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My Jordan Test

By Ed (Try Hard) Clark
June 23 2004

Loads of fans dream of what it would be like to live and work with the team for a week.  One lucky JFO reader got to experience that and here (reproduced with kind permission) is Ed Clark's account of his week testing with Jordan at Silverstone. 

I’m going to start off explaining a little of the background of what this is all about and how I got this fantastic opportunity….

It all started when I recently attended the open day held at the Jordan F1 factory over the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend. This was an awesome experience in itself, with an opportunity to tour the factory (almost) completely with a free rein, including a tour of the teams wind tunnel facility, some thing which is, I believe, almost un-heard openness by any F1 team.

During this day, a competition was run, involving twenty questions regarding Jordan Grand Prix. The prize for this competition was the opportunity to join the test team at a test session during the season. Now, as I’m sure you’ve already guessed, I won’t bother with you with the details of who won (hint: the author….), although I will mention that I was one of only three people to get the full 20 out of 20, and actually discovered later that the reason I won (dammit, mentioned it now) was because of a hyphen placed in the surname of the Head of Marketing and Brand, Mike Hall-Taylor. First time my grammatical skills have earned me anything.

Anyway, moving on. The prize for the competition was to join the test team at a test session during the year. As it was, I was given a number of options to join the team, but the only three-day test (well I did want to take maximum advantage) was taking place on the 13-15th of April, at the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit (which, incidentally for those who don’t know, is just across the road from the Jordan factory).

Day One

At 9am on the morning of Tuesday the 15th, I turn up to the Jordan factory in my wonderful chariot (a Skoda Felicia Estate), for kitting out and introductions, before heading across to the track to meet up with the rest of the team. Kitting out basically exactly what it says, everything bar boxers and socks were replaced with yellow and black Jordan branded Puma clothing. Apart from the trousers that is, as they only had mediums, and being a bit lardy they were never going to fit… So jeans it was then.

Now resplendent in our new gear, including a rather nice jacket (that was meant to be returned… ahem), and remembering to retrieve my digital camera from my car, we headed off to the circuit.

At this point I’ll just quickly mention something. You may notice I have been writing a lot of this as “we” and not “I”. This is mainly because I wasn’t the only person to be given the opportunity to join the team, oh no. I guy called Craig, who completely bizarrely, goes to the same university as me (he’s even doing my “old” course) had also been invited along, although this was through different means. So there were two of us, eager, excited, and slightly overawed F1 fans, about to do something that very few people get to do. Although even at this stage I had no idea of just how much we were actually going to be allowed to do on the cars. All I could think about was just how the cars would sound.

Having arrived at the circuit, the first person we were introduced too was Dave O’Neill, the chief mechanic of the test team. To be honest, he seemed a little busy to be phaffing around with two newbies, so for the first half an hour or so we stood at the back of the garage just observing the mechanics go about their business. (Left: first view of an F1 car)

During this period though, something quite special happened, in that I heard an F1 car for the first time in the flesh (I have never been able to afford to go to a GP). What a noise, if it can be called that. You don’t just hear it; you feel it through every part of your body. Everything vibrates, and it is just a purely intoxicating sensation. TV audio just doesn’t do it justice, although I may have a slight bias because I was standing less than 5m away…. Later on in the week I managed to capture some video footage with my camera that give a reasonable impression of the sound.

It’s amazing, truly amazing. Although I did feel a little stupid, grinning like a Cheshire cat, but as I’m sure all of you petrol heads should be able to understand, I couldn’t help it.

Anyway, when Dave came back we were introduced to Biscuit, whose job it is to look after the tyres for the car during testing and race weekends, as well as being a truckie. Basically, it’s Biscuit who makes sure that the right tyres are on the car at the right time, with the right pressures. So, first up for me and Craig was to help with transporting the tyres from the Bridgestone garage to the Jordan garage, and then collecting up the tyre warmers when required.

