A behind the scenes look at how a top Historic Grand Prix Racing team works
By: Tony Hall
Iberianmph.com was in the garages, pitlane and paddock to see first-hand how a top Grand Prix Historic Racing team works on a race weekend. Invited by Forza Historic Racing we watched how the team prepared and repaired the cars that were being raced.
We were in Monaco for the 11th Grand Prix de Monaco Historic racing weekend. Team Forza had eight cars which were to be raced on the same track as Formula One.
Forza Historic Racing is the inspiration of businessman and racing driver Max Smith-Hilliard. He originally had his former Grand Prix cars maintained by an independent racing car company but eventually with the number of cars increasing it became necessary to have his own facilities. Max now has a fully prepared facility in Reading, UK which can accommodate all of his cars, mechanics and technicians.
At this fabulous venue Max and the team had bought two 1958 Lotus 16s, a 1971 Surtees TS9B, a 1976 Lotus 77, a 1976 Shadow DN5B, a 1977 Fittipaldi F6, a 1978 Shadow DN9 and a 1978 Theodore TR1. The drivers of these great cars were Max, Nick Padmore and Phil Hall.
With over 200 cars entered for the weekend’s races paddock and garage space was tight, to say the least. The F1 garages housed group G cars (F1 cars from the era 1977 to 1980 inclusive). All the other cars were in the paddock area normally reserved for support races on F1 race weekends.
Team Forza has two engineers for each car, plus additional staff for ancillary matters. All staff knew exactly what their responsibilities were and were always ready to help on other team race cars if necessary.
The team motto is “if a job is worth doing then it has to be done properly”. That is also how team owner Max Smith-Hilliard sees it. To name just a few of the team members starting with Paul. Not only was he responsible for all the logistics of the team but also for maintaining the transport lorries and driving one of them. Paul explained that each #1 mechanic prepared all the required spare parts that he felt may be required and Paul made sure they were packed and transported.
Then there is Marcus who is a fabricator in addition to his role as support engineer on one of the cars. The machinist Will, was also on hand. The team even brought a lathe for Will to manufacture certain parts if called upon to do so (which he was).
The youngest member of the team is Jordan. He is the data analyst and engineer. It is his job to download and analyse the data recorded on each race cars black box. This records such things as oil temp and pressures, water temp, fuel pressure, revolutions and brake pressure on a lap by lap basis, this being done via GPS.
Kevin who is the #1 mechanic on the Fittipaldi is also seen as the foreman of the team. Mind you I must not forget others like Trevor, Paul, Ryan, Matthew, Chris and Juan Antonio. Not all are full time employees of the team but are called in to help at events such as Monaco, however they are all qualified and know what is expected of them.
I have always said that being part of a motor racing team and travelling to different venues to race throughout Europe is not easy and I can tell you from everything I saw how hard all the team worked. Long hours, little sleep but always with a smile and a willingness to do their best.
This was born out when unfortunately the Surtees TS9B suffered quite a big accident when it rear-ended into the arm coving during qualifying. Fortunately the driver was fine but the car was badly damaged and initially thought unable to be repaired in time for the race the next day.
Not to be intimidated the team pulled together and dismantled the car and its damaged parts. Fortunately all the rear suspension, drive shafts, gearbox parts and spare rear wing had been packed in the lorry. Marcus the fabricator and Will the machinist were called upon to make and repair some of the damaged parts. The gearbox casing had sustained a small impact crack and that required welding. I even put down my camera and dirtied my hands holding down the rear axle with Paul in order that some tightened nuts could be loosened. Now I feel part of the team!
I cannot forget to mention Nick Padmore. What a great character, always ready to talk and explain what the team are doing.
To Max a big thank you for allowing me to go behind the scenes with Team Forza Historic Racing. We wish the team well throughout the 2018 Historic Grand Prix Racing.
To Paul (Logistics): I am keeping my secret but I do look forward to one of the teams BBQs!