The 1959 Aston Martin DBR1 is one of the beautiful and valuable sports racing cars in the world and I had the enormous privilege of shooting the actual Le Mans winning David Brown works team car for my book The Art of the Le Mans Racing Car.
The DBR1 had been driven to victory by the unlikely coupling of Brit’ Roy Salvadori and American Carroll Shelby.Like most drivers of the day they did not just drive for one team and Salvadori achieved success in a wide variety of sports racing to F1 cars including Maserati 250F and Ferrari 225 to Cooper-Climax and latterly Jaguar saloon cars. Likewise Texan Shelby raced in all motorsports from F1 to hill-climbing and rallying and whilst competing in the fearsome Carrera Panamericana suffered a bad accident in an Austin Healey that left him in hospital for 8 months.
Remarkably Salvadori, who drove for 14 hours of the 24 hours of the race, was suffering from the flu and Shelby had a bout of dysentery and had tucked a nitroglycerine pill under his tongue in case his heart problem flared up during his stints.
Seen above is the raw un-retouched image of the car in the infinity cove studio on a black cloth background with the bonnet removed.I’d had an idea to create a layered image with bonnet on and off but had been too busy to develop the idea at the time.
The technique uses Photoshop to layer the image one on top of the other and adjust the opacity to allow you to see through the bonnet to the engine bay and takes a long time to get it right. Here’s the final comp’ image and there’s another taken from overhead in Portfolio One on this website.
The few weeks ago I got the opportunity to photograph Lewis Hamilton’s 2019 F1 championship winning car at a secret location in the UK.
As is often the case there is neither the time or the funds available to bring the car to a studio so I built a studio around the car. When I say studio it is the bare essentials of what I need to capture the image.Lighting is by flash either direct through softboxes or bounced into a white sheet behind the car.
It’s not perfect and my technique relies on my 30 years plus of experience of knowing what’s important to spend time on and what’s not.My friend Rob came along as assistant and we wrapped up the shoot with minimum fuss in just under four hours.
Here’s the final retouched head on image. You may notice that the car is still quite dirty… actually it is uncleaned from the final race of the F1 season in Abu Dhabi. Lewis won it with Max Verstappen second in the Red Bull Honda and Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari taking the final podium spot.
I’ve featured the front 3/4 view in my cars portfolio see : https://www.jamesmann.com/portfolio-one/
One of the highlights from this year was a fabulous pairing of two 1950’s sports racing car icons that I photographed for Classic and Sports Car magazine.
The two cars were both based at the Classic Motor Hub near Bibury in Gloucestershire with stunning countryside and quiet roads for us to drive on nearby. Martin Chisholm runs a series of events at the Hub every year and welcomes classic car fans in for a look around the showroom.
We found a superb section of the old A40 that appeared to have been totally cut off with so quiet in fact that a Hare lolopped up before looking both ways and hopping across the road right in front of us. The wide well engineered road was reminiscent of the early Le Mans and Reims circuits where these cars found they fame and we blasted up and down without seeing another car for over an hour.
It’s rare to have a shoot with the perfect balance of great cars, decent weather,helpful people,a good location and enough time so I was chuffed when the cockpit ride in image made the cover.
Each year I undertake three car photography workshops for the Royal Photographic Society.The summer event takes place at the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu with the support of Ford.
This year they sent us a pair of Mustangs 50 years apart in age but both on the same theme of the car driven by Steve McQueen in the Hollywood thriller Bullitt.
I usually go for a mid tone car for these workshops as they are the most straightforward to shoot so the Highland Green Bullitt cars were always going to be a challenge.
We were fortunate that the sky was overcast so the contrast was low and with some tweaks to open up the aperture we all got some great results.The classic Mustang won our hearts and as well as statics and details we were able to shoot some cornering and panning images.
The group of twelve of us used our long lenses to shoot profile panning which flattens the perspective and then short lenses for front three quarter panning which offers up a movie like view
Thankfully this year’s Goodwood Member’s Meeting was blessed with better weather than the snow we endured in 2018. As well as the fantastic wheel to wheel racing Goodwood always manages to pull some exceptional special features out of the bag for the Member’s meeting.
This year one of these was a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Porsche 917. The Goodwood circuit closed in 1966 ,just three years too early to have ever seen the awesome Porsche 917 race here so it was an amazing sight to see five of these Le Mans winning monsters roaring down the main straight in a 50th anniversary tribute.
1970 Le Mans winner Richard Attwood drove the green and white chassis 001 recently out of restoration by the Porsche factory. Australian driver Mark Webber piloted the final iteration of the 917/30, the Sunoco Can /Am car which delivered, via its twin turbochargers, over 1500BHP.
