[0:00:06] Graeme Cleland: Hello, everyone. Welcome to The Fast Pod, your fortnightly update on all things motorsport. I'm Graeme Cleland and I'm here, as usual, with my co-host, Jon Doran. Jon, how are you doing?
[0:00:16] Jon Doran: I'm doing fine, doing fine. Another busy weekend. In fact, you'd have to say it was the glamour weekend in motorsport with the Monaco Grand Prix and Indy 500, both on the same weekend. So plenty to watch.
[0:00:30] Graeme Cleland: Yeah, there was lots going on. There were certainly lots of different angles on both. What did you make of each of them?
[0:00:36] Jon Doran: I thought that Monaco was Monaco. I mean, it's a special event. I liked all the new camera shots that they brought in this year, but you find yourself looking at it and going, it's the Monaco Grand Prix, and yet all everybody was talking about was two qualifying laps. Now, admittedly, the two laps from Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso were simply stunning. But surely there should be more to F1 racing than two qualifying laps.
[0:01:06] Graeme Cleland: I thought what Verstappen did was astonishing, actually, given that he was slightly behind when he started that lap. And, yeah, the qualifying was great and there was lots of coverage of that, and I liked all the razzmatazz around Monaco. You've got to say, it's a brilliant event. And my overriding impression, really, I guess, of that event and maybe Formula One in general at the moment, is that they're getting a lot of things right off the track.
[0:01:26] Graeme Cleland: They've reinvigorated its sort of mass appeal, and the Netflix Drive To Survive effect has helped that. So nobody's struggling for sponsors or media coverage. And Martin Brundle is doing his stuff maybe better than ever on the grid beforehand. So it's a phenomenal event. But the race was dull, and unfortunately, yeah, till it rained, and that spiced up a little bit, which saved it. But I guess there's still a bit of me thinks that that's happening too often in too many events, and I don't think the regs are quite there yet in terms of making really compelling racing. Is that fair?
[0:01:58] Jon Doran: Well, I think that's fair, particularly when you compare it with the Indy 500, because I think they've got the racing part of it bang on, but probably haven't got the marketing side of it. So I think sometimes the packaging there could be slightly better. Whether you agree with the fact that they had three red flags in the last 16 laps or whatever, and a last lap shootout, is that the way to sort a really big race?
[0:02:25] Jon Doran: Fair play, Newgarden for winning. But again, you find yourself looking at the main talking point, which was the Kyle Kirkwood’s crash, and thank God that they all came out of that. Nobody was hurt. But when you see a tyre not only going into, but over the crowd and landing in the car park, and apparently the woman's car, she'd named it Snowball, was pretty heavily damaged and you only think you're just glad that tyre didn't hit somebody in the crowd.
[0:02:55] Graeme Cleland: Yeah, absolutely, Jon. We all know motorsport is dangerous and we've talked about that on previous shows and things like that before, but really, for a premier event like that as well, you want to be talking about the great stuff that happens on track after it, the racing, et cetera, and not safety issues like that. And that was a bit of a shocker.
[0:03:12] Jon Doran: Speaking of which, you were slightly closer to home, I think.
[0:03:15] Graeme Cleland: Yeah. Down at the Jim Clark rally.
[0:03:17] Jon Doran: That's a great rally.
[0:03:18] Graeme Cleland: Yeah, it's a brilliant rally and really high quality field, so lots of people want to come and drive it because of the unique nature of the closed roads surfaces down there in Duns, and it's just a bit special. It's got a lot of history, but really impressive performance by M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux. Now, he's got lots of WRC experience, he should be fast, but I was down there on Friday doing some media stuff in the build-up and the interesting bit of chatter in the service park was, would he really be quicker than guys like Cronin and Pearson on a rally like that? But he certainly showed his class and his quality and he scorched the opening couple of stages on Friday night and never really looked back.
[0:04:01] Graeme Cleland: And it's not like he had a huge advantage in terms of machinery. So he just showed that he's got a touch of class and actually, he's got the talent to definitely be competing at WRC level.
[0:04:10] Jon Doran: Definitely one to be looking out for.
[0:04:13] Graeme Cleland: Yeah, it was great. And the sunshine, so that always makes things look better. So, yeah, a lot of fun. And it's nice to do an event like that, which isn't too far from home for a change.
[0:04:23] Jon Doran: We do have good days in Scotland occasionally. Sun does shine, occasionally. The focus now is turning towards Le Mans. That is always an epic event. You talk about Monaco, you talk about the Indy 500, Le Mans is right up there as a massive event.
