Events - BTCC and Support Races at Brands Hatch Grand Prix

This weekend Brands Hatch threw us a new challenge, the Grand Prix layout. With Honda Racing very kindly granting us VIP Hospitality for the weekend, we relished the challenge of a new circuit layout and utilising different vantage points. Extending the circuit by a further 1.5 miles, the Grand Prix layout provides plenty of opportunities for the photographer as the fencing around this part of the circuit is less intrusive when compared to that of the Indy. With the walk to further parts of the Grand Prix circuit being a little bit of a trek (especially in 25-30 degree heat) you'll find that less people watch from these areas. Ideal if your after some good positions to shoot from.

Although you can't get parallel with Stirlings Bend (unfortunate as it has a very wide run off kerb and would give a great dramatic shot going down towards Clearways) there are viewing points before and after the bend. A record-equalling 29 cars started on today's grid, including new face Ollie Jackson. Ollie is the reigning Porsche Carrera Cup GB Pro-Am1 champion and looked consistently strong for a debut drive in the great looking Triple Eight Vauxhall Vectra:

Support races provided plenty of action and the below shots really shows off how great Brands looks during the current Indian Summer...

Jason Plato had a great weekend which put him back into contention for winning the title, taking victory in both Race 1 and 2:

Team Parker Racing's driver Stephen Jelley also made sure that his chances of winning this year's Porsche Carrera Cup GB title are still well within reach as he stormed to victory, huge congratulations to the team and fingers crossed for the last couple of rounds!

Only 5 championship points separates the top three drivers of the BTCC, which means it's down to the last three races at Silverstone. Again the BTCC provides nail-bitingly close action as Jason Plato, Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden all head to Silverstone with a chance at the title. If that's not entertainment, i'm not sure what is?!

Events - BTCC and Support Races at Rockingham

Ten years of planning, two years of construction and Rockingham became Europe's fasted banked oval circuit opening in 2001. With a variable layout it hosts many events throughout the year, and on it's 10th Anniversary it was turn of the British Touring Car Championship to dominate the Northamptonshire tarmac. Having just completed a photoshoot with Team Parker Racing and their number '70' Porsche Carrera Cup driver Stephen Jelley, we were very kindly invited back to watch the race action unfold. I for one do not need an excuse to attend any motorsport event, and happily at 7am on Sunday morning we headed to 'The Rock'.

All of my motorsport coverage in 2011 has been from a spectator's point of view, and at Rockingham that certainly makes things difficult. Circuits have safety fences to protect the public and unless you are able to get relatively close to these fences, it is near on impossible to shoot through. The circuit is able to host cars capable of reaching speeds of 200mph, and these safety fences are relatively large/difficult to get close to. As with all of my photography I want to put my own perspective on things, and at Rockingham this made it very hard with the limited access to different vantage points.

Nevertheless, with access to the pit lane and paddock thanks to Team Parker Racing we made use of the pit garage roof tops, using slow shutter speeds to pan like crazy as cars teared down the start/finish straight:

Left in the above picture we have Jason Plato storming past his pit crew to victory in Race 1. To the right we have Frank Wrathall who along with Rob Austin this weekend proved that the NGTC cars are on the pace providing exciting racing all weekend which had the crowd cheering. Team Parker Racing had a fantastic set of results with Euan Hankey taking home first place in both races:

Stephen Jelley in the fantastic looking number '70' 911 GT3 had two lightning starts which placed him 4th in both races. It was great to catch up with TPR on Sunday and run them through a few pictures from thursdays editorial shoot using my iPad.

If your a BTCC fan then the next round is less than two weeks away at the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit. With championship standings in the BTCC and Porsche Carrera Cup being incredibly close at the top it's all to play for in the last two rounds. The finale is held at Silverstone on October the 16th and have teamed up with with the circuit to offer a lucky subscriber two free weekend tickets, simply like their page and you'll be in with a chance of winning!

Events – BTCC Snetterton and Support Races

Norfolk based circuit Snetterton has recently been redesigned to incorporate a new 1 mile infield section of further twists and turns. Adding extra technical difficulty to the circuit it also improves track safety and boasts better vantage points for spectators. Last year I drove the original Snetterton layout and had huge amounts of fun, so naturally I was slightly dubious as to what the new Snetterton 300 layout would have to offer. With the new improved spectator viewing areas, it provides plenty of new photographic opportunities to tryout. Lap times from the BTCC series are now nearer the 2 minute mark but still provide action packed close racing, as the below photograph shows the grid entering the new 'Palmer' left hander.