One of the greatest surviving banked circuits in the world is at Montlhery, south-west of Paris in France.On a misty November morning we arrived to photograph an icon of pre-war motor racing, the Bugatti T51 .
One of the highlights of my job is that I often get to ride alongside to shoot a driving image and this time I got three laps, one with the mechanic on a warm up lap and two more with journalist Mick Walsh .The feeling of speed is greatly enhanced by the bumpy ride,exposure to the wind and glorious sound and smells of a pre-war Bugatti at full chat…..truly magical. Riding up the banking is harder than it looks and a battle with the steering ensues to keep the car running straight around the track.No sooner had I put my camera down ,it’s time to come into the pits and we peer under the bonnet at the beautiful twin cam engine. The story goes that Ettore Bugatti saw the American Miller racing twin cam block and copied it back in 1929 and the T51 was born.
One of the largest props I’ve ever worked with was recently featured in a Classic and Sports car magazine feature shoot I organised at Cotswold airport with a Citroen Maserati and an Oldsmobile Toronando.
We wanted a period 1970’s feel to the shoot and what better then the iconic Boeing 747 for a background.It helped that our cars were the same colour for it can be tricky to photograph cars with such a large subject.
Working on an airport requires public liability insurance and often a fee for a minder .The results can be seen in the January 2019 issue of Classic and Sports Car magazine
Every year since it’s inception twenty years ago I have taken black and white images using various cameras and film at the Goodwood Circuit Revival Meeting.
Goodwood Circuit Revival 1998-1st race
I started out using my 1950’s Linhof Technika large format camera and Type 55 Polaroid black and white 5 X 4 inch sheet film which, as well as offering up the expected instant print ,gave a very fine negative too and this is what I printed from.Sadly Polaroid stopped making film and I got fed up looking at everything back to front and upside down on the back of the ground glass screen as well as carrying the necessary tripod around all day.
P51 Mustang pilot
So I moved onto a much more manageable 1960’s Hassleblad 500C that I had lurking in the back of my camera cabinet and found it didn’t need the tripod anymore and although images in the waist level viewfinder were still back to front they were at least the right way up. These early ‘blads are simple to use and were the choice of NASA to send with the Apollo astronauts to the moon…in fact a number of them were left there as they only brought back the film.
In the olden days photographers were allowed to stand in the craziest of places such as on the apex of the actual track as cars raced through it.This made for great pictures but was frankly bloody dangerous so whilst I do sometimes hanker for the good old days, getting run over by a Maserati 250F, isn’t on my wishlist. This leaves plenty to photograph with all of the atmosphere and characters wandering around the superb racing scene.
This year was no exception and with glorious weather all weekend I shot off my five rolls, with twelve frames on each, most of which appeared on my Twitter feed so if you want to see them follow me and scroll back a bit .Here are a few of the best characters I photographed in the old fashioned way.
GWCR 2018-Glam Cab
JM @ Goodwood Revival 2018
Credit for this last one of me using the Hasselblad : Dominic James
Every two years a little bit of magic happens on the Cote D’Azur of the Mediterranean Sea when the tiny Principality of Monaco hosts the Grand Prix Historiques. The event reflects the long history of the most famous road racing circuit in the world with cars from pre-war Bugattis and Alfa Romeos right up to McLarens and Brabhams that dominated the Formula One scene in the late ’70s and early ’80’s.
James Mann at Monaco
One of the best things about the event as a photographer is that the marshalls and Automobile Club de Monaco are pretty relaxed about where you can take pictures around the circuit and you can get really close to the action. The city is a maze of tunnels and hidden escalators that have taken me nearly all of the 20 years I’ve been coming to the event to navigate and each time I visit I discover somewhere new to shoot.
This is one of the classic views in Casino Square De Tomaso leads March 711 in the 1966-72 race. Weather this year was mixed with the rain arriving just in time for the sports car race.
I love the grid walk at Monaco. They still have very elegant grid girls and it’s so atmospheric.Here’s Marc Devis in the 1980 ATS on pole position with an Arrows A3 in second place.
In the harbour-side paddock the ex-Jim Clark Lotus 25 gets a thorough pre-race check by Classic Team Lotus. This car finished 8th here in 1963.
This view makes a great establishing shot with the Alpes Maritime towering above the city of Monte Carlo shrouded in mist. Here’s Belgian driver Christophe D’Ansembourg in the Mclaren M26 chasing a pair of Shadow DN8s in to the harbour chicane.This is where Jenson Button had his nightmare accident coming out of the tunnel in the BAR Honda in 2003.
Monaco always draws out the star drivers and it was great to catch up with two-time F1 world champion Mika Hakkinen who drive the stunning McLaren M14A in the Heritage parade.
