Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The 3 Hours Of Sebring

Yes I know that title won't make much sense to most people - hell to nobody probably - but it's referring to the more usual "12 hours Of Sebring" which is a famous motor race around these parts. All will become clear later.

This year it was the first of the 11 races in the American LeMans Series and as the racetrack is just a few minutes drive from us here in sunny Buttonwood Bay, we popped along a few times to see the cars.

Now when I say WE, I mean my friends Clair and Mary who actually did some work at the racetrack earlier in the week and so earned the free passes that they were kind enough to share with me. Clair and I went last Friday, which was the day before the featured race but you still had to pay to go in and so the free pass was very welcome and as a bonus, got us into the pits as well.

We were there for about 3 hours and so, finally, this post title may make some sense now !!

The plan was to return on the Saturday to see some part of the main 12 hour race but in the end we decided on all of us (Clair, Mary, Debby, Dennis and myself) going to a Chinese buffet and, well, you can imagine which one won. See, I'm sounding Chinese already.

I'll just throw in a few photos of the cars I took during the first race that we saw on Friday. I used a very fast shutter speed and so the cars look stationary. Obviously they were moving extremely fast and in the case of the Windows Vista car, it went very fast for a while and then suddenly and unexpectedly crashed when some race fans shouted "We Want XP, Bring Back XP" as it went by. People can be so cruel.

We'd probably call these "Touring Cars" back in the UK - not that I know much about such things being a Formula 1 man myself.

In any event, I was able to use the tips and techniques I'd learned from my previous visit to the track to take these slightly better photos.

I still wanted to take some slow shutter photos to capture the speed of the cars and once again I'd read up about it thanks to t'internet.

Here is the same car photographed both ways.

This first one was taken by panning at 1/2000th of a second and so the car is frozen in time along with the background.

Yes the image of the car is fairly sharp but so is everything else and so it doesn't stand out very well, the wheels are 'stopped' and you get no impression that it's going past me at about 165m.p.h.

This second one was taken at the much slower speed of 1/100th of a second and so although the car is in focus as it was the subject being tracked by the camera's autofocus system, everything else is blurred due to fast panning at such a slow shutter speed.

At only 1/100th of a second, the car wheels are not frozen either and this, added to the blurred background, gives a great impression of the speed of the car.

Ok enough techno babble already. I'm losing you. Be more funny !!!

Speaking of which, here is a photo of Clair coming towards me straight from the tattoo stand near the hot dog concession. He'd gone to get us a couple of 'dogs' and got suckered into a full body tattoo session while he waited for them to saute a fresh batch of onions.

Mary was none too impressed.

Only kidding.

No idea who this geezer was but the race had brought out a whole plethora of freaks, hippies, weirdos, Amish, Republicans and you name them, they were there.

He was approaching at a fair pace and in my haste to get him photographed, I chopped off his leading foot. Photographically speaking of course.

Actually as I'm sure he didn't have those tattoos done just for his own benefit, I guess I could have asked him to put on the brakes and allow me to take a better framed portrait of him but I didn't and he didn't and so there we have it. Or not. Footless In Sebring.

Actually once he'd passed me, I did get him from behind but that's another story and the subject of a stewards' enquiry so we'll move swiftly along..........

While I was in the business of chopping off body parts, I decided to do it again. This image also brings together tattoos and hot dogs as well.

We'd wandered infield to the 'Party Zone' and came upon a hot dog eating contest.

This event certainly brought out the weird, the wonderful and the odd redneck and these 2 gentlemen could probably fit into all those categories.

Hat man was one of the contestants and as the event came down to the wire, his friend leapt up onto the stage to offer words and actions of encouragement. This caught me by surprise and once again my framing left a lot to be desired.

It was a very hot day and taking in liquids was a priority for everyone.

Not wanting to run the risk of dehydration, this fella had a simple answer for the vexing problem of needing to keep your 'tinnies' handy and still have your hands free.

It did just leave one little decision to be made. At what point do you return to your supplier and take on a new batch ? When 2 are left ? One ? None ?

