Last week I won a competition on GoMotorsport.net, the price was to get a behind the scenes tour of the Maurissa Virgin Racing Factory, and today was the day. I was a little excited.
Woke up at 5.30 on the road by 6.30 for the 220 mile trip. Needed to be there for 11. Left plenty of time incase of traffic. So i was pootling along the motorway making good time until 9 o'clock where i got stuck along with thousands of cars making their way into Coventry in a massive tailback because of a crash. No drama's i thought....... an hour later and im still 84 miles way, with an hour to get there. The queue finally ended and with some fairly 'spirited' driving got their for 11.01 AM.
Well it's smaller than i thought it would be, i knew it was going to be no Mclaren factory but i think i expected more than a couple of buildings on a industrial estate.
3 Massive lorries are in the car park, all ready loaded for Silverstone, and one in the process of being loaded in the loading bay.
When you walk into the main building you are greeted with this:
The lobby has a couple of trophy stands in it with helmets and a few trophies. These are from the days when this was the Manor Racing Formula 3 team, Kimi Raikkonen drove for them, as did Hamilton. They have a bunch of helmets but don't have Hamiltons. This is because his dad decided to keep it for themselves.
We then got taken through to the Hydraulics and Gears rooms. As you would expect of a F1 team, these places are immaculate, plain white with nothing lying around at all. We were asked not to take pictures of the bits in these rooms though, hence why the gearbox at the end is covered up here:
We handled a couple of the rear axles, incredibly light, made from aluminium and some other non disclosed material. The guide then showed us the gearbox and gear assembly, which alone was stated as costing £100,000. Incredibly intricate design, looked like a beautiful bit of engineering.
We then moved onto the main assembly room itself, Timo's and Jérôme's were semi stripped down:
We were shown Jérôme's car and had a brief chat about it.
The guide then got one of the engineers over to talk to us about the cars and teams themselves, spent about an hour discussing various parts of the design, the team, showing us how things work etc.
In the middle of the bay were two spare Cosworth engines, both producing about 700ish bhp.
A few more random pics:
Considering the near £1 million per car you wouldn't expect this kind of finish, but it's supposed to be very confortable for Jérôme
Had a quick handle of one of the suspension struts, crikey, they're pretty light, amazing the amount of forces they can handle. I watched as they were loading them into the back of the lorry. Each one is wrapped individually in it's own neoprene flight case and put into special racking.
We talked briefly a bit more about the team members roles and about the pitstops. Made me chuckle when he said that they are limited to 47 team members working for the chassis at the race and so their I.T guy is the rear jack man, and one of the truck drivers is the front wheel man.
Sadly we didn't get to meet Jérôme or Timo, but apparently they never come here, i guess there's no real reason for them to though. He said that the only reason they need to turn up is for seat fitting.
We then moved onto the second building, first room held the carbon fibre workshop, apparently these are the hardest working members of the team, on the track before everyone else, leave after everyone. So many repairs to do every track time.
We were shown what the floor plate is designed to do, how the air flow works etc.
Moving into the next room is where the storage is for the overseas containers. These are perfectly measured up to fit in Bernie's fleet of planes.
Loads of random bits and pieces dotted around here:
Stack of used wheel rims, notice the one with the massive bloomin hole in it, forgot to ask him how that was caused.
They then showed us the pit they have just dug, they are fitting in a 4 point simulation thing (can't remember the technical term) It simulates a race track by hydraulics moving pistons up and down in time with the bumps and kerbs etc.
We asked if they were planning on using a wind tunnel anytime or building one, no was the answer. They are allowed 40 terraflops of data on a computer program to simulate downforce etc. per month.
Finally we were shown the trophy room from their Formula 3 and Formula Renault days, sat there all nicely was Kimi Raikkonen's season winning Formula Renault
So then, all in all a cracking day was had. I learnt an incredible amount, and came out having much more support for the little guys. I'll find myself supporting them through races now aswell as Mclaren I think. One last thing, they are trying to get rid of the stigmata of being known as the Virgin team. Virgin support them now only as a sponsor rather than a part of the team, so they are trying to build themselves up as the MAURISSA virgin Racing Team.
Thanks for looking, any questions and i'll try and answer them