Fast and furious, the dangerous world of contact motorsport

Dan Bramwell, exits his car after an engine malfunction Image copyright Dan Giannopoulos

Motorsport was made for photography. It's fast, furious, and at its best can be a spectacle ripe for capturing through your lens.

Photographer Dan Giannopoulos has been shooting short-oval circuit racing this year, having grown up watching it at Arena Essex Raceway in the late 1980s and early 1990 with his father and brothers.

"I remember the deafening sound of metal ploughing into metal and the smells of disintegrating tyres, of petrol and burning clutches," he says.

"I would battle to see to see the action through half-closed eyes because it was the only way to keep out the grit and dust that billowed in large plumes from the dirt-oval track just metres from where I was."

Image copyright Dan Giannopoulos
Image caption Stock car race at Wimbledon Stadium

Short-oval circuit racing is a world away from the glamour of Formula 1. Race meets consist of a series of events in a number of different classes, from bangers and stock cars to stock rods. Some races are contact based, with the last driver still running taking the title.

Image copyright Dan Giannopoulos
Image caption Steven Jackson carries his trophy after winning the 2014 Spedeworth Motorsports Superstox World Championship at Wimbledon Stadium

"My experience growing up watching it was that it was a vibrant and highly competitive scene, that was exciting and dangerous," says Giannopoulos.

"Those who took part did it not for financial gain or any kind of celebrity status, but more because they had a passion for it and the culture that surrounded it, And it was also a good laugh."

Image copyright Dan Giannopoulos

The action is non-stop and there is usually open access to the pits so you can get close to the drivers and teams when safe to do so.

Giannopoulos says: "Over the past few months I have had nothing but positive responses from those that I have photographed.

"The majority of racers - male, female, adult, child - have been warm and welcoming and proud to be taking part in the sport.

"There is generally a very close and friendly atmosphere free of pretentions at race meets."

Image copyright Dan Giannopoulos
Image caption David Mckeown bolts his hood back into place ahead of the final heat of the third round of the Spedeworth National Bangers league at Wimbledon Stadium
Image copyright Dan Giannopoulos
Image caption A modified infant's Little Tykes car parked up for repairs in the pit area

Of course there are dangers. "My experience of short-oval racing is that it is an incredibly dangerous sport," says Giannopoulos.

"The drivers I have met and spoken to are fully aware of the risks that they take. They seem to revel in the danger and appear devoid of any fear on the track."

Image copyright Dan Giannopoulos
Image caption Mark Gallop rights his car with the help of track marshals
Image copyright Dan Giannopoulos
Image caption A racer regains composure after a heavy collision with the barrier during a stock-rods race at Wimbledon Stadium

"On one occasion during a race at Wimbledon I watched a driver get T-boned, flipping his car over onto its roof.

"He crawled out and after helping the marshals right his car, he walked to the centre of the track with a proud grin across his face.

"Between his car flipping and the race restarting no more than three minutes had passed."

Image copyright Dan Giannopoulos

"During the first heat of a big van bangers event at Arena Essex back in August this year, the entire front end of a large American-style Winnebago was torn off in a violent collision with a repurposed police van, leaving a very crudely constructed tubular frame to protect the driver of the Winnebago."

Here are some more of Dan Giannopoulos's pictures.

Image copyright Dan Giannopoulos
Image caption Wayne Wigley takes to the track post-race after retiring following a spinout at the exit of turn two
Image copyright Dan Giannopoulos
Image copyright Dan Giannopoulos
Image caption Race fans brave abysmal weather to watch the August bank holiday Monday big van bangers event at Arena Essex Raceway
Image copyright Dan Giannopoulos
Image copyright Dan Giannopoulos
Image caption Mechanics make repairs to a banger in the pit area of Wimbledon Stadium
Image copyright Dan Giannopoulos
Image copyright Dan Giannopoulos
Image copyright Dan Giannopoulos
Image copyright Dan Giannopoulos

You can see more of Dan Giannopoulos's work on his website.

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