I’ve just been writing and photographing a story about the amazing line up of Group B rally cars at Race Retro in Stoneleigh Park. Introduced in 1982 as a replacement for Group 4, group B was conceived to cut red tape with limited regulations to encourage more manufacturers to join the WRC.
Combining four wheel drive with the immense power from turbo-charging proved irresistible to a legion of loyal fans who still love these cars more then thirty years on after the series was cancelled in 1986 following the tragic death of Henri Toivonen’s and his co-driver Sergio Cresta in a Lancia Delta S4 on the Tour de Corse rally.
Patrick Head turned the lack lustre ugly successor to the Mini ,the Metro, into a British rally icon. The 6R4 was created in 1985 out of pretty much thin air by Williams Grand Prix engineering who did much of the development work.
The Audi Quattro was a game changer on the world rally scene. When the rules changed to allow four wheel drive cars into rallying many thought they would be too complicated and heavy to be competitive but this was quickly proved wrong when a Quattro won on it’s first time out at the Austrian round of the European Championships.
Renault 5 Maxi Turbo
Designed by Bertone’s Marc Deschamps, the Renault Five Turbo was initially launched into the Group 4 rally scene and proved competitive with Jean Ragnotti winning the 1981 Monte Carlo rally and 1982 Tour de Corse.There were upgrades for Group B with increased engine power from 210 and then to up to 285bhp and the introduction of the 1527cc engine with the Maxi Turbo in 1984 .
One of the iconic of all the Group B cars is Ford RS200.The brainchild of new Ford Motorsport boss Stewart Turner, the body was penned by Ghia in Turin, F1 engineer Tony Southgate designed the chassis suitable for the four wheel drive and Bryan Hart tuned the dry sump aluminium engine to deliver almost 450bhp.
This 308 wasn’t an official Ferrari Group B project in the UK but Michelotto had built four 308s to rally spec’ for the Italian scene.This British car,whcih still runs today with original driver Tony Worswick, competed mostly in the tarmac rallies
Peugeot 205 T16
Peugeot 205 T16s were the most successful Group B cars to compete in the final years of the World Rally Championship’s series, winning the 1985 and 1986 championships with Timo Salonen and Juha Kankkunen. The T16s were built using a standard 3 door body shell cut in half creating a rear bulkhead and a brand new tubular and sheet steel space frame at the rear of the car to house the mid mounted engine and gearbox.
I’ve just come back from a snowy Paris for the fantastic Retromobile classic car show at the Porte Versailles exhibition centre.
All three halls at the first big international classic car show of the season were packed with classic stands that lacked none of the savoir faire that we’ve come to expect from this superb French exhibition.
Renault Le Mans cars
Leading the way was Renault, with a large stand encompassing cars from throughout its long history. It showcased an impressively diverse selection of vehicles, including a set of Alpine A442 and A443 sports cars which raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the late-1970s and a jewel of a 1900 Type B featuring a 450cc De Dion-Bouton single-cylinder engine.
Renault Type B 1900
Citroën had also pulled out some great presidential vehicles, including the open, stretched SM Présidentielle which regularly played host to Georges Pompidou and the extraordinary high-roofed DS Limousine built for General De Gaulle.
De Gaulle Citroen DS
McLarens were prominent throughout the show, with the ex-Senna F1 car on the Unique and Limited stand and a fantastic spread of cars on the Richard Mille stand, including M8, M7 and Le Mans-winning F1.
McLaren M8 with M7
As ever, there were some quirky gems that haven’t been seen before, such as the 1922 aircraft-inspired Maratuech three-wheeler and an excellent display of WWI and WWII tanks and armoured vehicles from the Musée des Blindés in Saumurs.
Here’s one of my favourite recent shoots that’s in the latest issue of Classic and Sports car magazine.
F & W RR-1
It features an immaculate Freestone and Webb coach built pre-war Rolls Royce and Mick Walsh and I headed up to Oxfordshire to photograph the car on the private estate of the owner.
I’ve worked with Mick for almost 30 years and we tend to like the same cars and this was no exception with stunning walnut and leather interior and immaculately drawn lines.
F & W RR-3
Despite having no traffic to spoil the view the shoot wasn’t straight forward with low light conditions under the mature growth trees making action photography tricky.In that situation there is no excuse but to shoot more frames until you’ve got the shot.