Being the jammy sod I am though I only had to carry one set of tyres through (ok less of the carry, more of a push on a trolley), before I was grabbed by one of the mechanics on Nick Heidfelds car (which incidentally was Chassis 01 at the test, which is the current race weekend T-car), named Nessy, given a radio with a set of headphones, and instructed on how and when to remove the tyre blanket from a tyre before the car takes to the track. So going from tyre monkey, to standing at the right front of the car, waiting to be given the go ahead by the #1 mechanic to remove “my” blanket! Ever felt like being thrown in the deep end….

Anyway, the time came for Nicks first run of the day, and all the mechanics took their positions. To help out later, I’m going to go through the names and positions of the mechanics now, as well as the procedure before a run, although by this point in real life I only knew of Nessy and Biscuit.

Carl and Spider were standing by the telemetry screens to the side of garage (Both of whom were responsible for given the mechanics green light), Ace on the rear tyres, Monkey on the remote starter and rear jack, and Nessy and I on the front tyres, with Damo standing by to remove the umbilical from the cockpit, and then remove the stands from under the car, before it was dropped to the ground. To divert quickly, the umbilical is what basically allows communication between car and computer when in the garage, as well as supplying power to the electrics as well (the batteries in a F1 car are tiny, and only hold enough charge for about 5 minutes of power supply with the engine off). With this link the software engineers are able to upload changes to any software on board the car between runs, and this happened on a fairly regular basis during the test (be it traction control changes, or any sort of sensor mapping).

Dudley was standing at the front of the car, as he is the #1 mechanic for the T-Car, and was responsible for co-ordinating the rest of the team, and giving the final Ok to start the car before the run, based on three green lights in the gantry pod above the car (one for the Cosworth guys, one for the Jordan telemetry guys, one for the mechanics).

Once all three lights were green, Dudley would give the final Ok, and indicate for the blankets to be removed, with the rears being completely removed, and the fronts removed, but then loosely placed back on, awaiting until the last possible moment for removal. At the same time Damo would remove the umbilical, and Monkey would plug in the remote starter, and turn the engine over.

And then the eruption would start.

Once the engine was turning over, the front blankets were removed, Monkey having already removed the starter, and placed the rear jack under the car. With Dudley and Monkey lifting the car, Damo removes the carbon fibre stands, and the car is lowered to the floor. Nick selects first gear, and the car moved from the garage.

Now this whole procedure is performed every time before the car goes out for a run (and as its taking a fair bit of writing I won’t mention it again, just refer to it as pre-run prep). For the first few time this occurred, I just made sure that I didn’t do anything wrong, and remembered to remove the blanket at the right time and so on. It was pretty nerve wracking it has to said, as if there was a small mistake on my behalf, the car wouldn’t be going anywhere fast. And as you can imagine being the “New Guy who fubar’s” is no fun at all…

Anyway once my job was done for the first time, and Nick was gone from vision, Nessy introduced me to Damo, and suggested that I be taken up to the pit wall, and shown how to (for want of a better word) work the pit-board.

Now this was cool. Once I’d been run through a couple of time what to do (change lap number first, then do lap time), and been given a few tips (i.e. if you don’t know the time, just leave the previous one on). Damo left me to it, and there I was standing on the pit wall, with myself being a once-a-lap connection with Nick. By the end of the day, I was really getting into this, keeping one ear out of the headphones, and using my ears to position where on the track the car was. This was massively helped by knowing the Silverstone circuit well, and in the end it was fairly easy to tell when the car was coming through Bridge, which was the cue to get ready to place the board out, as there was only another 15-20 second or so before the car arrived, a blur of yellow on the pit straight. You can get the idea from the video clip I took on the pit wall on the final day.