[0:04:39] Graeme Cleland: I think even people who don't pay that much attention to endurance racing the rest of the year round still definitely keep one eye on Le Mans. People from all sorts of categories of motorsport want to go and compete there. It's got that lustre, and you can see that with guys coming from F1 and from IndyCar in the past, everybody wants a slice of it. And the grid is always oversubscribed, isn't it?
[0:05:04] Graeme Cleland: And in terms of crowd, it's massive. Will be 300,000 people there probably, over the course of this weekend, easily. So it is just one of those great events. And, yeah, it's really exciting. This year, because of the regulation changes, you've got more manufacturers coming into the top category. So it looks like it's going to be much more competitive than in the last couple of years when, let's be honest, the field depth at the top end hasn't been as good as it has been further down. So, yeah, it seems to be all teed up to be a pretty good one, doesn't it?
[0:05:30] Jon Doran: It's an anniversary one. Anniversary ones are always really good. I remember doing the 50th Rolex at Daytona and it was like everything cranked up a level just because it was a special anniversary.
[0:05:42] Graeme Cleland: Le Mans has always got a lot of promotion behind it, but you've seen a lot of it over the past couple of months building up to the hundredth. I think it's shaping up nicely.
[0:05:52] Jon Doran: We thought it would be a good idea to get somebody that's really on the inside for Le Mans. Jeff Carter is European Le Mans Series press officer, the Le Mans 24 hours photo delegate, a photographer and a videographer. So we thought we'd get him on and have a chat about all things Le Mans.
[0:06:08] Graeme Cleland: Great stuff. Let's get him on.
[0:06:10] Jon Doran: Welcome, Jeff, we're approaching Le Mans, the 100th year, it's all a bit of a buzz, isn't it?
[0:06:17] Jeff Carter: It's a huge buzz. It really is 100 years. 1923 was the first race. It's the 90th edition, obviously we missed a few during the war. I didn't do them all, I wasn't old enough! There are a few missing in the in the hundred years, but 1923 was the first and 300,000 tickets have been sold for this year's race. So it's going to be an amazing atmosphere. It will be my 13th Le Mans, 12th as part of the organisation, and I did 2010 with a certain Nigel Mansell. I was his team press officer when he did the ‘17 minutes Le Mans’ because he crashed at Indianapolis not long after the start, unfortunately. So my first Le Mans was a bit of a short-lived one, but 2012 onwards, I became part of the organisation.
[0:07:09] Jon Doran: There must have been a real media buzz when Mansell was doing it. That was a really big event, wasn't it?
[0:07:20] Jeff Carter: It was. Nigel being Nigel, being a very much a people person, we had people coming down dressed up in flat caps and moustaches and he was well in for all that. He was racing with his two sons, Leo and Greg, so it was a family affair. Andrew Howard, of Beechdean Ice Cream, was team manager and it was a great, fantastic atmosphere. I don't think Nigel will mind me saying, but it was a bit of a culture shock for him because obviously he's used to driving around with other F1 drivers, not in groups of drivers and sharing the drive so much than he had before.
[0:08:02] Jeff Carter: He actually said to me that he was going down the Mulsanne Straight in an LMP1 car, coming up behind GTE cars at 50, 60 miles an hour difference in closing speed. And he didn't know which way the driver was going to go because he didn't know who was in that car. He said if it was a Formula One car, I knew exactly who was in that car and how he would react. And I think that's the difference with Le Mans. You've got Le Mans, you've got drivers of all different abilities, and I think that's what makes it special.
[0:08:31] Jon Doran: And I suppose dealing with him and the interest in him made it easier for when you were handling the media for the event, what is it like in the media room and what sort of things do you have to deal with?
[0:08:47] Jeff Carter: Well, that one was obviously different because I was a team press officer, whereas since 2012, I've been sort of running the media office alongside the ACO. So I've got 600 plus journalists, photographers and another 600 TV crews in the TV compound, who I also have to look after with regards to safety. So it's a massive matter. The biggest event I've ever been involved with. Normally at a WEC meeting, it would be 500 maximum. An ELMS meeting, you're talking 150.
[0:09:20] Jeff Carter: It's a huge logistical thing. I'm glad that it's not my responsibility, it's the ACO’s responsibility to look after the media, but I'm there to help from a point of view of the photography.
[0:09:40] Jon Doran: Certainly one of the highlights when I've been at races was hearing you do your photographer briefing and it's almost like herding cats. So how do you deal with that and getting people to do the right things and not put themselves in danger?
