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 .
There are just 40 of these extraordinary racers left including cars that were converted from the earlier Type 35 and this actual car competed here for the French Grand Prix in 1931 driven by Marcel Lehoux.The race went on to be won by another T51 driven by Monagasque Louis Chiron with Achille Varzi finishing close behind in also in a 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.
Henry Hope-Frost:250F in 2016
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 Présidentielle which 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.
I was recently asked by old friend Richard Sutton, ex dep’ editor of C & SC and Lord March’s right hand man, to take some pictures for an car exhibition with a difference.
Called Art in Motion, the idea was to collect seven iconic cars in a giant 11th century thatched tithe barn in Tisbury Wiltshire, one of the oldest of its type and now set up as an art space by owner and London gallery owner Johnny Messum.
A series of talks on automobile design is scheduled by noted speakers such as professor Dale Harrow from the Royal College of Art and critic and writer Stephen Bayley.
The opening night saw the incredible spectacle of the collection of Lamborghini Muira Alfa Romeo SS, McLaren F1, Jaguar E Type, Ferraris 288GTO and Daytona and AC Cobra brought together for the first time with a champagne reception and introduction by Richard.
The exhibition runs from 6-29th May See www.messumswiltshire.com for more details
The late Tom Wheatcroft built up an incredible collection of racing cars many of them Grand Prix or Formula One cars at the Donington Circuit which he owned.
I have a regular feature to feed in F1 Racing magazine and have built up a large archive of F1 cars photographed in the studio style but need to keep adding to it all the time. The museum ,which is open to public, is much depleted these days but there is still some gold to be found.I’d picked out the Ferrari Thinwall Special developed by Tony Vandervell on an Indianapolis chassis as campaigned by Mike Hawthorn,Peter Collins and Nina Farina amongst others and featuring a 4.5 litre V12 24 spark plug engine.
Also the Vanwall VW2 from 1955 was on my list.It raced nine times that year with Harry Schell and Ken Wharton at the wheel and featured an unusual cylinder design based on the Norton motorcycle engine developing over 300bhp.
Finally I chose the incredible BRM V16 Mk2 P30 …a unique screamer of just 1.5 litres but supercharged was capable of delivering well over 500 bhp at 8000rpm. It won on it’s first outing in 1954 in the Chichester Cup at Goodwood.
One of the images I try to shoot if there is time is a locked off shot of the whole car with the bonnet on and off comping these together to give a shadowing effect of the engine through the bonnet.See the finished image in my portfolio 1 gallery
After a long gestation James is happy to announce the long awaited arrival of the brand new edition of ‘How to Photograph Cars’.
The first edition ,published by Motorbooks International was the best seller in its field guiding a generation of aspiring car photography students into careers across the automobile industry as well as helping those who just wanted to improve their skills as a hobby.
Over 144 pages and with more than 200 images many specially taken for the new book James explains everything you’ll need to know about equipment choices from camera phone to the top end professional kit, advanced techniques for composing your image and how to find the best locations. Chapters set out how to photograph at a show or in a car museum, high-speed action at the track or out on the road, as well as how to shoot a magazine feature. The secret world of the car studio is exposed with pro’ lighting tips and behind the scenes images and in a brand new chapter, James looks at manipulating digital images and re-touching pictures to make them perfect for sharing on the internet, car club magazine or business.
You can buy the book from this website or on Amazon.co.uk from launch date 9/11/16.
HTPC back cover
I’m still recovering from this year’s fantastic Goodwood Festival of Speed.The event has grown from a small gathering of motoring enthusiasts with their cars going up Lord March’s Sussex country home’s drive into the largest motoring event in the UK .
1906 Renault GP
The size of the event is reflected in the huge variety of vehicles on the entry list ,from hybrid super cars to veteran Grand Prix winners.There’s also the premier Concours D’Elegance in Europe the Cartier Style et Luxe to look around as well as all the trade and industry stands and a full rally stage up in the woods at the top of the hill.
Aston Martin Vulcan
Over 150,000 people come over the four days of the Festival which now includes the Moving Motor Show on the Thursday where prospective customers get the chance to drive up the famous 2km hill climb although few could ever come close Nick Heidfeld’s 1999 time of 41 seconds in a McLaren F1 car.
This is one of my favourite views looking down the drive to the start line, here with the awesome 730bhp 1972 McLaren M8F driven by Andrew Newell.
Despite being beset with it’s fair share of British summer rain this year the Festival of Speed is still the highlight of the classic motorsport year.
I’d been asked to photograph the McLaren M7C high wing car for F1 Racing magazine and been invited to shoot McLaren’s own car at their incredible futuristic Tech’ centre where they build the F1 cars and develop the road cars.Like many large organisations McLaren are very particular about who they let through their doors so it’s always exciting to visit but can be a challenging place to work.My luck was in however as I was able to park just outside the area where the M7C had been moved to.
The M7s were the first to use the Cosworth DFV8 which would remain the main power plant for their F1 cars right up until 1983.Drivers for the 1968/9 season were Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme.
The M7C is a snapshot of F1 development with a brand new monococque design and high wings mounted directly onto the suspension offering considerable down force at high speeds. The high wing cars were only used for a few races in 1968 and 1969 before being banned at the Monaco Grand Prix.