Also, during any period when the car was in the garage, it was tasked to Craig and I to keep it looking clean. As soon as the car was in the garage, and the tyres were off, we would both grab a can of spray polish and a cloth and jump on the car, attempting to remove as much black carbon brake dust as possible. In total it would take about 5 minutes to get the car looking shiny (as far as the well-used paintwork would allow), from the front wing to the rear. One thing that was quite noticeable whilst doing this was how much more dirty the left hand side of the car appeared compared to the right. Must be something to do with the direction the car travels round the track at Silverstone (anti-clockwise). I can’t remember how many cans of spray on polish we went through during the test, but it must happily be in double figures. It was also highly amusing discussing with any spectators standing in front of the garage about the importance of the polish for “aerodynamic” reasons.

Hopefully given you an idea of what was required of Craig and I during the test, and I can move onto other interesting bits.

The first day of testing was really productive, with Nick completing about 90 odd laps, with no car glitches. Most of the morning session was spent getting a good baseline set-up for the car. On the first run, Nick commented that while the balance was ok, there was too much understeer. To start off a front roll bar adjustment was tested, followed by a front wing adjustment. This seemed to cure the problem, and allowed the team to start running through a tyre test program.

For each run of the tyre program, 7 laps were run, with an out and in lap, making a total of 5 timed laps. Usually the second lap in the run was the fastest, and it was highly interesting to see the variance in the times from the different types of tyres. Some were quite obviously not as good as others (one of the worst surprisingly being a hard tyre nominated for Spain by the Red Guys…). Nicks best time from the first day was a 1:22.4, with the worst fastest being about 8-9 seconds off that.

With each run complete, Nick would come back into the garage, and still sitting in the car, discuss on the radio with Gerry the performance of the tyres over a run. Nick would give his general impression of the tyres, and where it was strong or weak, and then Gerry would ask him to rate it on a scale out of ten on certain aspects, like warm-up, overall grip, traction, braking, and graining. Each time Nick would be able to say to for each individual aspect, which in was pretty impressive, showing a very good level of perception as to how each tyre type related to others.

The tyre testing basically took up most of the morning session, and at lunch, I got to witness something fairly impressive for the first time (although by the end of the test, it would almost become commonplace), and that was an engine change. Now this wasn’t because there was a problem with the engine, it was because the engine was come up to its specified distance limit, having already been used on the test weekend. This turned out to be a pretty regular lunchtime activity, and it did end up causing problems on the final day, as will be explained later.

Anyway, after about 50 minutes, the old engine was out and a new one installed, although is no-where near the quickest it can be down, which is apparently (according to the mechanics) about 35-40 minutes when the s**t hits the fan.

The whole change has a pretty standard (if such a thing can be called that) procedure, with the first requirement being to remove the complete one-piece floor, allowing access to the lower pair of the six engine bolts. (Yes, that is correct, there are only six bolts holding the engine to the chassis, two on each head, and two on the block. The same goes for bolting the gearbox onto the engine, six bolts involved again.) Actually when pretty much any work is required on the engine/drivetrain the floor has to come off, as with all the components mounted as low as possible, it’s a very tight fit. Once the floors off, it’s a simple (!) matter of undoing the ancillaries first (i.e. hydraulics, and electrics, although the brake piping can be left connected, if it’s only an engine change, an the gearbox is going back on), and then removing the gearbox from the back of the engine, usually with suspension and so on still attached.

Once the gearbox is removed and out of the way, any bolts attaching the radiators to the chassis are removed, followed by the fuel lines. No other connections need to be removed, as the water and oil radiators are removed as one with the engine block, which helps allow for those rapid engine changes. Then the six bolts holding the engine to the chassis are removed, and then the block is pulled back, radiators and all, to be replaced with the new unit.

Once the new unit is in, the gearbox is replaced, pipes and cables plugged in, and fluid levels topped up. Then the floor is replaced, and hey-presto, you have a (almost) ready to run F1 car again.

Sounds so simple doesn’t it…..

Anyway, with the engine change complete, it was time for the engine and system test. This basically requires a similar start procedure to the one previously mentioned, although there are some differences, not including that this time there are no wheels attached to the car, and its is sitting on stands about 2 foot off the ground.

