Friday in Le Mans
28. September 2018Le Mans - The truck racing weekend in Le Mans, traditionally at the end of September / first week of October, has always been exceptionally demanding of the teams and pilots. There’ve been times when the track has been coated with frost at noonday; at other times fog has rendered racing impossible. There have also been several very wet weekends, and a few more or less sunny ones. This year we’re looking forward to a sun-drenched Saturday and Sunday at this 7th round of the FIA European Truck Racing Championship. There isn’t a puff of cloud, and the forecasters are certain it will stay that way.
It was bright and sunny yesterday, when some of the race trucks from the Championnat de France Camions were showcased at the historic precinct in downtown Le Mans, and the racers autographed posters and merchandise for the fans. The crowd that turned out was as large as you might expect in such glorious weather; even the media showed up in strength. This is Le Mans, after all, and any motorsport event here is of immense news value.
The race trucks took to the track for the first time today. Quadruple champion and leading contender Jochen Hahn has always had a special liking for Circuit Bugatti. That showed today, as the lap times began to flash on the monitors in FP1. The German Iveco pilot’s 2:06.633 was more than half a second quicker than that of the next man, Spaniard Antonio Albacete (MAN).
Three hours later in FP2, Hahn continued to demonstrate just how much at home he is here, going more than half a second faster than in FP1. For several laps his 2:06.131 remained more than eight tenths better than what Albacete could muster. At the end, that still stood as the quickest lap of the session, even though British MAN pilot Ryan Smith and Albacete both came considerably closer in the dying minutes. First Smith went within half a second of Hahn’s time, but was immediately pipped from P2 by Albacete, who nevertheless remained four tenths off.
Nobody really knows how much the drivers gave of themselves, and whether anyone – and who – held back. We’ll have a clearer picture in qualifying tomorrow morning.