[0:09:59] Jeff Carter: I'll tell you how it all came about. My background is I was an engineer in the Royal Air Force. I left in 1996. I became a photographer. My two hobbies were motorsport photography, and I sort of drifted into the writing side, media delegate, press officer side. So I still go out and photograph. The guys see me out there photographing, so they respect what I tell them because I do the job myself.
[0:10:25] Jeff Carter: It all came about because in 2011, we used to do written briefings. So basically at the beginning of the meeting, you'd send all the media information out and we give all the photographers the do's and don'ts, but there was no actual check to whether they read it or not. Anyway, we were at Zolder with the GT 1 World Championship, and a photographer put himself in a really bad position and he nearly got himself killed.
[0:10:49] Jeff Carter: I pulled him in and said, ‘what the hell were you doing there?’ And he said, ‘oh, I thought it was a good place, there was nobody else was there’. And there was a good reason nobody else was there because it's actually a red zone. So I said to him, ‘did you actually read the briefing?’ And he went, ‘oh, no’. That, for me, was like a light bulb moment, thinking I need to do these in person in front of people and make sure they understand.
[0:11:15] Jeff Carter: It's a bit like getting on a plane. They all stand there doing the safety briefing on the planes. Not many people listen to it, but at least we can say we've done it and they had to listen to it. So that started in 2011. I brought it across to the World Endurance Championship when I started in 2012 there, and in 2020 we moved to video for obvious reasons because of Covid, and we've continued to use the video. Now, how we check to see that they're actually watching the video, we have a little code word that flashes up on the screen very briefly, and they have to write the code word down. That can appear anywhere in the video. So we do check that they're actually watching it. And most, I would say, 99.9% of the people do watch it and understand the briefing. But I do have a rogues’ gallery and I do use them. I do say to people, don't be the star of my next briefing, because you will be if you do something stupid and we catch you on film.
[0:12:17] Jeff Carter: But the vast majority of the photographers and the TV crews understand and respect what we're trying to. We're not trying to make life difficult for them. We just want them to understand the rules. That's all it's about.
[0:12:30] Graeme Cleland: Jeff, I was going to ask a quick question about how you've been involved in the event for quite a long time now. How has the media interest changed in that period? Has it grown and has the nature of the sort of media request that you get, has that evolved over that period too? Because it's such a global event, isn't it? And there's such focus on it. And as you say, there's competitors from all different countries want to be involved as well. It'd be just interesting to understand have you seen it change over that period?
[0:12:56] Jeff Carter: I don't think the media interest has changed that much. It's grown, but I don't think it's changed that much. We're getting more lifestyle media now than we did back in the day. It is very much a French event. It's run as a French event and all power to it, because that's what it should be. However, it is also a massive international event, and we've moved on since the WEC came into fruition in 2012 and Le Mans was part of the championship.
[0:13:29] Jeff Carter: We've moved it on. With the ACO, we're very proactive. There is an entry list for the cars, and there's always more cars than it can take. And it's also the same for the media. There's never enough space, so they do have to limit the amount of media attend. But we get international media from all over the world, print, TV and internet.
[0:14:12] Jon Doran: The fans turn up for the race. They always look at the media and think we're spoilt, and we've got all the best places. But as a photographer, how would you recommend somebody gets really good pictures without having the media access?
[0:14:30] Jeff Carter: One of my other roles is I was, until this year, about the last eight years, I've been a Fujifilm photographer, which is an ambassador for Fujifilm. And one of the things we did in 2016, we actually launched the X-T2 camera at the Le Mans Classic. So they asked me to write a guide because we couldn't go trackside with the guests. So I went up into the spectator areas and started looking for areas there. And Le Mans is actually very good. In fact, there are a couple of spaces at the Forest Esses. I actually go into the spectator area to shoot rather than shoot trackside because you get a better and a different view.
[0:15:09] Jeff Carter: That's the one thing with photographers, you're always looking for something different. And a place like Le Mans has been done to death. Every area has been done, but you still have to do those shots. But it's nice to find something a little bit different. What we say to the spectators is always look for something different. Don't just concentrate on the cars. Yes, we have high fences, but we also have high banking, so you can get up high, shoot through the trees and get those sorts of shots. You need to be in the spectator areas to get those shots. So, yes, be creative.
[0:15:45] Jeff Carter: A media pass is not the be all and end all. And it's also very, very dangerous down there, as was proven in 2011 when Allan McNish crashed. Well, he was hit off at the Dunlop Curves and he almost took out six photographers. If the car had risen six inches higher, it would have cleared the barriers and taken out those photographers and ended up in the photographer area. So, it's not for the faint-hearted. One of the things I say in my briefing, is be careful, don't block your ears, listen for sounds, but also keep an eye out for what's going on around you because it can be dangerous.
