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...
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 edice 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 ofces 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 ofces 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 ofces. 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 edice is checked by certied engineers who look at the hydraulics, electrical and water systems and make the necessary changes. Last year the pipework underneath the building was retted.
“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 aireld 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