TORONTO, Ont. – The Honda Indy brings a chest-rumbling roar to Toronto’s lakeshore this weekend, as IndyCar drivers like Canada’s James Hinchcliffe take to the streets in open-wheeled monsters that boast top speeds of close to 370 km/h.
But the specialized equipment is not limited to the cars. Each team is supported by a series of customized trailers that began rolling into town on Wednesday night. By Thursday afternoon, the work behind the scenes of the IndyCar event was already well underway.
The race paddock – a dimly lit loading area beneath Toronto’s Enercare Centre – is now lined with rows of rigs and cars alike. The three trailers supporting Hinchcliffe’s Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team are parked side by side, with a temporary hallway punching through the sidewalls. The unit in the middle has been transformed into a command center for the engineers; the cabinet-lined trailers to the left and right store equipment and workbenches alike. The precious cargo in the form of the cars themselves are stored in a contained loft up above.
And they’ll participate in a race of a different sort when the Honda Indy concludes. The trucks will begin to roll out less than two hours after the checkered flag drops. By Monday morning they have to be in Indianapolis where the cars will be tweaked for the next race. Tuesday night they’ll be reloaded and back on the highway.
“Everything we got to pack in there, there’s a method to it,” says Jeff Darks, vice-president of marketing. “Every cabinet has a label to it, and for weight reasons everything has to be loaded the same way every time because we’re right at legal weight limit on all three trucks.
“There’s times when you get pulled through the weigh station and you might be a little over and they’ll say, ‘Toss me a hat and we’ll call it a day.’ Then there’s times that they don’t care you’re a race team. They’ll make you pull over and pull stuff out and reload. They like to pick on us sometimes because we’re so visible going down the road.”
Each Kenworth supplied by Calgary’s Oculus Transport is operated by a pair of team drivers, ensuring that they can run nonstop from one race to the next — no matter where it may be. And these truck drivers are responsible for much more than ensuring everything arrives on time, too.
“They basically take care of all the equipment you see out in pit lane. They manage setting up the pits for us, maintaining the equipment all weekend, and then most importantly they also do the tires,” Darks says. “Our truck drivers are in charge of mounting, measuring, maintaining the tire program all race weekend long.”
Then there are the other duties as assigned, whether it’s stocking coolers or collecting lunches for the race teams.
“They’re just as busy as the mechanics are. Probably busier,” Darks says.
Timothy Lane, who has been driving the trucks for just over a year, was completing regional and inner-city hauls before he talked his way onto the team. “I was an IndyCar fan,” he says. “I watched the races and I was a truck driver, and I said, ‘Maybe I’ll put it together and be on a team.’ It all started from there.”
They roll across plenty of fans on the highway. There are thumbs up. The honking horns. The calls from fellow truck drivers on a CB who are looking to learn about the next race.
Fueling the cars in Pit Lane is one of the most challenging tasks outside the truck itself, Lane says. “The fueling is pretty hard. It’s very fast-paced, you know. It’s a lot of things going on in such a short period of time.”
But it’s fulfilling a dream. “Watching the race, you think, ‘Man, I’d like to be part of that,’” he says.
Now he is.
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