From Dead to Rally

Ferrari Challenge: Shooting the Prancing Horse

The Ferrari Challenge returned to Lime Rock Park after a 6yr Hiatus on July 30th and I was sure it was going to be an action packed day. There were lots of reasons that I wanted to attend this particular event, probably the most obvious being that there would be hours of Ferraris chasing each other around the bends and straights, screaming through the mountains and Pirelli tires squealing to their deaths. It also marked the last time that the F430 would partake in the Ferrari Challenge series and what a better exit show than to pit it against the replacement 458 Italia.

It’s been a while since I was excited to photograph something, especially an event, so I wanted to challenge myself a bit. I decided I wasn’t going to go overboard on hauling photo gear with me and would instead take a minimalistic approach. My initial instinct was to grab the 70-200mm and even the 11-16mm but I decided on only bringing a Canon 400D with the 18-55mm kit lens. Not exactly the move most photographers would make, and I knew I would lose the opportunity for some shots, but I wanted to push myself and show that you don’t necessarily need thousands of dollars in gear to capture great moments.

By the time I got there qualifying had already begun and some of the cars had just returned to pit lane. The paddock was opened to the public but the crowd was focused on watching the historic qualifying sessions. This gave me the opportunity to really get up close and personal with some of the aftermath. It was pretty evident that these guys were here to let these Italian mares out of their stables. The 458’s were running 570hp and run upward of of $300k to enter in this series but these guys didn’t let that deter them from competing. There was grass in their grills, tires rubbing fenders and the crunching and cracking of body panels. It was almost like a bad dream, forcing me to cringe and look away at moments.

There was a sense of masochism in the air, how could someone take such a machine and put it in harms way just for a few hours of adrenaline pumping racing action? While it might be inconceivable to most, I’d say if I had the opportunity I’d do the same thing. After all Ferrari  has been and will always be a racing company first and foremost. Ferrari Challenge was a charitable event, letting these few horses run free while the majority of their mates are confined to garage spaces, 4k rpm shifts in local traffic and never having the chance to really express themselves. This was a thought I could live more easily with.

It wasn’t all violent crime scenes and cringing though, surprisingly you’d be amazed at how quickly and well cared for these cars are. Teams of people with specific skills waiting, while hoping they never had to, use their skills. Techs constantly going over the cars while they rested before the next session. Master craftsman reworking body panels and performing emergency surgery in minutes compares to days that our local bodyshops take.

This was about the time I was happy with my choice in camera gear for the day. It really forced me to consider my shots and at times get closer to my subject than I might have otherwise. Even though these guys were extremely busy with their jobs they were friendly and as long as I wasn’t in their way let me position myself for a few moments just about any place.

The engineering and attention to detail in these cars was absolutely amazing. With all of the  lightweight materials and exotic composites, their price tags are rightfully justified. More importantly though it just goes to show you just how far Ferrari is willing to go to achieve their goals and visions.

After some time in the paddock it was time for the historics to return from their qualifying lap , I wanted to snap off a few more shots and then grab a seat before the racing got underway. If qualifying was any indication, the race would be an exciting one.

I’ve had the pleasure of being in the presence of a F40 before but never an LM, let alone an LM following a v12 Daytona. The audible utopia these two machines provided is simply indescribable.  It wasn’t just the adults that were enamored by these two.

A kid couldn’t ask for a better day! time with his father, a big red firetruck, and an extremely loud blue race car. I left the paddock area after this and searched for a spot where I could catch some of the action. I really wished I had brought the 70-200mm at this point. This would prove to be the biggest challenge of the day, finding a location/locations where I could shoot some of the action and still get something more than a red spec amongst the grey tarmac.

I decided the best thing wasn’t to look for ONE spot but to walk along the perimeter and catch the action from a few different locations. I actually found some areas that allowed me to get close enough to really get some good shots. Remember the only thing I had today was a simple Canon 400D kit and 12gigs worth of memory cards. I actually forgot my circular polarizer as well (have to work on my “out the door” checklist for next time).

It did however bring upon the perfect opportunity to learn this camera’s limitations and work on my own. It was challenging enough with the bright blue afternoon skies but then these guys were flying around the track in the triple digits.

After the first 430 & 458 race the historics took to the track again. There were only a handful of cars in this race but each and everyone of them had huge spots in Ferrari’s history. These weren’t just old cars, these were milestones in the creation of what we know today as the best race cars.

Not a bad way to spend my day.

I decided to hit the back straight right before the turn in and see what was going on. There was something special about watching these cars circle the track, amazing to see just how much pushing these cars were still capable of and just what type of men were behind the wheel. You can’t possible think about what it’s like to race around in a car that’s doing 100+mph and was engineered decades prior when safety wasn’t regulated in any way.

Uncharacteristic of the typical subtle Ferrari marque the F40 truly was a demon horse, it breathed fire and screamed around the track daring someone to try and tame it.  Others on the track were more reminiscent of the Ferrari tradition, It could have been a sunny Saturday in the 1950-60s.

After a few more races It was time for a break, at least for the cars and drivers, I decided to hit the paddock again before lunch was over.

I had just started to walk the paddock when I caught a glimpse of this. This child just approached one of the Alfa drivers and asked why he was wearing that funny suit. The gentleman sat down and explained to him he was a racing driver and he wears it to let other people know he’s a professional race car driver. The conversation between these two really showed just how much love these drivers have for what they do and just how willing they are to share that love with anyone willing to listen.

The day couldn’t have been any better. Just when I was about to head out though I caught this F355 sitting against a beautiful backdrop. Considered to be one of the most beautiful designs ever produced by Pininfarina this simply summed up the day in a single image for me.


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