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HomeNewsarticle presseHexis Racing’s other Russian campaign!

Hexis Racing’s other Russian campaign!

Posted 20 Sep, 2012 by in article presse0
Hexis Racing’s other Russian campaign!

A lot of ink has been spilt about Frédéric Makowiecki, Stef Dusseldorp, Alvaro Parente and Grégoire Demoustier who gave McLaren Hexis Racing a memorable double in the first FIA World Championship event in Russia. The drivers, though, were not the only heroes of this victorious campaign. The saga of the crews Elise Bauquel/Gil Botelho and Pierre Comby/Romain Prot also deserves to be told. They were in fact the drivers who relayed one another in the transporters, which brought the two cars and the equipment from Lédenon in the Gard to the Moscow Raceway. A road trip there and back of 8400 km, which wasn’t always a doddle!

An international racing team is used to travelling all over Europe. Hexis Racing has also sent its cars and equipment in containers to far-off lands like China, Argentina and Abu Dhabi. Going to Russia was a new challenge that couldn’t be compared in terms of distance, administrative constraints and the state of the road network.

Pierre Comby (engineer / McLaren MP4-12C GT3): “We were relaxing on holiday when we heard that the FIA GT1 World Championship calendar had been modified. Bringing a team to Moscow involves long, complicated procedures and it was all a bit hectic as we started only two weeks before the departure date! First of all, I went to the Chamber of Commerce and the French customs to declare the equipment. We drew up a list of components with the cars’ chassis and engine numbers and the parts references down to the tiniest washers that were being transported in the trucks. Everything had to be translated into Russian so we had to get a translator and we contacted the Court to find somebody. There aren’t many around in August! Then it was back to the Chamber of Commerce to complete the dossier before loading up and bringing the lorries to the customs to have the merchandise stamped. 4200 km isn’t next door so I contacted some mates who’d been to the Moscow Raceway that had been inaugurated in July with the World Series by Renault. They warned me about the risks of punctures. I looked at videos in the internet that gave me an idea of the state of the roads. I added two more spare wheels in each lorry.”

Elise Bauquel (engineer / McLaren MP4-12C GT3): “The journey began on Sunday 26th August at 06h00. It was completely crazy! In Poland there was a new motorway as far as Warsaw. After that it just got progressively worse and poorer and poorer and the roads became more difficult and dangerous. In Lithuania and Latvia you only see lorries, garages for lorries and restaurants for truckies. And there aren’t any motorways. In Latvia you have to watch out to make sure your rear-view mirrors are not hit when you pass another lorry – and you do that continuously. We arrived on Tuesday afternoon as arranged at the rendezvous with the other teams, a few kilometers from the border between Latvia and Russia. There I spared a thought for our courageous Portuguese colleagues who’d been travelling for six days!”

Philippe Dumas (team-manager): “I’d like to say Hats Off to the members of the other teams who made the same journey, which was longer for some of them. I know others who had to set out again almost immediately for another circuit as soon as they got back from Russia.”

Pierre: “Everybody thinks there’s corruption in Russia, but at the Latvian border you hadn’t even got the time to switch off the engine before a customs official was already sitting on your dashboard asking you for your papers! You think you’re in order but he’ll find something. You can’t get away from it. I asked him if we had to go to the office and he showed me his pocket. I gave him a note; it wasn’t enough, second one same story, third time it was ‘Okay perfect!’ I asked him if it was okay for the two black lorries, but Elise and Gil suffered the same fate. Like that he snitched money from all the teams. And Latvia is in Europe, isn’t it? Then we went into no-mans land with an immigration halt at the Russians for the passport check. Due to the lack of time we only had tourist visas but we got through. They searched the cabins and the boots to check that we weren’t hiding illegal immigrants, weighed and measured the lorries, checked the merchandise and the ATA carnets. We waited for eleven hours in a guarded car park for which we paid and we tried to sleep. They came back to take photos. Finally, we got back our papers and passports, but they didn’t ask us for money apart from the road tax. We left on Wednesday morning escorted by free-lance soldiers who work for the army. In Russia we saw lorries upside down and two accidents that looked fatal as the cabin was covered, cars going without windscreens, carts pulled by cattle, people who sold animal skins, heads of bears and stuffed weasels!”

Elise: “It was mind-blowing. You’re in the middle of a huge forest and suddenly you’re thrown around like a pea in a pod when there’s no more tar under the wheels of the lorries. It was like doing moto-cross with a truck! Russia behind the steering wheel is a pretty sporty place! You travel on gravel roads, which are main roads as there aren’t any others. Sometimes there’s tarmac but it’s even worse! We paid attention and we didn’t have any punctures. Other lorries go twice as quickly as you; they pull over on top of you when overtaking to make you slow down.”

Pierre: “We covered the last 600 km on Wednesday and then we hit a piece of real road and we saw the sign ‘Circuit 3 km.’ It was one hell of a relief!”

Elise: “On Thursday evening around 22h00 when everything was installed in the paddock and the pits it was our only chance to go and see Moscow. The circuit was one hundred km from the city. It takes one-and-a half hours if the traffic is flowing smoothly, but the other members of the team took four hours to come from the airport to the circuit. We saw the Red Square and the Kremlin; it’s huge!”

Philippe: “Making the effort to visit the centre of Moscow is a sign that our team has a broader vision of things. Although I’m not obliged to do it, it’s part of my philosophy and for the moment it works.”

Pierre: “We had a great weekend with the 100% Hexis Racing front row, the double with our two McLarens and Elise on the podium with our four drivers. We were happy to have made all that effort for such a result. On the return trip we were surprised as the route was better. They had tarred several kilometers of this European Berlin-Moscow road which is of strategic importance. At the Russian border we thought we’d have to pay to get out quicker, but caps and team clothes were enough to prevent us from being blocked for more than eight hours. Then we had another set of checks in Latvia with the truck going through an X-ray tunnel. They’re stricter on the return to Europe; they check the amount of fuel which is cheaper in Russia; they look for cigarettes and alcohol.”

The reigning world champions are taking to the road again this Wednesday for a trip that’s less complicated. But two events will follow one another in Germany and then in England without a return trip to the workshops in between. Rendezvous at the Nürburgring on 22-23 September and Donington the following weekend.

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