Saturday, July 24, 2010

Honda Indy Toronto Diary - pre-race events

DSC02240 - Justin Wilson

So, here I am, a week later on and I'm finally organized enough to write something about the amazing weekend I spent at the Honda Indy Toronto, the annual dust-up on a temporary street circuit in and around Toronto's waterfront Exhibition Place. Last year, I bought a general admission ticket for the Friday practice day and acquainted myself with a track I'd only been to once before, in 1990. That time, I had a grandstand seat, it poured with rain and was miserably cold, and Al Unser Jr. won. Last year, it was hot, dry, and I had a happy day exploring photo opportunities around the track while making sure I didn't inadvertently trip into any restricted areas.

This year, the game changed entirely.

This year, I was recruited onto the volunteer photo corps for the event, by a contact who had seen my 2009 photos on Flickr, and was impressed enough to offer me the gig. This year, I spent all three days on site, plus some shooting of pre-race promotional events. Twelve hour days, plus staying up into the early hours editing photos "for fun", endless slogging around the track, buckets of sunscreen, access to the media centre, shooting assignments, a shot list to be filled - a very, very different experience from my usual "buy a ticket, show up and shoot whatever I like" approach that I've applied time and time again at Mosport.

I have in mind to write a few posts - not a diary, exactly, since it's taken me over a week to get to this, but more a chronicle for me (and you, if you care) of what turned out to be a fairly gruelling, but absolutely enjoyable, gig.

Let's start off with a few "keeper" shots from the pre-race activities at Yonge-Dundas Square, on Tuesday and Wednesday before the race weekend. An easy lunchtime skip over from work, and a location I shot at last year as well. On Tuesday, Canadian favourite driver Paul Tracy was on hand to mingle with the crowd, sign a few autographs, and oversee the Honda Pit Stop Challenge, which pitted members of the media against each other in a tire-changing competition:

DSC00634-Paul Tracy

The team from local radio station Fan 590 won, in case you were wondering:

DSC00648 - Pit Stop Challenge - the victor!

Wednesday's big news was the unveiling of the brand-new Hot Wheels livery for the Fazzt Race Team entry of another Canadian favourite, Alex Tagliani. Characteristically photogenic, wearing his new race suit, shades and a blinding smile, Tags wowed the fans, posed with the kids, and even engaged in a protracted radio-controlled car duel with one young fan.

DSC00810 - Seat time

Thursday's call was to sneak down to a business-district watering hole, the Duke of Devon, for an all-Scottish photo-op between super-charismatic driver Dario Franchitti and some members of Celtic FC, who happened to be in town for an exhibition game. Quite a scrum, involving lots of photos of pieces of TV cameras, microphones, photographers' heads, and the occasional lunchtime patron, but at least I got a couple of interview shots, and a not-too-bad one of the jersey handoff.

DSC00889 - Dario Franchitti, Fan 590 interview

DSC00916 - Dario Franchitti, Neil Lennon, Scott Brown

That's team manager Neil Lennon in the middle, along with captain Scott Brown.

But - the big event was yet to come. That will be another post, or perhaps two. In the meantime, if you like this kind of thing, there are more photos in my Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday Flickr sets.

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