By Ian Lockwood
September 18 2005
Whilst most people were in a rush to get home from work on a Friday afternoon, I was driving to Milton Keynes for a tour of the Red Bull Racing Factory
I had been on a tour of the same facility around two and a half years ago when the team was under Jaguar ownership. The first thing to strike you was the livery of the building. Jaguar had had a typically understated fronting to the building, but now it had the full Red Bull treatment.
Walking towards the main reception area it was clear that the makeover was not yet complete. The main reception area was still being built and we were directed across the road to the second factory unit and a temporary reception area to meet Russell Banks and the rest of the guests.
The factory is effectively split into two units. On one side of the road is the largest building which is where we started. First up was the design offices where numerous people were sitting at computer screens rotating multi-coloured CAD produced components around. Once the designers have come up with something they think might work, the designs are sent to the model shop to be made into scale models. The main model area was off limits to us and the windows were all papered over as it was presumuably full of the latest RB2 ideas which for obvious reasons they don't want people to see yet. We were shown the machines that produce some of the models though. Big baths of liquid resin are slowly solidified by intricate lasers cutting the required shapes from the CAD files.
There is also a large component test room where giant rigs can stress test new parts, twisting, rotating and vibrating new parts to simulate race conditions and ensure parts can last the distance. At the back of this room is a simulator - basically a mock-up of a cockpit where drivers can get used to the layout of the car and the various controls and switches.
We were shown the various milling machines used to produce components and the carbon shop where the big rolls of carbon firbre were cut to shape and placed on moulds before being baked in one of the "autoclaves" - giant ovens.
We passed the paint shop (not allowed to go in due to paint fumes) where a number of nose cones were sitting outside from the recent Silverstone test. They were getting a re-spray to get rid of the numerous stone chips that they had suffered.
There was a table full of various components that we could examine - most were extremely light for their size, the exception being a small lump of "ballast" which was unbelivably heavy.
Across the road the second building houses the assembly areas and race bays. The team were in the process of loading the trucks for Brazil. As it is a flyaway race everything was packed in specially shaped cargo boxes to maximise the use of hold space on the specially adapted planes that are arranged. Rails full of clothing labelled with team members names were also waiting to be loaded. We all had to move out of the way quickly as one of the race cars was wheeled out of the factory and towards a waiting truck. We were shown a room full of brake discs ready for examination and the transmission department who were busy dismantling and cleaning some gearboxes.
The race bays theselves had the cars from the Silverstone test just being dis-assembled, the engines had been removed from the tubs of cars, showing the bright gold lining used to reflect the heat away from the fuel cell & driver. There was just time to get a few pictures with the cars (see below!)
All too soon, the tour was over. Thanks to everyone at the factory for making us feel welcome, and for taking the time after the tour to gather the views of "Pit Bulls" members to see how we felt about the club and what we would like to see in the future