BMW Saubers removals experts 01 Aug 2006
It takes a twelve-strong fleet of trucks to transport BMW Sauber's equipment from Hockenheim to Budapest. Seventy-two hours after the chequered flag at the German track, the team set-up takes shape all over again 1,000 kilometres out to the east.
Two Grands Prix in eight days demands an impressive feat of logistics on the part of the Formula One teams. Everything from the kitchen and offices to the toolboxes in the garage has its fixed place within the BMW Sauber team complex at the European races. And the removals crew has only 72 hours between Sundays race at Hockenheim and the forthcoming race in Budapest to whisk men and materials from one circuit to the next. If the race weekend is to get underway in the style to which the team has become accustomed, every element of the packing up and rebuilding process has to run like clockwork.
Sunday at Hockenheim:
The storage tents behind the garage are packed away as early as Sunday morning, weather permitting. During the race, the first tyres are already being prepared for dispatch to Michelin. And the third car is drained of fuel after the last refuelling stop.
The chequered flag is the signal for the crew to swap their fireproof overalls for lighter team fatigues. Over the ensuing hours, BMW Saubers pit area is dismantled according to a strict plan and in the following order: partition walls, refuelling rigs, pit-stop equipment, compressed air unit, overhead system including the air supply unit, data download cables, lighting, heating units for the tyres on the car, power supply for the fans and monitors.
In the meantime, the cars are released from parc ferme and the first of the team's transporters, the so called pit-lane trucks, is waved into the pit lane from the parking bays outside the complex. The garage equipment is then loaded up, the first truck and trailer accommodating some 160 wheel rims. Each front wheel rim weighs in at around nine kilos, whilst their rear-wheel siblings are approximately 13 kg. Next into the transporters are computers, pit systems and the monitor units.
While this is taking place, the cars themselves are being readied for the trip ahead. The engines are taken out, transportation frames fixed into place and the transmission changed for the race in Budapest. The spring-damper units are removed and sent back to the factory and the thin transportation wheels are fitted to the cars. They are then covered with a tarpaulin for the journey.
The three paddock trucks parked up behind the garage over the race weekend are filled with body components, radio equipment, engines and associated spare parts, transmission spare parts, tools, driver kit and pit stop overalls - the full replacement armoury, in other words.
The second truck enters the pit lane. This will be carry the race cars for the trans-European journey, as well as three replacement rear axles, the mechanics' rolling tool carts, the refuelling rigs and ancillaries. By 10.00 p.m. everything is safely stowed away and, at around four on Monday morning, the five-truck convoy sets off on its journey to Budapest.
Across the way, the work continues. Even with the assistance of ingenious technology, more time is still needed to dismantle the 14 metre-long, 16.5 metre-wide and eight metre-tall hospitality and office construction. Up to 80 people at a time can be catered for at tables and in the 16-metre bar area, and 20 team members have their workstations here. There are two showers with toilet in the driver zones, as well as two other toilet areas elsewhere. A total of 37 plasma displays supply information, 40 kilometres of cable ensure power supply and network support.
The hospitality finally comes to an end at six o'clock on Sunday evening at the latest. The twelve-strong disassembly team, who have gathered at the end of the race, begin their work with the full inventory of the atrium, the glass-fronted central section between the three surrounding trailers which are part of the overall construction. Tables and chairs are protected by special covers and stacked up, while crockery and glasses are packed away carefully to avoid breakage. These are joined by the coffee machine, flower vases and much more besides. It takes some three to four hours to get everything ready for transportation.
It is almost dark by the time the pit crews have made it back to the hotel, and the hectic manoeuvrings in the paddock have eased a little by the time the first support trailer for the motorhome rolls in from its external parking place. This trailer swallows up the contents of the motorhome, as well as items such as seats and tables from the upper floors of the office trailers which have to be dismantled to allow the trailer to be lowered to driving height.
The six metre-high and 11.5 metre-wide glass frontage is next up for disassembly and will be packed into the second support trailer. This clears the way for removal of the huge media walls, each consisting of six plasma screens. The screens on the first level have to be loaded down carefully using a forklift truck. Together, the media walls fill up a third support trailer.
The final dismantling phase reveals a source of pride for the constructors of the BMW Sauber hospitality unit. Based around four integral trailers, the entire structure essentially packs away into itself. No cranes or additional trucks are required.
The spider structure supporting the roof is folded in. The two side-flanking trailers are lowered hydraulically to the driving height. The electrics of the side office trailers are disconnected from the atrium. The tractors are then hooked up with their cargo and the two motorhomes make their way out of the circuit.
Now it's time for the white Goretex membrane and the walnut parquet of the first-storey gallery floor to be retracted hydraulically. Both elements fold into the central trailer, to which the atrium construction is fixed. Finally, the kitchen container is disconnected from the central area and also linked up to its tractor.
The second BMW Sauber convoy is ready for departure at seven o'clock on Monday morning. It consists of seven vehicles: the two office trailers complemented by the kitchen trailer, central trailer and the three support trailers.
Well-rested truck drivers get behind the wheel of the seven trucks, each with a member of the disassembly team as a sleeping passenger. While the convoy sets out on the 1,000 kilometre journey, the remaining five members of the disassembly team join the catering staff on a plane to Budapest.
Monday evening in Budapest:
Drivers and co-drivers take turns behind the wheel during the journey from Hockenheim to Budapest. The trip takes anything from 12 to 14 hours and the trucks arrive late on Monday evening. The seven men who are rested after the journey now team up with the five who have flown in - restoring the construction team to twelve people - to rebuild the team complex at the latest circuit.
Thirty-six hours remain to get first the kitchen trailers, then the central trailer into position, to roll out part of the membrane, hook up the right and left-hand office trailers, roll out and secure the rest of the membrane, unpack and set up the office trailers, unload the support trailers, install the media walls, kit out the atrium and finally to put together the glass frontage. Then the cleaning process can begin, before the catering team moves in at lunchtime on Wednesday.
Although the pit crew have had a few hours' head start, the clock is ticking for them as well. Their first task after arriving at the Hungaroring paddock early on Monday evening was to hose down the trucks. Tuesday sees the pit complex take shape once again; the team's facility has to be completed by Wednesday, when the mechanics begin to prepare the BMW Sauber F106 cars for the weekend.
They find themselves back in familiar surroundings, their tools and spare parts all in the same place they were at Hockenheim. When it comes to recreating this impeccable sense of deja vu, there is no room for error.