Paddock to Paddock: The McLaren way
Grands Prix are a 90-minute spectacle on Sunday afternoons but many hours, days, weeks and months of preparation go into making them unique occasions. We take a look at how the team deals with the three important aspects in the build-up and aftermath of a grand prix.
Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Brand Centre
All necessary logistical arrangements will have been made with the circuit officials months in advance. The Brand Centre crew arrive at their hotel on Friday, nine days before the race, in preparation to start erecting the rig at the circuit at 8am on Saturday morning. Under normal circumstances it takes five 12 hour shifts of 20 men to build it. For back-to-back events the crew is split into two shifts that work around the clock to get the job finished in approximately 48 hours.
There are in the region of 500 different items to install such as tables, chairs, infill panels, TVs, etc although there is a constant drive to improve the design, and streamline the amount of fixings required. The team is completely self sufficient with regards to the equipment needed to assemble the Brand Centre, bringing with them fork lift trucks, cranes, mobile elevated working platforms, telescopic lifting machines and even generators to supply the power to run the systems.
The dismantling or ‘de-rig’ takes two full days and from there the operation normally travels directly to the next venue. The units of freight are housed in 15 articulated trucks in total and are driven by the transport drivers.
After each Grand Prix there is a very small window of opportunity to make improvements. If any parts are needed, an order is put in by the Monday directly after the race but there is rarely an opportunity to install new parts until the rig of the next grand prix.
During European grands prix the race team will arrive over several days. Garage builders are the first to arrive usually on the Saturday before the event. They have a pre-designed plan of construction. First of all they will paint the floor and then move onto erecting the panelling at the sides and middle of the garage.
Engineers and the rest of the mechanics then arrive on the Wednesday and immediately begin to prepare the cars. Departing the event, engineers usually leave on Sunday night with the remaining team members leaving on the Monday following an extremely busy de-rig.
Flyaway races are slightly different. The team tends to arrive on the Monday before the event and will depart on the Monday after the race. Several officials may stay behind to settle any circuit and hotel bills and make sure the freight has been taken care of.
The team packs for European races in the service yard (an area at the back of the McLaren Technology Centre) over the course of two to three days after equipment and parts have been cleaned, checked and serviced following the previous event.
All the equipment is packed into McLaren-made bespoke stillages (a storage pallet that keeps things off the ground to improve transports of goods) which are in turn loaded onto our curtain-side trailers. The car parts are loaded into mobile shelving units which store the components in their own location - these are also loaded onto the same trailers.
In Europe seven trucks are used to transport equipment– two pop-up double deck trailers, four curtain side trailers and one car transporter. The freight when packed exceeds 32 tons.
The freight includes: Two complete cars, one spare chassis, four to five sets of bodywork, five sets of front and rear wings, five floors, five gearboxes complete with rear suspension, uprights, drive shafts and rear brake ducts, 12 shelving units of car parts, six stillages of equipment, 80 front and 80 rear wheels, one timing stand, one set of garage build panels and two overhead garage modules.
The transport team will normally use the Eurotunnel which is two hours away from the McLaren Technology Centre, but sometimes use the overnight boat from Portsmouth to France. The garage-build truck and the two pop-ups will leave in the middle week prior to the race so it arrives on the Saturday, eight days before the race. The garage-build and the bridge-build will be completed by the Monday evening. The support trucks will leave to arrive on the Tuesday morning and the car transporter will leave to arrive on the Wednesday morning.
Travel time depends on the geographical location in Europe, but Barcelona for example is a 28 hour drive, Germany is an 18 hour drive and Budapest is about a 36 hour drive. The trucks are double manned and if the schedule is tight, relief drivers will be positioned in Europe to ensure a non-stop journey that will still comply with European truck driving rules including maximum continuous driving periods of 4.5 hours.
With regards to late shipments, they are handled either by our own vans or sent via hand luggage. If the parts are required to fit the car for the first free practice session, then the parts must be trackside by Thursday midday latest to ensure that there is enough time before the Thursday evening curfew. If parts are needed for spares or replacement parts then these need to be trackside by Friday. This could be upgrades, top-ups or repairs from the previous race that are behind schedule. The team at the McLaren Technology Centre are in constant contact with the circuit through our travelling trackside spares coordinator who will ensure all shipments in and out are logged and meet all trackside requests.
After European races the two pop-up trailers and the garage build truck are usually sent direct to the next race - these loads are not usually required back at the MTC and keeping them on the road is a huge financial save. The remaining four trucks will be brought back as soon as possible. They leave Sunday night, directly after the race, and target a return to the factory on Tuesday morning to unload.
Then it all starts again!