The only thing missing from the weekend was good friend and motor racing commentator Henry Hope-Frost who loved the event. Henry was killed in a mortorcycle accident earlier this year. I shared many a fine time in Monaco with him as he regaled us with stories of long gone racing battles that he brought to life with sound effects that only improved with each bottle we ordered.
I’ve just been writing and photographing a story about the amazing line up of Group B rally cars at Race Retro in Stoneleigh Park. Introduced in 1982 as a replacement for Group 4, group B was conceived to cut red tape with limited regulations to encourage more manufacturers to join the WRC.
Combining four wheel drive with the immense power from turbo-charging proved irresistible to a legion of loyal fans who still love these cars more then thirty years on after the series was cancelled in 1986 following the tragic death of Henri Toivonen’s and his co-driver Sergio Cresta in a Lancia Delta S4 on the Tour de Corse rally.
Patrick Head turned the lack lustre ugly successor to the Mini ,the Metro, into a British rally icon. The 6R4 was created in 1985 out of pretty much thin air by Williams Grand Prix engineering who did much of the development work.
The Audi Quattro was a game changer on the world rally scene. When the rules changed to allow four wheel drive cars into rallying many thought they would be too complicated and heavy to be competitive but this was quickly proved wrong when a Quattro won on it’s first time out at the Austrian round of the European Championships.
Renault 5 Maxi Turbo
Designed by Bertone’s Marc Deschamps, the Renault Five Turbo was initially launched into the Group 4 rally scene and proved competitive with Jean Ragnotti winning the 1981 Monte Carlo rally and 1982 Tour de Corse.There were upgrades for Group B with increased engine power from 210 and then to up to 285bhp and the introduction of the 1527cc engine with the Maxi Turbo in 1984 .
One of the iconic of all the Group B cars is Ford RS200.The brainchild of new Ford Motorsport boss Stewart Turner, the body was penned by Ghia in Turin, F1 engineer Tony Southgate designed the chassis suitable for the four wheel drive and Bryan Hart tuned the dry sump aluminium engine to deliver almost 450bhp.
This 308 wasn’t an official Ferrari Group B project in the UK but Michelotto had built four 308s to rally spec’ for the Italian scene.This British car,whcih still runs today with original driver Tony Worswick, competed mostly in the tarmac rallies
Peugeot 205 T16
Peugeot 205 T16s were the most successful Group B cars to compete in the final years of the World Rally Championship’s series, winning the 1985 and 1986 championships with Timo Salonen and Juha Kankkunen. The T16s were built using a standard 3 door body shell cut in half creating a rear bulkhead and a brand new tubular and sheet steel space frame at the rear of the car to house the mid mounted engine and gearbox.
I’ve just come back from a snowy Paris for the fantastic Retromobile classic car show at the Porte Versailles exhibition centre.
All three halls at the first big international classic car show of the season were packed with classic stands that lacked none of the savoir faire that we’ve come to expect from this superb French exhibition.
Renault Le Mans cars
Leading the way was Renault, with a large stand encompassing cars from throughout its long history. It showcased an impressively diverse selection of vehicles, including a set of Alpine A442 and A443 sports cars which raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the late-1970s and a jewel of a 1900 Type B featuring a 450cc De Dion-Bouton single-cylinder engine.
Renault Type B 1900
Citroën had also pulled out some great presidential vehicles, including the open, stretched SM Présidentiellewhich regularly played host to Georges Pompidou and the extraordinary high-roofed DS Limousine built for General De Gaulle.
De Gaulle Citroen DS
McLarens were prominent throughout the show, with the ex-Senna F1 car on the Unique and Limited stand and a fantastic spread of cars on the Richard Mille stand, including M8, M7 and Le Mans-winning F1.
McLaren M8 with M7
As ever, there were some quirky gems that haven’t been seen before, such as the 1922 aircraft-inspired Maratuech three-wheeler and an excellent display of WWI and WWII tanks and armoured vehicles from the Musée des Blindés in Saumurs.
Here’s one of my favourite recent shoots that’s in the latest issue of Classic and Sports car magazine.
F & W RR-1
It features an immaculate Freestone and Webb coach built pre-war Rolls Royce and Mick Walsh and I headed up to Oxfordshire to photograph the car on the private estate of the owner.
I’ve worked with Mick for almost 30 years and we tend to like the same cars and this was no exception with stunning walnut and leather interior and immaculately drawn lines.
F & W RR-3
Despite having no traffic to spoil the view the shoot wasn’t straight forward with low light conditions under the mature growth trees making action photography tricky.In that situation there is no excuse but to shoot more frames until you’ve got the shot.