[0:16:21] Jeff Carter: But I started as a spectator. Donington Park back in the late 80s, early 90s, taking pictures over the fence. And that's the way you have to start. We all have to start somewhere.
[0:16:34] Jon Doran: Has there been any particular drivers that have really impressed you? The way that they understand the job you do as well as the racing that they do?
[0:16:43] Jeff Carter: I think when we had Mark Webber come across from Formula One and also Fernando Alonso, you get this impression they're very standoffish because Formula One is such a circus. And I must admit, Mark, when he came over in 2014, he was a bit standoffish for the first couple of races. But the time he got to Le Mans, as long as we didn't take the mickey with the amount of stuff we wanted him to do, he was more or less up for everything with regards to requests, interviews, that sort of thing, TV - and same with Fernando, he was also a little bit standoffish to start with, and then he realised we were there to help him, not to hinder him.
[0:17:26] Jeff Carter: It goes across all the drivers, but you tend to find the F1 guys who have been there, done that, got the T shirt, so to speak, and they're just there to do a job. And we try to keep the requests to a minimum. So I've got Valentino Rossi for my Road To Le Mans this year, and he's proving a slightly different, more difficult, but I'm going through his people, not through him directly. I've never worked with him, so I don't know. He might be the nicest guy ever.
[0:18:00] Jeff Carter: But you've got to go through the rigmarole to get to these people. And it's sometimes the people that are in front of you that are causing the problems, not the driver themselves. So we'll see.
[0:18:12] Graeme Cleland: Jeff, just on that note, this is an aside, but Valentino Rossi came to do rallying, when I was involved in the WRC, we found his people really challenging to deal with and thought, oh, this is going to be massively difficult. Even when he was just coming to test, and lo and behold, when he turned up himself, would do anything. Lovely guy.
[0:18:30] Jeff Carter: That's good to hear. Really good to hear.
[0:18:33] Graeme Cleland: Really up for having fun as well. But getting to that point wasn't easy. So hopefully that'll prove the case for you, too.
[0:18:41] Jeff Carter: I hope so, because I'm looking forward to meeting the guy. He's a legend. I've met a few legends, a couple of legends in my time, and I'll talk about that one of my favourite legends later. But, yeah, I'm looking forward to meeting the guy and seeing how he does in a GT3 car.
[0:19:01] Graeme Cleland: Yeah. Well, we were just talking about him last episode of The Fast Pod because he had a great result down at Brands Hatch the other week, so it looks like he'll be as quick on four wheels, possibly, as he was on two. Jeff, I was just going to ask you, in terms of photography, you were talking about different styles of shots there, but what is the secret of a great shot for you. You take lots of photographs, but what are the ones that you find particularly satisfying?
[0:19:25] Jeff Carter: People shots. I come from a newspaper background. I worked on local newspapers, so I have to tell a story with a picture. And motorsport is one of those sports where the athletes are inside a car, inside a helmet, and you can't see them working. It's very difficult, I do a lot of rugby as well, so I've shot at Murrayfield a few times and it's very different. You can see them working, you can see the expressions, you can see the dynamic imagery you can. So I prefer to be in the pit lane, I prefer to be in the paddock.
[0:20:04] Jeff Carter: I also talk to the fans. You get these superfans, as, you know, who get dressed up in their favorite team’s thing. That's coming more and more into Le Mans over the years, especially with Toyota, and we get the superfans who are there every year, and we go and chat to them and get their portraits. And it's the human interest stories that are more for me rather than the action shots on the track.
[0:20:27] Jeff Carter: We have to get those action shots. And I love getting a good dynamic shot, especially if you got a car going around a corner with two wheels up in the air, it looks great. If it's just a car on the track, it's great, but it's not telling that whole story. And that, for me, is a good mark of photography. I like arty stuff as well, but not all sponsors like arty stuff. But again, I like my blurs. Lots of blurs and lots of lights and all that sort of thing. So, yeah, I do a lot of camera club talks, and I say, you have to get the banker shots, you have to get the ones that you have to get in the bag to fulfill your thing, and then you can start being arty. And I prefer to do the arty stuff.
[0:21:18] Jon Doran: You talk about superfans there. I remember over in Fuji, the Japanese fans are just remarkable with the colour and the enthusiasm.
