Road America, with the Falken Tire racing team.. and what a beautiful weekend it was out in Wisconsin!
Yes. We crashed. Let me start with first saying that I don’t know any details about the crash beyond this: Whatever the end cause was, it sent Bryan into a wall at an incredibly high speed. It wasn’t head-on, so, Bryan escaped with a few bumps and was cleared quickly by medical. As for the cause or crazy photos – I don’t know, nor do I have any. I was at a different location on the track when it happened. And the cause is being investigated so changes (if needed) can be made before Baltimore in 11 days.
Now, onto to details of the rest of the weekend..
Any sort of East Coast travel always means very little sleep the night before. Going to bed early doesn’t really work well for me, and first-flight-out typically means leaving the house at 5am. So I only got about four hours of sleep that evening. The travel day went surprisingly smooth. Funny that with all the flying that I do the best service I have is consistently ”budget-airline” Southwest.
That first afternoon in Wisconsin was spent with Cale and Qazi, two of Falken’s video team. We were going around town doing some filming and shooting of the city for b-roll type footage that they could use for their final piece on the Road America race. We found a couple cool locations and the guys did their thing as I wandered around on my own. I didn’t really have much use for any of the shots I would have taken, so I pretty much just took behind the scenes stuff.
Later that evening we checked into our hotel to get ready for a busy Saturday at the track. Oh, and we stayed at the Osthoff Resort which was incredible. I was in an awesome two-bedroom suite on the top floor with a view of the pools and lake.
Practice day for me started early. The photographer meeting was at 730am. So, I was up early to get ready and get out of the hotel in time. Plus it was a new track so making sure I figured out my way around was important, too.
Overall the practice day went really well. I was able to check about half the track during the various practice sessions. Road America is a 4 mile track, so that’s either a LOT of walking… or a lot of driving if you are lucky enough to have a golf cart. Our video crew used the golf cart the majority of the time, which means I was on foot. Qazi, one of the videographers, actually joked “You’re in the best shape out of all of us, John. So you get to walk.” Hahaha!
Race day was a different story… as we arrived at the track the first GT practice of the day was getting started. So, I had the guys drop me off so I could start shooting right then. I rather have every opportunity I can to get shots of the car on the track than risk not getting enough images. The rest of the day was whirlwind of bouncing around the paddocks, grabbing breakfast/lunch at whatever point I had a few minutes to do so, and hiking pretty much the entire track to check out possible new areas to shoot.
And as everyone is aware, our race day was cut short due to a crash – a very disappointing end of the race for us when Falken was bouncing between 3rd and 5th place at the time.
Anyway, I’ll stop typing. Read on for a ton of images and captions from my weekend with Falken’s ALMS team at Elkhart Lake.
Qazi and Cale, white balancing their cameras before doing some city shots.
It was interesting for me to watching these guy work since video, despite many similarities, is still very different than what I do
Qazi getting some video of the train rolling by
We were right next to the old Sprecher’s brewery
Toward the end of afternoon, and after our stop for coffee, we finished things up with a couple shots of the cityscape
We were right on the water shooting.
Friday morning and guys already have the car set and ready to go.
The paddocks are still quiet since very few guests are there yet.
Driving the car out to the pit, practice is about to get underway. Time for me to steal the golf cart and go out to the furthest corner I can…
Bryan Sellers, getting his day started and rounding Turn 12
These Vipers were pretty loud out there
There are some really beautiful views around the Road America track. I wanted to try and capture that throughout the weekend, but when you start shooting too wide it just looks like you’re “shooting from the stands” or something…
Out on Turn 13A I decided to start realllly playing with panning. The Falken RSR had gone in to pit a couple times which left me with time to focus on other cars.
These images were all shot handheld at 1/80 of a second or so
By the end of that practice session I was panning and tracking the cars at 1/50 of a second and very pleased with a lot of my results.
