We’re looking back on 2015 through the lenses of IMS photographers. Today, John Cote shares his favorites.
MORE BEST OF 2015: Shawn Gritzmacher
The 2015 IndyCar season was packed with new and different photo situations. The new aero kits were a photo opportunity all to themselves and the way the teams adapted to them over the course of the season made for close competition and some great racing. It was a great year to be an IndyCar photographer.
For me, the first race of the season is always exciting. I have missed the sound of roaring engines and the smell of burning rubber and fuel all winter. Last winter the promise of a new look for the cars and anticipation of how the cars would perform made St. Pete doubly exciting. My favorite picture from the race was this one, showing Will Power giving teammate Juan Pablo Montoya a firm little love tap with about five laps to go. This was a scary moment but with great driving skill, and maybe a bit of brute strength, Montoya managed to keep the car on the track and hung on to win.
After weeks on the road it was nice to get home to Indy for the two races in May. My favorite photo from the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis was this candid of Will Power. Will was mugging for some kids on pit lane when he kindly turned and looked directly into my lens. A long lens with the aperture set wide open makes Will stand out against a creamy out-of-focus background.
I guess my favorite photo from the 99th Running of the Indy 500 is an odd one. It was taken on the morning after the race and shows the SAFER Barrier on the outside wall coming out of Turn 1 with all of the battle scars from the day before. The fans and the race cars are gone. It’s quiet and lonely, but the gritty feeling of the shot sort of tells me all about what happened the day before at the greatest track in motorsports.
The next photo is part of what was, to me, one of the best stories of the season. With the exception of Graham Rahal, the Honda aero kit did not seem to have it for the Chevys all season. Coming into The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, Rahal had been driving the wheels off his Honda all year, providing the fans with a lot of excitement. Mid-Ohio is Rahal’s home race and is sponsored by his engine maker. Toward the end of the race I got to a gap in the fence just before the main straight goes into the first turn. The flagman in that gap is a friend of mine, and a huge Ohio State fan. On the last lap, when it was evident that Graham would probably win, he brought out a big red Ohio State flag and waved it as Graham took the checkered flag. As he screamed victoriously by our position, Graham obliged us with a high-speed look our way and a fist pump. The picture says it all.
The next photo was an agonizing choice for me to put in this blog. I love this photo but I kept thinking that this might be one of those pictures that I like as the photographer and nobody else will get. I kept thinking that it might be one of those “you had to be there” photos. But, in the end, they asked me for my favorite photos so I put it in. The photo was taken in the pits before a practice session at The GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma. The photo shows a crewmember helping Takuma Sato tape up his fingers before putting on his racing gloves. A lot of the drivers have sort of pre-game rituals. The light was right, the helmet was in perfect position and you can see Sato’s name and blood type on the belt of his suit. To me, it is very intimate but gives a hint of the tension to come.
This last picture is of the start of the season-ending, championship-deciding GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma taken from the flag stand. I love taking these flag stand shots but hate them too – there is so much that can go wrong with the shot that I’m always really tense. Flag stands, on top of being way up in the air, are small and cramped places. As a photographer you are always aware that you are kind of a necessary annoyance to the officials in the stand. Our flagman, Paul Blevins, is a great guy and a real pro. He and I will always do a little pre-start run through so that I will know where he intends to wave the flags. That said, chances are against both flags looking good to the camera as the lead car comes to the line. On top of that, as the race starts, I am leaning out over the edge of the stand with the camera at arm’s length. With a wide lens, I am holding the camera at the angle I think will capture, the line, the car, the flags and a bit of the Sonoma logo on the front of the stand. There is a huge element of luck in getting it all to come together. This time it came out pretty close to perfect.