The 2012 season now ends with a string on seven flyaway races in; Asia, America and the Middle East. Even before this in this eleven week period kicks off, the Logistics team at McLaren are planning to ensure that everything needed gets to the circuit and is set up on time. To understand this huge and complicated task we spoke to McLaren’s Race Team Support Team Leader, Mark Baker.
The shipping process
What is the process to get an F1 team from its based in the UK to a flyaway race?
The whole process starts about two months in advance, where we organise about 60ft of sea freight. That’s all the consumable items that we carry, along with easily duplicated bits of kit; tables and chairs, paper, water and the barriers. That goes to the track six weeks prior, on a ship with DHL. Then the main air freight is packed up at MTC on the Friday before the event. So that on Tuesday morning we can start work at the circuit. DHL and FOM manage track side delivery so we pack it at the factory they come along with two trucks and give them all the paperwork and off it goes.
We carry about 30 tonnes of airfreight which is all packaged into Q7 pallets, cars come in as stripped down chassis, not as rolling chassis no engine no gearbox, so both of those go into Q7 pallets. We were the first team to do that. On the handling side is much easier for FOM so it’s going to be a thing of the future. From that we cube section out airfreight pallets to accommodate those bits and pieces.
Its goes on a plane chartered by FOM. All of the F1 teams ship their main cargo with FOM. They are responsible for chartering the plane, making sure the handlers meet the deadlines and the customs side.
What is the trickiest item to pack up for the road?
Even something such as a built up gearbox with full suspension on has its framework that it travels in,
Do you bring anything different for Singapore?
Not really, we bring more fans for the heat.
How many trucks do you have for European Races?
Seven trucks for the race team and the brand centre runs 13 trucks and a crane. We park the trucks in Europe to an accuracy of 10mm!
Setting up at the Circuit
What happens once you arrive at the circuit?
We’re given two fork lifts at the circuits, every circuit is different, but two is the minimum of what we need. We have a security team working a day and night shift, who stay with the freight all the time it’s here.
In Europe, the seven man support crew will come out on a Monday and build the garage up to the point where we can just push the cars out of the back of the truck on Wednesday. The mechanics will arrive on a Wednesday.
On a fly away, we all travel together to be able to start work on a Tuesday morning. The whole team comes in and they get each given their own tasks, to get up and running as quick as we can on Tuesday, so they can start work on the cars on Wednesday morning
How does the Modular wall system fit into the differing garage sizes?
We’ve have some panels bigger than the others. It’s a set system, so we have 0.25m, 0.5m, 0.75m and 1m panels. If not, we shuffle it about a little bit to make some of the areas smaller.
Who checks it?
The team manager Dave Redding or Sam Michael have the overall say on things, I have to present to them what they want, they come around and make sure it’s up to McLaren standards and were meeting the brand image.
What happens during the race weekend?
The seven man support team is broken into; two tyre men, two for fuel, an electrician and two general hands around garage. They look after the pit gantry, general running of the garage, things like preparing grid trolleys and behind the scenes repairs.
What happens after the race finishes?
You seldom see me at the podium! Once the cars to go to the grid, we set up the garages into a working space to response to a pit stop, as well as turning grid trolleys around to respond to a restart or red flag. When the cars finish the race, we’ve got to transform the garage to be ready for the guys to come back from the podium, so they don’t tip over all the chairs.
For us it pretty much starts straight away. There’s not really time, people might grab half a glass of champagne, then get working. The garage will be down two hours after the race, it takes eight hours to put up, the whole pack up takes 8-9 hours, that’s into the box, cargo nets on, job done! We’ll leave the track 8-9 hours after the races end.
Onto the next race
What the plan for the next flyaway races?
For Singapore everything has come from the UK, nothing has gone from race to race to race at all. We now have five sea freights, this one and for the next events. The airfreight will now from go race to race
Does anything go back to the factory?
We have components we strip off the car, like wishbones or uprights, which need servicing back at the factory. They go back in smaller boxes, which get handled by DHL. The guys will service and turn it around to meet us in two weeks’ time.
Will you return home?
I’m personally going home, but some of the guys are staying out through to Brazil, which is 11 weeks away.