Back in the paddocks it’s time to take things apart and check everything before the afternoon practice later on
PR Manager Kelly is busy responding to the team’s very popular twitter feed questions while she waits for her video interview to get started
If you look closely you can see the string in place for the crew to check toe on the alignment
There are tons of tools for the crew to use while working on everything. “We have three sets of everything” Brad told me after the race weekend. “And double of everything (else)”.
Brad, pulling off the brake calipers
With a bit of time before the afternoon practice, now is the crew’s chance for a break and quick bite.
Qazi and Cale are still busy with their interviews
I honestly need to look at this more often and just write the times down for everything. Looking at the HUGE list that the photographers are given in our press room is sometimes a little too “busy”
Brandon quietly finishing up the last of the calipers in an otherwise empty Falken paddock.
Lee, double checking measurements. These guys are meticulous… checking and rechecking each time.
Dan, cleaning off the front the RSR so it’s looking good for the next session. You never see these guys avoid any job between tearing apart the brake calipers or “hey, wipe down the hood real quick”. That’s got to make for an awesome team environment.
PR Manager Kelly watching all the neighboring paddocks clear out as crews head to lunch
Bessim, Brad and Lee chat after getting back from break. The afternoon is about to get very busy for them.
Team Manager Derrick Walker is interviewed
Upon hearing that it was this young man’s first time to a race track, Wolf brought him and his father back in to the paddocks to see everything up close and get a personal tour. The crew members jokingly told the boy he was “wearing the wrong team” when they saw his race shirt on. He was given a Falken shirt wear and he put it on right then! Wolf even opened up the door to the RSR and let the young fan sit in the driver’s seat! Now I don’t anyone who has had that opportunity! PR Manager Kelly said that him and his father stopped by throughout the weekend to continue to say hi and also to personally thank them again for their hospitality before they left!
Bryan Sellers is interviewed by ESPN just briefly before practice kicks off that afternoon
This time around I headed out to Turn 5. Unfortunately we didn’t bring the 400mm on this trip – a huge mistake since it was such a large track. I’ll definitely remember next time.
Hanging out at Turn 6 you’re likely to see spin outs and slides. Many people came in too hot and spun completely around that session! But, to be fair, as a guest your best best is the opposite side of where I’m shooting.
The day is wrapped up and the guys are making a few notes as things quiet down.
Everyone piled under the car working!
Yep, that’s FIVE people checking out the RSR. I asked what it was they were doing and Brandon told me “nothing (out of the ordinary). The Porsche’s engine gets dirty. Part (of what we were doing) was cleaning it up – dirt, oil, we clean all that off as we check everything and make sure it’s fine”
Qazi getting a few last video clips for the day before we head out.
For those curious, our work day doesn’t end here either. After retuning to the hotel we were working for a couple hours to get things sorted and processed. We took an hour or so to break away and go get dinner late that night – somewhere between 9-10. After returning from dinner I still had some work to do with imagery and Qazi was probably up another three hours dealing with video.
That Falken RSR will shoot right past your field of view if you’re not paying attention. I would love to try some longer shutter shots in locations like this for an evening or night race. Did you guy see my long exposure images from Sebring? No? Click March 2012 at the top of this blog…
There are plenty of views of the track all of the place. Even looking through the trees you’re bound to find something
After the morning practice I got a phone call from my friend Des! She was at the track and asking if I was around to meet up for a bit. SO unexpected to see anyone I knew at the race (that wasn’t there working of course, lol)
Randyl, Brittney and Wolf start to get set up for the autograph and meet-n-greet session
Two of Falken’s stunning models, Randyl Dawn and Brittney Leigh
Bryan Sellers, busy signing autographs for fans
there’s always a long line during this part of the day.
This fan has two young sons (one is in the hat looking at the RSR) who had drawn out the Road America track and put stickers of each race car on it. Bryan and Wolf signed right next to the Falken Porsche
Happy Birthday Bryan!
Bryan puts his head down in laughter as Wolf ties a Happy Birthday balloon to Bryan’s belt loop.
