x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

The effort behind the scenes in motorsport

It never ceases to amaze me just how much effort is required to run a race team that enters five cars into eight events.

You might have seen a duck gliding across the pond? As serene as it might look, if you peer beneath the surface you'll find a huge amount of paddling going on. Welcome to my world.

It never ceases to amaze me just how much effort is required to run a race team that enters five cars into eight events. Compare this to F1 teams, race two cars in 20 countries. OK, so we employ nine people to their 300, but then we don't have to design and build a chassis.

In the UAE GT Championship we prepare and run two cars for Maserati as well as three British-built Ginetta G50s. You might be surprised at the skill levels required to do so. To run the car, you need a toolbox, a laptop computer and clever engineers who know exactly what they are doing.

My team installed a 4.5L V8 racing engine, the same one that powers LMP1 prototypes at Le Mans, into our customer's Ginetta Zytek. The engine, de-tuned to about 470 bhp to meet local regulations, is managed by a programmable engine-control unit, while a programmable gearbox-control unit looks after the transmission.

The Maserati GranTurismo has a 450 bhp 4.7 V8, paddle shift and Magneti Marelli electronics; the lighter Ginetta has 300bhp from its 3.5L V6 engine, Quaife gearbox and paddle shift. More laptops and spanners.

A lot of the duck-paddling is caused by running a business 5,000 kilometres away from the suppliers, so you have to be as self-sufficient as possible and an expert at logistics and customs processes. You also need patience as you try to cajole companies into action at "race" pace - not something they like. In motorsport, it's always cash up front and no warranties. Race cars can break for no reason at all but still you just can't afford to stock the thousands of parts that might fail on a completely random basis.

Assuming you recruit a small army of race mechanics that are prepared to work unsociable hours, you then have the problem of making sure that your driver gets the best out of his equipment. Now that requires a whole new level of expertise. A race engineer has to quiz the driver to understand what the car is doing on track. At the end of a track day in F1, the driver will sit with his race engineer, his performance engineer and his data engineer for about four or five hours to discuss all of the car's systems relative to improving the performance of the car.

Our race engineer, having downloaded all the data from the on-board data logger and video camera, will first check the car's vital signs (for example the oil and coolant temperatures, oil pressure, revs used, gears used) and then sit with the driver to analyse how he performed. With such microscopic data and video there is no hiding place. The logger draws a map of the circuit and can compare each lap to see exactly where and how hard the driver braked, what gear he was in, what speed he carried and how much steering input was used.

If your race engineer is also an expert driver that takes the briefing to a much higher level. Ours is. Last week our drivers were on all three steps of the podium. The duck never stops paddling.


Barry Hope is a director of GulfSport Racing, which is seeking the first Arab F1 driver through the FG1000 race series. Join the UAE racing community online at www.singleseaterblog.com