16 Dec 2012

Le Mans 24 years on

I just came across the top photo of a works Rothmans Porsche 962 driven by Al Holbert,Vern Schuppan and John Watson I took at the 1985 Le Mans 24 hour race and it prompted me to reflect on how much has changed since then.
  • Porsche -either 962s or 956s took the first 5 places in the race.In the 2012 race Porsches did not even feature in the winners of the GT categories yet alone the overall results.
  • The works cars were sponsored by a tobacco company. Tobacco sponsorship has long gone from motor racing (perhaps not in China though?)
  • I took this photo from the infield at the Ford Chicane .I had no special passes.I just smiled at a friendly gendarme who was standing by a gate on the infield and then just walked upto the barrier right beside the track.Impossible today.
  • I took the photo on an Olympus OM2 camera with a standard 50mm lens on fast colour negative (print) film -which has aged badly in the intervening 27 years probably because the mini lab where it was processed did not wash it thoroughly.I used colour negative film because it was faster than slide film and had more latitude.
  • The bottom photo was taken on a Canon G7 digital camera which is about half the size and weight of the Olympus OM2 film camera body and features a built in zoom lens.
  • The photo shows one of the dominating Audi R15 turbodiesels in the 2009 race and was taken through the safety mesh from the spectator enclosure in the outside of the track on the approach to Tetre Rouge.No walking right upto the track for me in 2009 and yet despite being taken through the safety mesh fencing on a compact camera it is a much better photo.The sad part is that it does not show a Porsche contending for a win.

 Two photos taken 24 years apart and so different in so many respects.If you had told me in 1985 that within 24 years a turbodiesel Audi would win Le Mans and that I would be taking very acceptable photos of it with a little camera with a built in zoom lens which did not use film but which stored thousands of photos on a little card the size of a postage stamp and which was reusable hundreds/thousands of times and that I would edit the photos on a little computer on my desk and publish them on a medium which is accessible to billions of people in every corner of the planet I would have thought that you had spent way too long enjoying the hospitality in the Paddock Club.

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