[0:21:27] Jeff Carter: They're bonkers. I love the Japanese. After Scotland, Japan is my second favorite, second favorite place in the world. And I used to go visiting there when I used to go with the WEC race at Fuji Speedway. I also went to Suzuka in 2013 because the FIA asked me to go and do an F1 race. And they were in Suzuka the week before we were in Fuji. So I went over and these guys are dressed up in samurai armour and things like that. And it's not just plastic sheeting, it's proper samurai with all the colours of the teams on it. And you think they're just crazy, but they are just crazy good. Not being crazy bad, they're crazy good. And it's just an amazing atmosphere in the paddock. And we were getting 50,000 to a WEC race at Fuji Speedway, and they love it. And also the way they queue when we do the pit walks, they just queue for everything. It's very Japanese. There's no pushing, there's no trying to jump. They just queue and they're all in their little rows and it's great. Absolutely amazing.
[0:22:29] Jon Doran: Not many people know that you were actually involved at Rockingham, so that would be slightly different, I would imagine.
[0:22:39] Jeff Carter: That was very different. That was my second full-time role in motorsport for the first year, which was 2000. I was Jonathan Palmer's press officer for European Formula Palmer Audi, and also his press officer at Bedford Autodrome. This is before MSV came into fruition and then at the end of that year, I was asked by Steve Slater at Kingpin Media to go and work with him on the opening of Rockingham. And I was there for five years, from 2001 to 2005, and that was a roller coaster, shall I say heck of a roller coaster. It also taught me a lot about the subject of noise, which a lot of circuits come under. We had to deal with that issue a lot, and I'll tell you some stories about that in a minute.
[0:23:30] Jeff Carter: Also, working with the local media, I went down to see the first thing I did was went go and see the editor of the local paper, which was a sister paper for the one I worked in, Grantham. And I said to him, he said, ‘Why did you come to see me?’ And I said, ‘Well, I wanted to introduce myself and also want you to be, what do you need from us?’ And he actually said, at that point, nobody from the circuit had actually spoken to him.
[0:23:51] Jeff Carter: And I thought, well, you're covering us 365 days a year. We'll have our Champ Car race in September, which will have all the international media coming to us, but you're going to be covering us for the entire year, so I need to set up this sort of relationships. And it worked very well. I didn't expect him to give us a free ride, but also, if you have that relationship, you got the right of reply, which is the most important thing when they're covering stories, especially when you're dealing with noise.
[0:24:20] Jeff Carter: We had an issue with noise, as you can probably imagine. We had the usual complainers, shall we say. Now, our noise limit was 47 decibels in the local villages, which were about a mile and a half away. Now, 47 decibels is not a great deal. I think it was right that the A45, which ran alongside one of the villages, the background noise was 48 decibels, which is actually louder, but because it was a constant noise, you didn't tend to hear it. Anyway, I was looking for a new inkjet printer, and this inkjet printer said it was a low noise printer, it was an Epson one, I remember, and he said it was a low noise printer and it was 49 decibels. I thought, oh, that's interesting. So I printed it off and put it in my back pocket. Anyway, three weeks later, we got a noise complaint from the usual suspects and the paper contacted me. So I said to the journalist, I said, ‘Right, if you're in your office in Grantham, in your home, you're running a printer, and we're running 26 Champ cars around our circuit, which is louder, in your house?’
[0:25:25] Jeff Carter: And he said, ‘Oh, the race cars, obviously.’ I said, ‘No, there you go. There's a bit of paper that said, no, we're not. And we've always been under our noise limit.’ So it's trying to explain, in layman's terms, what noise actually is and how it affects people. It's quite an interesting experience of those five years I spent there dealing with those sorts of issues.
[0:25:52] Graeme Cleland: Wider than that Jeff though, I mean Rockingham I had the pleasure of going there with teams working in Touring Cars and things like that, and it was a phenomenal facility. But do you have a feeling as to why it just didn't work, why it didn't stick? Because I think everybody wanted it to, maybe apart from some local residents, but I think in the motorsport community, everybody liked it as a venue, but it just didn't work for whatever reason. Have you got an inkling as to why that is?
[0:26:17] Jeff Carter: I think there's a few reasons. I think the fact that it was built as an oval and the infield circuit, most drivers would call it Mickey Mouse. And I have to be honest with you, I would probably agree with them. We did change it after the first year to get rid of that, so we could use turn one rather than turn four, because we had the issue with the first year, with the launching Formula Three cars. They ended up on the roll hoops because they were lifting and getting air underneath them. Katherine Legge being one, the very famous Jeff Bloxham picture of Katherine Legge’s car on a roll hoop at the first corner. So we managed to get that sorted.
