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Getting ready for Australia
An interview with Team Rahal's Dave Cline

10/3/00


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October 3, 2000 - A veteran of several overseas races, Dave Cline, parts manager and shipping specialist for Team Rahal, has the task of organizing and packing the team for the upcoming CART race in Australia. During the season, Cline is one of the team's shop-based foremen responsible for the purchasing of parts, processing incoming invoices and building maintenance. However, when CART heads overseas for a race in another country, Cline not only leads the effort to organize and pack the team's equipment, but is also is in charge of making sure it's unloaded safely at their destination and then repacked for the long journey home.

HOW MANY OVERSEAS RACES HAVE YOU HELPED THE TEAM PREPARE FOR? DAVE CLINE (TEAM RAHAL) - "I've done close to 20 now, I'd say. I've been Australia to six times, Brazil five and Japan four. And then next year, of course, we'll be doing five overseas races instead of three with the two in England and Germany."

HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT PACKING AND LOADING EVERYTHING FOR A RACE THAT IS OVERSEAS? - "My job is to maintain the containers that we ship the equipment in and make sure they're in good condition. The transporters just arrived last night at eight o'clock last night from Houston and will leave again at five o'clock in the morning on Thursday. In between then we've got to build four cars back up, pack all the parts and get them on the road, which I have to do without giving the race crew any more extra work. Basically they put their toolboxes away on the truck just like they do on a regular race weekend, so I put everything from the trucks into the containers, compile the shipping manifest and document it all. The truck drivers help me to load the two race transporters with cars and a third semi with a box trailer for the equipment. My job is to organize, pack and load everything without creating more work for the guys who just got back from the track so they can concentrate on the cars."

SO YOU PACK THE EQUIPMENT AND THE MECHANICS TAKE CARE OF THE CARS? - "Yeah, they just do the cars. I pull all of the equipment out of the transporters that we don't have doubles of, like pit equipment, and pack it into the shipping containers, which are then loaded into the third cargo truck. Fuel tanks are provided for us in Australia, but we have to have our valves and things like that. We have an ongoing checklist and our manifest consists of about 43 pages of equipment. So we'll take three trucks to Indianapolis - the two race transporters loaded with the cars and the cargo truck - and that'll be loaded onto airplanes by FedEx for us."

SO WHO MAKES THE FINAL DECISION ON WHAT OR WHAT NOT TO BRING? - "The crew chiefs. We have a set amount of stuff that stays packed all year long and then you have your checklist. In this situation, it's the second last race of the year and you might have a few less spare parts where at the beginning of the year you were kind of 'fat' on spares, so we try to stick to that list pretty much. We already made it through the last two overseas races with this amount of stuff, so we try to keep it at a limit because you're only allowed around 8,500 pounds of equipment per car. Above and beyond that you have to pay $4.65 per pound, which can add up pretty quickly if you go too far over the limit and we don't add a lot of things we don't need."

OTHER THAN THE CARS, SPECIFICALLY WHAT ELSE DO YOU TAKE WITH YOU? - "We take anything and everything we would need to maintain the cars during a race weekend, like nuts and bolts, air equipment, suspension uprights, turbos, headers, basically all the spares we take to an American race but in less quantity. Both teams don't have spares; you have to do a little more sharing. Instead of taking two of each cable, you take one of each cable. Basically when you leave for an overseas trip you're going there to maintain a car, not build a car. When you're in the United States, you have enough stuff to build cars, and that's kind of the mentality you have to look at when you're doing this. Reynard is also at the race, so if we have a catastrophe and need some parts, they have a sizeable number of parts available for us at the racetrack."

DO YOU TAKE ANY OF THE 'EXTRA' ITEMS, LIKE GOLF CARTS OR SCOOTERS? - "No, we don't take that stuff. We take the timing stands, all the radios, six engines, 14 sets of wheels, four cars ... you still take a lot of stuff but you don't have a lot of the amenities. We still cater all of our food in and things like that, but you take care of it over there. We've still got to take all the drivers' stuff, like four helmets each for both Max (Papis) and Kenny (Brack), four driving suits, four pairs of driving shoes ... you don't take any comfort away from anyone."

