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Rediff News  All News  » Sports » Teams count the cost of ash in cash

Teams count the cost of ash in cash

April 19, 2010 23:00 IST

Formula One cars were stranded in China and the weekend's Japanese MotoGP race was called off on Monday as a cloud of volcanic ash clipped the wings of motorsport worldwide.

While McLaren's Chinese Grand Prix winner Jenson Button flew off on holiday to Thailand, and team mate Lewis Hamilton headed for South Africa, mechanics and media either waited or embarked on tortuous journeys home with Britain and much of northern Europe still a no-fly zone.

On the edge of Asia, nearly 100 world rally championship team staff and mechanics who had been competing in Turkey at the weekend boarded coaches for a marathon road trip back to northern England.

Andrew Wheatley, business development manager at the M-Sport operation that prepares and runs the works BP Ford Abu Dhabi team as well as the Stobart and Munchi's outfits, said beating the ash would cost serious cash.

"What would normally have been a 500 pound ($802.2) trip is going to cost 1,500," he said. "So if you multiply that by 88 passengers, you end up with a considerable amount of costs involved.

"By far our bigger issue is that our next event is coming in three weeks and this pushes our schedule into a difficult situation to try and be able to achieve those targets," he added.

Wheatley said mechanics from their three teams would be boarding two coaches on Monday that would get them back to their Cumbria headquarters by Thursday afternoon, if they could not get some on flights at points along the route before then.

That then left them just a week to get the cars stripped down and rebuilt before they had to be back at London's Heathrow airport on the following Thursday for the flight to New Zealand for the next round on May 7-9.

"About 50 percent of our kit is already in New Zealand, it arrived by sea freight, which is unaffected, but the cars, the people and the last-minute equipment start leaving a week on Friday," he said.

"All the equipment and the cars will be at Heathrow a week on Thursday and that's really when the crucial time comes for the next rally," he said.

"If they are still struggling with freight and transfer movements at that time then obviously our participation in the event is compromised and that would be catastrophic for our business."

Formula One's problem was that the Boeing 747 transporters that fly the cars and equipment to inter-continental races were grounded in Europe.

However, commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone played down the threat to the next race in Barcelona on May 9.

"There is no question of cancelling the Spanish Grand Prix. Of course, it is causing everybody problems but we will find a way to get everyone home," he said in Shanghai.


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