Behind the Scenes – Paul Tully

Over the course of the season F1 hopes to talk to those people behind the scenes that make the show happen. The unsung, under-appreciated, under-valued heroes of our sport. Without these guys we would not have any racing to watch at the race tracks.

The views and opinions in these interviews are of the individual and may not be those of the Promoting body, the Governing body or any other organisation involved with Oval Racing.

Paul Tully after cycling 100 miles for cancer charities June 2010

Paul Tully at the 2012 World Final. Photo Colin Casserley

Name: Paul Tully

Role at Race Track: Photographer

How long have you been doing this? Since 1987, so this year is my Silver Jubilee, it won’t be on the grand scale of HRH the Queen, but you never know.

How did you become involved in doing this? I had been going racing since the 70s and got in to Photography in the early 80s. I met my dear friend Steve Botham at a local supporters club meeting in Coventry (C.A.D.S Coventry & District Supporters club) we got talking and I expressed an interest, he introduced to me to one or two promoters and as they say the rest is history.

What’s the hardest part of this job / role? It’s not really hard at all, apart from standing out in the middle in all kinds of weather. I get a bit nervous when it’s a major championship meeting though, we all want to get that shot that tells the story. It’s been fairly frustrating over the past few years though, with the new rule at most tracks (only 4 photographers on the middle at any one time).

What was the first camera you ever used at a race track? Pentax ME super, 35mm. And I still own it. It was a great bit of kit in its day and I just can’t part with it.

How many cameras would you say you have owed over the years? Crikey that’s a hard one, I stuck with Pentax for a while and Mr Botham let me use one of his Nikons for a meeting, well that was it I had to have one. Went through two or three of them over the years. Digital? They just don’t like the rain and damp, gone through far too many of them in the past few years. I dread to think what I have spent on equipment.

Out of those, do you have a favourite? and why? The Nikon FM2 has to be my favourite, it was so robust and you could do anything with it. I got many of my best shots with that camera. Digital, has to be my current bit of kit, Nikon D300. Not cheap but does almost everything I want it to do, apart from make the tea!

Photography has changed massively over the years from film to digital, back in the day how many film photo’s would you take at a typical meeting compared to now on digital? During a normal meeting I would use between two to four rolls of film, 36 exposures per film, big meetings such as World Final, British etc could be anything up to seven or eight rolls. I am beginning to regret it now as I am currently scanning all my negatives. Nowadays? well at the recent British meeting my picture count was around 550 shots. The beauty of the Digital age though is, if you don’t like the shot you can delete it there and then.

How did you develop photo’s back in the day? Did you have your own dark room? In the very early days I did develop some black and white stuff but it was too time consuming. I used a local camera shop for all my processing, I would drop the films through his letter box on a Sunday night and collect the prints on a Tuesday. However if I thought I had something special I would go to Boots and get the film processed on the hour just so I could have a look, it was very expensive though.

Do you remember what was your first photo used in a publication (Do you have that photo / publication)? Oh yes, It was Gary Maynard churning up the infield at Skegness in Stoxworld. Yes I do still have a copy; I am bit of an anorak really, I tend to keep everything that has my pictures in. I have been very lucky; I have had pictures in all sorts of Magazines, Newspapers and books, including New Zealand and USA. I had a very successful run in the Coventry Evening Telegraph for many years.

The Stoxworld published photo of Gary Maynard 151 churning up the infield at Skegness. Photo Paul Tully

When I have attempted to take racing photos – on a modern digital camera – I find that I capture more half the car in frame, than fully centred. When you were photographing using film on average how many ‘wasted’ shots would you get to ‘perfect’ photo prints per-meeting? The thing with film cameras you never knew what you got until you got your prints back; out of a 36 roll of film you were very lucky if all 36 prints were good.

How has doing this job / role changed how you now view racing? I am very privileged in the position I have on the centre of a race track, over the years I have learned to look at a race differently from the infield, I always miss the first few laps as I am watching out for any action I can capture. I then pick up the race about half way. When I am on the terraces I do the same, only I look at incidents and think to myself that would have been a good shot.

From doing your job at the race track, what frustrates you the most from common misinformation / missing knowledge from the everyday race fan? Oh where do I start. I won’t go in to the politics side of things but it does frustrate me when people think we make an absolute fortune in what we are doing, believe me we don’t. Many years ago I kept a book on what I spent and what I made; it frightened the life out of me so I destroyed it before her indoors got hold of it. Many ‘snappers’ have come and gone over the years thinking it was a glam job and a fortune to be made, they soon realise it’s not like that.

