In part two of our series looking at the logistics behind a grand prix team, we examine how our cars, components and spares are freighted around the world. For part one, click HERE.
After the busy start to the year – three pre-season tests, two of them in Bahrain, and four consecutive flyaways – it was a logistical relief to return to Europe, albeit briefly.
However, that respite only served to highlight the logistical difficulties of prepping and packing for Canada – the lone flyaway race on the calendar. Ahead of Montreal, everything needs to be returned to base at the MTC, unpacked, stripped, prepped and re-packed into our bespoke flight containers.
For a flyaway race, the trucks and transporters – which arrived back from Monaco on the day after the race – will sit dormant. We’ll freight our equipment by road to East Midlands Airport in Leicestershire, from there, it’ll fly on a cargo plane to Montreal.
Our flyaway freight – all 32 tonnes of it – will arrive at Montreal’s Mirabel airport on Saturday. It will usually clear Canadian customs on Sunday, and gets delivered to the circuit for unpacking on Monday. Once it reaches the paddock, the freight is available for inspection by Canada’s customs officials, who conduct random checks to ensure the contents of the boxes match the team’s manifest.
Once they’re clear of inspection, our freight boxes will be met by a core crew of 15-20 mechanics, all of whom specialise in the garage-build, installation of the core electrical systems, and the wiring up of the internet and communications infrastructure. Additionally, our colleagues at Absolute Taste will begin building up our paddock hospitality units, and catering for the hungry mouths to feed.
On the move with McLaren: Moving People
The build of the garage and the hospitality units isn’t the work of a moment. Back at base, the ordering of the on-the-ground equipment that we’ll need begins three to four months before we arrive. We need machinery such as forklifts and ATVs to haul equipment around the large paddock (in Montreal, the freight containers are located on the outside of Turn Two, quite a distance from the garages). We’ll also pre-order air-conditioning units, photocopiers and chairs, as well as arranging paint and flooring for the garage, securing an on-site electricity supply, arranging the placement of power-points and the layout of TV cables, and establishing the general structure of the hospitality cabins.
The general logistics for the race weekend also start to gather steam around four months before the race itself. Our hard-working team and travel department will start checking for changes to the road networks, and for roadworks that could upset the team’s freight and travel plans. This is especially critical when we have critical parts arriving as hand luggage from the airport.
Back at the circuit, the garage-build for a flyaway starts on the Tuesday of race week.
The race mechanics arrive at the track on Wednesday morning, and begin the more intensive internal build of the garage, a process that concludes with the assembly and build of the race cars.
Engineers arrive later the same day, usually conducting initial meetings and set-up checks at the track on a Wednesday. Management and marketing staff usually arrive on Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning, quickly building up their own offices and departments.
During the race weekend, once all the freight has been unpacked and put to use, our trackside logistics manager doubles as the travel department’s man on the ground, chasing missing baggage, arranging circuit and airport transfers and just generally keeping the team’s wheels greased. He even has an active role in the garage during the track sessions.
Pack-up begins on race morning – because they’re not used on race day, the spare tub and a lot of unused components are packed away. As the race itself comes to an end, the de-rig begins in full. It’s quick: just a few hours after the flag has fallen, most of the garage will have been dismantled and boxed away.
It’s a necessity: the circus moves quickly.
The Monaco Grand Prix, by Darren Heath
Management, engineers and marketing staff all fly home on Sunday night; the race team mechanics follow once the cars and garage have all been packed away. At a flyaway, local freightliners roll in on Monday morning to collect all the containers and whisk them off to the local airport.
The most demanding turnaround of the year is the back-to-back in Austin and Sao Paulo – it’s extremely tight to get freight out of the USA and down to Brazil, particularly as the tight paddock in Interlagos makes unpacking harder than at any other race.
The schedule post-Canada is almost as intense: we’ll need the cars and components to be back at MTC just a day later so they can be stripped, serviced and readied for the 1300km road-trip to Spielberg for the following week’s Austrian Grand Prix.
It never stops!
Team & travel – the worst part of the job
Relying on third parties, who can sometimes let you down. Our logistics personnel require a hefty contacts book – and need plenty of alternative numbers: in this job, you can’t always rely on Plan A. You need Plan B and Plan C too!
Team & travel – the best part of the job
One of the trackside logistics manager’s jobs is to collect the silverware from the podium after the race. He wipes off the champagne and packs it in a freight case for the journey home, knowing it will be on display within the MTC a matter of hours later!