|Starting Grid - Niki Lauda with chief Ferrari mechanic Ermanno Coughi
The atmosphere at the 1976 race at Watkins Glen was especially tense as the world championship for the season was very much at stake with only two races to go. Fighting to keep the lead with his 8 point advantage, Niki Lauda, who was nearly killed at Nurburgring barely two months before was still in pain and would have to battle 'King' James Hunt, the phenom party boy from Great Britton. I remember the attention these two drivers got from the photographers and it is a miracle I was able to get a glimpse of them long enough to snap the shots I did that you will see in the book.
To put the reader in a frame of mind to appreciate the intensity of this business I've attached a series of excellent of videos below. They touch upon the excitement of watching a Formula 1 race, examining the level of skill and toughness it takes to drive one of these machines, and the danger drivers face every time they perform. Watching a F1 race is a rare experience because you are seeing the most advanced technology on the planet in the hands of the best drivers in the world who are getting their cars to do things no ordinary person could ever imagine.
The photographs I have waiting for assembly in the book are more than pictures of cars at a race, they are snapshots of emotions caught on film in the split second. I wanted to capture the excitement of the crowd, along with the drama, worry and even fear in the driver's minds as they performed for the fans.
Watkins Glen Grand Prix, October 10, 1976, as portrayed by my photographs was equivalent to spending a day at the Coliseum in Rome in biblical times. Intense emotions, electricity in the air, the crowd in mood to see a good fight. Only this day there was the added smell of hi octane petrol, the roar of engines and King James Hunt ready to beat the unstoppable Niki Lauda. The fight before me was only yards away and it was going to start in a matter of minutes. I had my camera poised and ready- checking the settings, the focus, looking for the best angle to capture the best drivers in the world. Would I be able to do it? It was like a religious experience seeing these brilliantly dressed gladiators in their finest gear to protect them, gloves pulled tight, helmets in place and visors ready to lower before the drop of the green flag only moments away. I was ready!
I remember today, 38 years later how difficult it was to take the shots you will see in the book with limited access to the best viewing angles (no press pass for me) using a basic 35mm SLR film camera with a hand held 400mm lens. Although not perfect, I am very happy with the images because I believe I have the essence of what I was after- a record in pictures of what the feelings and emotions were at that moment.
But first, in order to appreciate what this book is portraying, I hope you will look at these videos to get you warmed up for the photo book that will be available soon. Thanks for following me along to another world.....
|Ronnie Peterson in prayer before the US Grand Prix- sadly dies in a crash at Monza a few years later
Racing is in my blood- Ayrton Senna
How fit are you to drive a F1 car?
Martin Brundle test drives a Ferrari