20 June 2006
VXR: Truckies have feelings.
In the latest column for VXR, Mark Porter talks about his role with the team and explains that truckies have feelings too…
It's a bit of a mixed bag really in terms of what I do with the team. For a start I drive the truck, obviously, but then there is all the logistics too. I've got to make sure every single item is there for the weekend. If anything is missing then it's my fault or if something goes wrong then it's the truckie who gets the blame!
I have to make sure that everything gets packed into the race truck before we head for the circuit and then make sure that it looks good when we get there and is all nice and shiny. For a race weekend, with a three week or so gap, getting ready isn't too bad as we have more than enough people working with us. The problems arise when you have fewer people as it becomes a lot harder. Obviously you have to do more work, but with this team it's pretty sorted and well organised so it isn't too bad.
I'm not just the truckie with the team, I'm also in charge of the tyres and I have 120 rims to look after. That includes three sets of wets per car and then 60 slicks on a weekend. I have to mark all the tyres up, get TOCA to sign everything and I have to deal with the paperwork. There isn't so much of that involved but if we get it wrong then we could be disqualified from the race, so it's important. Tyres is my focus for the entire race weekend as that is more than enough when you are looking after three cars. We have two tyre men and I look after Tom and Fabrizio while my colleague Neil looks after Gavin.
Each tyre has to be marked up with where it is going on the car, so front left, front right and so on, because each tyre will be different and have a different pressure in it, they aren't all the same. The team can do different rotations as well so you might get one that starts on the left front that ends up on the right rear if they cross it over, or they can move a tyre from the left of the car to the right so it can get a bit complicated at times – especially with some engineers...
If I was to make a mistake, especially on a circuit like Thruxton then it could be fatal. I've only had one blow-out there and it was on a slowing down lap after the race so I was quite happy with that as the driver wasn't injured.
Away from the track, the week leading up to the race can be busy. I have to tank up all the bottles, get all my tyres ready and decide which ones we are going to scrap and which ones we are going to save and carry over for the next meeting and polishing all the kit. The day before we leave, we have to get everything loaded into the truck and strapped in and then away we go!
Once the weekend comes to a close we want to be away from the track and the quicker the better, I want to be the first truck out of the paddock everytime! If everything is ready then we can get the truck loaded up and be ready to go in about an hour and a half which is really quick, but other teams can take three to four hours. I'd say we are amongst the fastest. Some circuits don't let you get away too quickly, places like Brands Hatch because the paddock is so tight. At the start of the year we were sat in the truck for 45 minutes waiting to go but couldn't because other teams had pulled their tractor units forward and blocked it in. The like it because we are sat there, but I don't like it – I just want to go and get home.
I'm not a big fan of Knockhill either although I do like Oulton Park and I'll admit that Brands Hatch is good for viewing as we get to see a bit of the racing and that is something that we don't normally do, or I don't anyway. To be honest, I don't like watching that much as my toes are wrapped round my ankles and my stomach is going so I can't watch – it's too nerve-wracking!
On the whole we've not had the best start to the year as a team but things are going to get better and they have to get better - if you don't improve then everyone else will go streets ahead. But we are improving and we know we are. Someone said the other week that we are the Ferrari of the touring car world at the minute but they are getting quicker again and hopefully we will too.
Just finally, like it says right at the top and while I have the chance, I just want to point out that truckies have feelings. Everyone in a race team thinks we are the lowest of the low but I reckon we are the backbone of the team because without us they wouldn't even get to the race track. We get the blame for everything and are meant to be the animals of the team but we've got feelings too – we're lovely people!
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