I was recently asked by old friend Richard Sutton, ex dep’ editor of C & SC and Lord March’s right hand man, to take some pictures for an car exhibition with a difference.
Called Art in Motion, the idea was to collect seven iconic cars in a giant 11th century thatched tithe barn in Tisbury Wiltshire, one of the oldest of its type and now set up as an art space by owner and London gallery owner Johnny Messum.
A series of talks on automobile design is scheduled by noted speakers such as professor Dale Harrow from the Royal College of Art and critic and writer Stephen Bayley.
The opening night saw the incredible spectacle of the collection of Lamborghini Muira Alfa Romeo SS, McLaren F1, Jaguar E Type, Ferraris 288GTO and Daytona and AC Cobra brought together for the first time with a champagne reception and introduction by Richard.
The exhibition runs from 6-29th May See www.messumswiltshire.com for more details
The late Tom Wheatcroft built up an incredible collection of racing cars many of them Grand Prix or Formula One cars at the Donington Circuit which he owned.
I have a regular feature to feed in F1 Racing magazine and have built up a large archive of F1 cars photographed in the studio style but need to keep adding to it all the time. The museum ,which is open to public, is much depleted these days but there is still some gold to be found.I’d picked out the Ferrari Thinwall Special developed by Tony Vandervell on an Indianapolis chassis as campaigned by Mike Hawthorn,Peter Collins and Nina Farina amongst others and featuring a 4.5 litre V12 24 spark plug engine.
Also the Vanwall VW2 from 1955 was on my list.It raced nine times that year with Harry Schell and Ken Wharton at the wheel and featured an unusual cylinder design based on the Norton motorcycle engine developing over 300bhp.
Finally I chose the incredible BRM V16 Mk2 P30 …a unique screamer of just 1.5 litres but supercharged was capable of delivering well over 500 bhp at 8000rpm. It won on it’s first outing in 1954 in the Chichester Cup at Goodwood.
One of the images I try to shoot if there is time is a locked off shot of the whole car with the bonnet on and off comping these together to give a shadowing effect of the engine through the bonnet.See the finished image in my portfolio 1 gallery
After a long gestation James is happy to announce the long awaited arrival of the brand new edition of ‘How to Photograph Cars’.
The first edition ,published by Motorbooks International was the best seller in its field guiding a generation of aspiring car photography students into careers across the automobile industry as well as helping those who just wanted to improve their skills as a hobby.
Over 144 pages and with more than 200 images many specially taken for the new book James explains everything you’ll need to know about equipment choices from camera phone to the top end professional kit, advanced techniques for composing your image and how to find the best locations. Chapters set out how to photograph at a show or in a car museum, high-speed action at the track or out on the road, as well as how to shoot a magazine feature. The secret world of the car studio is exposed with pro’ lighting tips and behind the scenes images and in a brand new chapter, James looks at manipulating digital images and re-touching pictures to make them perfect for sharing on the internet, car club magazine or business.
You can buy the book from this website or on Amazon.co.uk from launch date 9/11/16.
HTPC back cover
I’m still recovering from this year’s fantastic Goodwood Festival of Speed.The event has grown from a small gathering of motoring enthusiasts with their cars going up Lord March’s Sussex country home’s drive into the largest motoring event in the UK .
1906 Renault GP
The size of the event is reflected in the huge variety of vehicles on the entry list ,from hybrid super cars to veteran Grand Prix winners.There’s also the premier Concours D’Elegance in Europe the Cartier Style et Luxe to look around as well as all the trade and industry stands and a full rally stage up in the woods at the top of the hill.
Aston Martin Vulcan
Over 150,000 people come over the four days of the Festival which now includes the Moving Motor Show on the Thursday where prospective customers get the chance to drive up the famous 2km hill climb although few could ever come close Nick Heidfeld’s 1999 time of 41 seconds in a McLaren F1 car.
This is one of my favourite views looking down the drive to the start line, here with the awesome 730bhp 1972 McLaren M8F driven by Andrew Newell.
Despite being beset with it’s fair share of British summer rain this year the Festival of Speed is still the highlight of the classic motorsport year.
