For most 15 year olds, the prospect of driving their own car is still a distant dream, but for Max Dodds, it’s practically become a full time job. A racing driver since the age of four, Dodds is preparing for his first season in the highly competitive Ginetta Junior Championship – a proven feeder series for GT, Touring Cars, Formula One and other higher echelons of the sport – in a car that’s been wrapped to maximise its aerodynamic performance.
AERO Sustainable Paint Technology is an American manufactured vehicle wrap product that incorporates the advantages of both paint and self-adhesive film. Originally developed for use in the aerospace industry, its adoption by the automotive sector brings significant advantages to alternatives for wrapping and decorating vehicles. A film-based paint, AERO is highly durable, 50% lighter than traditional sprayed paint, and easy to apply. The Maxwell Dodds Racing Ginetta was prepared for the 2021 season by Cheshire print service provider, Nettl Crewe & Nantwich, whose capabilities range from screen printing, through web design and business stationery, to wide format printing and high-end vehicle graphics.
Offering the aesthetic advantages of paint but with the benefits of a colour change film, Nettl Crewe & Nantwich used its Mimaki UCJV300 LED UV printer to add further value by incorporating printed elements into the design, to reproduce sponsor logos and branding directly onto the material.
“AERO is finding real traction in the motorsport sector,” says Mark Jones, Nettl Crewe & Nantwich managing director. “From a local motocross outfit, to Max as an up-and-coming racing driver, right through to Le Mans and F1 teams, we’re seeing multiple advantages of choosing Aero as the means of applying colour, branding and livery. With its strong eco-credentials, we’re also experiencing good take-up from environment-first businesses with large fleets of liveried vehicles who want a long-lasting, PVC-free wrapping solution.”
Expertly balancing his motorsport career with the demands of schoolwork, Dodds’ involvement in the preparation of his car extends beyond the task of piloting it around a track at speeds of up to 170kph. Having started out racing karts at the age of 4, he’s graduated through various motorsport classes and during this time, become more engaged with the valuable task of reporting back to his engineers on his car’s performance. “Being able to let my engineers know the improvements to the handling and feel of the car is important for them in how they set it up,” says Dodds. “I like to be involved with the team and have an input, and the new AERO film has made a difference not just to how the car looks, but in how it drives.”
Nettl’s Mimaki UCJV300 uses LED UV cured ink to print to a wide range of materials and with its dense, bright white ink, overprinting onto a coloured material such as the black AERO product used on Dodds’ car ensures vibrant results for sponsor logos and branding. The ability to reprint individual panels means that in the event of a bump or scrape the whole car doesn’t need painting and with wheel-to-wheel action expected at the season’s 25 races, its scuff resistance will be appreciated too. “AERO is an incredible 17,000 times tougher than regular paint,” says Jones. “Combine this with the excellent rub resistance of the Mimaki ink and we hope to not have to make too many changes to the wrap during the season.”
The UCJV300 sits alongside a raft of other Mimaki technology at the company’s recently acquired premises in Crewe. Already a 15-strong team, Nettl Crewe & Nantwich was established in 2017, and invested in its Mimaki hardware through authorised Mimaki partner, Granthams. It’s no surprise to the company’s general manager, Kirsty Reader that it’s being put to such creative use.
“The breadth of the Mimaki UCJV300’s capabilities is one of the reasons it’s such a popular solution and we’re pleased to see it become an important part of Nettl’s print capabilities,” states Reader. “We wish Max and his team well with the coming season and eagerly await seeing the livery on our TV screens this summer.”
Races from the nine weekends of the Ginetta Junior Championship will be shown live on ITV4 so the pressure to get the car looking its best was on for Jones’ team of wrapping experts at Nettl. “Our launch event gave us the chance to show off the new graphics to the team’s sponsors and we look forward to it appearing just as polished when Max lines up on the grid at Brands Hatch, Silverstone, Donnington and other legendary circuits around the UK this season,” confirms Jones.
The opportunity to race at such prestigious venues is just part of the appeal for Dodds. “I’m excited about the 2021 season, racing across the UK and getting behind the wheel of the new car,” he concludes, and his calm approach ensures he’s not getting too carried away. “I’ve learned over the years to take it one race at a time, and having such a great looking car that’s already performing so well is a big confidence boost to the whole team.”