[0:26:54] Jeff Carter: Yeah, we were quite successful with the Ascar/ Days of Thunder. The reason we changed it to Days of Thunder was because we were always trying to explain what it was to people saying, it's like Nascar in the States. And everyone goes, what's? Nascar? Most people if you're into motorsport, it's fine, but the people in the street don't know what Nascar is. So. Have you seen the film with Tom Cruise, Days of Thunder? And they go, oh, yeah, that's the type of cars we ran at Rockingham. And then we started putting the big name acts on the stage. We had a big stage and we were bringing in families. We were getting 40,000 plus, but it wasn't sustainable because it was costing so much money to put those acts on.
[0:27:35] Jeff Carter: The idea was to get a sponsor in. Channel Four were interested in doing something and rest of it, and for whatever reason, it just didn't happen. Yeah, it was a shame. We had big name stars. Dario Franchitti coming over to do his Champ Car, winning the Champ Car race in 2002. Obviously, Colin McRae, which is the legend I was telling you about when I had to spend the day with Colin doing his rookie test because he raced in the Ascar race in 2002, support race and he finished 6th from the back of the grid.
[0:28:12] Jeff Carter: What a legend. He took me out in a Subaru Impreza around the infield circuit, and that was the best half an hour I've ever spent in a car, an absolutely amazing half an hour watching Colin work. So, yeah, I do get some perks in my job, and that was definitely one of them. The other thing we used to do is we used to try and get as many big magazines and TV shows to come and film or do a big car test, Autocar, Top Gear, et cetera.
[0:28:46] Jeff Carter: We attracted them all to come and do it. And obviously they had to say where they were and it put us on the map because we were up against Silverstone, Donington, et cetera, and we were on the back foot a little bit. The good thing was it was brand new and the facilities, we always just say we've got clean toilets and it was always a bit funny. People used to look at us and say ‘Why are you telling us that?’ Well, if you're into motorsport, you know exactly what we're talking about. When you went to Donington or Silverstone or wherever, the toilets were not exactly the best. Back in the early 2000s, they definitely weren't, and I think it raised the game of everyone else. And then, obviously, when Jonathan Palmer bought Brands Hatch and Cadwell, he raised the game there as well.
[0:29:27] Jeff Carter: So I think it became normal, if you like, to give the spectators decent facilities, which, let's be honest, at the end of the 90s, there weren't decent facilities at most circuits. So, yeah, I think the legacy is that Rockingham showed the way it could go. Why it failed, I don't know. I think it was just changing hands too many times, people pumping a lot, losing a lot of money on whether it was the right time to do a new circuit in the UK. Who knows?
[0:03:02] Jon Doran: You're speaking about Colin there and how impressed you were with him. How do you think he would have got on at Le Mans?
[0:30:07] Jeff Carter: I think he was like his hero, Jim Clark. I think he could jump in any car and just drive it fast. I think he was one of those drivers. And watching him, I did an interview with him after he did his rookie test and I said to him, how did you find it? And he said, ‘Well, I tell you something, when I'm enjoying myself, my right knee shakes.’ And he said, ‘It hasn't stopped shaking for 60 laps.’ And I said, ‘What's it like not having Nicky Grist shouting in your ear all the time?’ And he said, ‘Very peaceful.’
[0:30:38] Jeff Carter: So he was there to enjoy it. He's competitive, but he was there to try his hand at an American style oval race, and he did really well. I also said to him, ‘What's it like running against the wall with the concrete wall?’ Because obviously it scares a few drivers. He said, ‘When you've gone through Keilder Forest at 100 miles an hour, walls don't bother you. You run along a wall. If you hit a tree, you stop.’ So it really didn't faze him, where it fazed a lot of other drivers.
[0:31:13] Jon Doran: You've been to a load of different circuits. Which one do you actually like the best?
[0:31:19] Jeff Carter: I love Spa. I think it's a bit of a cliche, but I do love Spa. Fuji Speedway is very good. I like because it's in Japan. I'll be honest with you, I wasn't that impressed with Suzuka. Everyone raved about Suzuka and I wasn't that impressed with it. But then I couldn't get around much because it was a Formula One weekend. If I went there for a Super GT weekend, perhaps I'd be able to see the circuit a lot more. But yes Spa, I absolutely adore the place. I was going sometimes three times a year, and it's just an amazing circuit and you can see why the drivers all rave about it.
[0:31:55] Jeff Carter: I've never raced, so I don't know what it's like to go through Eau Rouge at max power and not lift through the top, as you go through Raidillon. But, yeah, it's an amazing circuit and very photogenic from a photographer's point of view. There's a lot of choices. The ones I don't like the most, I would hate to say this, is Silverstone. I do not like Silverstone at all. So, again, it's a good driver's track, but from a photographer's point of view, you're so limited where you can go and what sort of shots you can get.
