Swapping hats and learning to multitask at the Bathurst 1000
Life in the media centre at Bathurst reminds me of high school. It's divided into cliques, with the cool kids (not us) sitting towards the front and the not-cool kids (us) sitting at the back.
Here we have internet, food, and drink. Drink comes in the form of water and fizzy, food as a series of snacks and some wraps of various creeds at lunchtime, and the internet came via a password scrawled onto the palm of the guy sitting next to me. He was shooting for Fairfax so we became sworn enemies immediately.
To get media accreditation at an event like Bathurst is a surprisingly reachable goal. All you need is to be associated to a significant enough media outlet. Without droning on, the Supercars Championship require each media person to represent an outlet that pumps out content to a certain amount of people.
What that means is that it doesn't matter how good or how garbage you are at taking photos; with the right connection you can get a media swinger for Bathurst or indeed any round of the series.
So, while that annoying friend of yours who thinks they're a professional photographer because they have 300 likes on their Facebook page can't get media out of the box, they can get media if they then make friends with people at a magazine or a website.
I elected to take Thursday easy, saving a visit to the top of the mountain for tomorrow morning. It's only really a good place to shoot in the morning, as the light begins to swing the wrong way at lunchtime.
Staying down the bottom would limit me to shooting the Chase, the final corner, turn one, and pit lane. But that was OK, as part of my day would also involve hunting down some drivers for interviews.
Shooting at the Chase went well, but the problem was that it was only a 60-minute session and I had to jet back to pit-lane to carry out some interviews. 20 minutes of shooting spread across four different angles was deemed sufficient, and the long walk to the pits began.
Interviewing drivers. What a nightmare and what a joy it can be.
Of all the people in the motorsport landscape who cop it in the media, it's race drivers who fare the worst. Any time any journalist outs one driver for being too slow or too old, they've most likely earned themselves an enemy.
Does it matter if the journalist is right or wrong — that in most counts they're just doing their job? Not necessarily.
Which is why interviewers have to toe a line, mixing just enough ambiguity and just enough insight to create articles which in theory can appease both sides of the coin. Personally I most enjoy having quotes from a driver make up a majority on any article about them — they can hardly get mad if the words being used are solely their own, right? Right?
Adding to that too is the occasional fanboyism that can emerge. I still occasionally get nervous chatting to these guys, some of whom are names I followed as a kid. But the only thing you can do is try to be as professional as you can and remember that these athletes are humans too.
Today I've decided to interview the guys from Super Black Racing; Chris Pither and Richie Stanaway. While I've sent Simon in the opposite direction down pit lane to interview Chris van der Drift.
Pither and Stanaway are a dream to chat to, but for slightly different reasons. Stanaway has exceptional honesty, telling things as they are with barely any fluff in between. Pither on the other hand simply gives wonderful and detailed answers — something that reflects his appreciation for the media.
Both are top men, and both on the day were great to talk to. The interview only lasted three minutes — though it later took about 20–25 minutes to put together for the NZ Herald website.
It was a nice day, but tomorrow will most likely be a lot tougher. More internal hunger for better photos, more writing likely to take place, and more time spent gazing over at the spectators — downing beers and laughing to each other while I'm on the other side of the fence — and wondering who's played the game smarter.
Driven's Matthew Hansen is blogging every day about the highs and lows of reporting on the Bathurst 1000. Click here to read part one and here to read part two of his six-part account.