Following an encouraging result at the British Grand Prix, where both Rubens Barrichello and Martin Brundle finished in the points, the Benson and Hedges Total Jordan Peugeot team now move on to Hockenheim for Round 10 of the 1996 Formula One...
Following an encouraging result at the British Grand Prix, where both Rubens Barrichello and Martin Brundle finished in the points, the Benson and Hedges Total Jordan Peugeot team now move on to Hockenheim for Round 10 of the 1996 Formula One World Championship, the German Grand Prix. Whilst industries throughout Europe are beginning to wind down in preparation for the annual break, the business of Formula One continues unabated throughout the summer months. There is no rest for the mechanics who prepare the Jordan cars for competition at each of the 16 races this season.
Nick Burrows is the `No 1' mechanic for Martin Brundle. The 38 year old, who has been with Jordan since 1988, is leader of the three-strong team who work exclusively on car No 12 His weekend begins when the team arrives at the circuit on Thursday lunchtime - and finishes around 43 working hours later on Sunday evening. In the intervening hours Nick, together with his team of Andy Stevenson and Dave Perrot, will have totally stripped and rebuilt the car twice over, replacing 34 different items and 1478 litres of fluids in the process.
"The first thing we do when we get to the circuit on Thursday is fire up the engine" explains Burrows. "To do that you have to bleed the water system first, then put on the heaters and warm the water running through the engine. Once the engine is sufficiently warmed up it's turned over three or four times, whilst the Peugeot technicians carefully monitor the fuel and oil pressure. When the correct pressures are reached the Peugeot guy presses a button on his computer and fires the engine up.
"As soon as the engine temperature has reached operational level - about 73 degrees - we staff to check things over. First it's the clutch, then we go up and down through the gears before checking the reverse switch. After that it's the short shift and neutral buttons then, once we ve measured the oil level, the Total technician will take samples of the engine and gearbox oil to analyse them for metal content.
"Before we can start any set-up work we have to put out 'flat patches' which are carefully adjusted and checked to ensure that they are absolutely level. The car is put onto the patches and any last minute adjustments which the engineers have decided upon since we left the factory are carried out. Then, once the car's been scrutineered and everything's finished, we head off to the hotel".
The mechanics will arrive at the track a minimum of two and a half hours before the cars are due to run the following morning, again firing up the engines as soon as they get to the garage. After checking the radio function and pressurising the dampers, the mechanics head off to breakfast. "Assuming there were no problems when we fired the car up we'll take it down to the FIA bay to weigh it and double check all the legalities with the official FIA equipment, before we start running.
"When the pit lane opens, I'll wave Martin out for the start of his installation lap I always find that first lap of the weekend very nerve racking! As soon as the car gets back to the garage the covers come off and we check everything over. Then we wait for somebody else to go out and clean up the track! Work on the car is divided up amongst the three mechanics, with each looking after a specific area "It enables us to get the job done quicker if it's broken down into specialised areas, and that can be vital during the course of a session. Dave works on the front of the car making all the adjustments to the front springs and front wing, and strapping the driver in. Andy looks after the back end; the gearbox, rear springs and rear wing changes. I look after all the bodywork, brake ducts and engine ducts and oversee what the other guys are doing. Although each person is specialised in his own area we can all dive in and help out where necessary. I encourage the people on my car to check each other's work. When you are very familiar with working on a particular part of the car it can be easy to miss something you can't see it for looking then somebody else will come along and spot it straight away. Mistakes are few and far between - they have to be at this level - and if anything does go wrong it's a genuine error. It's down to me to take responsibility though as I'm in charge of the car. It really gets to you if there's a mistake. You wake up at night thinking about it! You feel as though you've let the side down.
"There's never much time to take a break, but once the car has finished running for the day we sit down for half an hour to eat lunch Then it's back to work, stripping the car down. First the back end comes off; the uprights are taken off and then the gearbox comes off to be stripped down and checked. Then the engine is removed. Sometimes we might have to fit new ratios. We always fit a new engine and measure the clutch. Both Friday and Saturday follow much the same lines as far as the workload is concerned, although on Saturday night there's more to be done to prepare the car for the race We fit new brakes, new radiators; a total rebuild. Once the car is back together again you fire it up, set it up, and polish it before heading home. There's always a sense of achievement if your car is ready first, although if you finish too much before the others it probably means you haven't done a proper job! There is quite a competitive edge to most mechanics; a lot of us are frustrated racing drivers! There's definitely a rivalry between the mechanics on each car - particularly in qualifying. You want both cars to qualify well but you want yours to do a bit better! It's the same thing in the race
The build-up to the big event starts an hour before the off, once the routine work surrounding the warm-up has been completed. "Timing is very important throughout the weekend, but particularly in the half an hour between the pit lane opening and the start of the race. As soon as the car arrives on the grid we take the engine cover off, put on a reflective blanket and put dry ice baskets in alongside the radiators; the engine can get very hot on the formation lap because the car is running at slow speed - the dry ice helps that. Then we all gather around our grid girl for a photo - it's become a bit of a tradition with the guys on my car". During the next ten minutes the engine will be started and checked over, bodywork will be taped up to prevent fuel from leaking into the car in the event of a refueling spillage and, with 3 minutes to go, the tyre blankets are unplugged "Then we have 2 minutes of waiting. I never feel nervous on the grid although I checked my heartbeat at the last race and it was 140 per minute, so I guess the adrenalin must get to me" In the final minute the blankets are removed, the car is dropped onto the ground and started and the mechanics leave the grid. "I always give a quick thumbs up to Martin then stand by the track and watch to make sure he gets off OK. Then we all head back to the garage to watch the start".
The following two hours will determine just how the previous forty five are to be rewarded. At Hockenheim, as at each of the races on the calendar, the reward that Nick, Andy, Dave, and the rest of the Benson and Hedges Total Jordan Peugeot team are looking for, is points.
-- Stephen M Baines
"[The Autosport sticker] started to peel off in the middle of Eau Rouge and it distracted me. In fact it was the first thing to hit the barrier" Tiff Needell - Jaguar XJR-15 Challenge - Interview with Autosport
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