. The trees and the long straight line in the background seemed like a good place to pan, and I especially like how the photo above came out with a group of police officers walking in the opposite direction.
I went back to Eau Rouge, but this time I had a perfect vantage point towards the grandstand I was standing on earlier.
Like I said, it was a real marathon, but after what only seemed like a short time, the sun started to drift towards the horizon. I really wanted to take atmospheric sunset shots and experiment with long exposures in the dark, so there wasn’t a lot of time to waste.
I caught a media shuttle to an inside part of the track, where at the Brussels bend I was able to get really close to the action. It was a great place for me to use my wide angle lens.
I was traveling light so I didn’t have any flashes or strobes with me, not that I’m a big fan of that kind of artificial light anyway. There are a few tricks that I like to use when racing at night. First, using what a chase car’s headlights are showing, and second, picking up someone else’s flash. I didn’t have to wait long for another photographer to blind passing drivers.
By now it was approaching midnight and it was completely dark, and the only thing I was concerned about was how I was going to get back to the media center so that I could then drive to the hotel and get some sleep before sunrise. Sun. It’s a luxury I had; the team’s photographers weren’t so lucky.
Luckily for me, an empty media shuttle showed up shortly after, so I took a turn and focused on the last two tasks I had set for the night: long exposures and lane. stalls.
The stands were a hive of activity, so I decided to take advantage of the view from the top and document the action below.
The race was tight and it looked like any of the pro teams could take overall victory. Of course, the only thing guaranteed in an endurance race like this is the unexpected.
I’ll be back soon with the second part of the 2022 TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa.