“Tower, this is Echo Charlie Zero. We have a couple photographers here covering the race and they are looking to get some photos of the track at night. Do we have permission to fly directly over the speedway?” “Echo Charlie Zero, this is tower. You are clear to pass over the speedway for the next hour. Please stay above 1,200 feet.”
With that, we were off!!! I may have paraphrased that conversation, but that was more or less the gist of it. Four of us, including our KICK ASS pilot Jose, were bounding down the runway that runs adjacent to the Daytona International Speedway and airborne in a matter of seconds in our little Cessna plane. I remember flying over the speedway during the race a few years ago on my way toward Jerez to cover F1 pre-season testing. But that was from 30,000 feet. This was slightly different.
Looking out the plexiglass window, I could clearly see the cars. Not just generic cars, but specific cars at specific parts of the race track. “Look, there goes the Change Racing Lambo through the bus stop!! The number 4 Corvette just passed a Porsche around the horseshoe. Oh look, another safety car!” The speedway was a bright oval of light in an otherwise dim Florida world. We had already been racing for 6 hours in the 54th edition of the Daytona 24 when our foursome took off to make some unique images that to my knowledge, have never been done before.
Daytona is a special race. This was my second time covering it and my third 24 hour that I’ve covered in my career. Daytona is not the most glamorous of race tracks. It’s no Le Mans. It’s no Sebring. But I will tell you that standing below the banking at 4:53am, or watching the cars circle the ENTIRE track from the top of the grandstands in the middle of the night, just watching and listening to the symphony of engines is really very special. When the sun rose over the speedway an hour or so later, it revealed what the night had hid so well. Cars covered in grime, grease and rubber, with duct taped together fenders and wings. These were machines at war. If you’re still on track, then you survived the long Daytona night. But just because the sun is up, doesn’t mean the race is done. Even at sunrise, you still have seven and a half hours of racing to go.
This year was particularly memorable for me. Lamborghini has had me covering three seasons of Super Trofeo since 2013. But for the first time, they would enter professional endurance racing in America. I was humbled when I was asked to cover the effort and tell the story with my cameras. Fielding five customer cars, they had as good of a shot as anyone to win. But it was not to be. One car was taken to the garage with electrical issues before sunset, two others committed the ultimate sin of taking each other out and the fourth car coming OH SO CLOSE to winning, but ultimately came up 3 minutes short on fuel. But that’s racing in a nutshell.
I love that about car racing, and endurance racing especially. You never know what will happen. Even to the very last minute. There is so much to see. So much to do. So many ways to cover it. There were probably 100 or more photographers there working the 24. And there were thousands more fans with cameras. But no two of us has the same image. I saw the race differently than they did. And they saw the race differently than I did. Here is how I saw the 54th Daytona 24 hour.
Endless and sincere thanks to Lamborghini, O’Gara Motorsport, Car and Driver, Top Gear, The Drive, Chiara, Lorenzo, Sascha, Giorgio, Rene, Chris, Parris, Alex, Foster, Jose, and so many more I can’t even name them all in one place. I am so thankful to have the support of amazing clients, both old and new, and the platforms to share my images.