Next week M-Sport, the company chosen by Ford to run their rally programme in the FIA World Rally Championship, will travel to Rally Australia but have you ever wondered how the Cumbria-based company transports its Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Cars and service park infrastructure across the globe?
M-Sport’s air freight securities co-ordinator Ashley Fowler is in charge of managing the air freight which is transported down under.
Could you explain a little bit about what you do?
I’m a rally technician at M-Sport but I’m also our air freight securities co-ordinator and responsible for ensuring that everything is transported for our long-haul rallies, which have included Mexico, Argentina and Australia this year. My main responsibilities are managing transportation targets, liaising with air freight suppliers, monitoring dangerous goods, weighing all items and compiling a comprehensive list of everything that is sent in the air freight.  It is an extremely complex process, which can have costly mistakes if not done the correct way, so I need to make sure everything is done properly and by the book.
How is everything transported to a long-haul event?
At the start of the year seven shipping containers left M-Sport and will not return to M-Sport until December. Inside the containers are nine recce cars, service park infrastructure, consumable parts, hospitality tents and spare parts. The containers travelled by sea in time for the first long-haul event in Mexico, and from there it went to Argentina. Since then they have travelled from Buenos Aires to South Africa (although the containers were not taken off the ship in Africa) and then by sea to Singapore. The containers were taken off at Singapore and put on another vessel which then went on to complete the final leg to Brisbane.
It’s quite funny to think that at any point in the rally season that we have shipping containers somewhere in the world – our logistics department and I are constantly keeping track of where our containers are throughout the year.
Is everything else sent by air freight?
Yes - we have our rally cars and three “AMP” boxes which need to be sent via aircraft.
AMP boxes are air freight boxes designed and built to aircraft standards. They have been designed with the correct dimensions to go straight into hold without any changes needed.  The boxes which carry the spare parts and the rally cars will all be flying on the lower deck of an Airbus passenger aircraft from London Heathrow via Singapore to Sydney. From there they will be transferred by road to Coffs Harbour where the rally is taking place.
Each box has a metal seal which has paperwork attached with it. The seal is closed at M-Sport and will not be touched again until the boxes arrive at the destination airport. Part of my responsibility is to ensure the seal has not been tampered with when they leave M-Sport and I have to keep a close eye on this process.
The Ford Fiesta RS WRC is smaller than the Ford Focus RS WRC, so in logistical terms this makes it a little easier for us when flying for long-haul events this year.  When we transported the Ford Focus RS WRC we were limited to Boeing 747 jumbo jets or freighters, but we can now send the cars three or four days later as we have a greater choice of aircraft which can carry our new cars.
What percentage is sent in shipping containers rather than air freight?
It’s difficult to say as it depends how many cars we have competing on a particular long-haul round, but as an estimate I’d say 85% is sent on the shipping containers and 15% is sent air freight.
Apart from cars, what else do you need to take?
It depends on how many cars we are taking how much we take for each event. Obviously we’ve got our containers which have travelled by sea which houses our recce cars and infrastructure.
For Australia we are sending three spare engines but each rally varies as to how many spares will be going in air freight.
In terms of weight for air freight, can you give us some figures?
It’s up to us how much weight we can take, but we have a target for each event which we need to work round.  We try to keep to a limit that each box weighs three tonnes and our total weight target for all three AMP boxes is nine tonnes.
Each car and pallet weighs approximately 1.9 tonnes each.
What are the biggest difficulties when it comes to transporting everything?
I think it’s probably the amount of organisation that is involved.  In the weeks leading up to a long-haul event, I send an email out to everybody in the different departments at M-Sport asking them to bring me what they want to be sent as air freight to try and get ahead of the game.
We have a dedicated area of the workshop that is closed off and it takes about a week for me to go through everything that is being sent out, compile my list and pack the boxes.  Obviously I need to be completely aware of what is being sent, ensuring it complies with regulations and also that the boxes include absolutely nothing which could be considered as dangerous goods.
Australia and New Zealand’s customs are strict - we need to be extra vigilant so this is an added difficulty I need to take into account for this particular rally. Every item we take has to be clinically clean - and each AMP box has to be completely fumigated to ensure there is no grass, mud or other substances left on the boxes. We can’t take the risk of any containers being held up at customs as this could have drastic consequences on the rally.
So when do you arrive in Australia and when does the rest of the team fly out?
I leave for Australia next Thursday (1st September). The rest of the team fly out of Manchester via Abu Dhabi on Saturday 3rd September and arrive into Coffs Harbour on Monday 5th September.  Rally Australia – the tenth round of this year’s WRC - will run from Friday 9th – Sunday 11th September.
How many M-Sport employees will be going out to Australia?
Including drivers there will 85 employees altogether. It’ll probably be the first time that so many Cumbrians have descended on Coffs Harbour all in one go, I’m not sure the locals will know what’s hit them!

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