The day (sometimes days) before a race is usually reserved for practice and there may be one or two sessions depending on the size of the event. NASCAR races usually have additional practice time they call “happy hour” but the purpose is the same—to allow competitors to fine tune the cars’ suspension setups to extract maximum performance. You can use that time to practice as well, by working on techniques, checking lens selection and picking out places for around the track that will product dramatic action-filled shots, all of which will enhance your performance on race day too.
But don’t forget people! Don’t just photograph beautiful cars; make photographs some of the people too. At some races, you may be able to get into the pits and photograph the drivers on practice day, with their cars. Many International car events have beautiful models on hand who are always glad to pose with the car for you. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the images of Ferrari fans (aka Tifosi) above was made in the parking lot of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on race day for the penultimate US Grand Prix using an Olympus E-1. For me this was a perfect place to use Program mode along with the E-1’s built-in flash for fill.
Be sure to use fill flash when photographing people at the track. I used a Canon EX 550 flash for the photographs of the two Team Audi drivers ( right) in the pits after American LeMans Series practice at Mazda Speedway at Laguna Seca. Camera was a Canon EOS 1Ds with 28-135mm lens with an exposure of 1/60 sec at f/4 and ISO 200.