Just recently there has been an influx of budding photographers take out an Orc licence, I am not against new blood giving it a go but I am not happy about giving up my long well earned spot on the middle for snappers who take pictures purely for their own gain.

Do you still enjoy watching racing when you’re not involved with your chosen role / job? I enjoy going to a meeting when I am not working at a photographer, I really enjoy the social side of this sport and have made many friends over the years. I do like to have at least one meeting a year when I have the whole day/night off where I can watch and enjoy the racing.

What do you think could be done to make BriSCA F1 better for:

1] The Fans – I think the fan base is steady now, we still get a few new ones through the turnstiles and if they see some good stock car racing they come back for more. There is not a lot the sport can do to sell it now. However it is still cheaper than going to your local premier Football Match, and you can meet up with the stars of the day in the pits, there are no prima donnas in this sport, well maybe one or two!

2] The Drivers – Sort the chuffing tyre situation out before we turn the clock back again and end up with only a handful of drivers racing on each surface.

3] The race track / sport as a whole – I don’t think any more can be done, we have got what we have got. We just need to hang on to it now for as long as we can.

Do you remember the first F1 meeting you attended as a fan? Where, When and memories of. I can’t remember the year but it was in the 70s, it was at Hednesford raceway and it snowed. I was hooked from race one. I was the only one who was sat on the seats in front of the Grandstand, I even managed to be one of the pictures in the following months Stock car Supporter Magazine. That was my first claim to fame!

What is you fondest memory of the sport in your official role? Just being a part of the sport is great feeling and getting to know the drivers, I have some great memories many of which I have captured on film and shared with thousands and hope that they have enjoyed sharing them with me.

What / Who has had the best F1 Stock Car or Cars in your opinion and do you have a favourite photo of? There have been some amazing looking cars over the years, I have to admit two that spring to mind is Dave Beresford 260, his cars were always turned out immaculately and my all time favourite driver 229 John Hillam (I had a replica of that car when I raced radio control IC powered Stock cars).

Others include 213 Des Chandler (because I was chief wheel/ bumper painter and Coach driver) current cars have to be 84 Tom Harris (Tarmac), 217 Lee Fairhurst and F2 #717 Andrew Thompson. However I must add that it is a credit to every driver who turns out their immaculate cars every weekend.

What do you consider to be the best 5 photo’s you have taken, and why? Don’t know about top 5 but my utmost favourites have to be the 53/515 crash at Coventry, and H77 Chris Bimmel mega barrel at Baarlo.

Frankie Wainman Jnr and John Lund 53 collide October 1990. Photo Paul Tully

I do have many more which I intend to share once again with everyone. I am currently working on a pictorial book with shots (some which have never been seen before) from the past 25 years.

I really must thank a lot of people for their help over the years, in no particular order, Colin and Nina Elmer (Stoxworld) for giving me the break back in the 80s right up to the present day for using my pictures. To many past and present promoters for allowing me the privilege to use their stadium to progress with my hobby.

My thanks extend to the hundreds of drivers over the years for supplying me with the opportunities to capture the action they provide, and for allowing me in to their homes and places of work for photographic material. To the many many friends I have met over the years, some have become very close friends and some, well they have just become a pain in the ass! And of course to F1 for showing the pictures to press didn’t want.

Far too many people to mention but to you all “ I Thank you”

On behalf of all the readers of, Thanks for doing your Job at the race track.

A few more of Paul’s favourite photos

Chris Bimmel H77 takes off at Baarlo. Photo Paul Tully

Chris Bimmel H77 takes off at Baarlo. Photo Paul Tully

Right place, right time for Birmingham action. Photo Paul Tully

Dave Chisholm 252 replica at Coventry May 2012. Photo Paul Tully

Graeme Robson 267 gets airborne at Kings Lynn . Photo Paul Tully

the Ellis Ford 3 replica on track at Northampton. Photo Paul Tully

Northampton Shootout round October 23rd 2011. Photo Paul Tully

To see Paul Tully’s full photographic sequence of this incident, click HERE

New Zealand Team Champs action 2011. Photo Paul Tully

Steve Guilford 43s of the Stratford Scrappers spectacular rollover. Photo Paul Tully

To see Paul Tully’s full photographic sequence of this incident, click HERE

Paul Harrison 2 takes to the air in 1992. Photo Paul Tully

Sam Roper gets it upside down in the Ministox. Photo Paul Tully

tornado in flight. Photo Paul Tully

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