Chris Jones, a staff photographer for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Verizon IndyCar Series, was on hand over the weekend to photograph planes – not cars – at the Red Bull Air Race. Here are his thoughts and favorite shots from the weekend.
The Red Bull Air Race Indianapolis provided us with the rare opportunity to photograph a major inaugural event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was fun to learn about the sport, the series, the pilots and the planes.
Just like the cars in IndyCar or NASCAR, each airplane had its unique identity. The crowd favorite was Petr Kopfstein’s airplane, which had some very interesting and intricate details.
The biggest challenges we faced with photographing the event were the restrictions placed on us as a result of the Speedway being an active airport during the weekend. The vast majority of the Speedway grounds were off limits to all personnel, not just photographers, for obvious safety reasons.
When shooting tight racing photos, we had to slow down the shutter speed or else our photos would freeze the propeller in flight. At the speeds the airplanes travel, this made for challenging pan shots especially when you consider that unlike a racecar, the planes are moving up and down in addition to left and right.
The Red Bull Air Race has its own qualities and traditions unique to the Series, like the race day elimination rounds. The winner of the Red Bull Air Race continued one of the Speedway’s traditions with the Kissing of the Bricks. After all the post-race media obligations were met, Matthias Dolderer’s airplane was pushed out near the yard of bricks where in addition to kissing the bricks, he kissed the propeller on his plane.
Matthias Dolderer was a very happy champion as not only did he win the inaugural Indianapolis race, he wrapped up the Red Bull Air Race series championship. Now his name is forever in the record books as an inaugural race winner of a major event at IMS – Ray Harroun, Jeff Gordon, Michael Schumacher, Valentino Rossi, and Matthias Dolderer.