Rolex 24 at Daytona


With a free Friday in Florida after the end of Lotusphere, a few of us took the opportunity to head the 70 miles up to Daytona and catch the Friday practice and qualifying sessions for the Rolex 24, otherwise known as the 24 hours of Daytona.

For just $25 we gained access to the infield and garages and got up close to the prototype and GT cars taking part in the event. In addition to the practice and qualifying sessions we also got to watch a good hour or so of the Florida 200 race in which 95 cars ranging from Roush tuned V8 Mustangs to Mini Cooper S’s raced in a fairly hectic encounter.

This was my first go at motorsport photography and the dark-art of panning. For the non-photographers out there, panning involves tracking the car with the camera whilst using a deliberately slow shutter speed. If done properly this leaves the car in focus and the background nicely blurred, really giving the car a punch that makes it stand out. Whilst it is fairly easy (at least in the bright Florida sunshine) to use high shutter speeds to freeze the action and get sharp shots, a good panning shot will really stand out. For example, compare the shot of the Ferrari F430 at the top of the post with this one of a Roush Mustang from the Florida 200 race:


Unfortunately, panning is hard. Especially when shotting hand-held. With my 55-200 Tamron lens I only got about half a dozen worth panning shots out of probably over 100 attempts. The good news is that with motor racing you are typically not short of opportunities to get the shot you want given the cars tend to come round quite often!

The access to the garage areas was great, and I have a load of shots ready to be processed from that. One particular highlight for me was seeing a couple of British drivers – one well known and one not so (at least in the UK) As you can see below, the veteran Derek Bell was driving in the 24 hour race in a Pontiac Riley prototype. His car finished in 63rd place overall and 24th in the prototype class.

Derek Bell

However the highlight for me was getting to meet Dan Wheldon. He was a few years below me at school and went on to win the Indy 500 and Indycar series in his rookie year, as well as being a previous Rolex 24 winner. I managed to blag my way into his trailer based on this tenuous link and had a quick chat with him and fiancée.

Dan Wheldon

Unfortunately he didn’t have the best weekend. His car was crashed by a team-mate on Thursday and they finished 42nd overall, 18th in class in the Chip Ganassi Target Lexus Riley.

3 thoughts on “Rolex 24 at Daytona

  1. I particularly like the F360 shot at top – nice job. Of course this is where mode 2 IS comes in handy – time to upgrade that Tamron 😉

  2. D’oh, immediately on reading your comment I realised it is actually an F430…

    Funnily enough I was looking at the 70-200 F4L IS USM in a camera shop in Orlando with the knowledge that I’d get the chance to try it out at Daytona. However the price worked out as only about £50 less than you can get it over here (I’m sure it would be cheaper at somewhere like B&H but sadly that wasn’t really an option this time around.) Like you say, IS with panning mode would be great for this type of photography.

    I consoled myself by getting CS3 instead 😉

  3. Great panning shot with the Fez, although I love that Mustang. My shots are never at short circuits – only really road racing so backgrounds tend to be interesting and panning doesn’t get practiced that much! So inevitably I’m fairly hit and miss with it.

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