Monday, February 8, 2021

St George Motorcycle Club Summer Racing series

Late last year SMSP was fitted out with lighting to allow for night racing which I think is a brilliant idea. They can now run all types of night events and maybe at some point in the future we might be able to see  events like V8 Supercars or ASBK racing under lights, that would be cool to see. The possibilities are endless, day/night racing for the benefit of racing fans everywhere.

Image courtesy SMSP Web page

In December, January and February I was able to attend Sydney Motorsport Park(SMSP) for the first ever motorcycle racing series under lights. This was a fantastic event run by St George Motorcycle Club, a local Sydney club with a strong following. Not only did I get to attend the action packed racing, I was privileged enough to attend as Media.

To say I was excited to be accepted was a bit of an understatement, and to be honest I was pretty nervous as well. A few days later the reality of the task finally sunk in. I knew that this was going to be the most challenging thing I've ever tried in photography since taking it up only just under 3 years ago. Photographing fast moving objects in low light, what could possibly go wrong?

In-between round 1 in December and round two in January I'd purchased some additional equipment to make my life a little easier in the process. I'll make another post about that later. But for starters I ordered myself a vest from an online store so I didn't have to wear the pink ones they hand out at the track and I can advertise my photos at the same time. 

Early on when I first started taking photos at the track when I was spotted in the pit area with a DSLR, people would ask where they could view my photos. They must have though if I had a big expensive looking camera I must be a professional right? Those first couple of times I was lost for what to say as I wasn't really putting them anywhere. What to do about it I thought to myself afterwards.

I contemplated putting them here on my blog, but thought I'd rather not combine my blog with the photography side so I decided I'd start a dedicated facebook page for my motorcycle photography work. I can reach a far wider audience with facebook page than I can with my website and I would probably need a dedicated website for photography anyway, like squarespace or smugmug(which I have anyway but don't use much) as the blog is a bit limiting. I'm getting a bit off topic.

After signing on for the first night I  spent a little time in pitlane and I thought I'd make my way around to the inside of turn 1 the fastest point on the track and turn 2 the closest and slowest point on the track.

It was interesting shooting in the twilight even before it was actually dark. I was shooting in full manual settings, and thinking to myself 'jesus' in this low light this is quite hard. I was running ISO setting right up and shutter speed right down trying to find a happy medium. Too high ISO the images are to noisy/grainy, too slow a shutter speed and all the images will be blurry and the night will be a waste of time. At one point in frustration I pulled out my phone and took this image at turn 2. It was looking better than my DSLR pics. Determination set in to get it right. Damn it. This is hard work. Also shows the improvement in modern phone cameras without putting in any effort, this is why smart phones have decimated the point and shoot camera industry.

Frustrated phone photo at turn 2

The first night was pretty much trial and error with plenty of settings tried. Lighting levels kept varying within the same corner as the lights shine brightly on one point of the track and then are diffused with dark patches between the next light. I maxed out the ISO at 3200 with a max shutter of 1/500 but shot down to around 1/160 at F2.8, my 200-500 F5.6 just doesn't cut it in the low light conditions. Lots of blurry shots in there but some keepers as well.

There are 3 classes of bikes in this series. There is the Unlimited 1 class which is basically up to 1000cc Superbikes with laptimes under 1:40sec, then there is unlimited 2 class which is Superbikes with laptimes over 1:40sec and the 600cc supersport class. Racing in all 3 classes has been exceptional.

Here's a couple of shots from the first night out.

Timothy Griffin

Andrew McIntosh

Harley Borkowski

Did I happen to mention the actual racing was fantastic, with only the track lit up and everything else being dark it made you more focused on the racing and what was going on. There was quite a crowd of spectators as well which is unusual at this level of racing. This bodes well for future events. This might be club racing but there are some seriously quick guys in here. Glenn Allerton and Cru Halliday on factory Australian superbikes(ASBK) and the likes of Yannis Shaw on the R1 all in the low 1:30's, yep that's quick.

Reviewing the photos later I was reasonably happy with the results. Some disappointments in there for sure where they looked the goods on the LCD screen but once imported on the my PC they were rather blurry. I was more confident heading out for the second round in January as I now knew the limitations my camera has in low light. I decided that I didn't want to go above 2000 ISO if I could help it or 2500 absolute max,  as I wasn't thrilled with any of the results at 3200. ISO1600 seemed to be a sweet spot but have to be oh so careful with shutter speed and try to keep a steady hand.

