Road Atlanta during this year’s Petit Le Mans – Full-size version
Like a city skyline, a corner of open sky, or a BMW X2, motorsports just gets prettier when the sun goes down. Night racing, especially on a dimly-lit track like Le Mans or Road Atlanta, is a daunting challenge for drivers and teams but a unique and spectacular experience for fans who are resilient enough to stay awake for it.
Even when the sun isn’t around to light up today’s beautiful race cars, you somehow manage to see more when the moon takes over. You see brake rotors glowing so bright you can almost feel the heat, showers of sparks dance all over the track, and glimpses of blue and orange pops of burning exhaust gases if you get lucky. Cars can only be designated by their headlights and taillights or by the sound they make, but in IMSA many cars have additional LED strips on them that help with that too.
All of the things I just mentioned can still be visible during the day, but it all becomes the center of attention at night. There’s no other word to describe night racing other than spectacular.
For relatively new photographers like me, it’s also a challenge. I lugged my camera and tripod to last month’s night practice session before the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta and tried capturing what I could. I aimed at turn five (at the end of The Esses) and cranked my shutter speed to six seconds to see what would happen. I think what I captured kind of demonstrates what makes night racing as beautiful as it is. You don’t see any car’s defining features or battles for position, just light. Light cutting through the darkness.
[Image © 2017 Hooniverse/Greg Kachadurian]