The chassis stand

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A team McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 car will probably spend less than 10 per cent of its working life with all four wheels on the ground - and that's not just because Kimi, Juan Pablo, Pedro and Gary will drive it so quickly!

No, the point here is that a modern Formula 1 car is very much a work in-progress. If it is not in action on the track, then the chances are it is being attended to by an army of mechanics, technicians and engineers, all intent on making any one of hundreds of modifications, set-up changes or repairs.

One very simple yet extremely effective piece of equipment ensures that all these personnel can work on the car as easily and as efficiently as possible, whether they're at the track or at home in the McLaren Technology Centre.

Step forward the chassis stand, a sturdy stainless steel `A' frame that is, quite literally, one of the car's greatest supporters. The stand is the responsibility of the Race and Test Team Support Department and Design Engineer James Potter. This group designs much of the ancillary equipment that allows the team to run smoothly, such as the pit lane gantry, grid trolleys and pit stand - all made in-house by the Race and Test Fabrication Team. In Formula 1 terms the design of the chassis stand is very simple.

Basically it's a stainless steel `A' frame - an inherently strong structure. Potter explains: "It can also fold, because that way it takes up less room, and space is always an issue with a Formula 1 team." The hinge is situated at the bar of the `A', with a sleeve to lock it in place, which means it still retains its strength. After all, it needs to be able to support 600kg of racing car. It takes two of these stands to hold a single car, one at the front and one at the back. The rear stand sits just in front of the engine and directly supports the floorpan. Meanwhile, the forward stand is slotted, as it needs to fit precisely to allow the front set-up frame to be fitted. This then bolts on to the tub at exactly the same point as the nosecone would, by means of four brass bolts.

Because of the upward sweep in the floor of the tub at the front, the height of the front and rear stands differ. But the essential thing is that they enable the car to be held at a level height. This makes it easy for the team to work on it, which is important because often personnel will have to spend long periods of time on the car, and maybe even under it. But even when the work on the car is finished it rarely sits on its own four wheels. "When the cars are taken off the stands with air-lifters they are put on to low stands, which are about two inches high and also made of stainless steel," says Potter.

"The car will sit on these when the tyre warmers are fitted, so the car is nearly always on either chassis stands or low stands. This is because the ground can actually take heat out of tyres." Furthermore, if the car was sitting on its wheels for hour after hour the suspension components would be placed under an unnecessary strain. Yet the main reason the chassis stand is such an important piece of equipment is clear. Just look at old photos of Formula 1 cars in the pits. The racing cars, sitting on their tyres, are invariably tended to by just one or two mechanics. These days, when there are so many people looking after the car, accessibility has to be the key to working efficiently. And it would be no surprise if there are fewer complaints of backache in the modern pit lane too.

Technical Specifications

Front stand height: 640mm
Rear stand height: 540mm
Material: Stainless steel

Special thanks to McLaren