Mud, Wind, Rain and Cars

Photographer Steven Paston braved the wilds of Wales for the Rally of Great Britain.

“I found myself deep in the Welsh forest, with no phone signal or sat nav, just me and the countryside for company. That and the sound of rally cars’ engines roaring past at speeds of around 100 mph, just metres from where I stood. I was back at the Rally of Great Britain.”

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Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila of Finland during Dyfi Stage. Photo Steven Paston
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Martin Prokop and Jan Tomanek of Czech Republic during Dyfi Stage. Photo Steven Paston

“Some of my colleagues would say I’m in the wrong profession, and should be a rally driver – not  due to my skills behind the wheel but for lack of them!  Standing so close to the cars as the drivers go full throttle, positioning their car to make tight corners, is amazing to watch especially when it’s wet and slippery as it was that weekend.”

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Sebastien Ogier (R) and Julien Ingrassia of France Volkswagen Motorsport celebrate winning the Rally of Great Britain and the FIA World Rally Championship. Photo Steven Paston
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Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia of France Volkswagen Motorsport celebrate with the trophy after winning the FIA World Rally Championship. Photo Steven Paston

“This was the third year I’ve covered the event for Action Images, and even now I’m still getting my head around it. It consists of four days travelling around the northern part of Wales. Covering individual stages is I guess similar to covering the Tour de France in cycling, where you have to pick a location and wait for the riders to come past. The media get privileged parking access, so in theory we can park up, walk a few hundred metres to part of the stage, shoot the drivers as they come past, and then jump in the car to get to the next stage. In reality this is often not possible. When we receive our accreditation we are also given a guide to all the stages, how to get there, where the so-called best photo opportunities are, and other useful info.”

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Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia of France during the Clocaenog Main stage. Photo Steven Paston

 

“There are several stages taking place each day and each stage is driven twice, so if I plan it I can cover one stage in the early morning, then jump in the car, drive back to main road, if possible send a few images once I can pick up 3G or 4G signal, and then drive on to the next stage in time for the afternoon session. The best way to get decent coverage is all in the planning, I try to work out which stage is going to provide the best results, then chose another stage for the second run in order to get a different shot in the afternoon.”

General view during the Alwen stageSteven Paston keep
A general view shot using a slow shutter speed, during the Alwen stage. Photo Steven Paston

“As you can imagine, Wales in November is wet and cold, and for one of the stages I was standing on a bank about a metre or so from where the drivers go past. Norwegian driver Andreas Mikkelsen came through and clipped the corner, throwing up a load of mud, dirt and small stones straight into me, covering half my body and face as well as my cameras with it. I did raise a few laughs from some fellow photographers who were standing next to me, and a dozen fans nearby, but hey this is rallying! You know at some point you are going to get dirty, some people would pay money to be covered in mud at a spa treatment!”

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Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola Floene of Norway during Dyfi Stage. Photo Steven Paston

“Unlike some other motorsports events, fans can walk onto the course, especially in remote areas where the lack of stewards means they can get really close to the action. The thing that impresses me most about the fans is their dedication to watching and supporting the sport. They wake up around 5am to drive an hour and a half or more to their chosen stage, walk a few miles to find a good spot, sit in the cold and wet just to see their favorite drivers pass in a blink on an eye. Then they will sit and wait patiently for several hours in the same conditions before the second run in the afternoon.”

general view of spectators walking though the Alwen stageSteven Paston keep
A general view of spectators walking though the Alwen stage. Photo Steven Paston
General view of spectators watching during Dyfi StageSteven Paston keep
General view of spectators watching during Dyfi Stage. Photo Steven Paston
General view of spectators watching at Dyfnant stageSteven Paston keep
General view of spectators watching at Dyfnant stage. Photo Steven Paston

“I tried to vary my coverage this year, with a set of tight full frame shots of the main RC1 cars, wider landscape views to illustrate the Welsh countryside, plus a bit of slow shutter speed panning and some general views of the spectators. Myself and two other photographers walked for over 90 minutes to find a particular photo spot, but on arrival decided to climb up a 45 degree incline where we found an even better position that showed the rolling hills, late afternoon sunshine, and when the top drivers came past, we had a helicopter buzzing just 20 to 30 metres away. This made a really nice shot and it was worth all of the effort that went into it.”

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Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul of Belgium during Dyfi Stage. Photo Steven Paston

“Rallying, unlike motorsports on a fixed circuit, means you only get one chance to capture the shot, and there is a chance that you are at the wrong stage and miss ‘the’ editorial picture of that day.”

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Former England Cricketer Graeme Swann after completing Clocaenog Main stage. Photo Steven Paston

“There is now a growing trend for celebrity drivers at the rally, last year former Olympic skeleton gold medallist Amy Williams took part, this year we had glamour model and wife of Mark Cavendish Peta Todd, along with former England cricketer Graeme Swann. Maybe next year I should enter one of the lower categories and take part, I’m just not sure anybody would be crazy enough to be my co-driver!”

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Mud, Wind, Rain and Cars

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