WHAT'S YOUR ITINERARY FOR PREPARING FOR THE TRIP TO AUSTRALIA? - "I've spent the last two weeks while the team has been on the road preparing cases, getting labels set up, breaking down the manifests for each container so the crew has a checklist for what was in it the last time we went so we pack the same things. The truck drivers leave on Thursday morning for Indianapolis with the equipment. Once CART has cleared the equipment through Customs, the planes, I believe three 747's, arrive on Saturday when they're loaded and depart for Australia. Once in Australia, they'll bring the equipment to the track and unload it into our garage and we have to basically go about setting up a shop from scratch with the stuff we have."

HOW QUICKLY FOLLOWING THE RACE DO YOU HAVE TO HAVE EVERYTHING PACKED FOR THE TRIP BACK TO THE UNITED STATES? - "We usually get everything packed up in two to three hours. It's a pretty big job and everybody participates - the engineers, the truck drivers, mechanics - so it goes pretty fast. I actually will spend the day Sunday packing things that we're done using and organizing crates and other things that need to be packed."

WHAT ASPECTS OF THIS TASK DOES CART HELP YOU WITH? DO THEY CLEAR CUSTOMS FOR YOU - "Yeah, they do it as a bulk thing. It's viewed as a low-risk deal, so we give all the paperwork to CART and as we're unloading our equipment they review it and show it to the Customs people and they clear it as it goes along. At any point Customs can open any box and check the contents to the manifests. The biggest things they look at are the engine and chassis numbers because they're the high-value items."

WHAT ARE YOUR DUTIES ONCE EVERYTHING IS UNPACKED? - "I help get everything set up, I go shopping for paint and things that you can't take, I get snacks, I arrange the catering and make sure it's taken care of, any special needs for the drivers, if we need something that's not at the track I go around and get it. My job is to take care of the amenities, so I stay pretty busy."

WHAT KIND OF THINGS CONCERN YOU ABOUT TRIPS LIKE THIS? - "The big things is making sure the paperwork is in order. When you show up in Indianapolis you want everything to be in line and not have any glitches. I'm concerned about if forgot something or I didn't put something down properly. That's a reason why we like to go early in the loading process. We always try to be the first people in so that the Customs people are fresh and you're not getting them after five or six or seven teams have just been through there. You get there and you're stuff is all set up right and you deal with CART and Customs in a professional matter so that our stuff gets through as smooth as possible. And it's the same when you're packing to come home.

HAVE YOU EVERY HAD AN INSTANCE WHEN YOU'VE FORGOTTEN SOMETHING? - "The good thing is that there's usually a couple of stragglers along the way, and you can pack those guys up pretty good. We've taken crates that were 40 inches long and 20 inches wide and 20 inches wide. I've shipped plenums over for engines that weren't complete, partial gearboxes, bodywork that they decided to use, down to a guy who forgot his helmet. And that's why we have the checklists that we use. I have a pretty good system that every box has what was in it the last time so they don't forget it. And you trade and barter with other people at the track because they're in the same boat that you are."

WHAT KIND OF CHALLENGES WILL THE BACK-TO-BACK RACES IN EUROPE PRESENT YOU WITH? - "I don't know how CART is going to do that? Is CART going to have an airplane that can fly two or three racecars over there? I mean, we're going to two oval races and you could very easily write off a car, so I think it's going to be a big concern how CART is going to deal with that. I feel that you have to have three or four car pallets sitting here prepared to ship a car in case you total one because nobody will have the facilities to rebuild a car if they have an accident. I think CART is going to have a contingency plan for week number two, because if a team wrecks a car you can't expect them to run with one car, that would be unfair. Next year we're planning to have six cars instead of five because the season is so fast-paced, so that's the biggest concern with those two races."

WHAT'S YOUR PLAN IN REGARD TO PREPPING THE CARS AND GETTING THEM OUT TO AUSTRALIA - "Once Customs is cleared in Indianapolis, we'll load the stuff back in the trailers, come back to Columbus on Tuesday afternoon, Tuesday evening and get stuff started for Wednesday morning. Basically we have to have the cars ready to go Saturday night to go to Fontana on Sunday, so that's where I'm glad that I don't have to travel to the North American races (laughter)."

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