Practice session – 24 heures du Mans 2010

Yesterday, I was in Le Mans (France) to assist to the official practice session of this most famous endurance car race: les 24 heures du Mans. This was an obvious reason to bring along a photo camera in order to click the shutter onto this colorful and very active show. It’s technically very demanding for the photographer, but it’s a nice opportunity anyway. I had already visited the place twice, but I’m still attracted to it.

Some of my figures:

  • More than 600 exposed pictures
  • 160 images after the first sort at high speed (to remove the obvious errors and gross misses) with around 80 which could be first choice pics.
  • Less than 10 very good images.
  • A few images which could be a little original.

Audi R15

Audi R15

Peugeot 908 HDi FAP

Peugeot 908 HDi FAP

Peugeot 908 HDi FAP

Peugeot 908 HDi FAP

Click on the thumbnail images to enlarge them

Ford GT

Ford GT

Porsche 911 GT3 RSR - A l'attaque

Porsche 911 GT3 RSR - A l'attaque

Highcroft HPD ARX.01

Highcroft HPD ARX.01

Aston Martin DBR9

Aston Martin DBR9

Porsche 911 GT3 RSR

Porsche 911 GT3 RSR

Peugeot Sport

Peugeot Sport

Highcroft pit team

Highcroft pit team

Peugeot Sport

Peugeot Sport

In the end, I can forecast who will win on Sunday:

Peugeot: End of the practice session:

Peugeot P1 - End of the practice session

Peugeot P1 - End of the practice session

Audi R15 in a unusual maneuver:

Audi 8 - off road

Audi 8 - off road

With the acquired habit, I can give a few recommendations to those who would like to try their own hand at it:

  • Prefer the official practice sessions: All the cars are out, it is possible to walk around nearly everywhere around the track (during the race, your ticket will stick you to a specific location), the public is relatively limited and quiet.
  • For the duration of a session (from 16:00 to midnight), you can easily walk from nice spot to nice spot from “Maison Blanche” to the “Dunlop bridge” for a good variety of situations.
  • Monopod (or tripod) highly recommended).
  • 80-200mm: very useful, 100-400mm: perfect range, but the limited aperture may be a strong constraint.
  • Car speeds are very high. Even in the best conditions, under 1/500s, the photos may not look sharp enough; the faster cars will even ask for 1 or 2 stops over what you can allow for a GT car (the slower ones). Peugeot and Audi are really fast; Porsche, Aston Martin, Lamborghini may somewhat feel underpowered while driving at their max.
  • Beware of obstacles: cranes, wire mesh fences, pro photographers are everywhere and you will need a large aperture to soften them out, but look for the openings in the fences which have been created for the pro photographers (look down a little).
  • Autofocus: in continuous, 3D or AI-Servo mode. Or drop down to full manual and anticipate on the car position.
  • Keep your eyes peeled: nearly every year, I witnessed a car leaving the track in front of me; But you will not have time to set things up. Shoot until the car is stopped or the card is full. You’ll sort later.
  • Be aware of the signals used by the track stewards to anticipate interesting events: blue flag for overtaking (more dynamic shots), klaxon every time a car enters the pit area, etc.
  • Have fun and remember to look, not only shoot photos.