By now we were in the pit lane which was all hustle and bustle with people and cars and bits of cars and lots of spare tyres (and tires) and of course, babes.

Babes and car racing go together like, well like hot dog eating and rednecks. Every long limbed blondie from Highlands County and beyond seemed to be parading up and down trying to get noticed. I admit to noticing quite a lot of them.

I'm a man. It's my job.

The thing is, I sometimes see such beauties when I have my camera in hand but I'm always terrified to sneak a photo in case they take offence at my presumption. Yah right !! But at a race, these model wannabees practically beg to be photographed as that is their sole reason for being there.

Ask them about the spark plug settings of a Porsche GT3 and they'd be as lost as a lone boy scout in a parochial house.

So here is one of them.

I may be doing her a disservice as she almost looks like she really belongs there and she might well be the wife of a driver or a mechanic or she might even be a driver herself. Hey, unlikely as it may seem, I've heard they DO exist. Honestly.

There go another few readers. Opps.

Before we left the pits, I snapped the following photo as we passed the Team Porsche enclosure and I now realise I snapped the ultimate winner of the 12 hour race.

Even though it was in several pieces at the time, I saw it had winner written all over it.

Just to the left of the No.7 on the side panel actually. That made it a lot easier !!

We headed back out from the pits and just as we settled along a stretch of race track, Clair got excited when some planes flew overhead.

They were some distance away and even with the 200mm zoom lens, they were barely bigger than dots in the sky. I still took one photo of them in the hopes that enlarging it would show the planes for what they were but I'm still hoping Clair will leave a comment and let me know as I've no idea.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it but the planes are still pretty blurred.

After this we concentrated on the cars again and I wanted at least one shot of an overtaking manoeuvre as, for the most part, the cars were just coming along one behind the other.

Tres boring.

Just before we headed back to 'our' own car to leave for the day, lo and behold someone heard my wish and granted it.

And irony of ironies, it was that orange No.90 car again, the one I'd snapped twice before and included at the start of this post.


So we'd had 3 hours of fun and excitement and I'd even managed to photograph a pit babe and hadn't gone red faced doing it. Doesn't get much better.

Just before we reached the car, we were cutting across the 'Party Zone' area again and saw this gent using that wonderful method of personal transportation known as a Segway.

I think he'd got lost on his way to Disney's Animal Kingdom just up the road in Orlando but in any case, he got as many admiring looks as did any of the cars. Well not him exactly but his Segway.

There was a nice touch of irony there too as surrounded by the sights and sounds of all those powerful and impressive automobiles, he was probably riding on the vehicle of the future - although few would admit to that.

The Segway is energy efficient, practical (in sunny countries at least), fun to ride and comes with the bonus of ultimate air conditioning. Admittedly it's not much use for the weekly trip to WalMart or heading off with the skis for two weeks in Aspen.

I also just can't see it catching on in Florida where the average age is 105 and most people have trouble standing upright on a surface that isn't moving.

It may be the future but I fear Medicare will go bust.


Daphne said...

Great photos but don't give me all that "women can't be racing drivers" rubbish - I got a speeding ticket doing 37mph on Otley Road last year, remember, and I'm sure I could go a bit faster than that if necessary, as long as there was some bloke on hand to park the car for me afterwards.

Jennyta said...

I shall just ignore your sexist comments, Ian ....for now, but watch your back!!!
F1? Terminally boring - Keith is insisting on watching the new season on TV over here and, to add insult to injury, recording it as well!!! How sadistic is that???

Rosanna said...

Mr. Brit, I just know you were admiring that dude with the full body tattoos, I know you will be dreaming about him and how when you grow up you want to be juuuuussssttttt like him!!!!

Anonymous said...

Well ... it was an interesting spectacle ... Sebring and the 12 Hour have quite a history. I enjoyed it waaaay back in the 60's and it seems that there are just as many characters now as then. :)
I oft worry about affecting the sensabilities of friend Ian when exposing him to variations of American life !! Sure am gonna' miss his viewpoint on things after he departs..........

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