INDIANAPOLIS (November 20, 2000) -- At this moment, Dick Barbour Racing's three Porsche 911 GT3 R race cars are literally riding the high seas, and will be for the next few weeks.
Except for drivers and crew, everything the team needs to compete in the American Le Mans Series "Race of a Thousand Years" on Dec. 31 in Adelaide, Australia, is safely packed in two containers riding to Australia on the cargo ship Melbourne Star. The containers will be delivered to the paddock area at the Adelaide street circuit on Dec. 26, and the Barbour team members will arrive and unload for race preparations the next day.
Lucas Luhr and Dirk Muller will drive the #5 Barbour entry, while Bob Wollek and Sascha Maassen will drive #51. The #15 car will be driven by Randy Wars along with a teammate to be named. Luhr, Muller, Wollek and Maassen are part of a very tight battle for the ALMS GT class driver's title that will be decided in the Adelaide event.
Approximately 30 American Le Mans Series teams will compete at Adelaide, and most teams are based in the United States. While some teams have chosen to have their equipment flown to Australia, many have taken the slower but more economical method of sea transportation, especially since the ALMS schedule was idle from Oct. 29 until the Adelaide race.
"We really didn't need to keep the cars and equipment around here," said Rod Benoist, team manager for Dick Barbour Racing, whose cargo departed Nov. 13. "We got the cars ready after the Las Vegas race and wanted to let the team members enjoy the holidays with their families. Most of them will have an early Christmas and then head to Adelaide."
Benoist, whose previous racing experience includes work with a Formula One team, is used to moving race teams around from continent to continent. He stresses planning and careful execution as the most important elements in racing away from home.
"At a normal race in North America, you have your team transporter to carry everything," he said. "Everything you need has a place in your transporter, there are lists to work off of, and everything is routine.
"But when you have to freight things away, you have to unload everything from your transporter," he said. "You're still working off of lists, but you have to make everything fit into containers. We managed to make three race cars and everything else we need to race fit into two 40-foot cargo carriers."
A few weeks before the departure date, the freight company being used by Barbour Racing dropped off the containers at the team's shop, located on the grounds at Road Atlanta. Using forklifts and other tools, the team loaded two of its race cars in one container, and the third in the second container. Except for the front bumpers, which were removed to save space, the cars went into the containers virtually intact.
The team then built wooden decking above the two cars. The deck carried lighter pieces of equipment, including spare body parts, etc., and served not only as a shelf, but also as a screen to protect the cars from anything that might break loose during the trip.
In the second container, the team loaded heavier materials such as boxes, a golf cart, etc., and then again built a deck to carry more materials. "We pretty much packed everything except our transporter," said Benoist.
Because of customs regulations, the team is working from a carnet. The customs document requires the team to list in detail and assign a value to everything it is taking on the trip, even down to small items such as shop rags. If the team leaves anything in Australia, it must declare what is left. The carnet that the team used for its European racing earlier this year is still in effect, but it had to be modified because the team will be running three cars in Australia instead of two as it did in Europe.
Because the team's equipment is traveling by sea, the team did not have to ship hazardous materials separately as it would have to do if air transportation was being used. The team will buy various consumable goods that it will need for the race when it arrives in Australia.
Once at the circuit, the Barbour team will unpack its containers, move into its assigned garage space and set up as it normally does, using its sponsor boards, etc. However, since it will not have its transporter, the team will rent furniture and other items needed to set up an office and lounge inside the garage.
After the race, the team will fly home some of its essential equipment because it will be doing some testing with its new 2001 race cars very early in the year. The older race cars and some non-essential equipment will return by sea.
Benoist said that timing is very essential on both ends of the trip.
"The ship will not wait for you," he said. "If you miss the deadline for having your containers at the dock, you've blown it. Another ship won't leave for a week, and you'll mess up your timetable on the other end.
"Moving a race team around is a pretty big undertaking," he said. "You have to be aware of what's going to happen and plan accordingly."