The 2018 season for the FIA World Endurance Championship and the European Le Mans Series is upon us, but before the action starts we spent ten days at the Circuit Paul Ricard in France for the official pre-season testing and the first race of the year, the 4 Hours of Le Castellet. So I packed my bags and headed to the airport for the first of 47 flights I will be taking in 2018.
The official test is important for a number of reasons, and one of them is the first opportunity to get some images of the new cars and drivers before the opening race of the season. We also have the traditional set up group shots of the cars which are then used for marketing materials throughout the year.
The first two-day test is for the FIA World Endurance Championship, which is known as The Prologue. The first race of the season will be at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium on Saturday 5 May and The Prologue is the first opportunity to see all of the cars in one place.
For the first time the World Endurance Championship was holding a non-stop 30-hour testing session to allow teams to do a full race simulation for the 24 Hours of Le Mans if they wanted to. Several cars ran through the night to see if any of the new systems would break under the stress of running at constant race pace.
After the WEC test, the paddock changed over for the cars and teams competing in the European Le Mans Series. While the WEC boasts a field of 36 cars, the ELMS had 45 across the three classes, which is a spectacular field but one that presents a lot of challenges for the photographers to make sure the requisite shots of each car are taken.
On the day before track action begins, the traditional group shot is taken where one car from each team is assembled at a location on the circuit and formed up into a grid. With 30+ cars, this takes around an hour to place the cars in the correct position for some high-level as well as low-level images. While one of the photographers was up 15 metres above the track in a ‘cherry picker’, while I was on the ground directing the cars into the right location. The result is a stunning formation of cars with images that can be used all season.
For each series, once track action begins the first thing we need to do was to get shots of all of the cars from different angles. Once we had those shots in the bag, we could then start to be a bit more ‘arty, getting slow panning shots and using the coloured lines around the Paul Ricard track to good effect.
There is also an opportunity to get some video images as well and I used the new slow motion function on the X-H1 to good effect to put together a short 60 second video clip for the ELMS and WEC social media platforms after editing the clips together in Adobe Premier Pro. While I started off by selecting manual focus and pre focusing on the track. I then tried AF-C while shooting video and it worked really well, even with the slow motion video function.
There is also the opportunity to catch up with some of the drivers, conduct some interviews, both written and on video, and get some portraits to illustrate.
After two days of testing for the European Le Mans Series concluded, we were straight into the first four-hour race weekend of the 2018 season: the 4 Hours of Le Castellet. The 2018 ELMS will have six meetings at Monza (Italy), Red Bull Ring (Austria), Silverstone (UK), Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium) and conclude at Portimao in Portugal. But the first race was on the 5.8km at the Circuit Paul Ricard, the new home of the French Grand Prix.
A race weekend is very different to an official test. While testing is a great opportunity to get shots that can be used all season, the photography brief for a race weekend is pretty much set by the event schedule, with images needed from each session of the fastest teams and drivers for editorial purposes. The race requires a disciplined approach to ensure that the story of the race is covered from the grid to the podium ceremony.
After the post race podiums, the video function of the Fujifilm X-H1 is once again brought into play for the press conference to allow the video to be uploaded to the championship Daily Motion and YouTube channels.
Now that the first event is complete, we have two weeks before the next race, which is the Total 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, round 1 of the FIA World Endurance Championship on Saturday 5 May and then one week later it is round 2 of the European Le Mans Series at Monza. It is certainly go-go-go for a motorsport photographer!
For more information on the WEC and the ELMS visit the following websites
FIA World Endurance Championship – www.fiawec.com
European Le Mans Series – www.europeanlemansseries.com
In the Camera Bag
Fujifilm X-H1 + battery grip
Fujifilm X-T2 + battery grip (x2)
Samyang 8mmF2.8 fisheye
Fujinon 1.4x converter
Fujifilm EF-X500 flashgun
Manfrotto 190 Tripod with 701HDV video head
Rode VideoMic ProR
Shootools 40cm Slider