Slovakia Ring This And That
13. July 2019The ambient air temperature of over 35°C and a track surface measured at up to 54° made for an exceptionally gruelling Round 3 of the FIA European Truck Racing Championship at the Slovakia Ring near Bratislava. As expected, the teams all had to contend with rapid tyre decomposition, albeit not entirely because of the abrasive track surface and temperature extremes. The racers themselves were anything but restrained – there was slamming and shoving, leaving tyres in shreds all over the tarmac. Here and there, even fragments of a wheel rim or two.
Jochen Hahn crushed qualifying on both Saturday and Sunday in his Iveco, locking out pole position for the first race on each day, the one with double points for the winner. Effortlessly capitalising on this advantage at each start, he kept himself clean out of the way of clashes his pursuers were unable to avoid. In the handicap races, in which the difference between positions is only one point, he preferred to stay put, only overtaking on the rare occasion that there was no present danger. All in all, the best strategy for a title defence.
Adam Lacko, billed as Hahn’s rival number one before the season, came away relatively unscathed after a disastrous round at the Hungaroring. The bugs on his Buggyra golden jubilee special all ironed out, the Czech scored in all four races.
Steffi Halm took even more points than Lacko. The only lady racer in the field is now second in the standings behind her Iveco teammate Hahn, albeit a full 41 points behind.
Spaniard Antonio Albacete was, arguably, the weekend’s biggest loser. The MAN pilot came to the Slovakia Ring second in the standings, 23 points behind Hahn, but dropped to fifth, 56 points down.
Halm has 30 points more than Sascha Lenz in seventh. An advantage not to be sneezed at, but one that can, without much difficulty, be wiped out over a single weekend. A driver can pick up 60 points by winning all four races, but the probability of that actually happening is extremely low given the performance parity across the upper half of the field. That said, 50 points is eminently gettable.
Qualifying and the Super Pole on Sunday were hit by discussions after three pilots had their qualifying laps cancelled for “exceeding track limits”. On the almost 6km-long Slovakia Ring a second fast lap is nearly impossible within the 10 minutes of the session. The start of the Super Pole was delayed and one of the disqualified pilots was allowed to take part, making this the first Super Pole since the introduction of the format to have 11 pilots.
Twenty minutes later a bulletin from the control room clarified “… that due to force majeure the penalties … based on penalty markers will be cancelled”. The grid position of each of the drivers affected was determined from his best qualifying time from Q2 and Super Pole combined. This proved to be of mintor consequence as to the starting order, but may just have set a precedent for rounds to come.