I have a confession, this was my first trip to Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. It’s hard to believe that as an avid motorsports fan I’ve never made the short trip over to this iconic venue. The Belgium Grand Prix has been a must-watch race for as long as I can remember and I’ve always wanted to visit the circuit to take in the experience.
When a friend threw out the seemingly innocent ‘Who’s up for Spa Classic this year?’ comment in our WhatsApp group a plan started hatching very quickly. It didn’t take long for me to agree to join the party and within a couple of days, everything was finalised and booked. A few weeks later an early morning meet at Chislehurst and we were heading off towards the Eurotunnel. Me in my 997, along with a 993, 964, 911S and two Alfas, an SZ and Giulia Super – quite a nice little line-up.
Once through the Eurotunnel and onto the mainland, it was a brisk drive down to Spa via a fantastically scenic and exciting non-motorway route. Along the way, we stopped off at the Chimay circuit for some photos and some not-so-hot laps on the public roads. After this, we all managed to get separated and I found myself on my own enjoying Belgium B-Roads for a couple of hours. Miraculously we all managed to come together in the beautiful Belgium village of Durby. From there it’s only a short jaunt to the Silva Hotel Spa-Balmoral – which was to be our base for the weekend.
Saturday morning saw a short drive down to the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. The event and so well managed that driving in and parking is a breeze, no hold-ups and only smiling faces to greet you too. You really feel welcome as you drive in. Our parking was overlooking La Source and once out of the cars we were greeted by a spinning Silk Cut Jaguar XJR-9 – not a bad start to the day.
Spa Classic is a great event for photographers as your ticket gets you access to almost all areas. You can roam freely around the pits and paddocks, the usual common-sense rules apply and the teams are happy to talk when not getting cars out onto the track.
If you’ve visited a previous historic motorsport event in the UK then there are a number of cars that will be familiar. Such as the white and red #36 Porsche 910 driven by Juergen Rudolph. But, there a whole bunch of cars that I hadn’t seen before. These, plus the sheer joy of being in Spa made for an excellent weekend. Everywhere you turn there’s a photo opportunity. However, I found myself getting a little overwhelmed and had to take a step back for a while as I found myself just snapping away without much thought.
One of the big challenges of photographing cars on a circuit is the safety fencing, however, I was prepared. I’m a big fan of Rich Webb’s work and he has plenty of thoughts and advice about shooting from ‘behind the fence’. I’d spent time reading all these before my trip with the hope of not letting the fence become a problem. I’ll let you all judge if I managed to capture anything half decent.
There are a number of ‘letterbox’ openings in some of the fences, but there’s usually a throng of people hustling to get their lenses through the gaps. Sometimes it’s not worth waiting as you can often find other angles that work either between or over the fence.
This shot of the Porsche 917 is a good example of stepping back from the fence and climbing up some banking. I may have got a better shot with a longer lens, but because I was higher than the fence I could close my aperture down to try and get more of the car in focus.
Along the Blancimont straight there’s no option but to shoot through the fence. To try making the fence ‘disappear’ I opened up the aperture but as you can see in these two images the chicken wire is still there creating interesting patterns.
The Golden Cobra,
This shot was taken at the Fagnes corners, through a gate and a couple of marcels during the 2.0L Cup race – a single-make series reserved for 2-litre short wheelbase early Porsche 911s prepared in accordance with FIA pre-66 regulations.
911 S details
Closing shot. I haven’t shot black and white for a long time and neither have I processed many of my shots in monochrome. Although I’m not sure this is a great shot it’s made me consider that I should try more black and white, maybe something for next year…