Writing exclusively for Mobil 1 The Grid, photographer Jamey Price braves the wind and the seemingly vast magnitude of the area to take us on a crash course around COTA as he (very nearly) gets lost in Austin.
Circuit of the Americas – COTA – holds a very special place in my heart. If I’m perfectly honest, it is far from my favourite track on any racing series calendar. Not only is it massive, it’s also hard to get around. A nightmare to get around, actually, unless you’re on a golf cart or a scooter or, well, a race car. In short, it’s a logistical challenge, simply because of the sheer size of the outside ring road.
Photographically, too, Circuit of the Americas is challenging. But, like any challenge, the reward is greater – simply because it take more effort to produce images that will stand the test of time.
COTA was one of the first tracks I ever visited in my career as a motorsport photographer. Over the past 5 years, I’ve come to know it very well and I sometimes find myself in a rut covering the corners I now know almost too well. There are pictures to be made everywhere on any track, but some places are just better than others. So trying not to be lazy and trying to find something new becomes something of a personal challenge.
As photographers, it is our job to chase the light and make something of it. The race cars are just the subject, but the ingredients that go into a great photo come from the place, the time and the weather. So it was a pleasant change of pace to cover IMSA’s weekend at Circuit of the Americas a few weeks ago in early May, instead of the usual September/October date.
Indeed, it was last September that Texas nearly tried to kill me with insane ambient heat and even more horrific tarmac temperatures. Throw a fire suit and helmet on top of that and I was swimming in my own sweat on pit lane.
But not this year. This year, instead of heat, the great challenge was wind. With winds gusting around the track at 40mph, holding up a large lens at the top of Turn 1 or panning cars through the ‘esses’, was no easy feat. And it greatly reduced the ‘keep rate’ for photos, believe me. Thankfully, in this world of digital photography, my 64GB LEXAR memory cards were able to keep pace with what I needed.
Though IMSA continues its next round at Belle Isle, Michigan, I won’t return to the IMSA paddock until the next round of the Super Trofeo season at Watkins Glen. Between now and then, however, the world travels continue, starting with F1 races in Monaco and Montreal, followed by the always incredible atmosphere at the Circuit de la Sarthe for the epic 24 Hour of Le Mans.
Jamey Price is a Charlotte, NC based freelance motorsport photojournalist who has covered racing across the globe, including NASCAR, INDYCAR, MotoGP, IMSA Weathertech, World Endurance Championship, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Formula 1. You can see more of his work on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @jameypricephoto, and on the web at www.jameypricephoto.com.