In the first of his exclusive series for Mobil 1 The Grid, photographer Jamey Price shares the magic and the mayhem of life as a motorsport cameraman as he takes us behind the lens at the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.
I love covering motorsport. I know I am privileged to have a career that I love and, though I may not always love every minute, seeing the fruits of my labour at the end of a long day on track always makes the hard work that goes into getting the perfect shot worthwhile.
As a photographer, I believe my job is simple: to tell stories with a camera. Some places make that story easier to tell than others. And Sebring Raceway is undoubtedly one of those places.
The Mobil 1 Sebring 12 Hours is a race which allows me to be creative whilst also managing to give me a huge buzz when I am trackside. Only a few races – and only a few tracks – can do this.
As you walk around the circuit, watching the cars bounce and crunch their way over the huge concrete slabs, the smell of hot dogs and brats filling the air pierced by the occasional air-horn from some intoxicated fan cheering on his favourite team as the car races past, it makes for a truly special atmosphere.
Anyone who has visited Sebring will understand when I say the track has a uniquely American sense of pride, like no other. The scaffolding castles built alongside the track continue to amaze, impress and slightly concern me for their structural integrity; but kudos to the diehard fans that erect them, place weathered and worn couches on them, and set up camp for a long day in the sun.
As a photographer’s race track, the circuit is as good as they come. It has zero runoff and is adorned with that distinctive blue and white curbing. I continue to be confused as to why some tracks have little to no care or concern for their aesthetic appearance when it comes to tyre barriers or painted curbing. Colour makes all the difference and helps to create a unique, visual fingerprint to every photo I take. When I look back at my work, I can see which photos were clearly taken at Sebring, thanks to the iconic colours that adorn the surface around the track.
Every year when I pack my bags for Sebring, I never really know what we’re gonna get when it comes to weather. This is Florida, after all. It can be cold in the morning and hot in the afternoon. It can be soaking wet and miserable, or we might be baking in the sun by 10am. Thankfully, this year ended up being a 12 hour race full of sunshine.
Needless to say, for a photographer, weather impacts your decision-making. I often get asked how I choose which corner of the track I set myself up, and when I choose to go there. And Sebring is a good track to answer that question, because if the sun is shining, you’re almost guaranteed a nice sunset. So I’ll find somewhere that will be looking straight into the setting sun to take full advantage of those uniquely Floridian orange, purple and yellow colours as the sun dips below the horizon, highlighting the curves and edges of these beautiful cars.
When the sun is high in the sky early in the race, I’ll aim for places that I might be able to find some good racing action. And of course, finding time to spend a few hours in the pits.
My clients don’t demand much of me, and for that I am lucky. They don’t restrict me. They trust that I will go out and cover the race in a way which tells a story, and which shows their cars in the best possible light. Yet also in a way which is honest.
Lamborghini has been a client of mine for several years now. I’ve been on the Squadra Corse team since 2013 and have grown as a photographer alongside them and with them. Through mostly bad luck – and occasionally poor race-craft – Lamborghini has yet to score its first endurance racing podium in the US.
As the minutes counted down in Sebring this year, things were looking really good for the Change Racing Lamborghini GTD car to place 3rd. But with a lap left to go, a fuel strategy gamble came back to bite them and they ran out of gas on the last lap of the race. I watched on as the team, who were all but ready to embrace and high-five over a well-deserved podium, sank into sadness and frustration. It was hard to see people I care about come so close, and then get rejected at the final hour. But that’s racing. It will beat you up and spit you out; give you hope, then take it away again. That’s what makes the taste of victory so much sweeter. However, hard work will always be rewarded in the end.
This was my fifth Sebring 12 Hours race. I continue to learn something about this magical track – a new place to shoot from or new way to cover it – every single year that I attend. No doubt, watching the racing here is special. It’s one of the very few races that still give me goosebumps. I already can’t wait to return in 2018.
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.