I’d been asked to photograph the McLaren M7C high wing car for F1 Racing magazine and been invited to shoot McLaren’s own car at their incredible futuristic Tech’ centre where they build the F1 cars and develop the road cars.Like many large organisations McLaren are very particular about who they let through their doors so it’s always exciting to visit but can be a challenging place to work.My luck was in however as I was able to park just outside the area where the M7C had been moved to.
The M7s were the first to use the Cosworth DFV8 which would remain the main power plant for their F1 cars right up until 1983.Drivers for the 1968/9 season were Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme.
The M7C is a snapshot of F1 development with a brand new monococque design and high wings mounted directly onto the suspension offering considerable down force at high speeds. The high wing cars were only used for a few races in 1968 and 1969 before being banned at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Just got back from photographing the fabulous Sunbeam ‘Tiger’ land speed record car out for the first time in years . It was running on Ainsdale beach near Southport exactly 90 years to the day since Sir Henry Segrave drove it to 152.3 mph to clinch the record and was part of the brand new Southport Festival of Speed to celebrate racing in the northern seaside town over the years. The ‘Tiger’ features a 4 litre quad cam dry sump supercharged V12 beast of an engine specially built in 1925 for Segrave by the Wolverhampton based firm and was originally named ‘Ladybird’.
Sunbeam Tiger land speed record car warms up
The car is currently owned by the Force India F1 team principal Vijay Mallya who has restored the car and was driven on the day by curator Malcolm Page who looks after the Mallya collection. Starting procedure is complicated for this highly advanced racing engine involving fitting a separate carburetor and changing from soft to hard spark plug once the engine is warmed up.With vintage specialist Nick Benwell and others helping, the glorious engine fired up without too much fuss and this Historic car once more roared onto the Southport sands again.
Sunbeam Tiger at speed on Southport Sands
I’ve recently been out to one of my favourite race circuits for a shoot with the epic 1971 Ferrari 512M. Circuit Paul Ricard is set in the mountains at Le Castellet behind Marseilles in the South of France and is reminiscent of Laguna Seca in California with its mountain air and clarity of light although the track is flatter and more open. Dramatically painted run off areas highlight the corners and the atmosphere in the paddock is typically Prevencal with a long break for ‘Dejeuner’ always scheduled into the program. I arrived at dawn and woke Tim Samways’s transporter driver who sportingly agreed to unload the car for me to start shooting statics in the creamy early light.Track time was arranged between 12-1.00pm but the car only arrived in the pit lane at 12.50 pm giving us only enough time for just one lap for car to car photography…which was sufficient. Just fifteen 512Ss were converted into M spec in 1971 and with over 600bhp on tap through the quad cam five litre V12 engine…we tiptoed our way around the track, the glorious song of the Italian race tuned V12 the only noise shattering the silence of the important procession of lunch.
After over a 100 years without turning a wheel the Beast of Turin was back in England with a vengeance racing at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and wowing the crowds with it’s deafening flame spitting roar. The stats are incredible for the Fiat leviathon with over 300HP on tap from it’s monster 28.4 litre four cylinder engine. The car has been rebuilt by Duncan Pittaway over the past 10 years after he discovered the chassis in Australia ,where it had been campaigned as the Fiat racing special, and matched it with the original engine. A pair of Fiat S76s were built in 1910 to snatch the flying mile and flying kilometre speed records back from the dominant Blitzen Benzs and Pietro Bordino drove the Beast at Saltburn Sands in Yorkshire in 1911 finally taking an unofficial record in Belgium at over 135mph.
I was down in Poole at the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s brand new rescue boat building facility recently to shoot a pair of classic Ferraris left in a legacy to the charity by V12 collector Richard Colton. The 250GT SWB V12 was built in 1960 and was one of only 167 made with just 12 coming to the UK, it was the first car imported by Colonel Ronnie Hoare for Maranello consessionaires and is of a type that won the RAC TT and as driven by Stirling Moss and Phil Hill. The silver car is a 275GTB 4 cam V12, considered by many to be the best GT car ever built and was the Maranello demonstrator in 1967,both matching numbers cars were owned by Colton for over 30 years in which time he drove them all over Europe.They are expected to raise up to $10million making the donation the largest ever to the RNLI and enough to pay for five Shannon class lifeboats, as seen here.They will be sold at H & H’s Duxford auction later in the year.