To begin with Damo hops into the car (quite feat with it being up in the air), and is handed the wheel, plugs it in and makes sure that the ignition is on and the gearbox is in neutral. Meanwhile, Monkey has the starter placed in the car, and Spider is waiting by computers, checking that the system fluids were still at the correct pressures and temperature for startup. When everything is ok, a call for “P1” is made, and Monkey turns over the starter, in five short bursts, but not letting the engine catch. (I was never able to find out an exact reason for this, but I believe it had something to do with allowing any oil trapped in side the engine between the crank, con-rods, and casing to be moved, removing possible problems starting because of pressure build-up). With the P1 stage complete, and everything showing ok (a quick monitor check is all that is required) “contact” is called, at which point everyone puts there ear defenders on, and then engine is started.

With the engine happily ticking over (if it can be called that), a software program supplied by Cosworth is started, running through a set of throttle blips and constant rev runs, allowing the engineers to check that all required sensors are working properly and there are no physical problems with the engine. With the program run, an Ok is given to Damo to check the gearbox, and make sure it will change up and down properly. For this, he ran up through all 7 gears, and then down, back into neutral, before going back up the gears again, and then coming back down, but going through neutral each time. This was quite possible as the car cleverly remembers which gear it was in before Neutral was pressed, and would change down to the gear below that (7-N-6-N-5-etc). Of course this was all performed with the engine on, so you had to make sure you were standing nowhere near the rear axle, as t was actually rotating at a fair lick, especially in the higher gears. Once the check is completed, Damo would signal to Spider, who would then cut the engine, which in itself is impressive, as it would just stop, no momentum carrying on the components inside. And with the sudden reduction in decibel level, the system check was complete. All that was left to do now was bolt on some tyres, drop the car down, and get back out on the track, which by now was open for running again.

This session was primarily used for testing some aero updates, namely donut-covers on the rear brakes, and a new spec rear wing, as well as for testing updates to start control systems, and the traction control.

Now you may be wondering how you could get any updates to a “manual” start, but whilst there is no complete computer control, and the driver manually operates the clutch, there are still ways of influencing the control mechanism to almost replicate launch control. One way of doing this is to provide a non-linear relationship between clutch position and paddle position (i.e. Where the paddle can move a few mm, without affecting the actual clutch engagement position), as well as providing adjustments to throttle positioning. One of the main aims for the start is too match the engine speed with layshaft speed, and as at low an rpm as possible, giving the greatest possible torque. During the test I got chatting to Carl about this, and he explained it fairly clearly (with the aid of the a couple of diagrams). Apparently with a decent start system you can shave 2 tenths off a 0-100 run, which although it might not sound like much, when you actually consider how quick these cars get to that speed, it’s a fair amount. This is an area where the Renaults seem to have come up trumps, Carl himself saying they seemed to have found the best compromise between low revs and fuelling conditions. Of course you can’t always get it right, as twice the car stalled on the practise starts, caused by over fuelling the engine at low revs, which the anti-stall was powerless to stop (anti-stall works by disengaging the clutch, not much help when the engine is chocking on an abundance of fuel).

For the traction control, different base settings were tested (and these continued through out the test), and Nick was also able to adjust these whilst out on track. Interestingly, the adjustments were separated between lateral (side to side) and longitudinal control, with the lat setting theoretically control how much the rear could slide, and long adjusting the amount of forward slip. Also the TC could be adjusted to try and control the rear tyres under braking. Clever eh.

All of these software updates were passed into the car via the umbilical cable, which basically is the lifeline for the car when it’s in the garage. It supplies all the power to the systems, as the on-board battery lasts about 5 minutes with the engine off, and also has a direct link to the ECU, and hence any control system on the car, which was aptly demonstrated by Carl when he amusingly popped open the fuel flap during a conversation we were having, just to demonstrate it, and almost hitting Dudley in the head in the process (cueing some play fighting between the two. I did notice that Dudley and Carl were always trying to get each other back in more and more violent ways during the test…).

