The clock is winding down the last few minutes of qualifying. I’m standing on the outside of a fairly tight 90 degree turn that is so typical of city street circuits, like this one in downtown Baltimore, Maryland. My left elbow and thigh are just barely touching the concrete barrier separating me from the race track. My 400mm lens and Nikon body pressed to my left eye, while my right eye is wide open watching for anything I can’t see through the narrow field of view in the camera. Each car has a different line through the corner. But the very best drivers are easy to spot because you not only see them, but you feel them and you hear them. They’re on the throttle again faster then the rest, and more importantly, they are taking every spare centimeter the road will give them.
Championship leader Will Power comes blasting around the corner, I’m watching as he throws the wheel hard right (then a jerky left as he corrects the oversteer mid corner), and then stomps on the accelerator again.
…and then I feel it….
A very distinct “THUMP” as he rubs the wall with his left side tires and blasts off down the road with the turbo V6 roaring in my ears. He is on it. And naturally, takes another commanding pole.
There’s nothing quite like watching car racing on a temporary street circuit. It defines the men from the boys and those that are willing and able to drive on the limit, from those that aren’t. The commitment must be absolute. There is no second guessing. Get it wrong and you’ll pay for it with a broken car and an angry team of mechanics.
Baltimore’s second annual Grand Prix weekend got off to the similarly slow start it did last year. The Pratt Street rail road tracks giving cars and drivers trouble as they got several inches of air upon hitting the raised bump, and then landing with bone crunching force on the other side. But despite the issues, Baltimore is still a fun place to photograph car racing. The scenic city backdrops and interesting selection of corners and vantage points make it a challenge but rewarding place to work (with the exception of the oppressive humidity all weekend long).
But more importantly, the Indycar championship battle received a much needed injection of tension as championship leader Will Power had an uncharacteristically poor race and finished four places behind his closest championship rival, who took the win with a perfect race strategy and gained himself extremely valuable points as the season comes to a close in two weeks time at the Fontana oval in California. It should be a showdown of epic proportions as Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay battle it out for the final race. I have no idea who will win. But either way, whoever comes out on top next weekend will be a well deserved winner.
Thanks to Mike, Lesley, Phil and the LAT team, Ryan, Andretti Sports Marketing, the Price family and the city of Balimore for a fantastic weekend!
All images © Jamey Price/LAT. All Rights Reserved.