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FACTORY BLOG – KATE MACKENZIE

FACTORY BLOG – KATE MACKENZIE

Welcome to Brackley! With the factory blog, a member of the team will take you onboard for a week and give you an insight into their duties! This week, your host will be Kate Mackenzie, Travel Office Team Leader.

Friday 14 May

I sent out the travel itinerary for Istanbul to the race team this morning. We usually aim to send the itinerary out at least one race in advance so everyone has all the information that they need… ranging from what time they need to leave the factory, their flight details, what hotel they are staying in and what minibus they are to travel in. It generally makes sure that everyone is in the right place at the right time and that no one gets left behind!

Over the Saturday and Sunday of a race weekend, I normally have to be on standby to make sure that everything is going ok from a travel perspective. On Sunday mornings, I check that all returning flights on Sunday night and Monday morning are operating okay and if there are any urgent parts to get out to the track, I will be sure to expect a phone call. So this job is definitely not your normal 9 to 5 office job as extra hours and weekend work is expected to make sure everything is running smoothly.

I get to travel occasionally, mainly doing hotel visits, but I prefer to do this in my own time when there isn’t a race weekend on. Last week I spent a few days in Istanbul visiting the newly opened team hotel and look at some other new hotels that had opened near the track. It was my first time to Istanbul, so a great opportunity to put things into perspective.

Here’s to a good weekend for the team in Monaco!

Thursday 13 May

Today started off as one of those rare days that we didn’t have anyone flying anywhere! But I guess I spoke too soon and we then flew one of the sticker guys back to Luton from Monaco where he had been branding the new motorhome and our garage.

All quiet from the track today as the practice day tends to be the busiest for the race team so whilst this has been going on, I have been able to get on with the jobs that tend to get pushed aside… the dreaded sorting of paperwork and invoices!

We have a new race on the calendar this year in South Korea after Singapore and Japan in the autumn. It looks as though it is going to be a real challenge for flights and hotels due to the circuit seemingly being positioned in a really remote location. So we are in early planning stages and doing lots of research into the area. We do have hotels provisionally booked but we are hoping to get out there in a couple of months to do a recce of the hotels and circuit so we can check out travelling distances and the general infrastructure of the circuit and ease of getting to and from the airport. It is certainly going to be an interesting challenge for the teams!

Wednesday 12 May

Another morning was spent checking for any flight cancellations going out to Nice today but luckily everything was ok once again with Ross and his wife Jean making it out on schedule. Which is a good thing as Ross had his first engineering meeting at 1pm!

As the cars will be going straight from Monaco to Istanbul, the mechanics will be flying out a day earlier than normal to ensure that they have enough time to prep the cars… I don’t think they will be too happy when they find out what time they have to leave for the airport in the morning! 4am starts from the factory are never popular! We are also sending some support staff from electronics and composites for this event to help with the car build so I have been busy getting their flights confirmed today before they sell out.

There have been quite a few phone calls to and from the track today. My main contacts are our Sporting Director (and my lovely boss!) Ron Meadows, our Chief Mechanic Matt Deane and Martin Pople, our Race Team Coordinator. We were just finalising some details for Monaco and Istanbul and making sure everyone is happy.

Another event that we are working on at the moment is the Goodwood Festival of Speed which the team are attending on behalf of Mercedes-BenzUK. We will have a small car crew attending with a demo car which is actually our 2009 championship winning Brawn GP car. So I have been making some final plans for hotels which are like gold dust around Chicester during the Goodwood weekend and hire vehicles. It is a really busy event for us and a fantastic weekend for fans to get up close to the cars and drivers.

Tuesday 11May

If it’s not volcanoes, then it has to be airline strikes! After yesterday’s announcement from BA that they are planning 20 days of strikes, my morning was spent looking at alternative flights for Istanbul & Montreal. Fingers crossed that the strikes get called off!

We had a final few team members flying from the UK to Nice for the Monaco Grand Prix and Ross Brawn is flying out Wednesday morning. So again, we have been keeping a close eye on the flights making sure there are no cancellations but everything has been ok so far.

This morning, I have also spoken to some of the hotels we are working with in Melbourne and Bahrain to prepare bookings for the 2011 season. We aim to book hotels for the races up to a year in advance which enable us to find the most suitable hotels for the team.

I have also had some of the race team passports to renew. All of our race team travellers have two passports which allows us to apply for visas that are required for certain races, such as China, while they are travelling with the other passport.

My colleague Lara has been busy with travel bookings for some business trips that are coming up over the next few weeks for Germany and America. In order to cut costs, the company aims to keep business trips abroad to a minimum but there are still requirements to visit new suppliers and there are frequent board meetings at Mercedes-Benz in Stuttgart.

Monday 10th May

The morning started off following up from the weekend’s events – after further disruption form the volcanic ash which affected flights for some team members coming back from Barcelona last night. It was decided that the majority of the team were to travel direct to Monaco today by car. So we just had a handful of 10 team members of directors and marketing staff to get back to the UK last night which we managed with great thanks to our travel agents!

We have a fleet of Mercedes vehicles for each race, so the guys are driving these from Barcelona to Monaco – which for some I am sure is a pleasant change to flying, where an average team member will take around 40 flights a year!

I think we had just recovered from the first flight disruptions from the Volcano a few weeks back when the team got stuck out in Shanghai for an extra 6 days, that was a really chaotic week working on both time zones! You have to be prepared for everything in this job and try and make it as smooth a possible to get the team from one place to another, so they can get on with their job at the track or getting them back home to their families.

There are also some guys travelling from Brackley this morning to Monaco who are supporting with the set up of our fantastic new Motorhome. So my morning really started at 04.30 am checking that their early flights were not cancelled before they left for the airport.

Apart from dealing with Monaco race this week; we are in the final planning stages of Istanbul and Montréal races with finalising flights, sending the rooming list to the hotels and arranging airport transfers.

On average we arrange travel for over 75 people for a European race and around 60 for a flyaway race, covering everyone from the drivers, mechanics and engineers to marketing and the catering team. So we are always planning ahead & you have to be very organised to make sure that everyone is in the right place at the right time.

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