This is the first round after a lengthy summer break which saw changes to the grid, now boasting 27 starters! Welch Motorsport made an appearance in their NGTC Proton, as well as Martin Byford taking a drive in the AmD Miltek Golf. Over the summer break teams were able to make developments to the cars, most impressive of all was seeing Dynojet's Frank Wrathall place 4th in Round 16, the highest this car has ever placed. Sadly, due to an incident in Round 17 Wrathall's radiator was damaged and caused him to retire for the remainder of the day.

Weather during the week didn't look promising, with intermittent showers up until the weekend. Early race day and the sun was out in force as Jason Plato stormed to victory in Round 16 (picture above).

Never having photographed at Snetterton before, we were pleasantly surprised with the amount of vantage points you could obtain as a spectator. Snetterton is certainly one of the more friendlier circuits to shoot at as its lack of chain fences and access to plenty of corners means great opportunities. The above shot is a wide angle panning shot of a Porsche 911 Carrera Cup GB Car passing through newly named Brundle left hander (originally 'The Esses').

With an exciting Round 17 and Shedden leading from Lap 2 we headed to the pits to capture the podium presentation. Needless to say we'll be sending Shedden a bill for the camera clean! ;-)

Lastly, Round 18 saw a reverse grid and Mat Jackson lead from the front to another victory for the Airwaves Ford Focus. Here he is below pushing hard through Nelson and clipping the kerb sending that Focus soaring:

The photographs in this post are a brief selection of the day, if you'd like to view the full gallery including all of the support races (Renault Clio Cup, Formula Renault, Ginetta G50/G55, Porsche Carrera Cup GB) please feel free to click this link.

Events - BTCC Oulton Park and Support Races

2.26 miles of undulating hills, banked corners and 120 mph straights all make Oulton Park one of the most exciting circuits on the BTCC calendar. Add a downpour to this combination and you have what promises to be an action packed day of racing.

This is my first time visiting the Cheshire based circuit and it certainly won't be my last. Circuit barriers are opened between races allowing footfall between the infield and outfield, resulting in nearly every part of the circuit being accessible.  Various parts of the circuit are banked which offer great vantage points to watch the days events unfold.

There's a little story behind this weekends events that I want to share. My best friend is soon to be wed, and as part of his pre-wed celebrations (and him being an absolute touring car nut) it was only right to try and organise something a little special. Using the power of social media I managed to get in touch with the Honda Racing BTCC team who were absolutely amazing in helping me organise a meet and greet with the legends themselves...Flash and Neal! Chris (the groom) and I were over the moon to meet our heroes and we would love to say a huge thank you to Honda Racing for making the whole day unforgettable. Here's a picture of Chris with the two drivers that now lead the BTCC Championship (Congratulations guys, keep it up!)

We both feel privileged as it was great to be in the garage during the hustle and bustle of a winning team as they set about prepping the race cars:

Qualifying and practice on the day before had been dry, but unpredictable as ever the British heavens decided to open. That meant all of the teams were busy discussing and changing suspension setups ready for race 1. We all already know that the British Touring Car Championship is a fantastic series, and today really enforced that for me. With the weather ever changing, different drivers were electing for different tyre setups making it a game of chances. Those who ran wets all around showed pace in the beginning, but quickly overheated their tyres as a dry line appeared resulting in a lack of grip.

Lea Wood made his debut return to the BTCC in the Honda Integra DC5 and certainly showed that he is a forced to be reckoned with after finishing 7th in the car's first outing. This photograph is shot at Lodge Corner looking down towards Deer Leap which offers a unique perspective thanks to it being elevated.

With the usual support races consisting of the Porsche Carrera Cup, Ginetta Supercup, Ginetta Juniors, Formula Renault and Renault Clio Cup there was never a shortage of action on track. Chris and I walked the entire circuit on the day, taking advantage of all the different locations I could shoot from. This means I've got a great variations in the types of shots captured, and makes Oulton Park one of my favourite circuits to shoot at (now I just need to get my hands on a media pass!). Here's a marmite shot (meaning you'll either love it or hate it) of Championship leader Tom Ingram passing the very wet crowds at Druids:

If you're interested in seeing a full gallery of 153 images from Oulton Park, please feel free to click this link.

