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IRL packs up, heads down under.


While the unification of the US open-wheel racing scene may have had obvious benefits for the sport and those involved this season, it has also caused its fair share of headaches, not least as the logistics experts get to work ahead of next weekend's Nikon Indy 300 in Australia.

One by one, teams headed to the Indianapolis International Airport and, under cloudy skies, dropped off their cars and equipment for loading onto two 747s bound, they hope, for the supposedly sunnier skies of Surfers Paradise.

The enormous undertaking of transporting the necessary racing goods for the cars that will compete on the Gold Coast actually began immediately after the 9 September
championship finale at Chicagoland Speedway, as nearly 500 Firestone Firehawk tyres, 90 55-gallon drums of 100 per cent fuel-grade ethanol and three Delphi Safety Team vehicles were trucked out to Los Angeles and loaded onto a ship, which left port on 17 September and arrived in Sydney late last week.

However, with unification came a greater number of teams and cars to be accommodated that the Indy Racing League has ever faced before. Although making annual trips to Japan in order to race at Twin Ring Motegi, the series has never been bigger than it was in 2008, and a full complement of runners in Australia means that the 13 teams are shipping 36 cars 'down under' between them.

This year's Motegi race, of course, only featured the pre-2008 IRL regulars, while the Champ Car contingent bade farewell to the ailing series at Long Beach.

“Our biggest challenge for this trip is the space,” co-ordinator of operations John Dininger said. “On our previous trips to Japan, we've typically had 18 entrants instead of 24. That's why we shipped some things early, to free up space on the planes. We're doing a lot more consolidating of the freight to make sure it fits.”

At the airport, two days before the 747s are scheduled to take off, Dininger supervised the organised chaos as the parade of transporters arrived and a half-dozen forklifts moved crates.

As teams unloaded, members of the 35-person crew on site looked over manifests before everything was weighed, stacked on rolling pallets, shrink-wrapped, covered with a weatherproof net and moved to a holding area ready to be loaded onto the plane.

Each team is allowed 9000 pounds of equipment in addition to its race cars and, once loaded with the 400,000 pounds of equipment, the two planes – one Air New Zealand and one Atlas Air - will fly from Indianapolis to Brisbane, with fuel stops in Los Angeles, Honolulu and Fiji.

“We arrive on Saturday 18 October, and the teams arrive on 22 October,” Dininger confirmed, “We're on track over 24-26 October and then we'll load it all up again and come home....”


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