[0:32:31] Jeff Carter: It's a bit boring for me as a photographer. Great facilities, though. Now they've The Wing and the new part of the circuit. Yeah, definitely Spa.
[0:32:44] Graeme Cleland: You've talked about Colin McRae there and how impressed you were with him. But what other drivers have impressed you over the years, both in terms of their outright speed when competing, but also out of the car?
[0:32:55] Jeff Carter: I've had the pleasure of working alongside Johnny Herbert. Now, Johnny was always a favorite of mine when he was doing Formula One. Bit of the underdog, the cheeky chappy underdog. And when I met him for the first time out of the car, I was so pleased that he was like his on screen persona, the cheeky chappie thing. I've worked with him over the years as a commentator, alongside as a pundit over the last few years. I remember he came to Rockingham with Murray Walker to do the Top Gear Awards in 2001, and we were up in my office, which was overlooking the circuit, and it was raining, absolutely chucking it down so they couldn't do any filming until it stopped raining. So I was chatting to Murray, as you do with Murray, you're just chatting. He's got all these stories, some of them you've heard before, but it doesn't matter, it's Murray Walker. And Johnny said to me, ‘Can I go on your computer? I need to check my emails’ back in the day before we had smartphones. So I said, yeah, just go and use my computer, don't worry. Anyway, Andy Wilman calls up to get the guys down because it stopped raining. About 10 minutes later, I get a phone call from my IT manager saying, ‘why have you been on all these porn sites?’
[0:34:06] Jeff Carter: Because he'd checked his emails and then he knew what was going to do, what was going to happen, and that's what he's like. He is such a breath of fresh air on track. He's so quick off-track. He's just great fun to be around. Fernando Alonso, I've come back to him. He did two Le Mans. Won two Le Mans. Ok you could argue that the Toyota had no opposition, but you still had to win. You still have to get Le Mans. It's not just about beating all the other cars, it's actually beating the track as well. You still have to get to the end of the track. Talk to Kazuki Nakajima in 2016, when he was leading right up to the end of the race until the last lap, and then he stopped on the last lap. He was a shoo-in for a win and they failed.
[0:34:57] Jeff Carter: Weren't even classified, one lap before the end of a 24 hours race, so it can happen. So, hats off to Fernando. He came in, he didn't act the big I am. He was there to learn and he learned, and he did a brilliant job. Only the second driver to ever win two FIA World Championships and two different disciplines. Petter Solberg being the other one. Jose Maria Lopez is now the third one because he won the WEC and he's also won the WTCC.
[0:35:29] Jeff Carter: So we've got a few drivers that have come across, and it's interesting to see how these top drivers come over and see the challenge of endurance racing. I think endurance racing has always been seen as a bit of a Formula One retirement home over the years. That is gone. I think that is completely gone. We've got our own young drivers coming through the rankings, if you like, from LMP3, LMP2 up to Hypercar now.
[0:36:00] Jeff Carter: And we've seen a lot of drivers come through, and they're making their own mark in their own way. And young drivers are seeing endurance racing as a credible alternative to single seaters, which we all know are very expensive, and you don't get paid until you're right at the top of the game. Whereas tintops and endurance cars, sports cars, seem to be the way to go these days because you get paid as a driver, get paid further down the pecking order if you're good enough.
[0:36:28] Jeff Carter: I love working with Jan Magnussen. He's there again this year. He's in an LMP2 car this year. He went into a GT3 car last year. I thought, what's he doing in the Michelin Le Mans Cup? He must be platinum. He's only gold. He's only rated Jan Magnussen's only rated as gold, but he's now known as Kevin's dad. Not Jan Magnussen. But that's a bit unfair to Jan because he's always been quick. But again, he's enjoying himself. He's enjoying himself in GT3s and he'll be in Le Mans in an LMP2 car.
[0:37:05] Jon Doran: I think driver ratings would take us a whole new podcast, but very short answer, if you might. How do you think Le Mans will go this year?
[0:37:17] Jeff Carter: I think it's going to be very interesting because of all the hypercars, because they've got rid of the LMGT Pro and, Ferrari and Cadillac - you've got all these brilliant names. OK, it's the first proper season of Hypercar. And obviously Toyota have got a massive advantage because they've been doing it for so long. But I don't know, I think Ferrari could come good.
