Category Archives: Working In BTCC

If You Don’t Ask, The Answer is Always No!

Time for my 2016 review (at last). While quite a lot of people have spent the last week or 2 moaning about how 2016 was the worst year going, personally I’ve had a fantastic year! Better than I ever could have imagined.

As most people who know me will have heard me go on about loads, I’ve spent a massive chunk of the year volunteering with Team-HARD Racing.

It all started with one random tweet from Tony Gilham (team boss) asking for any volunteers to help with a new hospitality unit being set up at Brands Hatch. As I was only working down the road I figured why not reply and go see what the set up days at a race meeting are like.

After that was all done it came to the weekends entertainment properly, and as usual it didn’t disappoint. But my mind, for most of Saturday, was taken up with thinking of ways I could get my foot in the door and get some experience working with a team. Thankfully it didn’t take long for an opportunity to show itself. When I spotted Tony again on the Sunday morning on pit walkabout, all I did was go and ask if he needed any volunteers for the rest of the season. That’s all it took! No fancy qualifications.

Now admittedly I don’t get to work on the cars much (fair enough really when they cost at least £250,000). But I’m always there to help when it’s needed and get everything set up and packed away on the big weekends. If I’m lucky, at the VW weekends (VAG Trophy or VW Cup) I’ll get to help one of the mechanics work on the of the Golf R’s that we run. On these days the amount I’ve learnt is incredible!

If you’re looking at getting into the motorsport life because you love to watch racing, don’t bother. One of the first things I learnt when I was away on my first proper weekend, is that you will probably see next to no actual racing, apart from maybe the timing screens. But if you want to work in motorsport for the adrenaline of it all then the pit lane is the place to be! The feeling being in a team’s garage when everything is going well and they’re having a good race is incredible.

 

Usually I’d go on and on about how amazing working in motorsport can be, but for a change I won’t. All I will say is, if you’re not sure if you want to work in the pit lane, go and ask a team. Chances are they’re after a few extra pairs of hands just to volunteer helping pack things away. If you’re thinking to yourself “they wouldn’t want me, I don’t have any experience” think again. There’s always room for some extra help, and who knows, if you prove to be of great value to the team and you’re not afraid of a bit of hard work you may end up with a job. At the very least you’ll make a bunch of new friends!

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To finish this off, I just want to say a HUGE thank you to Tony Gilham and all the crew at Team-HARD. Mainly for accepting me into the family in 2016 and giving me a chance to prove myself. Couldn’t have asked to work with a funnier, harder working group of motorsport enthusiasts! Can’t wait to see what 2017 brings!

 

© Mark Eakin & Sandra Hebbourn

04/01/2017

Buy One Get Two Free!

It’s been a while since I last wrote anything so this entry is a bit of a bonus special (code words for long!)

First weekend to talk about is the British Touring Cars at Oulton Park. This was my 2nd weekend working with the family at Team-HARD Racing, also it was another track I had never been to before.

Myself and 3 of the other guys bundled into a car and started heading up to Cheshire late morning, so we arrived at the track a little after lunchtime to start setting up the garages. The truckies had been at the track since the morning so I think they were happy for something to do at last. Thankfully this time we had actual real garages to set up in rather than the awning we had to use at Thruxton so garage set up didn’t take too long. Once that was done, those of us not working on the cars went to make a start on the hospitality awning.

If we thought it was tough setting up on slightly uneven ground last time, we were in for a shock this time. The truck was parked up on a nice slope just on the inside of turn 1. Great spot to watch from, but not so great to set up a big awning that attaches to the side of the trailer. The main problem being, once the feet of the trailer go down it levels out, so the awning is coming from a level onto a slope. This provided us with some headaches.

Day 1 wasn’t so bad as we only put up the framework, but day 2 was a nightmare trying to get everything to fit properly, but they don’t call us Team-HARD for nothing, we managed to get it all set up eventually, maybe with a little help from some gaffer tape but ssshhhh no-one noticed 😉

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Then we get into the race weekend proper, practice and qualifying didn’t go too bad, could always be better but it set us up nicely for race day where we had some good and some bad races, the best being race 3 on Sunday afternoon when Jake Hill went from starting 26th to 9th place! We had some results with Michael Epps as well over the day which meant we took away from valuable points from the weekend.

Packing down wasn’t as hard as at Thruxton and we had everything done about an hour earlier than the last time, shame we had a longer drive home!

A couple of weeks later and it’s time to head out again, this time even further up to Croft in Yorkshire. Not a part of the world I’ve visited much and the rumours were true, it definitely had its own weather system up there, the forecast could change faster than I can snap my fingers, most of the weekend it worked in our favour.

