Supercars teams are coming together to fight against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by producing and distributing potentially life-saving medical supplies.
As of Tuesday, there are over 780,000 cases and 37,000 deaths worldwide due to the coronavirus outbreak. With no racing until at least June, Supercars teams have already moved to combat the crisis, which continues to affect the medical industry.
Erebus Motorsport, which runs under the Penrite Racing banner, has worked alongside Supercars Medical Delegate Dr Carl Le to develop an e-aerosol box, which is now ready for distribution.
20 protective perspex boxes, which were designed – via the the team’s 3D printer – to protect healthcare workers from infected patients, were shipped out to hospitals and health care institutions on Tuesday.
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“We want to make sure we are in a better position than overseas, so we are doing all we can to ensure we are ready if and when the worst hits,” Erebus Motorsport CEO Barry Ryan said.
“I sent out an email to Supercars and all its team owners last week and we really appreciate the response of people wanting to jump on board and help where they can.”
Rival squad Team CoolDrive is helping Erebus distribute the supplies, with team owner Tim Blanchard saying: “CoolDrive is an automotive parts distribution business with a network all around Australia so we offered to help… Barry is dropping them off to the main depot and the first lot are going out today to Hobart, Adelaide and Ballarat for doctors to sample.
“We will continue to send them out, starting at the main office in Melbourne then we’ll shift to our 30 branches and we’ll use our 70 vans to distribute from there.
“We’re an Australian family business and we wanted to do something to help Australians and help another Aussie business get this done… working together, helping each other out, is what it’s all about.”
A second prototype design process is already underway, while the team’s final prototype of the ‘e-mask’ has also been completed, with 300 units near completion.
Regarding the e-masks, Ryan said: “Rather than developing something complicated, these cost-effective masks with a 3D printed adaptor and easily replaceable P2/N95 filtration, can be mass produced and go straight away to health care workers on the front line – who are at high risk.
Ryan was delighted that rival teams are getting involved and responding to Erebus’ call to action.
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“We really want to get it out there so we can get the maximum support, so I’ve just sent an email to all of the team owners and obviously they have all started replying with ‘yeah we can do this, we can help with this’,” he said.
“I’m sure our community of Supercars teams, their network of their sponsorship groups and all of their partners will be able to help with anything we want pretty much.
“The next couple of days are going to pretty exciting to get this off the ground and make sure we can deliver all these things if they’re needed.”
Walkinshaw Andretti United director Ryan Walkinshaw has also offered his team’s engineering expertise to develop and produce supplies.
“To help emergency departments treat patients affected by COVID-19, we have raised our hand to help both Federal and Victorian governments to design, engineer and assemble any emergency medical equipment that [can] be made with a 3D printer,” Walkinshaw said.
“We would need the blueprints to the design of these ventilators, but we can help once we have the right information.”
Factory Holden squad Triple Eight Race Engineering revealed it has designed and developed open-source ventilators.
The Triple Eight-designed ventilator – via input from medical professionals, local ICU experts, and the Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning in Queensland – may be put into production should relevant interest be fostered.
Ventilators are heavily regulated, and Triple Eight remains open to innovation and further expert guidance to allow for production and distribution.
There has already been success in the motorsport world, with Formula 1 world champions Mercedes creating a breathing aid that can help keep infected patients out of intensive care.
Triple Eight’s design can be used without power for up to two hours in order to combat a “dire situation” where patients are not in a hospital where “power mightn’t be consistent”.
“That means we need a bit of a UPS onboard, so if power drops down it can last for at least two hours until you can get the power back up and running into the machine,” Triple Eight technical director Jeromy Moore said.
Triple Eight team manager Mark Dutton said the team quickly got onto the project, saying they went from starting the design on Friday to having a working prototype on Monday.
Like Ryan, Dutton suggested the aim is to make supplies cost-effective so it’s “out there for everyone”.
“As soon as we got back from the Grand Prix, Roland [Dane, team boss] had the idea to repurpose our resources in design and manufacture, so straightaway he wanted us to start looking into ventilators,” Dutton said.
“The world is screaming out for them, so we started just doing some initial research the week after the Grand Prix and then started the design work on Friday the 20th [of March].
“One week we’re at the race track trying to go fast and then the next thing the whole world is screaming out for ventilators, so you know, stop in your tracks, do a full 180 and do something completely different.”