2021 SRO Motorsports America at Watkins Glen International (September 16 and 17)

Last month had the opportunity to photograph the SRO Motorsports America at Watkins Glen International (WGI). The last time I attended one of these events was when it was known as the Pirelli World Challenge. Hence, it was great to be able to cover this event. Hope you like the photos.

Thursday

Over the previous couple of evenings packed my bags, went over the schedule and planned my daily photography itinerary. Also, went over my photography gear to make sure everything was okay, charged my batteries and formatted my memory cards. Lastly, made sure I had plenty of Mentos candy and muesli bars packed, which are my source of energy when I’m walking around the race track (as well as plenty of water).

On Thursday left Boston around 7.00 am for the approximately 350 mile drive along I90W, then I88W to WGI. During the 6 to 7 hours drive caught up on podcasts and audio books. The audio book I listened to this time was In a Sunburned Country, which is about the travels of the American author, Bill Bryson, through my home country Australia. Really enjoyed the audio book and learned many things about Australia I didn’t know. Also, caught up with one of my favorite podcasts, F1 Beyond the Grid. If you are a fan of F1, really recommend this podcast.

After arriving at WGI, picked up my media credentials, then went to the media center to say hello, reserved some desk spots and obtained a photography vest. Then headed down to the technical inspection area to watch the cars undergo their inspections.

The “Garagistic” livery on the #06 BMW M240IR was one of the most colorful and eye-catching I have ever seen on a race car, especially the exploding bomb in the bonnet.

Continued my walk around the paddock to get shots of the cars being worked on by their crews.

Finished my walk around the paddock with the beautiful #9 TR3 Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3. Awesome looking car. Left the track and headed to the hotel at Watkins Glen to check-in, then met up with some other photographers for dinner.

Friday

Left the hotel around 6.45 am, and on the way to the track stopped at a fast food outlet for take-out breakfast (Croissant-wich’s with sausage) and coffee. Continued on my way and arrived at the track a little after 7.00 am. In the media center put together the camera gear I’d be using on the track, two DSLR camera bodies, a 500mm lens, 70-200mm lens, spare batteries, memory cards, filters and a loupe. One camera body had the 500mm attached to it on a monopod, and the other camera body had the 70-200mm attached. Also, took plenty of Mentos candy, muesli bars and a couple of bottles of water so I could re-charge in the field, since this would be a long day with ten sessions to cover. Left the media center around 7.30 am, and drove to the outside of Turn 9 at the top of The Boot. Was great to see spectators at the track with their campsites set-up.

At 8.00 am the USAC Porsche Sprint cars hit the track under overcast skies for their first practice session. Forty-five minutes later the GT Practice 1 session started. The #88 Zelus Motorsports Lamborghini Huracan GT3.

After getting shots of the cars entering Turn 9, moved to my left for panning shots as they entered the straight after Turn 9. The #25 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4.

After getting some editorial shots in the bag, used a slower shutter speed for some artsy shots of the cars as they reached the top to Turn 9. The #90 TR3 Racing Lamborghini Super Trofeo.

The TC practice 1 session started at 10.05 am, which was followed at 10.50 am by the GTWC cars. What’s great about shooting at Turn 9 is that you can sometimes get shots where you can see the drivers behind the windshield. The #88 Zelus Motorsports Lamborghini Huracan GT3.

Sometimes the cars appear to speed past you in a blur. The #63 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3.

The blue livery of the #96 Turner Motorsport BMW F13 M6 GT3 matched the blue safety rails that lined the track.

At 12.05 pm the last of the practice one sessions started, with the GT4 SprintX cars. The #16 Capstone Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4 at the top to Turn 9. After the session ended, drove back to the media center to grab a quick lunch and to transfer the morning session photographs onto my laptop. Also, made some new folders on my cameras memory cards for the afternoon sessions.

Left the media center around 1.10 pm, so I could get to the inside of The Boot for the afternoon practice 2 sessions. This is great place to gets shots of the cars coming down the Chute into Turn 6. First up were the GT cars. This shot of the #45 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3-R 991.2 gives you an idea of the elevation change that happens at this part of the track.

The #99 Rotek Racing Ford Mustang GT4.

As the session progressed, walked up the hill on drivers right for rear panning shots of the cars as they exited Turn 6. The #09 Automatic Racing Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4 with its red, white and blue livery. Was also great to see the sun come out for these afternoon sessions.

Stayed at this location for the 2.20 pm TC practice session, with my goal to start here, then walk down the hill for other shots as the session progressed. This way I would save my energy and be more efficient at shooting the cars. Here’s a wide shot of Turn 6 to give you an idea of what this part of this track looks like. The #21 TechSport Racing Nissan 370Z.

Really liked how the slow shutter speed exaggrated the red signage behind the #77 LA Honda World Racing Honda Civic Si.

Flying through Turn 6 with the #20 Skip Barber Racing School Honda Civic Si.

Towards the end of the session one of the cars went off the track and needed to be put on a trailer tow truck, before the USAC Porsche practice session started at 3.00 pm.

For the 4.00 pm GTWC practice session, continued my routine of starting at one part of Turn 6, then working my way to the other part of this turn as the session progressed. This time started at the bottom of Turn 6 with rear shots of the cars as they turned into the Toe at Turn 7. Some nice light was starting to appear on the track as the sun found its way through the clouds. If you look closely at the #20 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3-R 991.2 you can see the heat from the engine causing a disturbance in the air above the top of the car.

Walked up the hill for some wide shots of the cars going through Turn 6 to set the scene. The #63 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3.

Even under overcast skies the #9 TR3 Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 stood out with its white livery.

Also continued my routine of trying some artsy shots after getting the editorial shots. The #88 Zelus Motorsports Lamborghini Huracan GT3 (top) and #96 Turner Motorsport Turner Motorsport (bottom).

When I was looking around for other shots, noticed how the cars were coming into the turn. So decided to capture this first at a slow shutter speed for editorial shots, then at a lower shutter speed for artsy shots. To illustrate this, here are some shots of the #19 and #63 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3.

Finished up the session for rear shots of the cars going through Turn 6. The #33 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3.

The last session for the day started at 5.15 pm with the GT4 SprintX cars, and with the overcast skies clearing, the late afternoon light was starting to look really nice.

Continued getting a mixture of editorial and artsy style photos by varying the angle of view and shutter speed. The #24 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4 (top) and #111 Motorsport USA McLaren 570S GT4 (bottom). For the lower artsy photo, was trying to use the slow shutter speed to create the image of the car speeding out of the corner; with a trail of red, yellow and green streaming behind it, against the blue safety railing.

As I was walking down the hill, stopped for some head on shots of the cars. The #16 Capstone Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4 (top), #47 NOLASPORT Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 CLUBSPORT MR (middle) and #66 TRG – The Racers Group Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 CLUBSPORT MR (bottom). Thought the livery on the front of the #66 looked really cool.

For the last shots of the day, turned around, for some rear shots of the cars speeding down the straight into Turn 7. By now, the low afternoon light was creating some long shadows and pockets of light across the track.

After the session finished, headed back to the car and drove back to the media center. Spent the next few hours downloading and editing photos with the other photographers. Also, plugged in my charger to re-charge my camera batteries. Glad I had a hot dog left over from lunch, some soda, and a cold cup of coffee to keep me going. Left the track around 10.30 pm, for the drive back to the hotel, and a good nights sleep. It was a long day, but really enjoyed it. Thanks for spending your time reading this blog.

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