The 19th running of Petit Le Mans was held at Road Atlanta on October 1. Olivier Pla, John Pew, and Oswaldo Negri Jr. won this 10 hour endurance race in the #60 Michael Shank Racing Honda HPD Ligier JS P2. Eric Curran and Dane Cameron took the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with fourth place in the #31 Action Express Racing Corvette DP, with Simon Pagenaud. This was a fitting way to end the season, since this would be the last time Daytona Prototypes would compete in this series. Had a great time photographing under the different light conditions from day to night. Hope you like the photos.
Map credit – http://www.roadatlanta.com
This was my first time covering an endurance race with media credentials. The longest races I’d covered previously were about 2.5 to 3 hours in length. So during the evening before the race, made a plan for locations I would cover the next day from warm-up, paddock, pre-grid fan-walk, race start, morning, early-afternoon, afternoon, evening, night, race finish, and winners podium. Also, broke the race day into different sections, so I could get as much coverage as possible and to allow time to edit/upload photos, eat, and rest. Overall, things went as planned, but as you will see below, made some changes during the latter part of the race.
Left the hotel at 6.00 am, and on my way to the track picked up some breakfast, two sausage McMuffin’s with no cheese (also brought two extra ones for eating during the day). Arrived at the track around 6.30 am and parked in the support paddock area. Was one of the first to arrive at the Photo Hut (that’s my bags at the upper right of the photo). Had a little time before the photo meeting started, so got my gear together and worked out what I would take to the track during each session, to minimize what I needed and the gear weight to carry.
After the 8.00 am photo meeting, walked to the outside of Turn 11 for the warm-up session at 8.40 am, and passed the “Welcome to Road Atlanta” sign. Decided to shoot from the outside of Turns 11 to 10B so could shoot at right angles to the sunlight and into the light for something different. Shooting at right angles to the sun really emphasized the contours in the sand.Walked down the track from Turn 11 and noticed how the sun was casting a bright spot on the track, so decided to get some shots of the cars speeding through this light on the track with the bright sun above. #31 Action Express Racing Corvette DP with Eric Curran, Dane Cameron, or Simon Pagenaud.
Kept walking down the hill for shots of the cars exiting Turn 10B. A BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM.
The #5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP and Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi, or Filipe Albuquerque.
Kept walking down to Turn 10B. Here’s a view from Turn 10B up the hill to Turn 11.
Walking to the right of Turn 10B allows you to get shots of the cars entering this corner. The #100 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM and John Edwards, Lucas Luhr, or Kuno Wittmer.
The morning light really made the yellow livery on the #96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 glow.
The fans on the hill overlooking Turns 10A to 10B had a great view.
One last shot after the end of the session to give you an idea of what its like between Turns 11 (top of hill) to 10B. This is a great spot to shoot from either side of the fence.
On my way back to the Photo Hut, walked along the road through the Vendor Village to check out the off-track activities for the race fans.
A beautiful metallic yellow painted Corvette GTLM was parked in the Corvette corral.
BMW, Corvette, and Ford had displays in the Vendor Village.
By the time I got back to the main paddock, a large crowd had amassed near the gate to pit lane for the pre-grid fan walk at 9.50 am.
The #60 Mazda Motorsports Mazda Prototype was on pole-position. Was really cool how the nose of the car was covered in autographs.
French compatriots, Olivier Pla (left) and Simon Pagenaud (right) had a friendly chat before the race.
The red livery on the #31 Action Express Racing Corvette DP looked brilliant in the morning light.
Richard Westbrook, one of the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT drivers.
Tristan Nunez in the cockpit of the #55 Mazda Motorsports Mazda Prototype.
Continued walking down the front straight past the #0 Panoz DeltaWing Racing DeltaWing DWC13 and the #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA FLM09.
The #2 Tequila Patron ESM Honda HPD Ligier JS P2.
The red, white, and blue livery of the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT.
The Stars and Stripes and Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R.
Was great to see a large crowd of fans checking out the cars before the race.
The Atlanta pipe band were playing near the Yokohama Bridge. Continued my way back to the Photo Hut to have a quick bite to eat and to pick up my 500mm lens, then took a photo van to the outside of Turn 1.
