Friday, 14 September 2012

Working towards race day - My week with Century Motorsport

What does a racing team actually do in the build up to a race weekend? Well, for my college work placement, and in order to learn more about the motorsport industry (obviously an area I want my career to be in), I spent a week with top racing team Century Motorsport in Warwickshire as they got ready for a round of the British GT championship at Snetterton finding out.

Century Motorsport is a successful team ran by racer Nathan Freke. Nathan, a former McLaren Autosport Award nominee has has lots of success in racing, a fact which can only be supported when you see that almost every wall in the workshop is filled with trophies. Nathan won the 2009 Ginetta G50 championship and Formula Ford championship in 2006 as well as being a multiple kart champion. 

People's general perception of motor racing is that after a race, if the car isn't broke, you clean it and move on to the next round. Straight away I realized this isn't the case as on day 1, whilst most of the team were out testing with driver Dom Evans at Silverstone, I assisted race engineers Josh and Ioannis with preparing the Ginetta G55 of Fergus Walkinshaw for it's next outing. Whilst you do check that it's clean, has fuel and everything works properly, besides that the preparation wasn't anything like what you'd do on a road car before taking it out and even simple things (like cleaning) is worlds apart from when you hoover the family car. Firstly, almost all of the bodywork had to be removed, that included the rear body work, bonnet and doors; and also the wheels. Once all of that had been removed, the work could start on the car. Brakes and suspension were checked thoroughly for damage, then cleaned using specialist brake cleaning fluid. The sub frame, engine, fuel tank, roll bars and even the underside of the car all had to be cleaned. Not only to make the car look good, but a build up of dirt will effect the performance of the car, so cleaning eliminates this problem.

Fergus Walkinshaw competes in the Ginetta GT Supercup, appearing on ITV4, so the car must look just as clean on the outside and in the cockpit as it does in the unseen technical areas. A process of washing with soapy water, and later waxing ensures that the car looks great on TV. Walkinshaw owns the car himself so the team of course have to take care of the car as if it were their own to ensure their paying driver is satisfied.

With the test at Silverstone a success, the team could get to work preparing the car that would be racing the coming weekend. The Ginetta G50 GT4, that had just been testing. Despite running the day before, the GT4 car still needed to go through to long list of checks before the race weekend as the G55 did earlier. Wheels came off and bodywork was again removed, revealing what makes the car tick.The car had an issue with it's differential that had to be addressed. A lot to be done in just two days!

The G50 GT4 car wasn't the only car being worked on, with a Citroen Saxo SAXMAX racer also needing to be prepared for the weekend and 4 more Ginettas (including Walkinshaw's G55) all needing to be ready for the week after. With 2 more days before the team left for the race weekend, then another 3 days the following week, this didn't leave a great deal of time for 6 cars to be prepared, so it was all hands on deck, with everyone working hard to ensure each car would be ready. Not a single car leaves the building without going though a full preparation and everything on the checklist for that specific car ticked off.

As well as cars, the team also had to prepare other things it had to take to the event. This took me by surprise! You'd expect a team to take spares, tools and food but other things such as quad bikes, awnings, signs, and countless boxes containing things I didn't have time to ask about were not what I was expecting at all! It really put into perspective just how big an operation running a team at an event for a weekend really is and that it's not as simple as turn up, drive, go home.

Back to the GT4 car, as my week drew to a close, the car began to look more like a car again. the bodywork was back, it had a gearbox and wheels. it was almost ready to race. All the was left to be done was tracking, testing of the lights and the all important waxing. Tracking surprised me as it was simpler than I expected. With all the complex procedures I had witnessed, this one seemed easy... until I had to do it myself. It had to be done exactly right, down to the last millimeter with no room for error at all, and for me, what seemed easy, turned out to be rather frustrating. Perhaps I just needed more practice.

With the truck packed with tools, quads (...and quavers), the last thing to add was the most important thing - The car. It was a tight squeeze but again, it just went to show how much planning and preparation the team has to do. On board the truck, everything had it's place and was arranged in a pre-determined way to fit perfectly. kind of like a giant jigsaw. The Ginetta G50 GT4 was the last piece.

Century Motorsport had a successful weekend, with Zoe Wenham and Dom Evans recording a 2nd and 4th place in the Ginetta G50 at Snetterton. Guy Wenham, racing the SAXMAX car at Anglesea achieved a race win and a 2nd place. Next is the Ginetta GT Supercup, again at Snetterton, where Century will be campaigning 4 cars.

No comments:

Post a Comment