Breaking in my GoPro camera at Off Road Racing season finale

A few weeks ago the final race of the 2011 Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series (LOORRS) would visit my hometown of Phoenix for their championship race. On top of loving the hell out of this sport for the excitement, cool drivers and amazing photo access I was motivated to produce cool stuff since this would be my last motor sports event of the year.

Friday would be a nice and short day at the track of shooting practice and qualifying along with trying to figure out the new GoPro2 camera I recently purchased.

Below, LOORRS pro four unlimited driver Liam Doran has a bad day in the office as he flips end over end during qualifying for round 15 at Firebird International Raceway.

NIKON D3S, 400mm, 200iso, f4, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

NIKON D3S, 400mm, 200iso, f4, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 200iso, f4, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

Prior to the pro 2 unlimited qualifying session I headed back into the staging area (where all the trucks are lined up and drivers prepare to race) and asked my buddy Robby Woods if he would be cool with me throwing my camera on his truck. I wasn’t surprised that he said yes but I was rather surprised when he whipped out a drill and asked where I wanted to mount it!

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 500iso, f4, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

Initially I thought that perhaps he was joking because what racer in their right mind would drill holes through the body work on their couple hundred thousand dollar race vehicle just to mount a camera? Then I realized he didn’t care because these trucks basically destroy all their bodywork whenever they take to the track.

I ended up deciding on mounting it on the hood on passenger side aimed towards the driver a bit, below. I used the optional roll bar mounting kit and instead of using the full mount I just used the top half and drilled holes into the body to screw the camera in place.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 500iso, f4, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

Below, here is the view from the underside of the hood showing how I secured the camera into place.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 500iso, f4, 1/250th, Aperture Priority

With off road racing you pretty much have to mount the camera facing backwards due to all the dirt and mud that would quickly hit the lens and ruin any chances of a clear view.

Here is the view (below) from the hood of Robbys truck as he raced around track during qualifying. It was a decent view but for the next days races I would try a different spot.

GoPro2, 2.5mm, 100iso, f2.8, 1/2221th, Auto

Time for Saturday…

Upon my late arrival (about 20 minutes before the first big race) I went to the pit area of my buddy Todd Leduc and mounted my gopro on the back end of his truck facing backwards.

After the camera was in place and I turned on the timer (taking two 11megapixel still frames a second) it was almost time for racing!

Below, a local military color guard displayes the American flag as well as Arizona flag during the National Anthem.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f4.5, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

Below, pro 4 unlimited drivers sit on the track prior to beginning the pace laps for the final points race of the season.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 640iso, f3.2, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

Below, the view from the back of Todd Leducs truck as Toyota driver Marty Hart jumps behind him over the big backstretch jump. This shot alone made it worth the money and effort of getting this camera as it provided a view point you just cannot get with a handheld camera… unless its the last photo you ever take before getting run over!

GoPro2, 2.5mm, 100iso, f2.8, 1/2332th, Auto

A few turns later Marty Hart (below) would run into problems as he attempted to pass Leduc. Leduc would get turned sideways causing Hart to literally drive over his hood…

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 400iso, f4.5, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

The 2011 pro 4 unlimited champion would be Carl Renezeder, below, who is widely regarded as the most successful short course off road racer ever.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 200iso, f4.5, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

While Renezeder won the championship, he didn’t win the race. That honor went to Kyle Leduc (below) who celebrated on the podium with Renezeder and third place finisher Josh Merrell.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f4.5, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

Below, during the pro lite race, driver Cameron Steele (16) was forced to thread the needle between a loose wheel and the crashed truck of Rodrigo Ampudia during round 15 at Firebird International Raceway.

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 400iso, f4.5, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

Below, dirt flies as the lead pack of pro lite drivers, led by Kyle Leduc (99) race into turn one.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 320iso, f4, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

Below, for the finish of the race I went up in the flagstand to shoot wide and get the race winner with the checkered flag waving. The race winner would be Brian Deegan.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f3.2, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

Along with winning the race, Deegan was also the series champion. Below he does his typical photo friendly celebration atop his truck.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f4.5, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

Champagne anyone?

