Mid Ohio 2018

So it’s been a while. A While since I peered down the viewfinder of my trusty Canon. Moving back from Europe to the mid west has put a pretty big holt to my photographic adventures. The tracks are hours away by plane, compared to hours away by car on an unrestricted autobahn. Thus making it harder to just pick up and get my gasoline fix. The car culture in the Detroit is either fixated on Hellcats and new mustangs, or a bunch of retires sitting on lawn chairs watching the world go by with their prestige fossil behind them. Not as inspiring as I would of hoped. It has its pockets of goodness they are just few and far between.

So when I got a text from Andrew last year saying I should check out the Mid Ohio vintage GP, my curiosity perked up. I have heard lots about Watkins glen and Laguna Seca. I have been to Indy and seen the 500. But to be perfectly honest “Mid Ohio” had barely registered on my radar. On top of that Ohio is not really known for its exciting and beautiful landscapes. Turns out I was pretty wrong about the second part of that sentence.

So not knowing what to expect, other than this advice from Andrew, “it’s not the Nurburgring, it has its own little charm” . “More grassroots” he said. I knew an interesting weekend was ahead.

So I set off with my dad after work on Friday and headed south. Checking into the local 5 star Holiday Inn, in a town that time seemed to have forgotten, we had a night cap and prepared for an early morning.

The excitement of driving to a race track early in the morning is always a special thing. Plus it turns out the roads around Mid Ohio are not too shabby! Some great curvy‘ s and treelined tunnels. At this point I knew this wasn’t going to be a flat track which I had expected after travelling 3 hours through corn fields the night before. After a few random turns and guidance from Waze we pulled down a street and saw our first glimpse of the track. A beautifully ribbon of tarmac strung across the hills and through the trees. What a beautiful place! Full of history and culture.

So fast forward one more year and we had to come back!  The setting is stunning. However more so than that, it was the racing and the crowd of cars that brought us back. Andrew was right. It sure was “grassroots racing” with some serious money sprinkled in between. You have the bigger teams all posted up in the main paddocks and old pit boxes, then the family teams camping and making pit on the grass covered makeshift parking lots.

The variety is just mind blowing. From Lola’s and shadows prepared by RM to a guy with old beat up MG which looked by all accounts to be on its last legs. But the guy gave it his best shot and headed out for a few laps.

The groups are broken out what seems to be power. From the high speed Lola’s to the 1 point something liter little Alfas and Porsche 356’s. There are also a bunch of random groups, for cars that don’t appear to be that vintage. A Miata spec group and a bunch of Porsche 996-991 cup cars. International GT as it appears to be called. Sure fun to watch. Just not my cup of tea for photographic content.

We heard while sitting on the hills taking a break from the camera, that you can always expect 3 things at mid Ohio vintage GP. Sun, rain and loud race cars. We got all three this time around. Totally random down pours followed by baking sun. All in all made for some great pictures.

Hands down one of my favorite parts of this event is the laid back nature. Everything but the hot pit lane is open to the public. You can walk around and see it all. Chat to the drives and watch them tinker away on their pride and joys. The old pit boxes have stairs to the second floors and serve as a viewing point for the track. Once up there you can look back into the pits and get some really cool views of the teams working on the cars.

It’s is very different to the racing in Europe. The competition doesn’t seem to be that high. The top 5 cars maybe on the limit but the majority of the cars seem a little amateur. Not to say there is anything wrong with that. Just makes the spectating a little less nail biting. Goodwood and Spa have spoilt me! Sorry. Saying that though the one highlight and thing I was so excited for was the Americana aspect. So many muscle and pony cars. Lola’s and Shadows. Growing up in Europe you don’t get to see this sort of stuff that often. It’s pretty amazing to see old Nascars and beautiful old Shelby GT350’s all sharing the track at the same time. This is what brought me back a second time.

The V8 roars around the rolling hills, the great spectator spots throughout the track, the campsites and RV’s sharing generations of racing together, the grassroots pits and paddocks, the old volunteers working the events and passing on their knowledge. This humble event is everything classic racing should be. Accessible by all!

Maybe next year I will be back seeing it from another angle, as dad just picked up a classic race car of his own and we are heading there back their soon to get our racing license’s. Watch out F1 here we come!  

Jonathan SzczupakComment