Later on, with the program almost complete, a new spec rear wing was brought out, and it was time to gain some more aero loading data, however time was against us, with only 10 minutes or so before the track shut. It was a pretty manic time as Nick came into the garage, the tyres changed, and the six bolts holding the current wing on were undone, quickly followed by the new spec being bolted on. The was engine started, and Nick made it onto the track with about 5 minutes to spare, enough time to get the 5 laps in, enough to perform all the required constant speed runs on the straights. Interestingly, to keep the car at the speed, the team had set up a system using the pit limiter, configured to different speeds, so all the driver needed to do was select the correct map, make sure he was in the correct gear and then hit the limiter button, and the car would settle down to the required speed. I think in total there were 4 different test speeds, ranging from 180Kph to 240KPh. Now if your wondering how they managed to use the limiter with out ripping off the fuel-flap, its fairly simple as there is an option to disable the flap opening in the software. In fact on the first day this very problem occurred, and damaged the hydraulics with controlled the mechanism, but as the fuel was being pumped into the tank directly, this didn’t matter, and the flap was just bolted down.

With the afternoon session finished, and the track closed, Nick and Gerry, along with the telemetry boys, disappeared into the truck for there de-brief, whilst the mechanics (including myself and Craig), proceed with the set-down. This involved stripping the car down almost completely, checking any parts that may have worn too much (i.e. brake discs, pads), replacing any components, and then putting it all back together again. Once the car is back together, a system check is required, so out comes the clever gadgets to heat up the fluids and pressurise the hydraulic system. First up, a gearbox check is run, to make sure that everything is ok, and the clutch works fine. Then the engine is run up to check the systems, and also run through the gearbox again. Usually if all goes well, (although they usually don’t) the set down can be completed in about 5 hours (including dinner break) or so.

However on this occasion it didn’t….

A problem was found before the engine run, in that the gearbox wasn’t engaging the gears properly, so off came the gearbox again (having already been removed earlier in the set down), and the actuator unit was replaced. Back on the gearbox went, and everything was run through again (see above), this time thankfully passing with out a hitch. So with all the drivetrain systems checked, all that was left was to top up and bleed the brakes, give the car a quick polish and then attach the set-up wheels ready for a set-up and weight check the next morning. We finally left the garage at 11pm, with loose instructions to be at the track again for 7am the next morning…

Day Two

Following a comfortable nights sleep in a nice B&B, I arrived at just after 7, just in time to tuck into the bacon baps being offered to the crew. Brilliant, two breakfasts for the day, I felt like a hobbit…

Anyway, first job of the day was to check the set-up of the car, and check the weight distribution, mainly as a check that nothing went awry during set-down the previous night. With everything given the ok, the fluid heaters were plugged in, and the engine turned over by hand, to make sure no oil was trapped inside the block, cause a pressure increase when started. The heating of the fluid takes about an hour or so, with all the fluids being past through an external heater.

After an hour or so, the fluids were up to temperature, so time for the first engine start of the day. Everything went according to plan, so we got set for the first run of the day. As yesterday, the first part of the morning was going to be checking set-up to make sure that any track condition changes were causing problems. However the very first run was a quick installation lap on intermediate tyres, just to make sure there were no other problems.

With the car back in garage, and no problems apparent, it was time to start running through set-up verification, with the car turning 3 timed laps before coming back into the pits, and any adjustments being made. Thankfully only a small adjustment to the front wing was required, so after two runs everyone was ready for a morning full of tyre testing, running through a similar program to yesterday, with different combinations of compounds and construction.

All was going surprisingly well, until about halfway through the program, and during the middle of a run, everything went a little quite whilst standing on the pit wall. I had been waiting for Nick to come round into sight on the pit straight so I could show him the board, when I glanced at the garage and noticed Dudley, Monkey and Damo clambering into one of the Silverstone incident response vehicles. Turns out Nick had had a “bit of a moment”, locking up and spearing off into the gravel.