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 320iso, f4, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

Next up on the day was the super lite race. This is a class that anyone can race in if they show up with their checkbook. You essentially rent the race truck for the weekend. Wish I could afford to do it!

Below, LOORRS super lite driver Drew Britt gets hit with some nice sunlight on his eye as he sits in his truck prior to pulling out on track for round 15.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 320iso, f4, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

Below, LOORRS super lite driver Brent Fouch goes on two wheels as he takes a hairpin turn. They aren’t supposed to go on two wheels like that btw. Behind him you can see driver Chad George taking the turn the proper way.

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 400iso, f4.5, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

Below, LOORRS super lite driver Chad George (42) goes low to avoid the flipping truck of Jessie Johnson. Jessie is the younger brother of a guy you may have heard of…. 5 time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson. (who also began his career in off road racing)

Nikon D3S, 70-200mm, 400iso, f4.5, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

The below shot is just an example of some nice late afternoon sunlight mixed with some flying dirt and rocks, which ALWAYS makes for cool looking shots!

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 200iso, f4, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

Below, LOORRS super lite driver R.J. Anderson leads a pack of drivers on his way to a podium finish.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 320iso, f4, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

For the Pro 2 race I once again mounted the Gopro onto the hood of Robby Woods truck, this time it would be on the drivers side facing back taking two frames a second (fastest timer setting on the camera). Note the colored tape with his truck number written on it. (one of his crew members did it in case the camera fell off) After seeing the cameras position on his truck an optimistic Woods would tell me to, “kiss that camera goodbye!” Wonderful…

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f4, 1/1600th, Manual

Below, the field of Pro 2 unlimited drivers take the green flag in front of a capacity crowd at Firebird.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 200iso, f5, 1/500th, Aperture Priority

Below, early in the race Nick Tyree (91) would make contact with Phil Bollman sending him off the track. More on these two in a bit….

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 640iso, f4.5, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

The low afternoon sunlight was amazing for photos and cast low shadows around areas of the track that made the trucks appear to be racing through black but the flying dirt got above the shadows and into the sunlight which made the dirt seemingly glow, below.

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 640iso, f4.5, 1/250th, Aperture Priority

The beautiful light did make me wonder how cool shots would look if a truck crashed in that area of the track.

With my buddy Robby Woods on the track I wouldn’t end up having to wonder anymore…

Entering the hairpin turn Woods would slowly roll the truck over, below. The reason the shot looks so crappy is the camera was in aperture priority, a setting I frequently use in uneven light conditions where some spots are in the sun while others are in the shade. The camera exposed for the dirt so thats perfectly exposed while the sunlit truck of Woods was blown out.

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 640iso, f4.5, 1/800th, Aperture Priority

As his truck began to barrel roll the sunlight hitting the bottom of the truck would change the exposure drastically and by being exposed for the bright truck it made everything else black. The front and back end of the truck are cut off due to me having too much lens for a truck pointing straight up in the air.

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 640iso, f4.5, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

Luckily the truck came down a bit as it rolled and the exposure stayed dark resulting in the below frame which almost looks like I cut the truck out in photoshop and pasted it on a black background.

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 640iso, f4.5, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

Below, an unhurt Woods climbed from his truck to survey the damage as track officials were quickly on the scene.

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 640iso, f4.5, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

After his truck was flipped back onto its wheels I immediately noticed my GoPro camera no longer on the truck!

A quick glance through my long lens at the dirt helped me quickly spot the camera sitting on the track. Since I was standing up in the timing and scoring tower with the race officials I was able to grab one and have him radio to the rescue guys in the turn to pick up the camera. Which they did. All I could now think about was hoping and praying that the camera had gotten a cool pic during the crash.

Speaking of crashes a few laps later reigning pro 2 champion Rob MacCachren would replicate Woods crash as he barrel rolled in the turn, below.

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 640iso, f4.5, 1/500th, Aperture Priority

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 640iso, f4.5, 1/500th, Aperture Priority

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 640iso, f4.5, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

Ok back to Tyree/Bollman. Heading into turn one late in the race Bollman would go to Tyrees inside and make contact, below.

