by Rob Wilkins
Ken Rees is the one of the 'main' men at the Subaru World Rally Team responsible for ensuring the Banbury-based squad have all they need at the various events around the world. We caught up with Ken just after the Cyprus Rally at the end of September and here he speaks exclusively to Rallycourse
and Crash.net Radio
about his job as the team co-ordinator / logistics manager, a position he has held since the mid-1990s...
Ken, during the season the FIA World Rally Championship visits 16 countries on five different continents. Just how big a challenge is this for the teams in terms of logistics?
It is always a challenge, especially when they bring in new events as they have for 2007. There are 16 events that we have got use to - we do a few European events and then we go on long hauls, so the challenge is always there.
The logistics of it all is quite demanding because we have always got to work probably 12 months in advance. As we leave one country, we make plans with hotels, with flights, with work shops, if we have them with local labour and make arrangements for the following year. As soon as the organisers of the various events release their itineraries' - which is probably about eight months in advance now - we as manufacturers' study the itineraries and give them recommendations. We then set the plans in place. Once we have got confirmed dates, as we have now for 2007, we arrange the shipping of parts for long hauls and we arrange the flights for team personnel, the hotels, and things like that. So as soon as things are definite, you can make plans.
Have you ever been at an event on say a Tuesday or a Wednesday and been sat worrying where 'x' or 'y' is and when it is going to arrive in the service park?
Yes, a couple of times come to mind. In Mombassa some years ago, in the last years of the Safari Rally, the world championship ship, the boat that was taking all the equipment there, it couldn't get into Mombassa and panic started to set in, because it couldn't dock. We were all late arriving at the service park and then it was a matter of all hands on deck. We had to arrange to get the ship to another port in the end and then get everything off.
Again, a couple of years ago in Cyprus, I arrived on the Sunday, as I normally do for an event and the boat was delayed coming there due to bad weather. We then had to hire some local cars for the reconnaissance, which started on the Tuesday, because the boat was due in Tuesday morning, which was too late. It eventually arrived Wednesday morning and then it was a big rush to get everything off the boat and get going. We had all the team there by then and so we were basically standing at the dock looking at the boat struggling to get in, but eventually she got in and we got it off. But that was a bit of a worry and that whole championship event was in danger of being axed. That is the risk of sending things by sea, cutting things a little bit fine. We have learnt a lesson now and we work with the logistical companies that ship things around to make sure everything works OK.
This year there was the back-to-back events in Germany and Finland - and that was particularly challenging wasn't it?
That's demanding because when you pack your bag and go away for an event, normally you are only going to that event. When you are going to back-to-backs, you are packing to go to two, so you are taking more with you, knowing you are going to be away for two events.
The logistical challenge of it all was getting from one event to another. It was too close and I think the FIA have learnt now, that doing events that are quite a few countries apart, it takes a lot of travelling between the two. Trying to do it all in 24 or 36 hours, the change from asphalt to loose with the cars too, it was too much.