THE TRUCKIES: BETWEEN ROAD AND TRACK

TMG  Factory 11th-12 February 2015. Cologne, Germany.

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing has three full-time truckies at World Endurance Championship races, but these hard working and passionate team members have many, many more tasks than the job title suggests. We spoke to Sven to find out more…

In terms of truck driving, what are your tasks?

“We are three truckies fully dedicated to the WEC; Christian, Paolo and me. We mainly take care of three trucks: the engineers’ truck, the one dedicated to spare parts and the one transporting the cars. But we have also some support trucks; the final number of trucks on track depends on the event. For example, for Le Mans we have eight trucks to transport everything but that really is an exceptional event. We work for the races and for the tests in between as well so we are fully booked during the whole year. Between the races, particularly before Le Mans, the tests take up quite a lot of our schedule so we never have time to get bored.”

How do you organise before the event?

“At TMG in Cologne we mainly prepare the next race or the next test. We take care of the preparation for the event and also the maintenance of the equipment, which is very important. For example, when some equipment is broken, we repair it and we try to keep everything in the best condition. One of us, mostly Christian, is looking after the tyres, cleaning the rims, changing the valves. When all the things we need to bring to a race or a test are ready, we load the truck, which is not always an easy task.”

And then?

“Then, the second part of the job starts with driving the truck to its destination. Depending on where we are going and how far it is, and the number of us available at this time, we can be alone or two in the truck. When we reach our destination, we go straight to the circuit. If it is a race weekend, we need to wait for permission to park in the paddock. We have to respect track schedules, so we sometimes have to wait before we park and start to build up. If it is a test, we are normally alone at the track so we start to build-up the same day as we arrive.”

Do you drive the same truck all the time?

Most of the time I drive the same truck. It is a big one, a double-decker we usually call the engineers truck or office truck. It takes between five and six hours to build it up completely. At the same time my colleagues start to unload the other trucks and to build-up the garage. In general, the truckies are alone for these operations but sometimes few mechanics are at the track and help us out. We do the base installation in the garage the first day and the day after the mechanics can start to work on the cars. The second day allows us to finish the preparation.”

What is your job during the race itself?

“During the event, we have different missions. Some of us are taking care of the tyres and some look after the fuel for the cars. Christian is working on tyre preparation and has to have the tyre sets ready when the engineer calls for. Paolo and I are working on the refuelling operations but without touching the cars. Our mission is to fill the fuel tower which is used during refuelling. I am the one called the “dead man”. I’m controlling the fuel flow shut-off valve at the tower. I am not considered as one of the working mechanics that’s where the name comes from – it is a quite strange term I agree!”

And after the race?

“After the race we have to pack everything to bring back to Cologne. That means bringing back the tyres, the fuel stuff, the tools, the machines, the spare parts; everything! The trucks have to be loaded before we go to sleep on race day. Usually, we spend our last night at the hotel before leaving and as soon as we arrive in Cologne, we unload the trucks. We have to be as quick as possible because most of time engineers and mechanics have to work directly on the cars. Sometimes, we do not have so much time between the races and the tests.”

Did you already experience some problems during the journeys between Cologne and your final destination?

“Yes, sometimes you have some surprises. Once we spent a night parked and in the morning when we wanted to restart, no more fuel! Someone stole the fuel in the truck during the night. We are not afraid to travel alone but we have to be very careful when we stop. We know the value of what we transport.”

Would you change your job for another?

“I started that job in 2002 and before I was a mechanic in a normal car dealership. I really enjoy my work with the team. On one hand I enjoy driving the truck from one place to another and on the other hand, I enjoy being a full part of the team during the action. I have two different jobs in one and I wouldn’t swap my job for another!”