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 640iso, f4.5, 1/400th, Aperture Priority

Bollman would stay on the gas as he tried to spin Tyree out. Instead he would cause both trucks to roll over in the turn.  Whoops!

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 640iso, f4.5, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

Picking up his first pro 2 unlimited win would be Greg Adler, who took the checkered flag in the below frame.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 320iso, f4, 1/400th, Aperture Priority

Below, Greg Adler celebrates atop the podium.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm,640iso, f2.8, 1/400th, Manual

After finishing up the podium shots I went on a mission to find the safety worker who had picked up my GoPro so I could hopefully see some amazing shots. It took awhile but eventually I found that they had dropped the camera off back at Robbys pit area. (since we put his truck number on the stickers on the camera for identification)

After grabbing the camera it was off to the nearby sports bar to download the card and see what I had.

The below frame would by far make the weekend a successful one as the shot looked straight out of a video game with unrealistically cool light and the dirt flying through the air with the full field of trucks behind him!

GoPro2, 2.5mm, 100iso, f2.8, 1/2014th, Auto

Even though that shot made buying the camera totally worth it my mind quickly switched to wanting to see the crash shots and if anything came out.

After searching through the six thousand images it took, yep 6 thousand!, I finally found the crash.

The below frame, a millisecond before the truck landed on its side, would be the last shot before the impact with the dirt would literally rip the camera off the hood.

GoPro2, 2.5mm, 301iso, f2.8, 1/100th, Auto

Here is the view as the camera rolls in the dirt…

GoPro2, 2.5mm, 197iso, f2.8, 1/100th, Auto

…by dumb luck the camera would land in the dirt facing back towards the trucks racing right towards it.

In the below shot you can see the truck of Evan Evans just before he would run the camera over…

GoPro2, 2.5mm, 100iso, f2.8, 1/186th, Auto

…resulting in this shot as the camera went on one hell of a ride!

GoPro2, 2.5mm, 100iso, f2.8, 1/186th, Auto

I had mentioned earlier that safety officials had picked up the camera. After picking up the camera and climbing back into their rescue truck the worker would have a little fun by hamming it up for the camera, haha.

GoPro2, 2.5mm, 102iso, f2.8, 1/120th, Auto

And that ends one hell of a productive day of shooting. That day alone provided me with more carnage than all the previous races of the season COMBINED! The best part was when I realized there was still one more day of action.

Ok time for Sunday which would be the Lucas Oil Challenge Cup races that had the biggest paydays of the season so you know the drivers would once again put it all on the line in the name of victory.

Below, limited buggy drivers sit lined up on the front straight prior to the start of their race.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f4.5, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

For the second day in a row Jessie Johnson would go for a wild ride as he would flip his truck over once again, below.

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 400iso, f4.5, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

In an incident that very easily could have become a tragedy had the track not been properly surrounded with a catch fence, superlite driver Chad George, below, would go sideways on the front straight and head on into the outside catch fence. Luckily he hit perfectly centered on a pole holding the fence up causing it to bend backwards. Thankfully it was a light weight truck and not a heavy pro 2 or pro 4!

Nikon D3S,400mm,400iso, f4.5, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

For the Challenge Cup races they mixed a few classes together which added some fun.

In the below photo you can see the unlimited buggy of Doug Fortin going on two wheels as he attempted to pass pro lite driver Kyle Leduc, who was also on two wheels, in turn one.

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 400iso, f4, 1/640th, Aperture Priority

The big winner of the race would be buggy driver Justin “Bean” Smith, below.

Nikon D3S, 24-70mm, 400iso, f4, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

The final race of the day would be my most looked forward to race of the off road season as the pro 2s and pro 4s would share the track in what is always a wild and exciting race with nearly 30 trucks on the track at the same time!

For the third day in a row I would mount the camera on the hood of Robby Woods truck, below.

Photo by Justin Kase Conder

Ok lets get the main event under way!

Below, flames come out of the exhaust and wrap around the rear wheel on the truck of pro four of Johnny Greaves as he flies through the air down the front stretch.

