How soon do you start planning logistics for Le Mans?
“In reality, we will start planning for next year's Le Mans the moment we hit the ground there this year. Every year proves to be incredibly instructional in how we improve the process. We have the "big chunks" pretty well handled; the opportunity to turn your attention to the details is what separates us from the rest of the pack. There is a reason most all of the U.S.-based teams (and some of the European teams) come to us when they need something they don't have...everything from ice to nuts and bolts.”
What made you decide to work with Larbre Competition for the Le Mans test day (ABOVE LEFT)?
The Larbre deal was emblematic of the true meaning of teamwork. This year, the requirement to participate in a single test day in Le Mans presented a tremendous economic and strategic challenge to every ALMS team. We raced in Long Beach one weekend and then had to be in Le Mans the following Sunday – a huge budget buster by any measure. So, Larbre had just purchased a car from us in the off-season and was going to take delivery in Sebring for the 12 Hours. Following that, we were going to take it back to our shop and prep it before we shipped it to them in France for the 24 Hours. At that point, it was a no-brainer to work together; we use their car and key members of their crew at the Le Mans test, share the data...everybody goes faster. We proposed it, they loved it and together we did it. Corvette is a global racing brand and we have global racing partners. That makes the entire program stronger.
What exactly do you bring over from the U.S. operation and what do you rely on GM Europe for?
First, we bring one tractor and trailer. It is a dedicated unit that is specially set up for the Le Mans event. We load that with all the tools and equipment we will need for the race. That tends to be the heaviest stuff. It all goes by boat and leaves in late April. After our final event prior to Le Mans we crate up body parts, spares, engines, fire suits, etc., and fly those along with the cars. They leave the shop on May 24. By the time the team gets to Le Mans on June 3, everything is on site. GM Europe helps us out by arranging Chevy vehicles for us to use via the local Hertz outlet. In addition, they put up an awesome new car display in the Le Mans Village during race week and carryout some impressive marketing activities centered around our appearance at the world's most important sports car race.
Ever had any major complications getting the operation in and out of France? Anything get lost, broken, detained, etc.?
Problems? Oh, yes. The first year we competed, which was 2000, we shipped everything right into France. We were unaware of the French labor union's "strike of the week" club. We couldn't get any of our stuff off the docks...barely got everything there in time for practice. The following year we shipped direct to England and drove it all to the track. We have followed that protocol for the last 11 years with no issues. We also found out the personnel on trans-oceanic cargo ships tend to be a little sticky-fingered with plenty of time on their hands. We have lost everything from t-shirts to the mattresses in the tractor sleeper during the voyage over. In addition, one year we had the airfreight guys forget to tie down one of the racecars in its shipping crate for the flight over to England. Needless to say, it was a little shorter than the other car when it arrived. Over $250,000 damage to the front and rear and that was before we ever ran a lap!
Is it harder getting everything in or out of France?
International shipping has established some very strident procedures to move materials and equipment in or out of all the European countries. You need to have a highly detailed inventory list with everything in each crate or trailer including all serial numbers and quantities where applicable. Do it right – no problem. Mess something up – big problem. We learn something every year.
Window or aisle seat?
On a big plane, I am always a window guy. Jump jet, I am sitting on the aisle. In the end, travel as much as I do, and it's the bottom of the seat that really matters!