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IZOD IndyCar Series teams load up for Japan
By land, sea and air, the IZOD IndyCar Series is en route to Japan for the Sept. 19 Indy Japan 300.  The 13,000-mile round-trip adventure for the 25 IZOD IndyCar Series entrants making the trip begins at the Indianapolis International Airport, where they unload their cars and equipment from their transporters onto metal car racks and place it a staging area on airport tarmac, where the cars and the team's equipment will be swallowed by two behemoth Nippon Cargo Air 747-400B airplanes.

The IZOD IndyCar Series' shipment isn't the heaviest (both planes can total up to 450,000 takeoff weight) that Nippon Cargo Air deals with, but is among the highest in volume. Forty-five race cars, pit and garage equipment and consumable items are meticulously packaged, arranged on a pallet and wrapped in plastic by teams for the trip.

The three Holmatro Safety Team trucks and the Honda Accord Safety Car take a separate scheduled flight, while Honda engines and Firestone tires were shipped across the Pacific Ocean on a freighter.

"It was as smooth as it could have gone," said Bill Van de Sandt, the director of operations for the Indy Racing League, who oversees the move on both sides of the journey. "All the entities involved, from the IRL officials here, to the ground crew to the teams have been working great together. It made things very easy and we finished about two hours before we had planned."

Upon arrival at Narita International Airport near Tokyo, the freight is transferred to trucks to continue the journey to Twin Ring Motegi. Manifests are checked and spot customs inspections are conducted at the track in time for team personnel to unpack Sept. 17 and begin preparations for the race weekend.

Before the champagne is uncorked in Victory Circle, packing is underway for the return trip.

"It's a difficult process, but it's very well-organized," van de Sandt said. "The cooperation of the governments, the freight forwarder and the airlines works very well. It's a process that is very effective and efficient."

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