Interested in hiring me for a project or just want to chat?
952 / 200 / 9524
Although we skipped a few years, my father and I had a spring break tradition of flying to Orlando, FL, loading up our rental car and driving 2 hours into the heart of Florida to Sebring where the famous 12 Hours of Sebring race is held every March. Unlike previous trips however, I came to Sebring to shoot the race with media credentials. Despite Sebring being a relatively flat track with many spectator friendly areas, the access you get with a press pass makes a world of difference!
Arriving at the track on race day with my pass, camera gear, and my fire suit, I was giddy with excitement. I've always enjoyed this race in past years because of the sights, sounds, and action happening both on track and off, but this would be the closest I'd have ever been able to get! After the 7AM press meeting, I headed out to pit lane to enjoy the track when it was still calm.
As the sun crept up in the distance, a heavy fog descended upon the track, muffling the sounds of the race cars as their engines roared to life for the final practice session before the race started. I took this as my cue to move to Turn 7 across from the hotel to watch the action.
I noticed several cars locking up their brakes going into this hairpin on the cool track.
After practice wrapped up, I made my way back to the pits to grab some photos of the cars going through last minute preparation before the race and to try to scrounge up some breakfast to hold me over through the start of the race.
With about an hour to go before the start of the race, I made my way to Turn 1 to hang out and catch up with other photogs. After all of the spectators were given a chance to walk the starting grid and check out the cars, the pole sitters of each class made a parade lap and the paratroopers descended from the sky with the American flag to play the National Anthem. Just as the Anthem wrapped up, we were all treated to a jet fly-by!
After a pace lap behind the safety cars, the green flag dropped and the cars thundered down the front straight, flying through Turn 1 while the crowd cheered! It was a truly amazing sight as the factory-backed Peugeot 908 HDi FAP led both Audi R15+'s with the works Peugeot 908 hot on their tails.
Not too far behind, the GT2 class was rocketing towards Turn 1. These BMWs stayed close throughout the race.
The Robertson Racing Ford GTs stayed nose to tail at the start of the race as well, making for some great racing.
After a few hours, I decided to head back to the pits to see how the first few rounds of pit stops were going.
All was calm in the Audi pit tent as they fought to maintain a close gap to the Peugeuts.
There wasn't much to see in this Aston Martin Vantage's pit box either. The car had been running rough all morning and would spend quite a while longer in the pit area before eventually being pushed back to the paddock. Quite the shame that it wouldn't see more track time.
The Rahal Letterman BMW team could always be counted on for quick and drama-free pit stops throughout the race.
I took a short walk around the South side of the track and stopped by the paddock before heading back to the side of the track. In the paddock, amongst the remaining race cars that handed packed up from the other races earlier in the week, were some truly special street cars. I spotted this gorgeous pearl white Mercedes SL65 Black Series as well as a stunning and incredibly rare Porsche GT2RS.
I also made my way over to the Audi hospitality tent to check out the lineup of Audi's latest and greatest cars. From left to right: A8, A7, R8 GT, and TT-RS.
An incident involving a number of the GT2 cars in Turn 17 brought out the safety car which bunched the field up, making for some cool shots.
Around the 6 hour mark of the race, I made another trip to the pits, figuring I'd see some cars with battle scars by now and maybe I'd catch some pit crews make some mistakes while working on the cars as fatigue started to set in. To my surprise, the pit stops were still running smoothly, no doubt a credit to the hours and hours these teams have spent simulating these situations and I saw a number of crew members and photographers alike dosing off. Given how loud the pit area was, I was amazed that anyone could sleep through the roar of these engines and the squeal of tires.
As it got later in the day and the sun began to set, you could sense that a lot of teams were taking on the "Do or Die" mentality and the drivers began pushing not just the cars, but themselves, to the absolute limit.
Around 8:30 pm, I realized it was getting pretty dark and now would be the perfect opportunity to head to the pits to watch the last of the pit stops on these battered and bruised cars that had been running non-stop for the last 10 hours.
Just looking around the pits, you could tell how exhausted everyone was.
Towards the start of pit lane, you could hear shouting and cheering, and I sensed some excitement from the Oreca Peugeot 908 pit box. As an underdog team compared to the newer, factory sponsored Peugeot HDi FAP, the Oreca team was leading the race! With about an hour to go, they new that if they stayed out of trouble, they had an excellent shot at winning the race.
Out of nowhere, their pit box burst with excitement as the car came roaring into the pits for its final stop of the race! The pit crew swarmed the car as photographers and cameramen fought to get a clean shot of the car. And just as fast at it had started, the engine fired up, the tires squealed in protest, and the Peugeot shot out of the pit box as if it was fired from a slingshot!
Over the next hour, several other cars came in for desparate, last minute fuel stops and scuttled back onto the track for one last fight to the finish line.
As the hours had turned to minutes, the minutes into seconds, and the seconds ticked down to the finish, the cheers of the crowd got louder. When the checkered flag dropped as the Oreca Peugeot crossed the finish line, you couldn't hear yourself think. It was a great moment for the team as they ran across pit lane to watch their drive bring the car home after 12 brutal hours of racing!
As the teams and fans celebrated a great race, I made the long walk back to the car, exhausted but bristling with energy having just watched an amazing race in which the underdog triumphed over the true superpowers of the racing world. What a fantastic race.
Take a look at my portfolio to get a better sense of what I like to shoot.
Browse my portfolio »
Discover how I got started in photography, what my other passions are, and what inspires me.