Illumination (for the WRC Nation)


Illumination is not an easy thing in photography – and it does come so hard.

Light, shadows, more light… I mean, I get blisters on my fingers after changing camera settings a million times at every event that I attend. It’s part of the game: I walk these race tracks, a loaded camera to my eye, I take my pics because I might not make it back.

Many of you people know that your favourite Iberian uncle is fairly busy with other commitments in the real world (boring, LOL!) and that he’s left with very little free time. In common parlance it means “catch a bit of motor racing action in a town near you”. I call it urban rallying when applied to the WRC Rally de Portugal. Porto in 2010, Lisboa in 2011-2013, Estoril Casino Gardens in 2014 and now Guimarães.

As I just tweeted, typed, this year’s event took off just north of Porto in the amazing city of Guimarães, the birthplace of Portugal and a fantastic place in general.

No maximum attack full-on rally stages, for sure, y’know, but it gives anyone interested in the World Rally Championship a good opportunity to get close to the cars and stars.

The stars are incredibly fan-friendly and the cars look awesome with their massive rear wings and aggressive wheel arches. It’s basically an open paddock and we’re talking about a world championship here. Try getting a good look at an F1 car at any of the circuits or “Tilke delights” on the calendar, testing or racing – I double dare you! You’ll get garage screens, pit lane covers, angry mechanics or “anti-spy” team members standing in your way. A nightmare. No such problems exist in the WRC though, you’re basically free to “lick” the car or drool for as long as you wish before the ceremonial start. I usually do both things while taking photos between drooling and licking sessions.

WRC turns me on primarily because it’s about driving the car, it’s pure driving – that’s what it is. No physical overtaking or banging wheels (well, sometimes when you catch a slow car in front of you), no roundy-roundy good old circuit racing action, I won’t deny it. However, you need to have big, bigger than usual, biggest (?) set of balls – sorry, this is family entertainment – tyres to last a rally and drive at an insane speed on normal country roads. It’s just boys, girls and the machine against the clock and the scenery. Great for promoting your country as well, a bonus.

This year’s rally was all about road position and managing the balls – I did it again! – tyres due to the rough nature of the stages (the rolling stones north of Portugal gravel kind of thing, y’know). Punctures do happen nowadays in the WRC and they did happen to many of the drivers. Good for the show they say.

I’m a bit of a Kris Meeke fan so I was hoping for more of the same as in Argentina. Alas, it was not to be, although Kris did a mega job under the circumstances (VW’s supremacy coupled with some problems for his DS Automobile[s] or whatever Citroën’s corporate suits wish to call it now). Argentina win qualifies as the “first of many” for me – using Ronspeak.

The right guy won in the end and it’s the only thing that matters. JMLatvala likes to rock and roll in Portugal (literally!) but fortunately he managed to avoid rolling out of contention this time and therefore took an emotinal and well deserved win, also a very popular one.

The amount of fans at every stage was quite frankly mind-blowing when you compare it to F1 or even “planet saving” WEC/Formula E races. People were smoking, drinking beer, consuming traditional “bifanas”, making loud noises or inhaling the dust from the passing cars, simply enjoying themselves… for free!

Empty grandstands? What empty grandstands? Certainly not at the WRC Rally de Portugal!

Posted by