So I placed the pit board down, hoped off the wall and waited in the garage to gain my first sight of the car arriving on the back of a flatbed. Thankfully however, there was little damage to the car, only a few small chips to the paintwork, as well as a general covering of dust. Nicks head surround however wasn’t so lucky, needing to be replaced after having had the helmet pounded against it so hard as to crack the layer of fablon (at least that’s what I think it was) covering the foam.

The tyres were removed, given a quick dust off by hand (it’s incredible how much dirt a heated F1 tyre can pick up), and placed back in their blankets, to be used later. All the gravel in the sidepods was scooped out, and the car given a general check-over, to make sure nothing had been knocked out of alignment, cue the set-up wheels…

This set the tyre program back a while, meaning it wouldn’t be competed until after lunch. However during lunch, an engine change was again required, so it was decided to delay putting the car back out (it was close to the hour of track closure for lunch), and start with the engine change. With the new engine it was also decided to change the gearbox, so everything came off. Thankfully, the team has a separate area for preparing the engines and gearboxes, so the gearbox didn’t require the mechanics to add the suspension or rear safety structure.

During the change, myself and Craig really weren’t able to help too much, so we just attempted to make ourselves useful as and when we could, mainly by removing as much dirt from the chassis as possible, including a thorough clean out of the radiator inlets, as the only effectively way to remove any rubber marbles (which are seem to be melted together) is by removing the mesh guard on the rear face of the pod.

With the new engine and gearbox bolted onto the car, and engine and system check run (including a highly amusing eyebrow singeing for Monkey), we were ready to go testing again, as the track had opened up again a little while earlier. First up another installation lap was called for, but this time the tyres that Nick had gone off-roading with were used (instead of the usual inters). Everything was fine, and with the car back in the pits, new tyres were bolted on and the tyre program was continued, Nick eventually setting a new best time of 1:22.1 during this session, indicating some good progress was being made in the right direction. Also during this session, Nick was requested to perform some practise starts, but so as to not disrupt the tyre run, these were performed in the pitlane, after the run. Each time Nick would come down the pitlane and stop, select any required parameters, hit the throttle, and then let the clutch in.

It is quite incredible watching just how quickly these cars accelerate, as you don’t really get to see too much of them when they are on track, although its not so good watching it jerk forward and stall, as happened on a couple of occasions, followed by some ribbing from the mechanics on Giorgio’s car…

Once all the tyre testing had been run through, and all the data checked over, it was time to move onto to making set-up adjustments, attempting to find a good base for Imola. As the longer runs were not required, each run was only consisting of 5 laps, including in and out laps. The main concentration was on adjusting the roll centre, both on the front and rear, as well as damper changes. For speed of adjustment, when required the whole damper assembly was removed, and quickly replaced with the new set, no fiddling around with dampers on the cars. Also Nick had made some suggestions for the start procedure, mainly revolving around the throttle and clutch, and these too were also tested, again with practise starts being performed in the pitlane after a run.

It was during this session that Nessy deemed Craig and I competent enough to receive some nicknames…. Thankfully I got off lightly, being given the relatively unimaginative Mr Ed. Craig however wasn’t so lucky, isn’t that right Mr Bean?

Anyway, with the afternoon program complete, the car back in the garage, and the track now closed, it was on with set-down. For this set-down, a complete change of some of the rear end components was required, with the wishbones, pushrods, and safety structure coming in for a change, along with the usual brake disc and pad change. Thankfully, there were no major problems for this evening, although we did have a large fight trying to get the outboard end of the wishbone onto the upright, until Monkey realised that by tightening up the bolt holding the push-rods in, a slight distortion of the upright was created, meaning the already tight fit was too tight...

We still ended up taking just as long as the previous night however, and it was about 22:45 before we left the track, with all system check complete, and the car on its stands, awaiting tomorrow, which incidentally would turn out to be the most interesting day yet.

