Flying rally cars! That is what every fan dreams of. However, we’re not talking about spectacular jumps here, but the transport of rally cars to an overseas event like the Rally New Zealand. While the majority of the technical equipment is stored in containers and shipped by boat, the rally cars usually travel by plane. However, that is just one part of the logistical master plan that every rally team draws up for each round before the start of the season, in order to ensure that a massive amount of material arrives at the right location on time. Unlike in Formula One racing, every WRC team has to do its own shipping schedule.
Bruno di Pianto is the logistical mastermind in WRC Team MINI Portugal. The Team Manager has planned all thirteen rounds well before the first WRC event. Bruno decides where each technical part must be at any given time and, obviously, how it gets there and back. A tricky job – particularly first time round. Once the logistics plan is in place for the first event, a similar system can be employed for the following rounds. “There are only a few minor changes,” says Bruno. “For example, it is important not to forget the heating apparatus for the Rally Sweden.”
About 50 tons of material is on the move for each rally. In the case of overseas rounds, two giant 75m³ containers are transported by ship. Each container has space for up to 28 tons of equipment. One holds the recce cars, the other general equipment like for the service area or hospitality plus general spares or tools. A further 3000 kilograms of additional high-cost parts are sent by plane, including the rally cars itself. Meanwhile motorsport freight specialists make all the arrangements for import/export customs clearance in each country to make sure the team do not get delayed to start a rally. If a WRC round can be reached by land, the technical team travels with three trucks.
In principle, each rally team has enough spare parts to ensure that practically every possible kind of damage to the car can be repaired several times over. You never know what will happen at a rally. Only if the roll cage is damaged can the teams do nothing about it. In this case, the WRC regulations stipulate that there are just two possible outcomes: either the roll cage can still reliably protect the driver and co-driver, or not. In the first case, the team can continue. In the latter, the damage results in an automatic retirement from the rally.
For rallies in Europe, WRC Team MINI Portugal dispatches its material about a week to ten days before the start of the event. This journey begins much earlier for overseas events. For example, the equipment for March’s Rally Mexico was sent on its way in mid-January – and is only now returning to Europe. This is because the material is not brought back to Europe after the first overseas event, but is sent straight to the next round in Argentina. From there it makes its way straight to New Zealand for the third WRC event outside of Europe. The cost of this logistical effort? About 400,000 Euros for European events and a good 450,000 for those rounds held oversees, provided the cars remain largely undamaged.
As this was the case for WRC Team MINI Portugal in its first season in the WRC, the team is already looking forward to the return of its overseas freight. And the MINI John Cooper Works WRC cars driven by Armindo Araujo and Paulo Nobre are already winging their way back from the last overseas event in New Zealand. What happens next? The cars are stripped down to their individual parts and a seemingly endless stream of technical data is analysed in order to improve the MINI WRC in time for its next outing. You can find out exactly what happens to the cars after each rally here.
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