The race wasn’t scheduled to start until 11.10 am, so had some time to walk from Turn 1 to the outside of Turn 2. Remember hearing the national anthems of France and the United States of America and thinking how lucky I was to be able to cover one of the classic sports car endurance races in the world. Was a great time to reflect.
Race start with the #60 Mazda Motorsports Mazda Prototype (top) and the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT (bottom) leading the prototype and GTLM classes through Turn 1, respectively.
The #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT with Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook, or Scott Dixon.
The #27 Dream Racing Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 with Lawrence DeGeorge, Paolo Ruberti, or Cedric Sbirrazzuoli leading a PC class car through Turn 1.
This shot gives you an idea of the incline the cars travel up between Turns 1 and 2. The #70 Mazda Motorsports Mazda Prototype and Tom Long, Joel Miller, or Spencer Pigot.
The outside of Turn 2 is also a good location for panning shots. The #20 BAR1 Motorsports ORECA FLM09 with Don Yount, Tomy Drissi, or Johnny Mowlem.
The #6 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS GT3 with Robin Liddell, Andrew Davis, or Mike Skeen.
Headed back down the hill to the small stand on the outside of Turn 1, for shots of the cars speeding down the front straight. Eric Curran and Dane Cameron would go onto 4th place (with Simon Pagenaud) in the #31 Action Express Racing Corvette DP and win the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The #9 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS GT3 leads a group of GTD and GTLM cars down the front straight.
Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R and the #16 Change Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3.
The #48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 and Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow, or Bryce Miller.
Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen, and Marc Miller would go on to win GTD class in the #33 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R.
Was cool watching the cars ascend from Turn 1 into Turn 2.
The #0 Panoz DeltaWing Racing DeltaWing DWC13 and Katherine Legge, Sean Rayhall, or Andy Meyrick climbing into Turn 2.
Headed from Turn 1 to the outside of Turn 12 for shots of the cars going under the Harrah’s cross-over bridge. While I was walking to this turn, a kind gentleman in a golf cart stopped by and gave me a ride to Turn 12. Was really appreciative of this, and didn’t realize until the podium ceremony, that the person who gave me a lift was the President of Road Atlanta.
Two wide with the #911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR and #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3.
The #85 JDC-Miller Motorsports ORECA FLM09 and Misha Goikhberg, Chris Miller, or Stephen Simpson.
Walked up the steep hill from Turn 12 to the Turn 10B/11 spectator area (top), over the Harrah’s cross-over bridge (middle), then to the inside of Turn 10B/11 (bottom).
This is a great location to get panning shots of the cars. The #96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 with Bret Curtis, Jens Klingmann, or Ashley Freiberg.
“Visit Florida” with the #90 VisitFlorida Racing Corvette DP and Ryan Dalziel, Marc Goossens, or Ryan Hunter-Reay.
PC class winner, #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA FLM09 with Robert Alon, Jose Gutierrez, or Tom Kimber-Smith.
The #88 Starworks Motorsport ORECA FLM09 leading the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT.
The #0 Panoz DeltaWing Racing DeltaWing DWC13 at 1/50 (top) and 0.3 (bottom) second shutter speeds. Its amazing how the background fuses into beautiful colorful lines at very slow shutter speeds.
Around 2 pm, left the Turn 10B/11 complex and walked back down the Turn 11/12 hill to the Photo Hut to edit/upload the morning session, have lunch, and rest.
Around 4.00 pm took a photo van to the inside of Turn 4 near the flag marshals stand, then walked to Turn 2 for shots of the cars coming over this hill with the sunlit trees in the background. Race winner, the #60 Michael Shank Racing Honda HPD Ligier JS P2 and John Pew, Oswaldo Negri Jr., or Olivier Pla.
The #38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA FLM09 with James French, Kyle Marcelli, or Kenton Koch.
GTLM class winner. The #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE and Giancarlo Fisichella, Toni Vilander, or James Calado.
The yellow livery on the Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R looked beautiful in the afternoon sun.
The #85 JDC-Miller Motorsports ORECA FLM09 with Misha Goikhberg, Chris Miller, or Stephen Simpson.
