CHAMPIONS! ASTON’S WEC YEAR IN PICS
Stunning images from the lens of team photographer Drew Gibson
I FIRST STARTED WORKING with AMR in 2009. Working with a team for so long means I’m part of the garage furniture now, so the drivers, mechanics and management trust me and know how I work. Occasionally the guys will pause when I’m framing a shot, which makes my life easier. Seeing how hard they work makes me want to raise my game; to get the best shots I can.
Most WEC rounds follow the same routine. I fly out early to get a full day at the track before the action starts. I might shoot the cars going through scrutineering, driver portraits, sponsor shots, etc. It’s also a chance to walk the track and see whether any favourite spots have changed or access points been blocked.
Friday is one of the busiest days. We get to the track at 8am and maybe leave at midnight. Saturday is slightly more relaxed – an hour in the morning for practice, then qualifying in the afternoon. If the team gets pole, then there’s a press conference to shoot. If there’s time, we’ll use the evening light to get some team shots.
Sunday is race day, so another early start with autograph sessions prior to pre-race prep. The atmosphere is more tense, and you have to wear fireproof overalls if you want to shoot in the pits. Somewhere like Austin, where it’s 35deg and 90 per cent humidity, that’s hot work! I make a dash to the media centre during the race so the team can put a few images on social media. Then it’s back to the action, hopefully podium shots, then turning the priority pics around before the flight home on Monday.
Different tracks offer different opportunities. Bahrain’s a favourite because of the spectacular sunsets. Le Mans is a ball-ache, but it has a unique atmosphere and special significance. I was lucky to shoot for both AMR and Ford in 2016. It’s special to think I was taking shots people will look back on in 50 years. Fuji has lots of photo windows, but they aren’t where I’d want them! Generally I don’t want to go where everyone else does. For me it’s always showing the atmosphere, the mood and emotion. Not just what’s before your eyes.
Equipment-wise, I have two camera bodies, fitted with different lenses (one wide-angle, one more generic) to allow me some flexibility. It’s also good to have one body as a back-up, as racing is a harsh environment. My core kit comprises six fixed-focus lenses, from 14mm to 600mm. Fixed-focus are nicer quality and suit the way I work. They force me to commit to a shot. I move to the best position, not zoom in and out. All in, it’s about £35k-worth and weighs 30kg!
I take about 3000 pictures across a typical WEC race weekend. At Le Mans I might take 10,000 images. The latest cameras have such a massive burst-rate you can shoot 18 frames per second. It’s like firing a machine gun!
I would love to have done some of the crazy Group B era rallies. Targa Florio, too. And ’90s rallying: I’d have loved to shoot Sainz and Mcrae and Burns. That said, I’m not nostalgic. I look forward to shooting events I’ve never attended before. Dakar. Bathurst. Daytona. My head is filled with shots I’ve yet to take.