Living the Dream: Indianapolis & Silverstone

September 24, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

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After a break of several weeks following Sachsenring I was ready to get going again and was really looking forward to my trip to the States for the Indianapolis Grand Prix.

I decided when looking for flights that I wanted to travel via Dublin. When flying to the States from Dublin, you clear US Immigration on the way out of Dublin. Some friends of mine travelled this way last year and had said it was a much better experience. No immigration queues on arrival which is particularly beneficial if you have to catch a connecting flight.

Having booked my flight I was faced with a problem. The airlines connecting the Isle of Man with Dublin had a very small hand luggage allowance. I was not going to be able to bring my camera gear as carry-on and there was no way I was going to check it. I was left with no choice but to travel to Dublin by ferry.

Travelling by ferry would not normally be my first choice, I’m not blessed with the best sea legs. However, it turned out to be a refreshing change and I enjoyed the journey. I don’t think I’d be saying the same thing if I was travelling by ferry during the winter months though.

My flight out of Dublin wasn’t until the next day so a few pints of Guinness in Temple Bar with a bit of diddle dee seemed the ideal way to spend the afternoon.

I flew out the next morning and my friends were absolutely right about the flying experience through Dublin. Clearing US Immigration first makes life so much easier on arrival in the US, especially with a short stop in Chicago before flying on to Indianapolis.

I arrived in Indy without any issues and settled into my hotel to wait for the arrival of the esteemed Jensen Beeler. Jensen had booked the car for the weekend and rolled into the hotel in a typically understated fashion in a 5.8 litre Dodge Ram truck. He claims to have booked the smallest and cheapest option, but I’m not sure.

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The next morning Jensen and I headed out to pick up our credentials and get set up in the media centre for the weekend.

The first day is generally more relaxed, at least for me. It gives me the chance to get my bearings before the track action begins on Friday. I was also able to catch up with my friend and fellow Asphalt & Rubber contributor Dan Lo who had come down from Chicago for the weekend.

I met Dan in 2012 when he came to the Isle of Man TT. I had read about the Kickstarter campaign he had created to come to the TT.  I ended up helping him and showed him around him the Island.

Come Friday and I was ready to get going. Not being familiar with the place I decided to tag along with Dan for the morning. I’m glad I did as Indy is not the easiest place to get around. There’s no access road around the track, and very limited shuttles, having Dan’s help to point me in the right direction was welcome.

In the evening Jensen and I headed off to the Indianapolis fairgrounds for the Indy Mile. I was particularly looking forward to this and was hoping to get trackside to grab some pics.

In the past, a MotoGP credential would have gotten me trackside but it would appear they had changed it this year. I probably could have gone with Jensen to the AMA office to get a pass, but I decided to watch the racing and soak up the atmosphere instead. I would definitely like to get back someday and see a bit more of the event.

After Saturday’s track action I headed to downtown Indianapolis with Jensen and his lady friend (who had arrived in the early hours and who’s identity will remain hidden so as not to publicly embarrass her) to celebrate Dan Lo’s brothers birthday. After dinner, we walked over to Meridian Street to check out “The Bikes on Meridian”.

It actually reminded me a little of a Harley version of TT evenings on Douglas promenade in the 90’s. There were bikes everywhere, mostly custom Harleys, and people riding around posing for anyone prepared to check them out.

Race day didn’t get off to the best of starts. I woke up in panic an hour after my alarm should have gone off and 20 minutes after I had arranged to meet Jensen. Thankfully he hadn’t left me behind. It turns out that while I had very carefully set the alarm, I had forgotten to turn it on.

Considering my hasty departure from the hotel I was pleased to find that I’d managed to bring everything I needed. My ritual of putting my things together the night before paying off.

Sunday turned out to be a memorable day for the US fans as it marked what has since been confirmed as the final race of Colin Edwards long and illustrious career.

In typical Edwards fashion, he took to the track in a set of camouflaged leathers and was the last into pit lane after waving goodbye to the fans. At the time I was photographing the winners in Parc Ferme.

