IRL: GM raises the roof

IRL: GM raises the roof

GM Racing knew they needed to do something about their support trailer that travels to every Indy Racing League IndyCar Series event. The current unit was seven or eight years old last season and, with 90% of the current engineering schedule ...

GM Racing knew they needed to do something about their support trailer that travels to every Indy Racing League IndyCar Series event.

The current unit was seven or eight years old last season and, with 90% of the current engineering schedule being allocated to electronics work such as software, calibrations and tuning it was time to upgrade the company's home on wheels.

GM trailer.
Photo by GM.
There were options: GM Racing could have gone for a second trailer but that wouldn't have taken care of the company's true needs. After all, if they'd had two trailers, they would have needed two tractors, two spaces in the paddock area at each of 16 races, more than two drivers and two fuel bills.

Trackside support engineers would still have been separated even while on- site and that means less communication. GM Racing decided it would be best to raise the roof.

Key personnel visited several manufacturers, decided to go with Kentucky Trailer and, once all the viable purchase orders had been committed, got together with the company to make sure the new unit did everything they needed.

Three months later the basic shell was complete on the new GM Racing technology center and one month after that, all the fitments necessary for Chevrolet's IRL engineers had been made by American Coach.

The unit made its debut at the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series open test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in late April and there's been nothing but envy from everyone else in the IRL garage area since.

GM Racing's new double-decker aluminum and steel engineering trailer looks like every other 53-foot rig over the road. When it gets to the racetrack, though, this unit turns into a monster.

A traveling crew gets the 13-foot, 6-inch-tall and 102-inches wide trailer properly leveled and then they hydraulically increase the height by 42 inches and the width by 48 inches in just a couple of minutes with a remote control button system.

Suddenly there is a thousand square feet of room to work, space to hold conferences, a kitchen/restroom complex and there's a majestic, window- filled view of the surroundings unequalled by any other IRL team, driver or supplier support vehicle.

GM trailer: the 'Indy car in a box'.
Photo by Anne Proffit.
On the ground floor of the trailer, there are workstations for 15 trackside support engineers, all connected to a [wireless-capable] LAN. In a separate storage bin apart from the main floor, there's space for four Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 engines in case of an emergency. Tool cabinets, workbenches, a kitchen and restroom comprise the balance of the first floor.

A circular stairway toward the front of the trailer leads to the penthouse, which houses a 12-seat conference room - with collapsible table - as well as a secondary workroom. There's a vehicle simulator on one table that GM operatives call "An Indy car in a box." The sealed second story is 70% tinted glass to enhance the viewing experience.

A canopy attached to the second level can fully enclose the side of the trailer, allowing engineers to pull a Dallara underneath to perform full engine diagnostics or, potentially change the engine. Storage for the heating, air conditioning and ventilation controls are on the second floor, accessed through a custom-designed grouping of side and rear doors.

Up on the roof are a satellite dish, real-time weather station and UHF radio antenna. These enable discussions between GM Racing units in California, Michigan, the United Kingdom and Germany and also provide viable air density information on demand. Paging between the trailer and the pits is also possible in real time making it a lot easier to get climactic information back and forth.

"That's important not only for the calibration of the engines," said GM Powertrain IRL program manager Dennis Weglarz, "but also for tuning the aerodynamics of the race cars. The trailer also has a radio repeater that ensures dependable communications throughout the track." Of course, GM Racing fit an auxiliary generator for the trailer.

The electronics capabilities include three servers for the LAN, 48 ports, six phone lines, two HDTV receives, four flat-panel displays, XM satellite radio, OnStar, VCR and DVD players in addition to the accoutrements mentioned above.

Personnel who are working in the new GM Racing engineering trailer this month in Indianapolis appear to be pleased with the efficiency of their new technology center. They can all work together to meet the needs of an IRL engine program that "has expanded dramatically in 2004," Weglarz revealed.

"We have new services for teams using Chevy Indy V8 engines and there was a real need for more workspace. The new two-story trackside support center achieves our goals efficiently and effectively."

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Series IndyCar