The Chariot Makers

Team BRIT engineer Al Locke gives us his run down on the challenge and excitement on the Spa 25 hours from the pits.


Spa was always going to be a tough race. It's the longest race in the world, around arguably the greatest circuit in the world. A 7km track with 20 turns, a gradient of 18% at one point (Eau Rouge-Raidillon, of course) with a total elevation change of over 100m, all set in the stunning scenery of the Ardennes.


In The Art of War it's written that “Every battle is won or lost before it is fought”. To that end the team put over a hundred hours of preparation into the car. Strip, check, clean, adjust and rebuild. By the time the car got to Spa we knew we were ready, we just needed to have lady luck on our side.

Any time a red or yellow flag goes out there's a moment of calm panic for a race engineer, a few seconds between the flag and your driver responding on the radio to confirm it's not for them. Usually it's not your car, but when the radio stays silent the calm panic changes to steely focus as you prepare your team for what might turn up on the back of the oncoming recovery track.

In the middle of the night the flag went out, and the radio stayed quiet.

In avoiding another car coming too quickly up the inside our car had ended up in the barrier at turn 15. The data would later show the car was doing just over 60mph when it hit the wall, and of course the damage was significant. The driver was fortunately unharmed, but we had our work cut out to get the car drivable again.

It's in these moments you realise how fortunate you are to be surrounded by such an excellent team. The mechanics worked tirelessly and silently to assess the damage – the car needed a complete front end replacement, the radiator and steering rack were destroyed, the suspension was bent and snapped, and the necessary forward lighting was completely missing. Sweat pouring down our faces, broken fibreglass and bent metal strewn wall to wall in the pit garage, piles of tools and fastenings, there was a shared determination that there was no way in hell that this car wasn't going to see the chequered flag. The UK factory JPR mechanics joined the party in a galvanised effort to make this mess of metal into something beautiful again.

Less than an hour later the car was fixed, and it pulled out of the garage and down towards La Source, to rejoin the race. The pit lane erupted into applause. Headsets back on lads, we've still got 15 hours of the race left...