Sunday in Le Mans Part 1 - Hahn tightens his grip on the title with pole
30. September 2018Le Mans - After another starry, shivery-cold night that some fans braved on their feet till early morn, the second race day of the 7th round of the FIA European Truck Racing Championship at Circuit Bugatti in Le Mans started off in the “middle of the night”, as the racers were heard grumbling while they climbed into their trucks for the warm-up at 8:15. They weren’t far from the truth; the sun had barely risen and the temperatures were down in mid-single-digits.
The track appeared damper to begin with than at the same time yesterday, but rapidly dried out towards the end of the session, with a correspondingly dramatic improvement in the lap times. At the end, it was Norbert Kiss atop the timing monitor with 2:07.301, the Hungarian tankpool24 Mercedes pilot having improved by more than 2.5 seconds over a single lap! He was nevertheless well off yesterday’s best time.
In Q2 we saw a different order. Czech Adam Lacko (Buggyra Freightliner) set the top time of 2:06.572 on the out, with German Iveco pilots André Kursim and Jochen Hahn, plus Brit Ryan Smith (MAN) a mere tenth slower, just two hundredths between the three of them. Tantalisingly close.
All four trooped back up pit lane, saving their tyres for the Super Pole they were, to a man, confident of having qualified for. Next into the pits came MAN pilots Sascha Lenz (GER) and Antonio Albacete (ESP), and Kiss. The three remaining Super Pole slots continued to be contested till the flag fell. German Steffi Halm (Iveco) and the two MANler Shane Brereton (GBR) and José Rodrigues (POR) finally squeezed René Reinert (MAN) out by a tenth.
The cards were thoroughly shuffled in the Super Pole, Hahn going out and – just like that –pulverising Lacko’s top time from qualifying. The quad-champ’s 2:05.580 was a solid second quicker than the Czech’s lap from Q2, and now both Smith and Kursim were within a tenth of Hahn.
Some of the pilots fell into file on the cooling-off lap, in an attempt to get their tyres up to temperatures that afforded comfortable grip levels on the still frigid asphalt. Lenz appeared to benefit directly from the tactic, as he went on to undercut Hahn by six thousandths. But Iveco’s feisty bantam retorted instantly with a 2:05.384 that was a whole two tenths faster. Nobody could beat these two, and so the front row of the grid will look like it did yesterday, only this time with Hahn on pole and Lenz alongside.
Smith and Kursim will line up directly behind them, with Kiss, José Rodrigues, Lacko, Halm, Albacete, and Brereton on the next three rows.
It’s now extremely likely that Hahn will heft the title after Race 3; he has a 77-points lead, and even should he close out the season tied with Lacko, he’d still take it on the strength of a higher number of race wins. From a purely academic perspective, Lacko would have to score a minimum of eight points more than Hahn in Race 3 to stay in the fight. Looking at the start formation, his is already a lost cause.