So, what is this book, PORSCHE WERKS/TEAM, all about? Basically, renowned photographer Frank Kayser teamed up with journalist Heike Hientzsch, to capture the pain and the glory experienced by the Porsche crew and team competing in the world’s three greatest 24-hour races – Nürburgring, Le Mans and Daytona. In the team of Kayser and Hientzsch, it was Kayser who did the photographic work while Hientzsch compiled the words for the story. However, the text only starts on page 41. The beginning of the book consists of a collection of images by Kayser, that will take your breath away. I have been covering endurance racing for many years, but Kayser’s eye for the unusual combined with great composition, is simply superb.
Over the years, I have seen the author, Hientzsch, at work in the media centre at some of these races. As the media officer for the Porsche LMP1 team, she has been in the enviable position of being able to talk with all the key players in the Porsche team personally. But then, to be able to compile the stories from behind the scenes, you would have to occupy such an important position.
What is so impressive about this book is that it is difficult to realistically capture the atmosphere, the pain and the exhaustion in both words and images. In both of these fields, the photographer and the writer have done just that, from the beginning of the race through to the end. Having witnessed these emotions personally, I can vouch for the exhilaration, the exhaustion and the relief when it is all over. The build-up to these great races are all similar, but in each case also so very different from each other. From as early as the scrutineering process well before the race, the excitement builds. Then through the practice sessions and onto the qualifying session, the pressure builds all the time because success here is more than just setting pole position, it is about testing the reliability of man, machinery and processes. Long nights follow when there have been unexpected mishaps, and this doesn’t just involve the mechanics, many in the wider team will hang around to see how things get fixed.
During the week leading up to Le Mans for instance, practice begins on the Wednesday afternoon and is followed by another session that evening. Thursday is pretty much a repeat of Wednesday time-wise, except that this time it is for qualifying positions and not just practice. Friday sees no track action at Le Mans, but this is far from being a time to relax, as there will be much work to catch up on that fell by the wayside during the week. Team press meetings with journalists take place throughout the week in between the racing action on the track. In all of these press happenings, the team’s PR contingent must be present to answer queries or arrange interviews for the journalists with drivers and managers. So, the pressure on the PR team is relentless, and we haven’t even got to race day yet.
Although the race at Le Mans only starts at 15h00 on Saturday, the team’s PR personnel are in place in the media centre early. All the while, photographer Frank Kayser will be in the pit garage or out on the track, capturing the story on his camera as it unfolds. The Le Mans circuit is just over 13km long, Daytona by comparison is 5.73km in length, while the Nürburgring is a mighty 24.5km in length. On the longer circuits, getting around takes time and if you want to be at a certain location around the circuit at a particular time because of the light, then this requires some advance planning.
A 24-hour race is a test of endurance for all concerned, whether a driver, team member, journalist or photographer. So, whether you are covering the Daytona 24 Hours, the Le Mans 24 Hours or the Nürburgring 24 Hours, the demands on all personnel is pretty much the same. Despite the very different track dynamics at the three tracks being covered in the book, there are some similarities such as the 24-hour duration and the obvious day and night time running. These factors present the photographer with more than a few challenges, especially when the weather is somewhat adverse. But with all three of these race events, there is one very strong similarity, and that is the fatigue factor. Certainly, from the start of play on the Saturday at Le Mans, until you put your camera down or switch off your computer on Sunday evening, can be a straight stretch of 40 hours. This takes some endurance, especially after the long hours on each evening during the preceding week, and so a lot of admiration is due to those who ply their trade on the keyboard or behind the lens of a camera during these long 24-hour races.
When reading this book, you will, I am sure, agree that the author has done an excellent job of bringing the reader into the pit lane, the pit garage and behind the scenes with the Porsche team. Kayser has also excelled in his profession, as he has successfully captured the emotion, the pain and the fatigue of the team personnel as well as the pressure of the pit lane action. Explicit, close-up shots showing the team in action, be it with wheel gun in hand, refuelling the cars or the tension of a pit stop – it’s all there. Valuable insights are provided through numerous interviews with drivers, and this brings to the book a level of experience and expertise that makes the story complete.
The book is heavily weighted on the photographic side, but that is not to say that there is insufficient text – this is by no means the case. Kayser’s images are just great and they do themselves tell much of the story, but the whole book is a superb combination of both words and photos. This is a different book insofar as it tells a story that many, even regular, full-time journalists or photographers, would never gain access to. For this reason alone, this is a very valuable book to have in your library.
In conclusion, PORSCHE WERKS/TEAM, is a must not only for any Porsche motorsport enthusiast, but for enthusiasts of other marques too, simply because it will take you where spectators cannot go. With this book on your bookshelf, you will certainly be the envy of others who see it, and for the cover price of £45.00, this publication is a must.
Porsche at the top 24-hour races – Nürburgring/Le Mans/Daytona
Delius Klasing & Co
29.8 x 29.7cm, hardback
Written by: Glen Smale Images by: Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale & the Publisher
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