The crew had brought cakes and candles to the track to celebrate Bryan turning 30.
I love this shot of Wolf and Bryan! It really shows the friendship the two drivers share
Brad just smirks as Bryan realizes that they bought re-lighting birthday candles for his cake…
Attempt number two… the re-lit immediately afterward though
Out front the line was still busy as the girls continued to sign their poster for the fans.
Wolf unfastens his helmet as the cars are lined up on the track for opening ceremonies.
See that bit of blue and teal? That’s Randyl’s umbrella in the huge crowd of people…
People swarmed onto the track to the see the cars up close and get photos
Qazi and Cale, blending right into the crowd. Brittney’s blond hair stands out though
Kelly, busy tweeting from the track
Qazi, busy getting video
Me and Kelly!
Wolf and Bryan were cracking up over something.
these are some of my favorite shots of the two of them together
Brittney, standing with the RSR meeting guests and taking photos
I think of all the models I’ve seen Brittney the most at the races.
HAD to get one with both girls on the track! Thank you to Kelly for taking it!
Anddd one with Randyl too!
Then the girls said to take one more…ok! Hahaha
Kelly wanted one, too, and jumped in!
Clearly we were all working very hard during those three minutes
Me and Cale
Wolf, getting suited up for the race to start
Bryan, standing and listening during the national anthem
There was even a flyover with vintage jets!
As the race started off, Cale and I headed to Turn 5 to check that out for the first few laps
Back out to Turn 13, this time from the inside of the track.
There are a ton of views of the track from all heights. Simply going to the top of the hill allows a bird’s eye view of 13A and 14
Even hiking along the backside of the track you can still see what’s going on during the race
Way out at Turn 10 things are a bit lonelier
I’m just going to tell everyone I totally planned this shot cuz I’m THAT amazing…. you believe me right? RIGHT? Yeah, I didn’t expect you to
A track-wide yellow keeps everyone in line through the carousel
Turn 8 is a hard 90-degree left turn. All drivers take this one pretty carefully
Models Brittney and Randyl were following me out to Turn 13 since they wanted to see the track from one of the views that I was shooting from.
While waiting on Turn 13 I got a phone call that the RSR has gone off-track and crashed. Upon returning to the pits This is what we all saw.. the Porsche being unloaded from the tow truck. The tire and wheel damaged from the brief off-road moment when it left the cement.
The crew looks at what would be the easiest way to get the car into to the paddock.
A new wheel was put on since the other was damaged.
Wolf and Derrick look on as the crew carefully maneuvers the car onto the ground.
The team pushes the car back into position so they can start looking at everything. The bumper was already removed so it could be pulled onto the tow truck. it was now resting on the hood.
Derrick quietly watches the crew go to work.
Wolf kneels down get a look at the damage.
Kelly stands back and watches as the team scrambles around
Within 15 minutes the guys already have the front end taken apart and pieces are being removed and inspected to see how much was damaged.
You can see mud and grass in the wheel well from where the wheel was damaged going off road. You can see where the tire rubber was hitting the body of the car after going off-track
All the data from the computers on board is downloaded. The team will be going through all of this over and over the next week I’m sure.
With the the whole front end taken apart, the team starting looking at which pieces are damaged and how much work it may take to be ready for Baltimore
It was definitely a disappointing end to the race. Especially since Bryan was doing great at that point and there was only about 40 minutes or so left. I’ll be curious to see what the outcome is and what the problem is determined to be. I know the team is working some serious hours right now to get things turned around and lined up for their next race which is in only 11 days!
I won’t be out to another Le Mans race with Falken until October unfortunately – but that will be the 12 hour Petit Le Mans race in Atlanta!
Hope you enjoyed all the images from my weekend in Wisconsin at Road America though! It really is a beautiful track and I look forward to one day being back out there again to shoot in the future.
As for me and things back here in SoCal… a few projects in the works. Check back soon and I should have some new stuff posted. Thanks for reading, catch you all next time!