Ever wondered how different an event is to be seen from the perspective of a motorsport photographer? Here is a behind the scenes look into our world. This is my day at Mallala’s May Drift Matsuri.
The night before I had hurried to organize my camera bag and application for media entry. Planning everything out for the day, I told myself “I’ll set the alarm and get there nice and early”. When arriving at the track there was a different atmosphere as this was a festival not a competition. Things are laid back, things are fun. After all that’s what a Matsuri is all about. I actually got there just as the first group of cars hit the track. Nothing beats that sound of tyres screaming in pain on the tarmac. I knew this was going to be a good day.
Once the car was parked I grabbed my media credentials and headed for the track office to sign on and also pay for a passenger pass. The great thing about Matsuri’s is that vehicles that have a roll cage fitted are allowed to take passengers for rides on track. I had plenty of friends driving on the day so a passenger pass was a must.
Heading back to the car I ran into a few friends that asked if I was shooting today and told me they would wave when they went past. You always have to look after the guys that are willing to put on a show for you. Camera in hand I headed for the track.
First things first, check out the location of the sun to determine the best place to start shooting. The all but common turn two. This spot is a great place to get a lot of interaction from drivers but its also the most common corner for photographers to shoot. As you can see from the driver and passenger of this S13 Silvia.
Turn one and two are a tight right hand linked with a small straight that cars transition into a long sweeping left hand corner that creates the perfect spot to blaze tyres and create large smoke screens. Most cars on the day were doing just that. Some of the under powered cars however had to give the odd clutch kick to keep the revs up and tyres turning. Either way it was still a great show of vehicle control.
Once the first group was done (drivers are split into three groups and rotated throughout the day) I decided to try and get a ride in a car. Sure enough a couple of my good friends that share a car were here on the day and more than happy to take me for a ride in their R33 Skyline. Heading out onto the track is always an exhilarating feeling, as once you pull out of pit lane it’s game on straight into a hairpin. Wasting no time Chris was shredding tyres all the way to the starting line up on the back half of the track. If you have never been for a ride or even driven a drift car, its something you need to do. To fully appreciate the sport and understand that it’s not just a bunch of hoons, you really need to try it for yourself. It’s great fun and I can guarantee it will change your opinion on drifting.
Back in the pits and having a bit of a chat with friends I decided to go for a walk and try to find Christian Pickering’s car. After spending a few hours at his house drinking beers while his S14 was getting finished, I was really looking forward to seeing it on track. The car has an amazing look to it and the all black engine bay has a cool stock look, even though it’s far from it. Unfortunately it only managed a couple of laps before it came in with gearbox dramas. That’s the way it goes sometimes. Hopefully we can bring you a feature of this and some of his other amazing rides in the future.
Getting back track side it was time to wander the rest of the track and take some more photos. The area that is used for drifting at Mallala is split in half by a long straight (not ideal for drifting but we make do with what we have here). Before the straight you have the esses and after is turn one/two before it hits a slow pace zone and around the back side of the track to the start line for drifting again. Heading around to the esses was my next stop. The great part of the esses is that there are so many great angles to shoot from.
Lunch time. That great time where you get to stand in a long line for the canteen and over pay for food that’s lets just say…..not that good. I usually don’t eat at this time and prefer to walk the pits and shoot. Instead I met up with my friend David Stone and did a quick spotlight feature on his awesome Nissan 180sx. keep an eye out for that feature to drop in the future. Here’s David and his boy going for a ride.
After the lunch break finished I headed back out to the esses to shoot cars coming off the start line. It’s not very often Mallala will let you run trains so when they let you have more than a tandom it’s always a pleasure. The guys from yacht club were awesome to watch. Shooting here also gives you the opportunity to shoot a different perspective as cars pass you going into the esses.
As it started to get a bit darker, shooting at Mallala gets hard due to lights barely lighting up the track. They do have lights, they just struggle to provide enough light for good shooting conditions. So that golden hour where the sun starts to set really gives you some great photos. Turn 2 is the best spot to shoot at this time of the afternoon as it’s one of the few spots with decent lighting still.
Dinner time. Oh those great words. After a long day of shooting it’s always a great time to hang out with friends, grab a bite to eat and talk crap. Heading back to the pits you also get the chance to see how other photographers went on the day. It was a great day and some of the photos I have seen proved that. I also got the chance to meet some of the other guys on track and made a new friend or two.
After dinner there was just enough light left to shoot a few more snaps before it was time to pack up the camera gear. I was lucky enough to grab this photo of Scott Roberts S13.4 backfire as it came out of turn 2. You might remember Scott’s Silvia from our feature article last year when it was still painted rootbeer brown and covered in sponsor decals. He’s decided to go it alone as a privateer at this point and did a full respray himself.
By this time the sun had well and truly set and lighting was pretty bad to shoot photos. So at this point it was time to pack up the camera gear. But is that it for the event? Of course not. Matsuri goes from 9am until 9pm. A full 12hrs of drift! So what do you do at this point when most cars are out of tyres or broken? You gather up as many friends as you can and head to the bar. I mean us photographers enjoy watching the sport whether we have a camera in hand or not. As a photographer you don’t often get the chance to hangout with your friends, have some drinks, and really enjoy the main aspect of what Matsuri is, to have fun! I’ll finish the article off here as you can imagine how the rest of the night went.
If you have never been to a drift event make sure you head to one soon. Weather you’re in Australia or anywhere else in the world, the drift community is a great one and I can guarantee you will make some new friends and have a great time while you’re at it.
Thanks to Anton Bannerman for the photo of me going for a ride!