It was the inaugural year for Don Panoz’s Petit Le Mans race, held on the newly reconfigured Road Atlanta track, and Ferraris and Porsches were thick on the ground, piloted by any number of very well-known drivers. Porsche brought its GT1-98, rather different in a vaguely arachnid sort of way from the original more zaftig GT-1, for Alan McNish and ex F-1 and Le Mans veteran Yannick Dalmas. Champion Motors out of Florida was running an earlier GT1, and Joest had entered an open Porsche LMP1-98. I had shot pre-race activities and the start of the race — the GT1-98 was on the pole — in the traditional way at Turn 1. Then it was time to move on up the hill on the outside of the track, following the usual drill of shooting all the Porsches early on; if a car goes out early, you might have no record of its ever being there, and a so-so shot is better than none at all. In a 10-hour race, there is always time for the more artistic or experimental shots later in the day, and that could be done knowing that there were fall-back images in the can. At least the cars are relatively pristine at the start, not having accumulated the inevitable thousands of bugs and whatever other bearable damage the day may bring.
Shooting Petit is always problematic, though, because of the time of the day it starts, with the sun almost directly overhead — bad light. And it was relatively bad light that kept me from being where the most dramatic action of the day took place. About half way through the race, Dalmas’ GT1-98, running in the lead, became airborne and flew end-over-end before landing more or less on its wheels and proceeding at high speed into the wall, ending their day of racing and Porsche’s almost sure victory.
Fortunately Dalmas was ok, even having described on the radio what was happening during his flight, and the basic car survived albeit without some of its bodywork (later photographed being hauled away in a pickup truck). I didn’t get the shot because I wasn’t there, and I don’t recall ever seeing any still photograph from anyone who was. Not only was the light less than optimal there on the back side of the course, it was prime shooting time some 180 degrees away in Turn 5. Only the video guy, tethered to his location and unable to chase the light, made the record (Google “flying Porsche” if you want to see it). Some days you get the bear, some days the bear gets you. I was glad to have shots in the can, and this pre-race image was my favorite, although we never used it in Panorama.
About Leonard Turner and “The Last Turn”
With a background in photography spanning more than 5 decades, Leonard Turner was Porsche Panorama’s chief photographer for some 40 years, shooting several hundred covers for the magazine and countless feature spreads involving racing, new car introductions, portraits, technical illustrations, and a plethora of other topics. In the course of doing this, he has traveled widely over the United States and Europe, visiting the Porsche factories and shooting at many venues, including a portfolio of the world’s greatest race tracks.
Leonard’s photographs have been published in many books including Porsche: Portrait of a Legend; Porsche Specials; Porsche, the 4-Cylinder, 4-Cam Sports & Racing Cars; Sebring, the Official History; Carrera RS; and Porsche: Prototype Era 1964 to 1973. His magazine credits, other than Panorama, include Autoweek, Road & Track, Automobile, Christophorus, and Excellence.
It was with this background in mind that we asked Leonard to open up his archives to share with you here on FLATSIXES.com. His personal files, both digital and film, contain tens of thousands of images of Porsches, Porsche people, and events they shaped and which shaped them. Our plan is to share one of Leonard’s images with you every other week, and the story behind it, in this newest feature, “The Last Turn” here on FLATSIXES.com.
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