It’s Thursday morning and I back home in Sheffield after 8 days on the road, the first five of which were spent at Brands Hatch for the first rounds of the British Touring Car Championship.
So, what does a logistics co-ordinator do over the course of a race meeting? By the time ITV4 start their live coverage on Sunday, MSO CS, the company I work for have already been on site for 4 days.
Walking into the empty paddock for the first time on Wednesday lunch time and looking at the CAD plans, it’s fair to say that I felt a little lost, wondering just how we were going to turn this vast, empty space into a full, bustling, organised paddock. Luckily for me, me bosses, Derek and James have been doing this job for twenty years and could probably do it blindfolded!
The first job was to locate the road marks that were sprayed the following season and to mark them out with cones. Once the road ways are marked and straight, we begin to allocate the teams their allotted space. Starting with the Porsche Carrera Cup on the right hand side, followed by the Clio Cup runners finally the various Ginetta teams along the far, left hand side.
This whole process takes a good 4/5 hours to make sure all the line are true and straight. The next time you see a helicopter shot of all the trucks in the paddock lined up, remember, that doesn’t happen by accident.
Brands were hosting an open test day on the Wednesday so a few of the teams were already around. I spent the rest of the day, and Thursday learning how to get the articulated trucks straight. This may sound a little silly but until you try to park one of these bang on a line, you really can’t appreciate how difficult it is. I would say that the average time to get one into position is around ten to fifteen minutes.
This average however, may be a little higher thanks to my first solo attempt to park up a lorry. To be fair, it wasn’t really my fault. After assisting to park up over a dozen trucks, I felt confident enough to do it myself. So off I went to the IDL Ginetta team were three big factors conspired to making this park up very difficult indeed! 1, this was the first truck I’d seen with a rear steering axle and 2, it was the first time the driver had driven a rear steering trailer. After forty minutes (half of which were under the watchful eye of my boss) we finally got it nosed in and straight on the line.
The dynamics of the role change on Friday. All the teams are in and practice sessions are under way by 9am. One of the scourges of the paddock is private cars! Finding offending vehicles is one thing, finding their owners is quite another. Friday see’s more action going on in the main paddock as the BTCC teams arrive ahead of setting up. Due to the ultra tight paddock, the order of the trucks going in is carefully orchestrated as when all the trucks and motor homes are in, you are left with a road no bigger than one lane wide. As a newbie, I was given other things to do in the afternoon which was to collect all the trophies and champagne from the different championships and check them all before the first races on Saturday.
After a curry and a couple of beers Friday night I was up early on Saturday, ready for a busy day. Before we got started I thought it best to have a shave after my morning shower as the camera’s will be rolling in the paddock for the podium celebrations. The only reason I mention this is because the showers we use in the paddock are situated next to the public toilets. As there are no sinks in the shower room, you have to move next door to have a shave. As some of you my know, I’m very folically challenged and shave my head. So you can imagine the surprise as the early arriving fans got as I’m stood there, no top on resembling santa with my full head of foam!
Into the afternoon and we were over in the main paddock to manage the three race podiums of the weekend, this where the first major panic happened for us. Two trophies hadn’t been assembled as well as they should have been by the manufactures, leading to some frantic gluing in time for the race finish. I’m happy to say that we got them repaired in time for the finish of the race and the viewing public were none the wiser….. At least until the third trophy (the one that didn’t break) fell apart on the podium as it was lifted by the second place driver!
On to the main event, Sundays action packed race day with three BTCC races taking top billing. There is plenty of work to do on the podium. Changing the backdrops and podium numbers for the correct championship and sponsors as well as dressing the top three steps with the trophies and Champagne. The day ran without any major problems, although I did miss most of the second race hunting down some missing champagne.
As I said in my first post about paddock life, I wondered how I would cope with going from a fan, to being part of the team making the event happen. To be honest, I didn’t think about this until we were on the road home. Living and working at a race circuit is about as good as it can get for me and to call it work isn’t the right word at all.