Bathurst 1000: Four decades of motor racing captured through a photographer's lens

Bathurst 1000: Four decades of motor racing captured through a photographer's lens

Bathurst 1000: Four decades of motor racing captured through a photographer's lens

Updated 7 October 2017, 11:05 AEDT

Zenio Lapka turned a passion for photographing motorsports into a life-long profession, giving him a front row seat to the racing action.

It's the high risks and stakes involved in racing that inspires Zenio Lapka to photograph the action of Australian motorsports.

"It's a sport where people put their life on the line," Lapka said.

"The element of danger, the colour, the spectacle and the competition — the racing, I love the racing."

For 40 years the photographer from Blayney, New South Wales has dedicated a career to capturing images of the fast-paced world beyond the crash barriers and the famous faces behind the wheels.

A keen motorsport fanatic in his youth, it was in the late 1970s that Lapka started attending races with his camera in hand to record the events.

His passion soon developed into a profession that saw his pictures regularly published in the nation's newspapers and prominent racing magazines.

Now a veteran of the industry, these days he concentrates his efforts on more artistic projects that aren't as taxing on his health.

"The body is starting to breakdown and my reaction times aren't as fast as they used to be, [especially] for getting out of the way if anything should go pear-shaped," Lapka said.

"Believe me, when things go pear-shaped it happens very, very quickly."

Lapka is no stranger to the dangers on the trackside.

In 1985, while photographing a race at Amaroo Park, he was struck by a loose wheel flung from a damaged car.

"I was on crutches for two months then a walking stick for a further three months," he recalled.

Lapka returned to work with a permanent injury to his leg, but as a photographer it was the damage to his camera equipment that added to the pain.

"I trashed a brand new 300mm lens, how tragic is that?"

For Lapka, there was one event during his career that clearly stood out from the others.

It was the highly emotive Bathurst 1000 held in October 2006 — a month after racing legend Peter Brock was killed during a rally crash in Western Australia.

"It was a very memorable race because at the beginning, during the one-minute silence, you could hear a pin drop and you didn't expect that," he said.

He recalled the days when riots involving motorcycle race spectators broke out at the campgrounds of Mount Panorama.

"It was uncivilised at times," he said of that era.

Then there was the time when Australian rock outfit Cold Chisel performed a show at the summit.

"About an hour into concert, all the outlaw bikies turned up, pulled down the fence and just walked through.

"The security guards just turned their backs and went, 'oh well, nothing we can do'.

"Now it's a bit more controlled and a little more family orientated."

Throughout the decades Lapka has embraced the evolution to digital photography and did not miss the days of having to shoot the event on negative film.

"I had to come here and process [films] in the men's toilet, hang it up on the back of the door and say to the guy coming in, 'look, don't touch the negatives, they're still wet'," Lapka said.

After decades of making the annual trek up and down Mount Panorama, this year's Bathurst 1000 is the first time Lapka has decided to sit aside from photographing the main race event.

Now 60 years old, he said great stamina was needed for the repeated 6-kilometre hike around the track to the best vantage points.

"The body just can't take a weekend of punishment," he said.

"It gives you a thorough workout."

Zenio Lapka's latest exhibition of motorsports photography, Beyond Sharp, is on show at the Blayney Tourism Information Centre.