I’m heading to Japan on Wednesday with most of the IZOD IndyCar Series staff and the drivers and teams. Getting there is pretty painless for us – it’s not unlike any other flight to a race, only longer. So what does it take to move the IZOD IndyCar Series across the Pacific?
It turns out it’s not that different a process from getting the people there. It takes a lot of cooperation and patience needed between series officials, the teams, the ground crew and Nippon Cargo Air – which transported some very precious freight.
For most teams, the journey to Japan started as soon as the checkered flag fell in Kentucky.
Crew members didn’t get a Labor Day holiday this year as they spent Sept. 6-8 repairing cars, and packing all the equipment (cars, tools, spares, uniforms, etc.) needed to run their cars at Twin Ring Motegi later this week.
From there, the boxes of tools and parts, as well as primary and backup cars are taken from the shop to the Indianapolis International Airport on the team transporters. Once at the airport, each team unloads their cars and equipment onto metal car racks and place it a staging area on airport tarmac. The cars and the team’s equipment are loaded onto 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.
It’s not even everything we need to have a race. 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 on Sept. 19, packing is underway for the return trip.
Check out more images from the loading process:
And, hear Roger Yasukawa and Takuma Sato discuss the upcoming race in Japan: