MEET THE TEAM – RACE MECHANICS

Le Mans TestIn our latest series of reports from behind the scenes at TOYOTA Racing, we describe the day-to-day tasks of our race mechanics at TOYOTA Motorsport GmbH (TMG).

Andreas, Jan and Alex are part of our team of mechanics responsible for maintaining the TS040 HYBRID and are trackside at each event. Their job is often regarded as every mechanic’s dream. The fascination of motorsport, paired with travelling to race tracks all over the world sounds like a desirable job. But what’s the bottom line of this job? A great deal of hard work and discipline! “You must really want the job. Just to jump on the opportunity for a year or two because it might sound ‘cool’ will very quickly take you to your personal limits. You have to be prepared to fully embrace this job and not throw in the towel easily,” says Jan.

The job of race mechanic takes quite a physical and mental toll. With race distances of six to 24 hours in WEC, the potential for incident is high and this does not automatically mean retirement. When the car needs attention, world championship points are on the line and the most stressful moments of the race await the mechanics. Working under enormous pressure, they have to be confident of every move.

In extreme situations, such as after the #8 car’s accident at Le Mans, up to 10 mechanics work at the same time on different areas. This is when teamwork counts and keeping cool matters most.

Only when the cars line up on the grid do our mechanics catch a breath. When the lights go green, they are on stand-by in case of incidents and during a pit stop the adrenaline level rises further. “Some days you sure reach your personal limit. However, you have got to perform error-free. It can be done if what you do is close to your heart,” says Andreas. “The drivers give 100% and rely on us when they’re pushing to the limit.”

And pushing to the limit sometimes means things don’t go to plan. Jan notes that it is “sometimes very emotional. There is so much work and time invested in each car. When a technical failure eliminated our car from the lead at Le Mans, we saw grown men shed a tear.”

“Working at TMG had an impact in my personal development. Over the years I grew much calmer and focused. Because to perform this job successfully, you must be able to stay cool in stressful moments,” says Andreas.

He and Jan started as race mechanics at TMG before the F1 era. Alex only joined the team last year. “I used to work freelance and especially in the winter months I pretty much worked all by myself. I was therefore quite impressed by how well I was received by the team. Personal interaction is very much supported here. I wish that this positive working climate would be the same elsewhere, especially as this cannot be taken for granted in professional motorsport. That’s something I’ve experienced over the years with a various teams”, says Alex.

Over the year there’s a regular cycle of events, not to mention the days of preparation back at TMG. For European events, the cars are transported by our truckies. As Andreas has a truck driver’s license, he likes to assume this task as well. “Having the possibility at TMG to drive the team truck in addition to the mechanic work is a bonus for me as I come from the commercial vehicle sector. My father was a truck driver.  Especially the trip to the test tracks and back is always a highlight.”

Once at the track, there’s plenty to do to prepare the car. And don’t forget the pit stop practice; preparation of all aspects is essential. “At the race track it’s all about time. The tension is palpable throughout. The adrenaline pumps through your veins, prompting you to perform. I’m addicted to it!”

It is certainly never boring. The most exciting aspect of a race mechanic’s job is that the work has a direct impact on the outcome of races. One of the biggest challenges is to minimize the sources of potential defects and errors. Close cooperation and good communication across all departments is particularly important.

A race mechanic needs strong communication and coordination skills, as well as stress resistance and mental strength. Working independently, a high degree of flexibility, problem-solving ability and reliability are essential qualities for the job as a race mechanic at TMG.

Because a strong team is a prerequisite for success, emphasis is placed on teamwork and the welfare of employees, from infrastructure through training and education. Andreas remembers his first impressions: “I was very much taken aback by what I saw when I first walked into the workshop on my first working day here. Up until that moment I had only seen such environments in educational films. I got here after my training as a truck mechanic and had to start all over again. The first years definitely were an apprenticeship.”

For others TMG has become a second family. “The benefit of working as a race mechanic at TMG definitely is the family-like atmosphere. We are not a large company. And we all enjoy motor sport. The team spirit is evident. And also the perks we get here are very good. The canteen, the gym, the physio groups; it all adds up to a perfect package,” as Jan says.

“Of course staying concentrated at work is very important in this job. But you can have a laugh here and there, too. We have fun with each other at work, and if we work into the evenings, we have the odd beat sounding from the speakers.”

The common goal, the struggles on the way to victory, that’s what keeps our mechanics pushing and dealing with sometimes stressful situations with confidence.

To sum it up: “I can imagine no better job as a mechanic,” says Andreas. And Jan adds: “I am proud to work for TMG.”

Given all that, requirements demanded from a potential new team member are high. In addition to the professional qualifications we expect, the human perspective is just as important to success in motorsport.