Interview: the mechanics - "The keys to success" The mechanics form part of the team's front-line and stand out as indispensable links in the long chain which allows Peugeot to shine in world class rallying. Three of them take time to talk...
Interview: the mechanics - "The keys to success"
The mechanics form part of the team's front-line and stand out as indispensable links in the long chain which allows Peugeot to shine in world class rallying. Three of them take time to talk about their work in the wings ...
The first word goes to Peugeot Sport's Design and Operations Manager Michel Nandan:
"There are about sixty mechanics in all, from the guys who attend the events and those who stay back at the factory to those who work for our engine tuner in Valence, in the south of France. They are divided into four teams of rally mechanics and two teams which concentrate on development work. These different teams relay each other. For example, to look after our two 307 WRCs, we had ten mechanics in Turkey, another five to transport, set up and strip down all the equipment, plus a specialist from the specialist 'hydraulics', 'engine' and 'suspension, steering, brakes' departments. They all have a specific task, but everyone must be capable of doing every job."
Ludovic works in the 'suspension, steering, brakes' department:
"I travel to eight rallies a year on average. Certain of my colleagues get out less, while others just go to tests. We are free to work out between ourselves who does what as a function of everyone's personal preferences. On rallies, you are always on stand-by and under pressure, but I like the adrenalin rush. In testing, we fine-tune the car with the pressure off, but it's nice to see the car evolve little by little too. Also on rallies, those of us who work in the 'specialist' departments give a hand at the rear of the car and it's very stimulating to work directly on the car. People on the outside often think the mechanics get bored waiting for the cars between service halts. But that's not the case for everyone.
"As soon as the car leaves the service park, we begin re-fettling the shock absorbers and brakes which may be used later. The equipment has to be operational just in case, so we have very little down time. The toughest thing on an event is when a car retires. So long as there's work to be done it's OK. Our reward is seeing the car leave service after a big job, especially when it goes on to set a fastest time to show that we did our work well! What's really nice of course is a good result at the end of the rally and we appreciate a word of thanks from the crews. We are very fortunate on that front: from the moment they arrive until the finish of the event, the drivers and co-drivers are always good with us. We feel they appreciate our work."
Daniel is Markko Martin's Chief Mechanic:
"I manage the team that builds the cars in Vélizy using the different assemblies prepared in the engine, gearbox and 'suspension, steering, brakes' departments. There are four teams made up of three mechanics each. The same guys always work together and the different teams travel to every other rally where they are assisted by the specialists from the three departments I just mentioned. After the cars are built, which takes between three weeks and a month each, we do a systems check, either at Montlhéry, near Paris. During the event, my role is to coordinate the work of the sixteen mechanics who are split into two teams to work with each crew. In emergencies, however, the majority will work on the same car. That can be impressive and onlookers sometimes wonder how we don't get in each other's way. But the guys are very skilled and experienced. They know what has to be done within the time available. Finally, the cars are entirely stripped and rebuilt as soon as they get back to Peugeot Sport, and the whole process begins all over again--"
'Ludo', 'Jean-Mi' and 'Poppers' look after the recce cars. They set everything up and also shut up shop after the event:
"We spend between ten and fifteen days out on events, twelve times a year. We are the first to leave Vélizy to take out the recce cars and equipment. From the Monday until the Wednesday, we follow the crews with a spare recce car all the time. On the Thursday, once recce is over, we service the cars for the next event and, from the Friday until the Sunday, we work on the rally cars with the rest of our colleagues. On the Monday, we load up the equipment and vehicles. That takes between four and five hours. With all the fatigue accumulated over the weekend, that can occasionally be quite fastidious and sometimes we travel straight to the next event.
"We work on a rota basis, but the same recce cars were used for four events in a row between Sardinia and Greece. Marcus and Markko tend to look after their cars very well and don't damage them. At times, however, our work gets a little more complicated. In Turkey, the underneath of the cars was covered in a coating of cloggy clay, so cleaning them afterwards wasn't much fun! That said, while our colleagues only get to see the rally from the service park, we get out to see the stages which enables us to see for ourselves the punishment the 307 WRCs have to stand up to when they pass at rally speed. Also, the drivers and co-drivers tend to be pretty relaxed during recce and we often spend some good times with them."