Events - BTCC Thruxton and Support Races

As a spectator, Thruxton is often a daunting thought for any keen photographer. The fastest circuit on the BTCC calendar and one which is always busy with thousands of spectators means finding a prime location to photograph the races is no easy task. Challenged by various heads whilst panning (trying my best not to hit them, honest...) and chainlink fences Thruxton isn't the best circuit to photograph at in my opinion. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Hannah (my better half), James (my brother) and family trecked to Hampshire for the British Touring Car Championship and support races. This photograph below is of Jason Plato storming to victory in the final race after having an unlucky incident in race one with a tyre malfunction and hitting a wall at speeds in excess of 100mph causing a 6G impact! Hats off to the Silverline team getting the car back out for race two!

I think the saying goes that "Rubbing's Racing" and Tom Onslow-Cole certainly showed that during race one where he powered the AmD Miltek Golf to it's highest ever finishing position of 7th, congratulations guys! Great to see this car mixing it up the field of well established names.

The British Touring Cars weren't the only formula to provide close racing all day, with everyone pushing the cars to their limits. This below photograph shows Pierce (Car 24) locking up on the approach to Campbell. I think it's safe to say Thruxton was home to one of the best Porsche Carrera GT3 Cup races in a long time this weekend.

Formula Renault driver Andrew Jarman (Car 28) featured heavily in my Brands Hatch photographs purely because the car looks stunning at speed. This time around it was a different approach to capture him tackling the 'Club' bend at Thruxton. This photograph was taken using my mark II 2x extender, which previously I had been worried about with degrading image quality and focus speeds. However attached to my trusty 70-200 F2.8 IS L it proved fantastic at Thruxton. AI Servo tracking speeds gave me no difficulty, and the images at 100% crop are insanely sharp!

Finally i'll leave you with Tom Ingram crossing the start/finish line at Thruxton whilst being congratulated by his team as he leads the championship in the Ginetta G50 Supercup.

Hannah has also uploaded some fantastic shots onto her blog site, and if you'd like to check them out please click here.

If you are interested in viewing the full set from Thruxton please feel free to click here and visit the gallery.

Events - BTCC Brands Hatch Season Opener

This weekend Brands Hatch marked the start of the 2011 British Touring Car Championship, and with spring finally here is there a better way to start the season off?! This years record breaking line up took on the indy circuit in it's first three rounds, and gave a thrilling day's racing.

The British Touring Car Championship event is always a great day out, as not only do you get all the hype which comes with the BTCC, but the support races provide nail-bitingly close action all day long. Today we had the pleasure of watching the ever manic and crazy Renault Clio Cup, the stunning Ginetta G50's, the fast-paced Formula Renault and not to mention the Porsche 911 Carrera Cup which look and sound phenomenal!

Taking interesting photographs of the fast-paced action from a spectators position is never easy, and is why this year my partner and I wanted to do a slightly different take on the day's racing. Trying to find interesting viewpoints (albeit hard with thousands of visitors, chain link fences and various scaffolding for the TV cameras obscuring your view) all in order to frame the photographs differently, yet still capture the motion proved a challenge.

For a full gallery, please click here, and if you are interested in any of the photographs featured in the gallery (or have requests for specific cars) please do not hesitate to contact me. I am very interested in working with race teams for editorial or commerical work, so if anyone is interested, get in touch! Edit: Hannah's blog is now live and updated with photographs from Brands Hatch so be sure to check it out.

For part of 2011, I want to blog more about behind the scenes and how I work. The photograph below is taken of me at Brands Hatch by my wonderful other half, Hannah Couzens. Being a spectator on the day, it meant alot of walking around the circuit trying to find different vantage points/angles to capture something different from the norm. The Domke Little Bit Bigger bag is my on-location bag of choice for this type of work, allowing me to literally throw lenses in and out of the bag, quickly changing to ensure nothing is missed. It's rugged exterior means I can drop it at an instant, and not worry about my gear.

One thing which is often overlooked is the Domke range of accessories, and although I first turned my nose up at the thought of it, their Shoulder Pad which can be attached to any manufacture shoulder bag (contoured shape to sit comfortably on the shoulder) means it is incredibly comfortable even to lug the heavy bag around all day. Highly recommended!

Event - BTCC Brands Hatch

I'm guessing the torrential rain on the M25 whilst heading to Brands Hatch was an indication as to how the day may pan out. Never the less my brother and I made it to the circuit to brave the inevitable downpour. Realising we had taken two umbrellas which didn't work (?!) and underestimating just how drenched we would become, I managed to shoot 5-6 frames of the Porsche Carerra GB Cup before stowing it safely back in my bag. Utterly soaked and frozen, we retreated home to watch the remaining events in the warm infront of the TV! Heres Michael Meadows on a charge up to Druids Bend :