Here’s Why Watching From The Pit Lane Is Like Nothing Else
Photography by Nat Twiss
Have you ever stood in a pit lane during a race before? Regardless of whether or not we’re talking classics, I’m not sure that there’s a better place to experience racing.
I’ve been privileged with access to the pits for nearly a half decade now, but it was only when I was recently at Silverstone that it occurred to me that it was something I take entirely for granted. Nowhere else at a circuit affords you such proximity to every element of racing: the intensity of the start, the speed and chaos, smells, sounds, and sights. The joy. Heartbreak.
The historic racers firing up outside with media centre window weren’t even what I was at the track for that day. It was a support event for the 24 hour race due to start later in the day, and so, I was simply relaxing, and taking in the thrum of vintage engines burbling outside. But, eventually I was drawn outside for the race start. Something of a non-standard one as it happens—way down the grid, someone had stalled. Regardless, the cars left the line at racing speed, which these days is quite a questionable decision, and the confusion in the pits was easy to see. The support crew for the marooned car rushed over, and other crews lined the pit wall peering out. The confused commentator’s voice echoed through the pit lane. It hit me, as I was watching the start unfold, that if I was in the crowd somewhere else on the circuit, I’d really only be getting half the picture.
It turns out, when you’re not constantly staring through your viewfinder and trying to take photos, this is a pretty thrilling place to be! The pits are alive. They ebb and flow; as cars arrive mid-race for driver changes and pit stops, they burst into action, and just as quickly as the chaos begins, it fades, and the pits fall quiet again, besides the cars tearing down the start and finish straight. Teams retreat to their boxes to monitor the race. Tension starts to rise as they slowly emerge from their garages, heading to the pit wall cheer for their driver, hoping to give them the last push needed to make the pass.
And then the flag falls. There’s hugs, cheers, and relief all the way down the tarmac. Even if you didn’t take the win today, at least your guy made it back in one piece to fight another day! Drivers come in, and joke with each other about moments in the race.
It seems like a crying shame that these days access is so limited, but thankfully we still have some circuits like Goodwood that don’t totally obscure the lane with mile-high catch fencing. Ultimately, all I’m saying is, next time you’re at the races, maybe bring some binoculars, try get yourself in a good place to view the pits, and observe. There’s more to racing than the cars, and it only took years of it staring me in the face for me to realise.