I have a little thing in my head, that I call a ‘Balcony Moment’. This is when you are sitting somewhere, on a hotel balcony with a cheeky glass of something cold. Looking at an amazing view, thinking “how on earth did I get here?!” Then you remember a moment back in time, a right place right time moment. In my case it was taking ‘a’ particular photo, that opened a doorway to an amazing journey. Those are my ‘balcony moments’…. & I was having one right now! My cheek pressed hard against the metal crash barrier Armco. Trying to get focus lock on, shooting through the gap as the Ex Niki Lauda Ferrari blasted into view. If you were standing next to me, even with ear plugs in, you would definitely have heard a slight giggle creep out…. “I’m only in the Tunnel, shooting the 2018 Monaco Historic Grand Prix!!?”
I flew in to Nice Airport on Thursday morning. A waiting taxi whisked from there straight to the hotel (I’ll see about a helicopter next time!!) Dropped the camera gear & was off to the train station for the 10 minute ride into Monaco. After finding the Media Centre, signing on & picking up my Press Passes, it was time to walk this iconic circuit of all circuits.
The Start line seemed logical place to set off & I was soon at Saint Devote, swinging right I headed up the hill. Walking up the right side pavement, every so often stopping to look back down through the kinks of Beau Rivage. Camera location cut-outs in the crash fencing would provide some great views. Up to the crest & the fast left of Massenet leads straight in to the famous Casino Square. I imagined the cars braking before flashing right past the barrier & down towards Mirabeau
A down hill straight leads to the right hander of Upper Mirabeau. From the pavement on the outside I could see it would provide a great view. The cars would swing through Mirabeau, brake hard into the tightest hairpin in Formula One. Renamed several times over the years, The Grand Hotel Hairpin or Fairmont Hairpin after the hotel. I remember it as being Loews Hairpin when I was younger. A short squirt of power would bring the car to the lower Mirabeau. A great view from above of the cars around these corners
Another blip on the throttle & the cars would be at the tight right harder, Poitier. From here it was into that world famous Tunnel, swinging right as the daylight changed to artificial lighting. There was no way I was going to miss shooting in here!! Further round the right hander you could see the bright sunlight burning through the tunnel exit. What it must be like at 170mph in an F1 car as your eyes adjust from dark to light…amazing drivers!
It was then down the hill towards the braking point for the ‘New chicane’. The cars would turn square Left – Right – Right – Left around the chicane before heading down the straight to Tabac. The inside of the first left gives a unique view, one of the few place on a Grand Prix track where there are no barriers in front of photographers. Sat on the tarmac it gives a unique view of F1 cars & the boats in the harbour.
Left at Tabac & the cars would immediately be at the most modern part of the circuit, The Swimming Pool complex chicane. Exiting the left would then bring the cars along a long slight left to another iconic corner. Named after the bar on the inside of the hairpin right, La Rascasse. A wiggle from the rear end as the cars put the power down to pass the Pit Lane entrance on the right, & to Anthony Noghes. Then it was flat out along the Start/Finish straight again, a lap of just over 2 miles.
There was nothing else for it after 2 miles around Monaco Grand Prix Circuit in 25 degrees… Another ‘Balcony Moment’ in the making with a large cold beer at La Rascasse & pinch myself!!
Friday, Practice Day…. Saturday, Qualifying…
Thursday was a normal day (if there is such a thing) in Monaco, the roads were open to traffic. Friday morning had arrived & the roads were closed, there was a crackle of excitement in the air. Engines revved, mechanics were going through final checks, trolley loads of tyres were making their way down the Pit lane.
The Monaco Historic Grand Prix runs every 2 years & is a massive event in the Historic Racing calendar. I was so pleased to have been asked to go & cover the event for New Channel Media. Growing up watching motorsport on TV, the Monaco F1 Grand Prix was always ‘the’ race not to miss for me. This narrow street circuit has always produced incredible as the cars threaded their way around the 2 mile ribbon of tarmac. Here I now was having my ribcage rattled by the awesome noise of F1 cars from the 1950s to the 80s.
At so many race circuits I go to, even with my Media Pass I can still be a distance back from the track. Not in Monaco!! Such is the narrowness of the street circuit, as photographers we are right on top of the action.
Home to the rich & famous, play ground to the stars, all phrases often quoted about Monaco…. but Monaco wouldn’t be Monaco without the sprinkling of famous racing drivers in attendance. Eddie Irvine, Mika Hakkinen, Jacky Ickx & Derek Bell were just a few to be seen driving a range of historic race cars throughout the weekend.
Sunday… Race Day.
After 2 glorious days of Mediterranean sunshine, Sunday Race Day dawned grey & overcast. Rain was forecast & the clouds were already creeping down the mountains… it was a case of ‘When’, not ‘If’ the rain came!
This unfortunately wasn’t the only problem to effect the day’s activities. I decided to recce the route to the podium ready for the prize giving after each race. To check the route & also decide if I wanted to be shooting down from the track or from the Press Box position. Making my way behind the Pit Lane garages, I caught a toe on the metal grid walkway & tripped. I had my Nikon D810 with 24-70mm set up on my left shoulder & the Nikon D4 with 70-200mm lens on my right shoulder. Try as I might to save the cameras but sadly I smashed the D4 hard into the staging!!
2 mechanics saw me go down & helped me back up. Apart from the massive lump on my right knee the Nikon D4 had taken a huge impact & hadn’t survived. My ability to cover Race Day was now very compromised. I use 2 cameras all the time with a wide angle & long lens mounted. This way I can quickly react to the action as it happens. Now with only 1 camera working, I would have to decide what the shot was going to be at each location & fit the appropriate lens. My leg was getting stiffer by the minute & this made getting down to low angles very difficult… getting up again even harder!!
Then the rain came….& boy did it arrive!! This would make changing a lens tricky out on the side of the track. I really was down to choose the shot & stick to it, but the job was back on.
At the end of long & tiring 5 days in Monaco all I can say is what an awesome experience. To shoot beautiful Historic F1 Grand Prix cars in such an iconic location has been a dream come true. Here’s to crossing everything I get an email land in my InBox inviting me to shoot it again in 2020.
To see a larger collection of my photos from the 2018 Monaco Historic Grand Prix please Click Here