Ever since I participated in HPDE1 at the August 2016 event at VIR, I’ve had the itch to get my FR-S back on track. Unsurprisingly, getting on track is expensive, and since I’m a borderline frugal person, this means that I don’t get to hit the track every month. When I reached out to my local NASA chapter (the race people, not the space people) about signing up for last year’s OktoberFast event at Summit Point, I was informed about the worker program, where you can earn race credit by working for NASA. I’ve been taking advantage of this opportunity ever since.
NASA is a well oiled machine. Cars exit the grid onto the track at same time cars come in from their session. Dozens of workers play their parts in orchestra like little cogs in a mechanical watch. Any break in function could cause delays in the track schedule or even a safety issue.
While there’s plenty of responsibility involved, I still have a blast, even though I’m working. I love the atmosphere: the sounds of engines rumbling and exhausts roaring (or in Spec Miata’s case, buzzing), the smell of race fuel, the sight of cars where form follows function, and best of all, the community.
Working all through the day means that my camera stays secured in my car and out of my hands for the overwhelming majority of the time that cars are on track. That’s fine with me since none of my lenses are really ideal for panning shots from the distant spectator zones.
My camera emerged from my bag in the paddock not long before sundown Saturday evening, and I set out to capture what I could.
If you know me in person, you may be aware that my dream daily driver is a road legal Ariel Atom. I am not quiet about this desire. In December of last year, my coworkers kept asking me why the Mary and Joseph in my whiteboard mural at my desk were in a “weird looking race car” while en route to the manger.
Unbeknownst to many, TMI Autotech, the builders and distributors of the England-based Ariel Atom, is headquartered near VIR and also operate the VIR shop. This means that there’s often some Atom floating around, whether in a race group or just resting in the paddock. This one was being displayed for sale.
Not long after I began my photographic journey, my friend and fellow NASA worker Jack Cobetto of Fast Forward Media invited me over to the skid pad to take some photos of his Spec E30 race car. Of course, I accepted.
Upon concluding our session with the race car, we reused the perfect canvas to shoot our own personal cars - my Ultramarine Scion FR-S, and Jack’s Techno Violet BMW E36 M3.
As the sun descended, Luke Rumburg arrived in his Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR car, upstaging both Jack and I. This was worth getting the tripod out for, since it became too dark to easily take handheld shots. I captured the cover image to this story by both chance and good timing. Yet another NASA worker just happened to pull next to the TCR car in his own MK7 GTI - the standard street going version of the vehicle, as I had my camera on the tripod and with the right settings in place. Sometimes you get lucky. Below, Jack photographs the cockpit.
Most of NASA turns in early in order for their minds and bodies to be refreshed by the next morning, while others perform mid-weekend tuning or repairs so their cars will be. And of course, Honda Challenge always has a party.
Sunday came and went quickly. Many attendees travel across multiple states to round the concrete playground for the weekend, so by the time the last session ends, half of the paddock is empty, and another NASA event is in the books. Until next time, VIR.