How to photograph a public entertainment event to which the public are not admitted, or to be precise, how to photograph a motor race without being allowed into the circuit? That was the situation for what would be my forty-seventh consecutive British Grand Prix.
But this year’s ‘closed-door’ event that undoubtedly brought disappointment to 100,000 or more race fans presented me with what I saw as a challenge. Having photographed Silverstone from every possible public vantage point inside the circuit, the only thing to do was to try and photograph it from the outside.
With no specific plan apart from to keep within the rules concerning Covid-19, not go off-limits and to come away with at least one representative photograph, I set off for my annual trip to ‘The Home of British Motor Racing’ and if I were to actually see a racing car, that would be a bonus.
I parked up on the Buckingham Road and walked the couple of miles to the northern end of the circuit where I found a footpath behind the stands at Copse Corner offering a brief view of the track. After taking some photographs of the F3 race I moved on for the F2 and Porsche Supercup but without further success. I was, however, accompanied by the sound of their engines whilst further exploring the area.
After taking lunch in Silverstone village I set off down the Dadford Road past the main entrance towards the track’s southern end and hopefully some Formula 1. The Grand Prix cars were already out and at the point where the road runs close to the track their silhouettes were clearly visible behind the fabric blanking screens attached to the perimeter fence. It was strange to comprehend that this was actually the 2020 British Grand Prix taking place but with no-one there to see it.
I struck lucky, or maybe polite engagement paid off when a couple of police officers invited me to join them in a spot where it was just possible to catch a glimpse of track over the fence after Club Corner. From here, I was able to achieve my day’s objective and snatch some photographs of the Grand Prix. Not wishing to outstay my welcome and with no further views of the track likely to be had without trespassing, I called it a day and headed off for the long trek back to my car.
Silverstone, is a difficult circuit to see anything of from the outside at the best of times, but determination ultimately paid off. I must have walked the best part of ten miles throughout the day to get the photographs I wanted to document the strange uniqueness of the occasion that was the 2020 British Grand Prix.
Grands Prix 2020-style have been described by the media as ‘surreal’ and ‘bizarre,’ but personally I would say ‘eerie’ is a more appropriate word. It was good to see and photograph racing cars again but the swathes of empty carparks and deserted public areas inhabited only by high-vis clad security guards and police officers made a bleak contrast to the thronging masses you usually expect to see. It seemed like being on a film set – difficult to believe this was reality.
For as long as no spectators are allowed, photographing from the outside may well be my only possibility and I will have to choose my events accordingly. I know there are (or were) some decent spots for doing so at Monaco, Nurburgring, Interlagos and Singapore for starters.
It was already on my mind to try this excercise for Silverstone at some stage, purely for the challenge, but Covid intervened and made it my only option.
Note: Many of these images are taken from original prints, negatives and slides that are nearly 40 years old and are therefore not reproduced to the same standard as current day digital images. All reasonable attempts have been made to ensure these images are reproduced to the best possible standard, however, in some instances colour casts and blemishes may be present.