There wasn’t a great deal of room so I turned to walk towards the podium to see Edwards coming down pit lane carrying the American flag. I lifted my camera and fired a few frames, one of which is above.

Had I turned around 10 seconds later I would have missed one of the more poignant moments of the season. Definitely a case of the right place at the right time.

After a relaxing Sunday evening, I spent Monday afternoon with Jensen and his lady. After lunch, we went to check out the museum at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

I have to admit that I’m ignorant of the history of IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500. I’m aware of it but, it’s not something I follow. Despite that, I enjoyed the museum and it’s a must see if you visit the race.

I had a really enjoyable weekend at Indy. It was great to catch up with some old friends and make some new ones and I want to thank Jensen for looking after me. I look forward to returning the favour when he next comes to the Isle of Man for the TT.

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After leaving Indianapolis I had a busy couple of weeks prior to Silverstone. Instead of going to the MotoGP at Brno I had decided to go the Ulster Grand Prix, mainly because of my flights to the States where from Ireland. In hindsight, I regret not going to Brno, as Saturday’s weather at the Ulster was not great.

After the Ulster, I was home for ten days which coincided with the Festival of Motorcycling (Classic TT and Manx Grand Prix amongst others) before packing my bags again to head to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix.

I had been looking forward to going to Silverstone, but not because it’s a great track to photograph. I was looking forward to it as I was able to pack everything into my own car, catch a ferry to Liverpool and drive down. No airport hassles, no hire cars, and no language barriers.

I left the Isle of Man late on Wednesday afternoon and arrived into Liverpool around 8 pm. I had booked myself into a hotel about an hours drive south of Liverpool as I didn’t really want to drive the 2 1/2 hours to my hotel near the circuit at that time of day.

My digs for the night were actually above a quaint little village pub. After checking in, I nipped downstairs for a few pints. After all, it would be rude not to.

I arrived at Silverstone around 1 pm on Thursday.  After collecting my credentials I headed to the media centre to meet up with Scott Jones, who had very kindly saved me a spot next to him.

After getting settled in Scott and I went over to The Day of Champions charity auction event in aid of the Riders for Health charity. Nearly £200,000 was raised for the charity which is fantastic.  Scott’s “First in Flight” photo of Marc Marquez at Laguna Seca last year raised £950. I know Scott was proud of that and rightly so.

I left the track around 7:30 and drove to my hotel which was only 15 minutes away in a little village called Weedon Bec. It had a pub attached and plenty of parking. What more could you need apart from perhaps wi-fi that worked?

I couldn’t get a wifi connection in my room so I was forced, kicking and screaming into the pub each evening to use the wifi in there.

Having not been to Silverstone before I tagged along with Scott on Friday and Saturday morning, as I knew he would know some good places to shoot.

Silverstone is a lot like Indianapolis.  Both places are huge and don’t have an access road so media shuttles are limited.  The guys who drove the shuttle were great though. One guy gave Scott his number so we could call him to be picked up. Top quality customer service, assuming you knew where you were of course.

I ventured out on my own for Sunday morning warm up and went to the final corner, which I believe is Woodcote in the configuration used for MotoGP.

I knew the corner was a good spot for pictures.  I had seen some shots of the British Superstock rider Jason O’Halloran sliding the bike through there with smoke coming off the rear tire.  What I didn’t expect was just how exhilarating a place it would be to stand.

The riders come into the corner sideways with the throttle open at what must be around 150mph.  The apex of the bend is quite tight into the armco barrier and the sensation of speed as they went past was immense.

After a great days racing I headed back to the hotel and had dinner with my friend Stephen English from Crash.net. Having spent the evenings sat in the bar on my own it was a pleasure to have someone to chat to.

On Monday I drove back up to Liverpool to catch my ferry home. I had several hours to kill, so I went to watch a movie. If you’ve been thinking about going to see Lucy but haven’t yet. Don’t bother.  It’s a shame actually as it should have been good, but sadly it wasn’t.

Having not gone to Misano I’m really looking forward to my next trip which is Aragon.  I’m also keeping my fingers crossed that Marc Marquez doesn’t wrap up the title in Japan as I’m not going to be there.

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