This was to be another weekend where we had not only the hospitality awning to set up but the garage awning too. Thankfully we were able to have them parked right next to each other just beside the track at turn one, again some great viewing to be had from there all weekend, which our Team-HARD VIP’s can vouch for as most of them never left the hospitality all Sunday apart from to come on the gird walks!

It was this weekend that I had what some would class as a bit of a promotion, really the normal guy that takes care of the VIP’s couldn’t make it for this weekend so I was asked to stand in. A few years ago I would have hidden when asked to take on something like this, but 2016 seems to be a year for me throwing myself in at the deep end so why stop now! As well as looking after the VIP’s on Sunday, I was put in charge of the Team-HARD golf buggy, which was mainly being used to get drivers and mechanics where they needed to be (usually further up near the pit lane!).

Race day was absolutely crazy for me, I was running up and down the paddock in the buggy getting equipment/drivers/grid girls all where they needed to be most of the morning before race 1. At the same time as this I had to go and meet guests as they arrived at the gates to show their passes and get them into the circuit. This was fine for a while until it all started getting close to the start of the first race, then it was a rush to get things sorted so that I could get back and take my guests out onto the grid for their first (and mine) grid walk of the day.

Thankfully most of them knew what they were doing and I knew most of what needed to be done so between us we managed just fine and everyone had a good day for all the grids. The races could have gone better for us but we still came away from the weekend with more points in the bag (this is becoming a wonderful habit for Team-HARD!).

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Around the time race 3 was due to get underway the clouds came over, during the race the rain started falling, then when all was said and done, and the team needed to start packing up, that’s when the heavens opened! For a while it didn’t matter too much as we were packing away everything inside the awning. It got messy when it came to taking down the awning itself. A few of us, needless to say got a good soaking!

Eventually we got everything packed away, and by about 9:45 on Sunday evening we were leaving the track for the last time and starting the stupidly long drive back down to Kent. This took quite a while as between 3 of us in the van we had to swap drivers a couple of times before we started falling asleep behind the wheel. Thankfully we made it home safe and sound but about 1am!

I still have to pinch myself on these weekends to realise yes I am actually doing this, I am working with a real life race team, and I don’t think I could have picked a better bunch of guys to volunteer to help with this year. Team-HARD aren’t the biggest team on the BTCC grid by any stretch, but the amount of effort these guys put in to getting their cars out there and making everything run smoothly is incredible! I’m really proud to call myself one of the weekend warriors with these guys and girls.

But wait, there’s more!…..

Ok this was more of a recreational visit, but I was originally going to be working with the team. Last weekend myself and Sandra made the trip out to Spa-Francorchamps for the British GT weekend. If anyone reading this hasn’t been to Belgium before or has seen the Formula 1 races there on TV, you need to go. That’s it. It’s so much easier to get to than I realised, just a small 4 hour drive from the channel tunnel and you’re in the middle of the Ardennes Forrest driving around on road that used to be part of the original circuit!

The only thing I will say is, be prepared for lots of walking up hill if you want to get around and see a bit more of the track. The furthest away from the paddock we ventured was up to the top of Eau Rouge but that was plenty tiring enough for us thank you very much. But what a view you get from up there! The whole place is breath taking.

As it was a British GT weekend we had friends in various paddocks, also Team-HARD were running not only in the main British GT race but also had some of their cars out there for the VW Racing Cup.

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We didn’t see the podium we deserved but got a solid haul of points to keep the team at the top of the GT4 standings, not bad for a team running their first season in the British GT championship! We’ll have to see how the last 2 weekends play out, but fingers crossed for a class title in our 1st season!

I think I’ve rambled on enough for now, I hope everyone is enjoying the insight into what its like to “work” in motorsport. Next race weekend for me will be the British Touring Cars at Snetterton at the end of this month. If you’re there make sure you come over to our garage and say hello!

GO HARD OR GO HOME

Our great friend Mark Eakin has become a Weekend Warrior! The term is used for those who volunteer their weekends to gain motorsport experience with a team, it’s a wonderful way to begin a career in motorsport or simply learn new skills!

Without further ado we’ll pass straight to Mark! enjoy!

My first weekend working with Team HARD RCIB Insurance Racing was for lack of a better word EPIC!

It all started on the Thursday morning before the Thruxton rounds of the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC), when I had to get over to the team base in Rochester to meet some of the guys and help get things loaded into the trucks to take down to the track. It wasn’t too long before our first issue of the weekend apPicsArt_05-14-01.02.27peared, in the shape of a lorry tail lift motor. Unfortunately the one on one of the older trucks was a bit worse for wear and we decided it was best not to put it under too much strain by trying to load the cars, once that was decided it was a case of doing 2 trips with a van and trailer down to the track to take 1 car at a time, the 3rd we were able to get into the other truck. First trip down was uneventful, I followed the van in my car so I could leave it down there for use over the weekend.

