In a perfect world, the SRT Viper team would arrive at Le Mans and find all of our cars and equipment sitting there waiting for us, fully prepped, with the garages completely built, all the spares organized and ready to go. Then all we'd have to do was show up for this weekend's test day and the race in about two weeks and do all the fun stuff.
But the “getting it there” labor is part of the job for us. There are no magic elves that come in and move an entire two-car ALMS GT program from North Carolina to the middle of France.
Not so long ago there was a pile of stuff at the shop getting ready to go by sea freight, but at the moment, we're getting it all in shape to hit the track this weekend for , but how it all got here is like a race of its own.
The first thing to know is sea freight is about 10 times cheaper to send than air freight, so we had a container delivered a while ago for us to load and ship. It left before the Monterey ALMS event and takes a few weeks to arrive.
That meant we raced at Laguna Seca (RIGHT) with maybe not as much floor tile and maybe only one set of spare bodywork rather than two, maybe not all our wheel carts, maybe not even all our wheels so that we could sea freight as much as we can over. We also sent spare chassis parts just in case we have a big wreck at the test day or at the race weekend.
It would have been great to hold onto everything, but financially, it made the most sense to do without some things and ship them early by boat.
The sea freight container left on May 6, then the air shipment with essentially everything else that we unloaded and raced at Laguna flew from Orlando on May 23, a week after we got back from California.
Then myself and Tyler Hook, an SRT engineer, and our Le Mans consultant Thierry le Coeur, we specifically went to Le Mans and measured up the garage and we bought a lot of Le Mans specific stuff, all the special TVs, all the electrical items and all that stuff about two months ago. And they were sitting in storage at Le Mans until got to them on Sunday. And then we have all the garage wall boards show up and from there, we can assemble it all to look top notch.
We rented a truck from Dominik Farnbacher's father because the ALMS trucks and trailers stay home in the states. The rented truck showed up and, of course, we had to buy and fit a tent for it with our SRT branding on it to properly represent the team among the other teams in the paddock.
We take great pride in our presentation, so hopefully we'll look the part and be very respected in the paddock just like we are at the ALMS events. We're going to try to out-flash some of the teams but we need to make sure people know that we're pretty damn serious about all this.
For most of the team, we're staying at the Hotel Green 7, which is right outside Tertre Rouge next to the track. For the drivers, I rented those little European motor homes and they're going to stay in those during race week.
That's all the pre-planning side of Le Mans and now we're into things full bore. The team flew over on June 2 for the official test and we're here until the Tuesday after the race – we fly back June 25. Come race day, as far as working people, we're probably in the 50-person range, with 15 of that figure being engineers. So we have a nice size team. Once again, we're pretty damn serious about things.
This isn't my first time at Le Mans, but the logistics side has been a wild experience to deal with. We stuffed a 40-foot sea container that couldn't fit an extra business card in it because it was so full, and it might be even worse going back to the USA.
Prepping everything to fly was also an adventure – about 10 tons of air freight. Of course the cars are part of that, but we're also pretty flush with spares. We definitely have a spare suspension for each car, a spare gearbox for each car, three sets of extra bodywork so five car sets of bodywork total. Let's just say we have a fair amount of spares!
Now we'll work our tails off and after the race, when everybody's dog tired, we'll load it all up the same way things got here, by sea or by air, then head home.
Then on Friday, just a few days after getting back, we go meet all the air shipment in Orlando, bring it to the shop on Saturday, prep for the ALMS race at Lime Rock on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and then head to Connecticut.
Right now, that Lime Rock race seems a million miles away.
Bill Riley was speaking to Marshall Pruett
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