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From Chasewater to China

Chris Davies on 17th October 2019

This weekend sees the F1H2O World Championship race in Xiamen, China, a venue that last saw a race there in 1997.

Back then I was into my second season of working for the John Player Gold Leaf Team. Along with the likes of Castrol International, BAT were one of the many clients I was supplying images to throughout that season of UIM F1 racing.

As part of the photographic contract I was to attend the two day ‘pre-season’ shake down with the JPGL Team up at Chasewater in England. Loaded up with Fuji Velvia transparency film I was hoping for some Spring like sunshine and not the ‘Midlands drizzle’ I normally attracted. Fortunately for me the weather was on my side, although Chasewater was a little choppy!

Having completed the usual driver ‘mug shots’ of both Jonathan Jones and the ‘new boy’ Massimo Roggiero, it was time to get the all-important action shots, especially the ones that required both drivers to race alongside each other.

Several rolls of film later I felt comfortable that I had all the shots they required.

Jonathan Jones and Massimo Roggiero

This was of course pre-digital days, so that assumption was made by just my ‘gut feeling’ because instant image review was still science fiction back then, unless of course you shot polaroid.

With all the films processed the vast majority of shots were despatched via DHL to BAT’s PR company Edelman, who’s offices were based in Canada, for worldwide distribution.

With no ‘World Wide Web’ the first opportunity of me seeing where the images finally ended up was normally in the press kits handed out at the various venues we raced at that year.

By the time we reached the eighth round of that years championship Scott Gillman was well on his way to winning the title with four race wins already in the bag.

Meanwhile after taking a win at the opening round in Dunaujvaros, Hungary, Mr Jones’s season had gone slightly pear shaped with five non-point scoring finishes.

Thankfully all that was about to change when he finally found his way back to the top step of the podium by winning the John Player Gold Leaf sponsored Grand Prix of China.

Jon Jones won the John Player Gold Leaf sponsored Grand Prix of China

With the champagne now dried on my Nikon bodies and the films safely stored away awaiting processing on my return to the UK, I took some time out and headed downtown to check out the sights.

Although this wasn’t my first trip to China the place never ceased to amaze me, photographic opportunities were everywhere.

As I made my way through the hustle and bustle, I was about to cross a busy traffic junction and suddenly looked up and saw my work stretch across the roof tops.

My photos in China back in 1997

At first I thought I was imagining things but there reproduced as high as house was the action shots I had taken all those months earlier, Chasewater had never looked so good.

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