Mick, we are heading to the US Grand Prix straight from Montréal. What are the issues you face with such a short turnaround?
Mick Ainsley-Cowlishaw, Team Manager: With the two fly-aways being so close together it is incredibly difficult for the team logistically because we're working on such a short time scale. Having to pack your freight on a Sunday night means you're going to be working late and then on Monday morning we have an early flight out to Indianapolis; we leave the hotel at 07.00. We won't finish packing up the cars and garage until about 22.30 tonight. Then we are straight back to work on Tuesday morning when the freight arrives, which is coming by road, at the Speedway in Indianapolis. We have an initial crew who will go in to the track to break down the freight and start setting up the garage. The rest of the mechanics and the engineers arrive on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning.
So you are very short of time! How do you turn around parts that need to be checked or obtain new ones to replace the irreparable?
MA-C: It is much more difficult here in North America because of the time difference to the UK. When we finish work here the team in the UK are in bed, so it's much harder to get parts out to us than it is when we're in Bahrain, for example, or at a race where time's not up against you. Turning around parts, testing them for faults and the such like is very difficult, so what we do when we're going away for a double-header is try to bring as many spares with us as we can so we don't have to do anything to the used parts. The rear uprights, gear ratios, and all those types of things you try to bring enough spares with you so you can just exchange them at the next race.
SAF1 Team usually take three trucks of freight to the European races. What is the difference between packing for a European race and the fly-aways?
MA-C: The major difference that we experience is that most of the freight is flown to the race on an aircraft. The cars have to be boxed up and palleted along with all of the freight. These pallets are then put onto a cargo plane that flies out of the UK. As we have a back-to-back race with the US Grand Prix the freight is going by road from Canada to America, but then it's flown back to the UK. We carry about 22 tonnes of freight, which sounds like a large amount, but compared to the other teams in the pitlane it's the minimum. However the situation is still better that when we are in Monaco, because even though we've got the trucks with us there, we have to unload every nut and bolt off of them and pack them in the garage, because once you've unloaded the trucks they disappear for a week and you don't see them again until Sunday at about 20:00. In Montréal our situation is not too bad because we have what's called the 'Track Shacks', which are like little garages where you can keep your kit. You don't have to unpack it, you just open the door and take out the few bits and pieces that you need. Most of the freight is all in 'pack horses' – freight boxes which you load and unload. Each 'pack horse', and also each pallet, has an invoice with a value attached to it. You weigh the pallets and then when you do the pack-up on the Sunday night after the race the customs people know exactly what is in which pallet. We have six pallets and three cars that have to be packed away.
But you also send freight by sea don't you? Why do you do this?
MA-C: Yes, that is true and we try to send more sea freight to the fly-aways because of the cost. Sea freight works out at approximately four times less in cost per kilogramme compared to air freight, which is a massive saving over a year. But you obviously have to prepare this freight to leave the factory two months in advance of the race as it takes much longer to get there, so we have to have three times as much kit for different shipments. The first sea shipment goes to Australia, the second to Malaysia and the final one goes to Bahrain. Obviously they have to leave at different times and so we have three different sets of kit distributed to these areas. The one that then comes back first you turn around and send out to Canada. The one that comes back to the UK from Malaysia gets turned around and sent to the US. And then later in the year, for Japan and China, you pack the freight that you need from the one that gets back from Canada and then do the same with the one from the US. It's an ongoing project and we try to include more and more in the sea freight because the cost of a 40-foot container is considerably cheaper to ship than to fly. Hopefully we will be able to send much more by sea, get more equipment made as we grow because we're a young team that is still learning the ropes on that side of things.
Does the Indianapolis Speedway have any peculiarities in terms of garage set-up and freight logistics?
MA-C: 'Indy' is a strange one really because it is a modern facility, but it is lacking in a few areas. The offices are situated a long way from the garages and setting up our IT connections, for example, is a big problem. Surprisingly, the garages do not provide any compressed air, so we have to buy our own compressors for blowing on the brakes and using the 'car lifts' for example. But the facilities in Indy are very good and the track is an interesting one for the drivers. We also have great support from the fans in the US and so we are really looking forward to it.