Day Three

Thursday again I was at the track just after 7am, although this time I had forgone the cooked breakfast at the B&B, and enjoyed the bacon and egg baps laid on by the chef at the track instead. By the time that I’d finished munching, the set-up check and so on had already been performed on the car, and we were just waiting for the temps to reach the required level. It has to be said though that everyone was looking a little worse for wear this morning, with the lack of sleep beginning to show.

During this time I was able to have a number of discussions with the guys, including how they were recounting the old days, and who was their favourite drivers, and so on. There were some interesting comments it has to be said, and most of which I don’t think I can safely repeat here, suffice to say that they do like the new parc ferme rulings on the race weekends (no 2am finishes any more).

Anyway with everything up to temps, the system check was run and everything was clear, it was time to get running. On went the intermediate tyres for the installation lap, and off Nick went. This was almost becoming routine by now.

However things started on a downward spiral as soon as the car was back in the pits. Nick was happy with the car, and everything was fine, but he himself wasn’t, having (in his words) “a small headache”, which was making driving difficult. It was hurting enough that he requested if it was possible to have more padding placed on the headrest, in an attempt to soften any head movement. I can’t remember why this didn’t happen, but Nick agreed to go back out again, and attempt the first run of the day.

So off came the intermediates, and on went the slicks, the car remaining unaltered. Nick left the garage, and completed one lap before coming back in, much to the bemusement of the team. All became clear when Nick radioed to Gerry that the reason was he couldn’t drive the car properly such was the pain from the headache. So he suggested that for safety reasons he stop driving, which Gerry agreed with. So Nick hoped out of the car, and that was his test over. However it wasn’t for us, as Timo Glock (the teams third driver) had been called and was asked to divert his drive to the airport via Silverstone. Now I had actually met Timo the previous evening, when he came down to the track to have a seat fitting (see left), as the team still didn’t have a proper seat for him. He is a really nice guy, and took a fairly big interest with what everyone was doing. Also the mechanics think he’s great and get on really well. It was fairly obvious to see this, given that it was gone 7pm before he finished the seat fitting, how many more drivers would have agreed to that?

Anyway, with the time on our side waiting for Timo to arrive, most of the mechanics spent time sorting out small jobs, like getting the correct pedal position, (which a bit of a sod given the tight confines of the foot well, although aided by screws which are undone on the external side of the chassis), putting Timo’s seat in place, and making sure the headrest had the Timo’s name on in a level position, which was my job, not easy given that the headrest refused to stay flat whilst applying the sticker.

After all the little jobs were complete, I pretty much spent the time chatting to Carl, Damo, and Dudley, whilst Craig wandered over to the engine prep area to have a look at what went on over there. It was all very relaxed and no-one was really too fussed that they weren’t doing anything, except maybe Gerry, who was a bit concerned knowing that we weren’t going to get a full programme in today. Oh how little he knew….

When Timo arrived in the garage all suited and booted, Damo and Dudley quickly set about making sure that he was comfortable in the car, and everything was ok. There was only a slight problem with a pedal rubbing the side of his foot (the pedals have a U shaped section, to hold the foot in place), but he was fairly confident it wasn’t going to affect his driving, so it was left as it was.

First up for Timo was an installation lap, again on inters, just to make sure he was comfortable whilst on track, and familiarise himself with the track conditions. Then it was onto to some timed runs, mainly for set-up work. However two laps into the first run, and there was a distinct air of concern in the garage, as well as no noise on track. So more problems it seemed. All the telemetry signs pointed to a massive drop in hydraulic pressure, which all the mechanics hoped for was just a simple leak, not a major component failure. Guess what, it was a major component failure. Originally it was thought to be a diff failure, so off came the rear crash structure and drive shafts, but nothing could be seen to be obviously leaking, so a look inside the box was required. What had actually happened was a baulk ring had broke, and severed a hydraulic line, which explained the very sudden drop in pressure shown on the telemetry. Usually to solve this quickly, the whole rear end would be changed, however due to having performed so many changes already in the test, the team didn’t have either of the two spare cases prep’d, so it was quickly decided to take the old box off and transfer any parts that were required across to the new box. So off the box came, and disappeared into the engine shop at the back, to have the diff, rear suspension and safety structure transferred across. This took about an hour and a half to complete, so yet more time for everyone else to hang around in the garage, and by the time the gearbox was ready to go back on, it was midway thorough the track closure for lunch. So for the morning session, a total of laps 5 were completed, so as Dudley put it, “Its just one of those days”.