Turned myself around for some rear panning shots with the 500mm lens of the cars racing through Turn 3. I found this a very hard shot, since the cars were coming through this corner at speed with little time for myself to react. Missed a lot of shots, but managed to get a couple of keepers. The #60 Michael Shank Racing Honda HPD Ligier JS P2 and John Pew, Oswaldo Negri Jr., or Olivier Pla.
Was really happy to get this shot of the Bimmer flying through Turn 3, with its wheels lifting. The #67 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 with Michael Marsal or Markus Palttala.
Headed down to the track to look for different vantage points and saw a couple of “friendly fans” along the way.
Continued walking past the flaggers stand at Turn 3 and down the hill past Turn 4. Found a vantage point for getting different shots of the cars going through this complex. Here’s a couple of wide shots to give you an idea of what this part of the track looks like.
Some close racing through Turn 3 with the #27 Dream Racing Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 and an ORECA FLM09.
Into Turn 4 with the #31 Action Express Racing Corvette DP and Eric Curran, Dane Cameron, or Simon Pagenaud.
As the afternoon progressed, the sun got lower, and the light started to get a yellow glow, which emphasized the yellow livery on the Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R. Looks like this Corvette had been through the grass.
A little bit further down the track you can get a good view of the Esses. The golden light was getting really low at this part of the track. The #48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 with Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow, or Bryce Miller.
Headed back to Turns 2 and 3 for shots of the cars as the sun got lower and started to set. Really liked the patches of light and shadows along this part of the track. Was lucky to catch the #38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA FLM09 with James French, Kyle Marcelli, or Kenton Koch in a patch of light.
Went back to Turn 2, for shots of the cars rising up this hill and the setting sun lighting the trees in the background. Many thanks to one of the photographers who told me about this location. Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3.
In the golden light with the #88 Starworks Motorsport ORECA FLM09 and Mark Kvamme, Richard Bradley, or Maxwell Hanratty (upper) and the #912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR and Earl Bamber or Frederic Makowiecki (lower).
Into the “setting sun” with the #70 Mazda Motorsports Mazda Prototype and Tom Long, Joel Miller, or Spencer Pigot. Had a great time shooting at this location in the beautiful light of the setting sun.
As twilight started to cover the track, was starting to get very tired. Had planned some different options for night shots, but decided to walk back through the main paddock to the Photo Hut to drop off the 500mm, then to pit row on drivers left along the front straight.
The race finished around 9.10 pm with the #60 Michael Shank Racing Honda HPD Ligier JS P2 taking the chequered flag for outright victory at Petit Le Mans!
After the race finished, crossed the Yokohama bridge to the main paddock. When I reached the other side of the bridge, looked back towards the support paddock area to see the fireworks in the sky.By the time I got to the podium area, Michael Shank, Olivier Pla, John Pew, and Oswaldo Negri Jr. (left to right) were on top of the #60 Michael Shank Racing Honda HPD celebrating the race win with hundreds of race fans.
Alot media were on hand to cover the podium presentations.
Alessandro Balzan, co-driver of the #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3, was having a lot of fun before the podium presentations.
Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner celebrate their championship winning titles in the #4 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R.
Prototype, GTLM, and Prototype Challenge winners (right to left).
Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan won the GTD championship for Scuderia Corsa. Nielsen made history by becoming the first woman to win a major North American full-season professional sports car championship.
GTD winners podium with victory going to Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen, and Marc Miller in the #33 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R.
The champagne celebration was great to watch with Nielsen being the center of attention due to her historic drivers championship.
PC winners podium with Robert Alon, Jose Gutierrez, and Tom Kimber-Smith winning in the #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA FLM09.
GTLM winners podium with victory going to Giancarlo Fisichella, Toni Vilander, and James Calado in the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE.
Prototype winners podium with Olivier Pla, John Pew, and Oswaldo Negri Jr. who won the race in the #60 Michael Shank Racing Honda HPD.
After the podium celebrations went back to the Photo Hut to edit/upload photos and to get something to eat. Left the track around mid-night and on the way back to the hotel had time to reflect on todays event. I’d walked about 11.5 miles, and by the time I went to bed, was up for about 20 hours. Was feeling very exhausted, but really excited to have covered my first endurance race. Looking forward to experiencing more endurance races next year. Thanks to everyone who helped me at Road Atlanta.