Eventually we got all 3 cars to the track by about 6pm, and luckily (for me) most of the garage set up had been done by the other lads so most of what was left was unpacking the details of the garage and working out who was staying in which hotel for the weekend.

Day 2 was when my work really started, when we had to get the hospitality area built and set up. Last time I did this, it took us 2 days to get it all built, this time, now we’re a little more practiced it only took just over half the day on Friday. We could get quite a good view of the track where we were if you stood up on top of the truck too. One of our team was a man that used to work for Mercedes AMG F1 up until the end of 2014, and thankfully he was able to put his organizational skills to good use here or we would have probably made a right mess. So with some good tunes on the stereo and a lot of banter we cracked on and I’m glad to say it was finished with time to spare on Friday afternoon. Even if the Boss man Tony Gilham had to get the golf buggy to try and flatten the floor out!

Saturday rolled round right on schedule as ever and this was when the work started getting manic. Most of the guys in the team all know their roles, some of them work on different cars each weekend but everyone knew what had to be done and was able to do it without a fuss. I was there to lend a hand wherever I PicsArt_05-14-01.03.24could and (hopefully) not get in anyone’s way in the process. Most of my work around the garage involved keeping the cars looking clean and shiny, making sure after each session I cleaned off any dead bugs and molten rubber.

What really shocked and impressed me was how well this team works under pressure. That came first, after FP1 when the car of Chris Smiley snapped a drive shaft, at this point once anyone working on the other cars setups had finished what they had to do everyone would chip in where they could to help get Chris’ car back together ready for FP2. Unfortunately during the next session the same car decided to lose all drive again out on track. Once back in the garage it was discovered that it needed a whole new gearbox to be able to get out for qualifying.

Amazingly and all credit to these guys, they managed to strip the whole front end of the car off, get the engine out, strip out the old gearbox, source a new one from a friendly team, prep it, attach it to the engine, get the whole unit bolted back in place and rebuild the front end of the car in under 2 hours and get the car into the pit lane just after the qualifying session started.

Sadly though a fuel issue quickly ended the session for Chris and all focus was placed on Michael Epps and Jake Hill in the other 2 cars. It must be said at this point that most people in the team before most of the work had been started, thought this would be the end of Chris’ weekend and the fact they not only managed to fix the problem but get the car into the circuit again that day was nothing short of incredible, and watching them work together like that was amazing!

PicsArt_05-14-12.59.55Sunday was another day of highs and lows (thankfully more of the former). The first race ended early with a bit like up when on of the Honda Yuasa cars caught a puncture then was collected by another car in its way into the pits. Unfortunately for us, Jake Hills car got caught up in the melee and needed some work to the front crash structure before race 2, but, saying that we still had all 3 cars finish race 1 with 2 of them in the points. Race 2 was another interesting one as TOCA decided that for safety reasons, the races were to have the total laps shortened and quite a few teams were getting punctures on the highly abrasive and extremely hot track. Jakes car was fixed, again in record time by the incredible Team HARD mechanics, with a new front end bolted on in time to make it to the grid. Another chequered flag fell and again we brought home more points and had all 3 cars finish!

Race 3 was more of the same, this time we ended the weekend with all 3 cars within the top 20, 2 of which scored points again. Needless to say when the last flag fell we were all mighty relieved and very happy with the results as Team HARD now stand ahead of some of the bigger teams in the championships.

But there was still work to be done! All the garage had to be dismantled and packed away in the trucks, cars had to be loaded AND the hospitality area had to be taken down. The garage was the easy bit, some parts took longer than others (like stacking all the flooring in the back of the truck) but generally it didn’t take us too long. The worst part of that came when we had to load 2 cars into the back of the now fixed truck that couldn’t lift on Thursday. The lift was working fine taking parts and other bits, but when we loaded a car onto the back, it decided it was too much and that we needed to help. So with 1 person on each corner of the lift and 1 in the car with his foot on the brakes, we proceeded to lift and push the tail lift up enough so that the cars could be loaded into the upper deck of the trailer!

Eventually when that was all done, all we had left was to finish taking down the hospitality area, thankfully this was a bit more simple and it all went away without much fuss, we were just losing daylight by this point. I think by the time we drove out of the circuit it was about 9:30pm and most of us had a nice long drive home to look forward to. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see my own bed as I was on Sunday night.

Before I sign this off I want to take the opportunity to thank all the gents and ladies at Team HARD, especially Tony Gilham, for giving me the opportunity to come into the team and help out as and where I could. It really opened my eyes to the amount of teamwork and effort that goes in to making a race weekend run smoothly (and we don’t even get to watch the races). All the crew here are incredible guys and I can’t wait to see them all again when we head to Oulton Park for the next 3 rounds of the Dunlop British Touring Car Championship.