Anyway, the problems weren’t yet over. During the engine and gearbox tests, Monkey noticed that the left rear driveshaft had an unusually large amount of movement in it, rotating in an oscillating fashion. As you might have guessed, this required the removing of the left rear suspension, and being replacing the shaft and upright. The easiest way for this, as the driveshaft is pretty tightly integrated into the upright, was just to replace the whole hub and upright assembly. This however caused a slight fitment problem with the brake duct that was noted during the next set of engine and system test, thankfully cured with a quick attack with a dremel….

This cost yet more time in the afternoon session, and by the time everything was ready to run, there was only a few hours left, and the decision was taken just to attempt to get through as much of the afternoon program as possible, which was based around more set-up adjustments, mainly to the rear dampers and ride height.

Thankfully no more problems were forthcoming and Timo managed to get in about 20 laps, gaining some useful data. To finish off the test all the team required some data on another new spec rear wing, but with only 10 minutes or so before the track closed, it was about to get pretty manic. The car arrived in the garage, and all at once the tyres were changed, and the six bolts holding the current wing on were undone, quickly followed by the new spec being bolted on. The engine was re-started, and Timo made it onto the track with about 5 minutes to spare, was left just enough time to get 5 laps in, which was enough to perform all the required constant speed runs. And with that the track running was over.

As this was the end of the test, everything in the garages needed to be packed away, and taken back to the factory. First on the list was the cars themselves, so the trucks were driven onto the pitlane, and the cars wheeled onto ramps and hoisted inside. Whilst this was going on, everyone else was either attacking the advertising hoardings in the garage area, or packing any tools and equipment into the relevant containers. It was quite impressive to see that everything pretty much has it’s own place in the multitude of containers that appeared from inside the trucks.

With the cars delivered back to the factory to commence a strip down, most of the mechanics travelled back too, whilst the people left were mainly the truckies, including Biscuit, who was recounting tails of the worst pack up they’ve ever had (brazil 2002 IIRC, as it P’d it down, with water getting absolutely everywhere, even destroying a number of tyre blankets.). Craig and I also stayed behind and helped load everything into the remaining truck, and once this was full, travelled back to the factory to help out. It took about 3 hours in total to go from a fully operational F1 team workspace to a bare garage, which is pretty astounding really, considering the amount of stuff that is required to run the cars.

And so back to the factory we went, by which time the mechanics had pretty much stripped the cars down completely, with the bare chassis being sent to be re-sprayed by the paint shop for the first time that season, and any major parts being dissembled down to their component parts. At about 10:30 everything had been done, and it was time to head off, my experience of working with an F1 team was (unfortunately) over. I was amazed at how normal everything felt by the end of the three days, almost like I’d been doing this for longer, which I think was due in part to the fabulous group of mechanics who I was working with.

To finish off I’d just like to say a few words of thanks,

To Jordan Grand Prix for allowing this experience to happen,
To Russell Banks at Club Jordan, for providing the opportunity,
To Dudley, Damo, Nessy, Monkey, Nathan, Carl, Spider, Gerry, Biscuit, Nick and Timo, and to anyone else involved with the EJ14/01 car at the test, for being so accepting to a complete novice, I hope I wasn’t too much of a liability.
To Craig, aka Mr Bean, it was a pleasure working with you sir, never know may happen again some day.

Well, I hope this article has been interesting to you, and thank you for taking the time to read it, I may not be the best writer in the world, but I hopefully managed to convey a feeling of what it is like to do something many of us dream of, but only very few actually get to do. This is something I will never forget.


Ed Clark

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