GALLERY: A Reunion With Hope And Purpose At Circuit Paul Ricard
Photography by Armando Musotto
Despite the media’s insistence on focusing on the divisions in our world, I think we can collectively agree on some things. One of the more salient being that 2020 has not been the best year. The virus has taken lives and livelihoods, and hope has been harder to come by if we’re only talking in circles about the ramifications in healthcare and economics.
In a succession of canceled events, refunded (at best) flights, and shattered hopes of personal growth, I felt simultaneously trapped indoors and swept away by a destructive whirlwind that left my plans in tatters—I must admit that I felt useless without being able to do what I love. It may seem like a small complaint in the face of what some people have gone through this year, but things get really grim when we start ranking our suffering, right? My passion for automotive photography was the cause of mine, namely that I had no outlet. But it has also balanced out the other side of the see-saw of depression and optimism. It’s kept me waiting for opportunities rather than giving in to the gloom.
Overall, it seems like the ebbs and flows on social restrictions will be ongoing as the world continues to figure out a path back to pandemic-less life, and though the situation in France has worsened since the summer months, I have been holding onto a beautiful weekend from the summertime at Circuit Paul Ricard as a source of great hope.
After much schedule finessing, the preeminent historic circuit racing organizer Peter Auto was able to hold an event at the colorful venue back in July. To be back at a race track with a camera in my hand and a steady progression of cars in front of me was to be reborn. I was ecstatic and elated and every other synonym one can find in the thesaurus, and I looked forward to traipsing many miles around the circuit and through the paddocks to capture and share as much of that feeling as possible.
In a landscape that only Provence can offer at this time of year, with sultry heat and spectacular sunsets, the cars literally crowded the racetrack and made for one of the best visual feasts I’ve witnessed—helped in no small part I’m sure by the fact that I had been eating a lot of my meals alone at home.
There were 350 cars representing their eras, manufacturers, drivers, and series. Three hundred and fifty pieces of motorsport history divided into nine categories to provide a respite from reality that was sorely needed. Even through our face masks, everyone in the paddock with me was reveling in the smell of race fuel. It’s not exactly healthy to breathe in the exhaust of say, a Porsche 935, but given the context of this year it felt like the purest elixir.
Circuit Paul Ricard was also the perfect arena to stretch the gears of these machines, a quite literally vibrant track that lent that extra bit of beauty to this reunion. A cavalry of Group C cars screaming between arcs of blue and red in a display of downforce; sports, touring, and GT cars from the 1960s and ‘70s three-wheeling over the inside curbs; flashes of iconic liveries between the trees; the eyes of the drivers.
Being back to this atmosphere after so many months away suddenly erased that despair and replaced it with a reinvigorated sense of hope. After three days my eardrums were practically destroyed, my feet were blistered, my face was burned, but I struggled to think of a time when I’d felt so energized.