Le Mans preliminary report
27. September 2018Le Mans - the name is enough to send shivers of excitement down a motorsport fan’s spine - will turn into a truck racing hotspot once again this weekend. The racers from the Championnat de France Camions, almost 30 of them, and their counterparts from the FIA European Truck Racing Championship, will feature in the penultimate rounds of their respective championships. For the fans, that means a packed schedule with eight races.
Many come not only to watch the action trackside, but equally to soak in the festive atmosphere that pervades the historic Circuit Bugatti at the 24 Heures Camions. The non-stop entertainment mirrors the programme at the legendary 24 Heures du Mans sportscar race, though the trucks themselves aren’t being raced round the clock. There’s lots to do right from Saturday morning through the night and till Sunday evening – first the racing, then the parade of the showtrucks, and finally the spectacular along the length of the pit straight culminating in the high altitude fireworks display, segueing into the all-night concerts that continue past the break of dawn right till the trucks are ready to go tearing up tarmac all over again.
For the fans, though, it’s the racing that will occupy the foreground, especially considering that the results of this round are pivotal to the outcome of the championship. Four-times champion Jochen Hahn could add a fifth to his collection and draw level with British legend Steve Parrish. For that to happen here, the German Iveco pilot needs to score six points (or less) fewer than his closest rival this season, Czech defending champion Adam Lacko in the Buggyra Freightliner. Purely arithmetically, Spanish thrice champion Antonio Albacete (MAN) and Hungarian double champ Norbert Kiss (Mercedes) still have a shot. But for either of them to get there, Hahn would have to fail to finish every one of the eight remaining races, here and at the finale in Jarama next weekend. Not just that, but Lacko too would have to finish somewhere in midfield throughout, which is improbable. But that’s still not enough, because either pursuer would also have to win every race – next to impossible.
What we’re more likely to see is a close race for P3 on the podium at the FIA prizegiving in Jarama. Albacete and Kiss won’t be the only protagonists there, because Sascha Lenz (MAN) and Steffi Halm (Iveco) are waiting in the wings. The two young Germans are only 15 and 23 points respectively behind Kiss in the table, and there’s 120 points for a driver that wins every race.
But Hahn and Halm, competing together as „Die Bullen von Iveco Magirus“, also have their sights on the team championship. Here the Iveco pairing is as well placed for victory as Hahn in the driver’s championship. There’s a maximum of 216 points that a team can win over the last two weekends, but „Die Bullen“ already have an advantage of 123 over Reinert Adventure (Sascha Lenz and René Reinert).
Besides the seven aforementioned, there are 13 other truck racers in the mix in the FIA heats in Le Mans. Some of them have, in seasons past, been up there among the frontrunners in the points chase, and could render all our calculations irrelevant. Le Mans is a dream stage for every single truck racer, and all seek to perform at their best here.
So we could be in for some real surprises – though one factor that has often been decisive in the outcomes of races here will not be in play this time. The pleasant late summer weather is forecast to continue, without the slightest hint of rain.