Location: Spa Francorchamps, Belgium
Come rain or shine, the opportunity to involve myself with a professional motorsport outfit such as Von Ryan Racing is something I would grab with both hands. That said, the weekend just gone was very much filled with the earlier part of that statement....rain.
Some of you may recall last year when I photographed Stephen Jelley and his Porsche Carrera 911 GT3 Cup car. This year, Stephen is racing around the globe for Von Ryan Racing in one of their McLaren MP4-12C GT3 race cars, and I headed off to the only British round, Silverstone, to meet the team.
With only 20 race-prepped 12C GT3's being manufactured for 2012, Von Ryan Racing were announced as one of the first teams to get their hands on two marques for the Blancpain Endurance Series. CEO of McLaren Racing, Martin Whitmarsh said "Our clients are looking forward to receiving a GT car full of Formula 1 technology". It's thanks to this that you will find features such as a steering wheel design deployed by Lewis Hamilton in his MP4-24 Formula 1 car.
With the rain continuing to hammer down outside the pit lane door, it gave me the chance to get up close and personal with the 12C-GT3 race car. Ron Dennis (Executive Chairman of McLaren) is well known for his 'clinical' nature, with his factories having workshop floors so clean, you'd happily eat off them. With that in mind, for the next shot I created a minimalistic look, losing distracting elements and detail outside the door as a McLaren GT mechanic continued to work on the car.
The Blancpain Endurance Series competes across international circuits such as Monza, Spa Francorchamps and Silverstone featuring grand tourer race cars modified from production road vehicles. With the three-hour race drawing closer, the team of mechanics set about final preparations, one of which included bringing the engine up to temperature. The thunderous noise of the 3.8L McLaren V8 Twin Turbo echoed throughout pit garages as numerous sets of wet weather tyres were prepared...
Before the team made their way to the water-logged grid, the first of the Draper brothers strapped himself into the hot seat for the first stint, whilst other team members eagerly looked on at the timing screens...
These cars can exhaust all of their fuel in little over an hour, so pit stops are a chance to refuel, fit new tyres and swap drivers. Air jacks are fired from underneath the car, where single nut wheels are removed with airlines, meaning a tyre change takes only a matter of seconds. The tank is brimmed with 97 litres in less than 40 seconds and the new driver is strapped in. An exhilarating, adrenaline filled experience.
Unfortunately Von Ryan Racing's second car (pictured above) suffered a collision in the opening stage of the race, splitting the radiator and resulting in a loss of coolant. Undeterred, the team of mechanics set about fitting a new radiator during a pit stop and managed to get the car back out in the race with little time lost...
The 12C GT3 car features a new front splitter, door blade, rear wing, diffuser and louvres in the front fenders which make it look at home on any circuit.
It's only the second race meeting for these cars, but they have quickly earned the title of 'worlds most expensive flame-thrower'. Apparently, during a 24 hour race at Spa, it's not uncommon to see these cars produce blue-flames down the entire length of the back straight, something i'd love to see and capture!
The clatter of spanners and smell of race fuel brought back fond memories of when my brother and I used to compete many years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed being back in the pit lane and documenting the atmosphere of a high-brow race team, an absolute pleasure to work with such a fantastic crew. For a full gallery from the day, please feel free to click here.