17 July, 2012
Audi Sport had four entries and an historic hybrid victory at the recent 24 Hours of Le Mans, using the talents of 200+ personnel who worked from a two-storey, fully-fitted out pit/paddock unit (never mind the two double-storey media, VIP and guest hospitality units). The small, privately owned, British GT3 team, Gulf Racing UK, may not have access to the resources of the German giant but its approach and commitment to preparation and the objective of getting all its cars to the chequered flag are no less committed and detailed.
The Surrey-based organisation is in the final throes of planning and preparation for the next round of the Blancpain Endurance Series, the Spa 24 Hours on 28/29th July. Entered in the Pro class for this event are the team's two Gulf Oil International-liveried McLaren MP4-12C GT3s – No.9 in the hands of McLaren GT factory driver Rob Bell, Mike Wainwright and Andy Meyrick, while No.69 will be driven by Stuart Hall, Roald Goethe and Jamie Campbell-Walter.
There are a myriad of preparations for a 24-hour race which are in addition to those normally required for a round of the BES, and these include auxiliary lighting being fitted to the cars, ID lights on each of the cars so they can easily be distinguished at night, illuminated number panels on the doors and roof, illuminated electronic pit boards and a lighting gantry for the pit lane. The Gulf Racing McLaren MP4-12C GTs are distinguishable by day through their different colour wing mirrors (#9 has blue while #69 has orange).
The usual crew of 18, which includes drivers, team management, engineers and mechanics, has been supplemented by another 16 people who include additional mechanics and bodywork specialists, additional truck drivers who will drive down the two transporters and driver motorhomes before taking care of tyres and fuel during the race, hospitality staff, PR and admin and sports masseurs.
Race engineers Matt Beers and Ian Smith (No.9 and 69 respectively) will be assisted by two engineers from McLaren GT, and the chief mechanics on both cars are Mike Brown and Nick Allen. Overall in charge of team direction and race strategy will be the highly experienced David Price.
With variable weather conditions always expected within the Ardennes region of Belgium, the team has requested almost one third of its tyre allocation to be grooved wets as opposed to the slick dry weather rubber supplied by Michelin. In common with all other teams, these will be mounted on a rotational basis on the 7 sets of wheels provided by the team.
Based on past experience and predictions calculated by the team, over 11,000 litres of fuel will be purchased for the two cars for the duration of the event (track action begins on Thursday, 26th July) and there will be an additional 200 litres of diesel for generators used to heat the tyre ovens.
As many spare bodywork sections as possible, within the limited resources available, have been prepared, and both cars' gearboxes have been re-built in preparation for the many, many thousands of gear changes expected. Finally, items that no team can do without at any race meeting include thousands of Ty-wraps (cable ties), multiple rolls of tank/gaffer tape and, for the 24hours, up to 200metres of paper roll.
The team's next race will be round four of the Blancpain Endurance Series, the Spa 24 Hours at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium from 26th to 29th July. Gulf Racing UK will be running in the Pro class for this event as they have elected to race with three drivers per car instead of the mandated four for the Pro-Am category.