Understanding the near-impossible task that is motorsport logistics

Understanding the near-impossible task that is motorsport logistics  image

Text: Eric Tipan / Photos: | posted February 12, 2014 09:40

A look at Audi's herculean task of hauling equipment around the world for the FIA WEC.

If you think packing for a family of 6 for a weekend out-of-town is hard, try interning for one leg of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) with Audi.

Aside from the immense challenge of winning races, Audi is faced with the task of packing and hauling 38 tons of material and equipment to take on a ‘global journey’ by land, sea and air.

Audi’s R18 e-tron quattro is competing in eight World Championship rounds in starting in Europe then to Asia and North and South America during the entire season this year and the logistics is managing the cargo is, sometimes, as challenging as the race itself.

“A World Championship such as the WEC is not only a great sporting and technological challenge but has to be prepared with high precision in terms of logistics as well.  In Audi Sport Team Joest we’re relying on a squad that has been at home on the world’s race tracks for decades and that knows what counts – with respect to major tasks as well as details,” says Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich.

The logistics of FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season opener in April and the races all the way until June 2014 will only require land travel throughout Europe, which won’t really be the stress test of Audi’s logistics team.

When Audi starts using hybrid sports cars and competing in more WEC rounds abroad, that is when it gets tricky.  At Austin, USA, the WEC has set up logistical infrastructure for all teams and collectively will be moving 200 tons of cargo by air.  That doesn’t even include other equipment which will be shipped.

Throughout the duration of the WEC, Audi will cover 49,000 kilometers between before returning to Germany last this year.

“The material doesn’t return to Germany between these stops.  This means we’ve got to consider the mileage limit of the individual components plus possible accident damage in our planning. There are some particularly stressed components, which are subject to defined replacement cycles, as well as single components that are used several times,” said Chris Reinke, Head of LMP at Audi Sport.

The race cars, the spare parts and other components for the vehicles, all the tools necessary for repair and maintenance, including lifting platforms and garage equipment all travel by air.  All of it is stowed in 176 flight heavy duty cases weighing around 38 tons in total. 

Driving it, shipping it or flying it down to race venues is one thing, bringing it down and setting it up is a different matter all together.  Audi has its own deployment group that works with laser-like precision.  This team arrives at the destination a day earlier to get ready to receive the cargo, set up everything to ensure proper time management and then stay a day later to take it all down and pack it up.

So the next time you watch the WEC, know that the race is only half the battle.