If you’ve ever wondered where some of the spectacular motion shots of race cars on track come from, chances are, it’s from a photographer hanging out the back of an open van. Sound nuts? Looks nuts. A simple yet meaty harness is the only thing keeping the photographer out of the car’s grille behind him.


We’ve featured a clip of this sort of thing before, but it was hard to tell exactly what’s going on in that video, and IMSA may have taken issue with the idea that the photography van might have hit 120 mph. So, TRG-Aston Martin Racing decided to make a more detailed video at this year’s Roar Before the Rolex 24 showing how they take awesome photos on track.

According to TRG, the van does nowhere near 120 mph, however, the photographer’s lens sometimes gets as close as 12 inches from the grille of the car behind it. The Roar Before the Rolex 24 is a test weekend before the start of the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship season opener at Daytona. At that time, photographers are given special clearance to take on-track shots of race cars at moderate speeds (read: totally not above the top speed of a minivan).


The use of a slow shutter speed allows the photographer to get loads of motion blur without having to actually travel at flat-out speeds around Daytona’s banking.

Once photographer Brian Cleary is strapped in to the back of the van, TRG driver Lars Viljoen follows Cleary’s hand signals around the track to put the car in just the right position for the perfect shot. Per TRG, one of the directions Cleary had for Viljoen was “Don’t be afraid to get as close to the van as possible while we’re out there – trust me.”

When it’s all over with, you end up with a beautiful tracking shot like this one of TRG’s fantastic Aston Martin Vantage GT3:

Yeah, I’d dangle out of the back of a van for that, too.



Photo credit: Brian Cleary via TRG-Aston Martin Racing

Contact the author at stef.schrader@jalopnik.com.