So for the second night I thought I'd like to head over to the old turn 9(15 now) where Doohan and Criville had their famous come together back in the 96 GP. I really enjoyed this part of the track as well. The bike speed was slow as well as being really close to the edge of the circuit. I think I lucked out being here just on sunset and captured some amazing images.

Lachlan Epis

Andrew McIntosh

Yannis Shaw

It's as easy as A, B, C

Glenn Allerton

Luke Mills

The second round seemed to fly by and it was over in no time at all. Again the racing was fantastic. I couldn't wait to get home and see how my shots turned out. I was a little disappointed as I was shooting on a different camera body and was expecting better results, but I still got some great results, just not as expected. Lesson learned for round 3 and the final race.

I got snapped in pit lane with two of Australia's premier motorcycle photographers. Rob Mott who shoots for Australian Motorcycle News and Nick Edards from Halflight Photographic who also shoots for Bike Me, Kiwi Rider and Australian Motorcycle news and others and me. Haha. Both great guys.

Rob Mott, Nick Edards & Moi - Image by Lin Cotter(I Think)

Feb 6 was scheduled for the final round and conditions have been ordinary all day to say the least with a smattering of the wet stuff flying about. But by the time race time came around it had all dried up ready for an exciting night of racing. Exciting was an understatement, standing on turn one those bikes were flying by so fast it is unreal to be only a couple of meters from those missiles travelling in excess of 200+kph.

Factory Yamaha R1

Glen Allerton aboard the fire breathing BMW S1000RR

I think it was race 7 of 9 or there abouts the red flags came out. I was speaking to the pit lane flag marshall. She said there was an incident at turn 5. A few minutes later they announced the meeting had been cancelled due to the incident. The careflight chopper was called in which landed at turn 5 to assist the rider a few minutes later. Last I heard that the rider was conscious. I wish the rider all the best.

There was an awful long wait for the trophy presentations that concluded the night. It was no surprise to see Glenn Allerton take out the Superbike class overall winner. All up what a great series it was, racing under lights is fun to watch and I can't wait to do it again at the end of the year. Qatar MotoGP round would be something special, I'd love to go there one day.

If your interesting in seeing more photos I have put up several galleries on my Road to Nowhere Images Facebook page. Click the link to open a new page. Thanks for reading.😎


  1. That's difficult light for sure Steve but your photo's look great. I like night racing images much more than daytime.

    1. Hi Warren
      Sure is, took a while to come to grips with it, bloody challenging thats for sure. I think the night one turned out better than the day ones as well. Something quite different about it, your focus is all on the bike and rider.

    2. Congrats, Steve. Great work and no doubt a lot of fun

    3. Hi Wayne
      Thanks mate, the night racing was fantastic. Tried getting bushpig out but he's just too lazy.

  2. What's wrong with the auto setting? Works for me...

    Seriously, some cool pics there and the racing must have been pretty cool to see at night!

    1. Mate seriously the Auto setting is broken from the manufacturer. To show you put your camera in auto and take a photo of one white piece of paper and one black piece of paper. They will come out grey, both of them.
      Racing at night was pretty awesome actually. Can't wait to go again.

  3. Some great photos there Bro. That first photo of Timothy Griffin is a cracker. He should be buying it from you. 😉
    Also, how tall are those other guys?! You look like a 5' 5" midget next to them, not the 6' 1" or 6' 2" that you are!

    1. Thanks Bro. Hahah yeah they are tall. I'm 5'11" so those guys are well over 6 ft.

    2. I'm 5' 11" and you are taller than me. Is your tape measure munted....?

  4. great photos hoss!.....youll be able afford that new multistrada soon

    1. Not likely mate, unless their giving them away

  5. It's great to see those awesome shots Steve. Fast moving objects in low light .... surely it can't get much more challenging than that?

    1. Hi Mate. It probably can, but I bloody well hope not. It's hard enough already, otherwise I'd have to buy even more expensive glass. Between motorcycles and cameras I'll be broke forever.