THE IN­CRED­I­BLE JOUR­NEY

IN FOUR DAYS, McLAREN’S 140-TONNE HOS­PI­TAL­ITY CEN­TRE MUST BE OPEN FOR BUSI­NESS AT THE BRI­TISH GP PROB­LEM: IT’S CUR­RENTLY IN AUS­TRIA AND IT TAKES FOUR DAYS TO BUILD IT...

F1 Racing - - CONTENTS -

Mov­ing the 140-tonne McLaren Brand Cen­tre from race to race

At every Euro­pean grand prix there is a cor­ner of the F1 pad­dock that is a home-fromhome to all on-site McLaren per­son­nel. The im­pres­sive, glass-fronted, three-storey sil­ver edice known as the Brand Cen­tre is a mini ver­sion of the team’s Wok­ing HQ: the McLaren Tech­nol­ogy Cen­tre. With its spi­ral stair­cases and cen­tral atrium, the Brand Cen­tre of­fers hos­pi­tal­ity for guests and staff, in­clud­ing ofces for man­age­ment, and driver rooms (and show­ers) for both Fer­nando Alonso and Stof­fel Van­doorne.

At a nor­mal GP week­end, the build­ing takes four days to con­struct, but with back-to-back races in Aus­tria and Sil­ver­stone this year, it’s a race against time to dis­man­tle it in Aus­tria on Sun­day night and trans­port all 140 tonnes of it 1,600km so that it’s all ready to serve lunch in Northamp­ton­shire on Thurs­day af­ter­noon. Each year it’s com­pleted just in time.

“It’s a well-drilled op­er­a­tion and we be­gin a light pack-up on the top oor about an hour af­ter the race has nished, when the VIPs be­gin to dis­ap­pear,” ex­plains Jonathan Ostrowski, the Brand Cen­tre man­ager. “Then the rst ma­jor step is re­mov­ing the ‘pop-ups’, which are on ei­ther side of the build­ing. These con­tain ofces as well as the spi­ral stair­cases that lead to the rst and sec­ond oors. Once they have gone and have been at­tached to a cab to be driven away, then we can take out all the fur­ni­ture. Ev­ery­thing you see in­side the build­ing is un­clipped, un­bolted and re­moved.”

A crew of 19 peo­ple are in­volved in the dis­man­tling process and will work non-stop through­out Sun­day evening, tak­ing apart the Brand Cen­tre one step at a time. Once the pop­ups have gone, the next stage is the del­i­cate task of re­mov­ing the glass pan­elling at the front. For this, the team use a hy­draulic crane that they take with them to every race.

“Once all the fur­ni­ture is out, plus the 30 panes of glass at the front, the atrium col­lapses and we re­move the air con­di­tion­ing unit from the top,” con­tin­ues Ostrowski. “Then we take out the pods above the kitchen, the driv­ers’ rooms and the man­age­ment ofces. Then the roof gets low­ered, the atrium comes out and nally the kitchen gets low­ered down onto its axle. Ev­ery­thing con­nects to the kitchen unit, so un­for­tu­nately the last thing to leave is the rst thing we need at Sil­ver­stone.”

Ostrowski and his team, led by crew chief Mike Hughes, watch each truck load up and de­part the Red Bull Ring to make the long trip through north­ern Europe, across the chan­nel and around the M25 to Sil­ver­stone. The nal ar­tic­u­lated

ve­hi­cle leaves the now-empty Aus­trian pad­dock at noon on the Mon­day af­ter the grand prix.

Seven trucks trans­port the ac­tual build­ing and an­other eight trucks carry the plant ma­chin­ery and fur­ni­ture. The to­tal weight trans­ported is more than 500 tonnes. Last year, to avoid dis­rup­tion at Calais, some of the ve­hi­cles took the Ze­brugge-Til­bury route and every even­tu­al­ity is con­sid­ered to get the lor­ries to Sil­ver­stone on time. “We even thought about hav­ing a tyre ve­hi­cle fol­low the trucks, just in case one of them was de­layed with a punc­ture,” adds Ostrowski.

While the lor­ries are mo­tor­ing north, the rest of the crew re­turn to their ho­tel to rest af­ter the all-nighter. Early on Tues­day morn­ing they head to Vi­enna and y to Heathrow. They check into their ho­tel in Towces­ter and are at Sil­ver­stone for 9pm on Tues­day when the rst of the trucks start to ar­rive, ready to get to work. Just 33 hours af­ter it was taken down, the con­struc­tion process com­mences with an­other all-night shift. The dead­line for com­ple­tion is Thurs­day lunchtime, when the me­chan­ics, en­gi­neers and driv­ers will all need to be fed.

“The fo­cus is al­ways, rightly, about what is go­ing on across the pad­dock with the cars in the garage. But in terms of im­pres­sive en­gi­neer­ing feats, this is right up there,” says Ostrowski. “You leave the pad­dock in Aus­tria and four days later walk into this build­ing in Sil­ver­stone and it’s easy to for­get the ef­fort that’s gone into achiev­ing that. And com­pared to a lot of other mo­torhomes in the pad­dock, ours is quite a com­plex struc­ture with its hy­draulic arms and oors that lift up and can­tilever out – it isn’t mod­u­lar, it doesn’t just have con­tain­ers plonked on top of each other.”

The Brand Cen­tre is a self-con­tained en­tity that can be placed any­where; all it needs is a wa­ter sup­ply and a drain. It has its own gen­er­a­tor for elec­tric­ity and is built from car­bon bre to re­duce weight. From Oc­to­ber-April it is erected in a ware­house in Maiden­head to be put through a main­te­nance pro­gramme. The 11-yearold edice is checked by certied en­gi­neers who look at the hy­draulics, elec­tri­cal and wa­ter sys­tems and make the nec­es­sary changes. Last year the pipework un­der­neath the build­ing was retted.

“It’s a bit like the Forth Bridge,” says Ostrowski. “There’s al­ways some­thing that needs to be worked on. But the brief for the orig­i­nal de­sign is the same. The build­ing makes you feel as if you’re in McLaren’s HQ wher­ever you are in the world.”

And that’s the case whether you’re in the Styr­ian moun­tains of Aus­tria or a for­mer RAF aireld at Sil­ver­stone – just four days later.

EV­ERY­THING CON­NECTS TO THE KITCHEN UNIT, SO UN­FOR­TU­NATELY THE LAST THING TO LEAVE IS THE FIRST THING WE NEED AT SIL­VER­STONE

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.