Nikon D3S,400mm, 400iso, f4, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

I didn’t think there was any chance in hell of this race equaling the excitement of the previous days event.

I was wrong…

Below, LOORRS pro two unlimited driver Rodrigo Ampudia (right) crashes as Rob Naughton avoids on the outside during the Lucas Oil Challenge Cup at Firebird International Raceway.

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 400iso, f4, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 400iso, f4, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 400iso, f4, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

After several rolls Ampudias truck would come to a stop and he would emerge unhurt.

A few laps later it would be driver Evan Evans getting in on the fun as he rolled his truck several times, below.

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 400iso, f4, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

Here is a cool view from my onboard camera as Carl Renezeder goes inside as he attempts to pass Robby Woods, below.

GoPro2, 2.5mm, 100iso, f2.8, 1/2849th, Auto

Even cooler would be this shot (below) as Woods jumps alongside the jumping truck of Kyle Leduc.

GoPro2, 2.5mm, 100iso, f2.8, 1/1440th, Auto

A few laps later Woods would once again roll his truck in the exact same spot…. this time courtesy of Todd Leduc (below) who ran into Woods in the hairpin causing him to roll. (In defense of Leduc, I’m pretty sure the hood blocking his view may have led to the contact)

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 400iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Aperture Priority

As he rolled over (below) you can see on the drivers side, just at the base of the front windshield area, my GoPro wrapped in hot pink duct tape. I used the pink because it would by easy to spot if I had to search for it.

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 400iso, f4, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

And I would because once again, the camera would get ripped off the truck and go for a ride. Sadly unlike the previous day, this time the roll would actually push down on the shutter button which would cause the camera to turn off.

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 400iso, f4, 1/800th, Aperture Priority

Woods truck would land back on its wheels, sans my camera, and get back in the race. As he was pulling away from the scene it would be pro 4 driver Kent Brascho (below) rolling over in his K&N Filters sponsored truck.

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 400iso, f4, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

Brascho would actually put his truck outta the ballpark as he would roll over the outside wall, below. Note the gray cloud near his rear wheels as it was from the concrete wall shattering at the impact!

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 400iso, f4, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

On the last turn of the last lap all hell would break lose as Carl Renezeder (below) would take out Jeremy McGrath and nearly endo his truck….

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 400iso, f4, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

….causing a big pile up that would leave driver Doug Fortin (below) ending up on his head…

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 400iso, f4, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

… and as the rest of the field piled into the carnage Robby Woods would nearly flip for the second time in the race.

Nikon D3S, 400mm, 400iso, f4, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

Once the dust settled the big winner would be Rob Naughton, below.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 400iso, f4.5, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

After shooting Naughton celebrating on his truck I ran out onto the track to try and find my GoPro. Unlike yesterday I couldn’t see it on the track through my long lens and had no clue where it had ended up.

After several minutes of digging in the dirt and searching it would be my good friend Justin Kase Conder finding the camera laying on the ground, below. The crazy thing is he found it on the OTHER side of the wall outside of the track. If only the camera had kept firing during the crash I can only imagine what potentially amazing frames it may have captured!

With the camera safely back in my possession it was back to the podium to celebrate the top three on the box, below. Naughton was the race winner with Brian Deegan taking second and supercross legend Jeremy McGrath in third.

Nikon D3S, 24-70mm, 500iso, f2.8, 1/320th, Manual

While walking back to my car to pack up and head home I came across a pile of destroyed bodywork near the tech trailer, below.

Nikon D3S, 24-70mm, 500iso, f2.8, 1/400th, Manual

And that wraps up my best race yet as the series photographer for the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series. It also wraps up my 2011 motorsports season.

2012 can’t come soon enough!!!

I have a Facebook page devoted my photography where I routinely share my favorite photos from each shoot as well as favorite photos from the past. Click the below banner to check it out. Be sure to “like” the page so you can be kept up to date on all the events I am doing!

One Response to “Breaking in my GoPro camera at Off Road Racing season finale”

  1. Hi Mark,

    thanks for sharing your last motorsport event of the year.
    I really like your GoPro shoots as it gives a completely different view of the race.

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