Friday at the Nürburgring – Antonio Albacete beats old rival Hahn to pole
29. June 2018Nürburgring - The day dawned bright and clear, and the eager fans, many of whom took up residence on the campsites around the Ring as early as Sunday, started streaming into the paddock from early morning.
The race trucks were presently fired up and their drivers tootled out for free practice at 9:30 – the Iveco of Jochen Hahn a little later, the four-times champion from Altensteig having had to make a live TV appearance for public broadcaster ARD. He took to the track with absolutely no loss of concentration, going on to set the fastest lap in 1:55.047, more than three tenths quicker than Spaniard Antonio Albacete (MAN).
Hahn returned to dominate the second half-hour of free practice, registering the only lap under 1:55, his 1:54.541 putting him more than half a second quicker than the next man, Norbert Kiss. In the dying minutes of the session the Hungarian twice-champ’s truck was struck by damage to its radiator, forcing him to abandon the tankpool24 Mercedes trackside.
The MB Motorsport mechanics got it back in shape in time for qualifying, so that all 22 trucks were good to go when the signal to exit pit lane turned green. Now the drivers would have to go for broke – though, for the Titan-classified ones, any position in the Top 10 would suffice because they’d get another shot anyway in the Super Pole. The out lap, however, was anything but fast, and only 6,5 minutes remained when Hahn cut the timing beam on the start of his hot lap, a 1:54.847 that turned out to be the fastest of the lot even though it was three tenths more than he took in free practice earlier.
Germans René Reinert (MAN) and Steffi Halm (Iveco), and Norbert Kiss were four tenths slower. Another four tenths down were another trio consisting of Ryan Smith (GBR), Sascha Lenz (GER), and Albacete, all MAN.
Portuguese José Rodrigues (MAN), Czech defending champ Adam Lacko (Buggyra Freightliner) and German André Kursim (Iveco) also squeezed into the Super Pole – at the expense of Kursim’s compatriot and senior Iveco colleague Gerd Körber, whom he ousted in the very last second by five thousandths.
Lacko’s lowly position was the cause for a bit of quizzical debate, although it’s not unusual for the Czech to traipse into the Top 10 but then slay it in the Super Pole.
Once again things started off quietly, the lead-in lap this time somewhat more brisk than in Q1. Hahn was quickest on his first flyer, albeit a teeny tenth off his qualifying time. Then Albacete came tearing round the corner 13 hundredths faster than the German, who promptly returned the favour with an even faster lap to undercut the Spaniard – by three thousandths!
The drama was far from over, because Albacete then came from beyond with a 1:54.805 that toppled his old rival from pole for Race 1 tomorrow by all of two hundredths.
Reinert took a respectable 3rd, followed by Kiss, Lenz, Halm, Lacko, Smith, Kursim, and José Rodrigues.