[0:31:47] Jeff Carter: Those cars look amazing. When we launched Hypercar back in 2019, it was muted and you saw the line drawings of these cars and you just think, yeah, this is where Le Mans should be. It's the evocative names of cars that you can't buy on the street, but they look like the cars you can buy to go on the street. And I think it's yeah, at Ferrari and the Porsche. OK, Peugeot has got few problems, but the car itself looks amazing.
[0:38:18] Jeff Carter: And they'll get there. It's Peugeot, but they're used to winning Le Mans not being down the back, so they'll be there. So I think it's going to be interesting. If I was a betting man, I put Toyota. But which one? I don't know. But, yeah, I think Toyota will be there, but I'll be honest with you, I'd love to see an upset. I'd love to see a Ferrari win overall.
[0:38:45] Jon Doran: Well, as long as it goes all right for you. Thanks very much for talking to us and hope you have a good Le Mans.
[0:32:51] Jeff Carter: No, thank you very much. I'm looking forward to it. And thanks for the time. Cheers.
[0:38:55] Jon Doran: Well, he's absolutely right. Le Mans is going to be a cracker this year. And it would be so good to see Ferrari back on the top step.
[0:39:04] Graeme Cleland: Yeah, I mean, that would be pretty evocative, isn't it? And let's be honest, they're coming back in to do that. Ferrari don't want to be an also-ran, so they're not going to hang around if they're not right at the sharp end. So it'll be interesting to see, though, how close they can get. Toyota are in the groove. They've had the advantage of being in there for seasons and they know inside out, so I don't know, it won’t be easy to topple them will it?
[0:39:25] Jon Doran: I'm not sure I've ever been to a Le Mans where there's not a really big twist somewhere. You talk about the media centre, so many people think we get good deal because we've got this access, but it was so interesting to hear that he talks about going to other places to get the pictures. Biggest irony of them all that a photographer like that likes to take pictures of people rather than cars.
[0:39:47] Graeme Cleland: Yeah, I understand that. And having been on the inside on the media operations, the pictures I always liked putting out were the emotional ones. If a snapper managed to get a driver who just stepped out the car and was either elated or actually sometimes dejected, because that told a better story than just seeing the car popping back into the pits because it's been on camera for the whole race, et cetera. So, yeah, I totally get Jeff's point about trying to get those people stories out.
[0:40:14] Graeme Cleland: Also, what I thought was fascinating is just that insight Jeff gave into the scale of the media operation at an event like Le Mans. You and I have been to things like this before and we've been in amongst trying to get our accreditation and things like that as well, but it's just staggering. Le Mans, in particular, it is one of those ones like Monaco, as we talked about earlier on, that everybody wants to be at and all the media come out the woodwork. So trying to manage the scale of that behind the scenes is an extraordinary job. And I can understand why he doesn't get to see much racing over a weekend when he's doing that.
[0:40:45] Jon Doran: It's a weird one in the media room because there's some people that do not move for the whole 24 hours, and then there's other people that see about three laps and look at the timing screens and then they're off to interview people. It's really weird, the dynamics of how people cover the event.
[0:41:01] Graeme Cleland: Another thing I really agree with Jeff on, I have to say, is circuits. He talked about his favourite circuits, and it resonated with me because I was down at Silverstone a couple of weeks ago for an event and it's a phenomenal facility, the track is great from a driver's perspective as Jeff said as well. But I just have always had this nagging feeling over the years that it's just a little boring because it's so flat.
[0:41:23] Graeme Cleland: It's not three-dimensional enough for me. And that's why I've always preferred tracks like Spa, as Jeff said I know it's cliched, but it's just different to see the gradient changes. It just offers something a little bit special. But even on a smaller level in the UK, I've always preferred Oulton and Brands Hatch because they're like that compared to some of the other tracks, which just you can't get a good viewing point somewhere. So, yeah, I have to say, I'm with him on his track choices.
[0:41:49] Jon Doran: I don't think many people would argue with his choice of Spa, but you're probably going to get some people go, who knows, ‘Silverstone? It's got to be the best’. I think that's actually worth doing as a blog for the website, let people tell us what they think.
[0:42:03] Graeme Cleland: There's good corners everywhere, isn't there? Thanks again, everybody, for tuning in and listening. I hope you enjoyed the insights that Jeff provided. We'll have another great interview coming up very soon from somebody in a completely different category of motorsport. So don't forget to hit that subscribe button and tune into the next episode of The Fast Pod.
[0:42:20] Jon Doran: Thank you.
All images courtesy of, and copyright belonging to, Jeff Carter and www.macleanphotographic.com