COMPOSITE MECHANICS AT WORK!

World Endurance ChampionshipTOYOTA GAZOO Racing has three composite mechanics on track to support team operations. We spoke to Principle Composite Technician Robert to describe his job, which is very specific and requires a lot of precision. Let’s discover his world…

What is carbon fibre?

“Carbon fibre is a strong material which is also lightweight. It is used to reinforce composite materials in all applications requiring high mechanical strength for a reduced weight. The best example is motorsport. My job is to prepare the bodywork of the car. From the front to the back pretty much everything you see on the TS040 HYBRID is carbon fibre.

“In the company itself we build all the items; the wings, the bodywork, side pods and everything. At the track we modify the parts if necessary and repair anything that needs to be fixed. Of course not everything can be fixed but generally we are able to fix most of the damaged parts. Obviously, after a heavy crash like Kazuki’s at Spa, it becomes impossible.”

Do you have an unlimited number of parts?

“No, certainly not. We do not have a lot of bodywork sets during a season. Usually at the track we will have a couple of spares for each car, at least in terms of the bigger parts. After we race, we do a service and check the parts. Anything that is broken is changed or repaired. When we repair, we have to be very careful how we repair because the glue and the additional carbon fibre adds weight and the car must not become heavy. It is a bit tricky but we make it work.”

What happens before the race and during a race weekend?

“Once the parts are built up in the company, we organise the shipping to the events, which is not always an easy task. You have to be very cautious to avoid any damage during transport. Coming to the race itself, it starts at the beginning of the week when we get the set-up of the cars from the engineers. Generally, we get front-end and rear-end changes, some set-ups or some aero work. This is normal. Often we get some last-minute modifications at the track which means you need to react very quickly to these requirements.”

…and during the race itself?

“When the race starts, everything should be finished. Then, we turn around and change our job to pit stops. Because the bodywork parts are built up and ready to go, we are involved into pit stops. Personally, I am involved in the driver change, so I have to jump in, strip the driver in and change the drinking bottle. We are three composite guys in total and during the race, one is wheel changer and the other one supports the refuelling.”

And what about Le Mans?

“At Le Mans, 24 hours is very hard on the car and they do suffer. After 24 hours of racing, you need a big service! We have tested several times in our so-called endurance tests and the parts were okay. Le Mans is a very special feeling and completely different from the other races. From the start to the finish, the set-up to the way we get there, the preparation work is all very specific for this race. There is more pressure and more people are looking at you. It is really a special race, a legend.”