Friday at the Nürburgring – Home pole is Hahn’s sixth in seven
19. July 2019Nürburgring - Today the teams were intensively engaged in resetting their trucks for the Nürburgring, a circuit with very different characteristics from the Slovakia Ring, the outlier on the ETRC calendar at which the previous, third, round was held a fortnight ago. A truck set up for the high average speeds of that circuit won’t necessarily be competitive on any of the other circuits – and vice-versa.
Yesterday’s activities in bright sunshine were of no significance from a competition perspective, even if they may have thrown up the odd insight. Then came the continuous overnight rainfall that left the circuit in a soak this morning and the wet-weather specialists among the truck racers rubbing their hands in anticipation. But shortly before the FIA race trucks could rumble out for free practice at 11, the clouds magically cleared, the sun blazed down, and the track dried out in next to no time. Towards the end of the 30 minute session the lap times began to drop precipitously. Two minutes seemed an impenetrable barrier at the beginning; a good 14 pilots had broken it by the close. MAN pilot Sascha Lenz (GER) was the quickest of the lot with 1:56.170, compatriot Jochen Hahn coming in second, only five hundredths slower in his Iveco. Here was an indication of things to come.
Lenz continued to set the pace in FP2, following a lazy warm-up lap up with a blistering 1:55.559, only to duck back into pit lane – to “try out something new”. At the end of the session only two others had beaten Lenz’s best. Spanish ex-champ Antonio Albacete (MAN) topped the timesheet with 1:55.219, followed by Hahn.
Qualifying times were a little bit quicker, but the protagonists remained the same. Hahn went on top with 1:55.018, Lenz took two tenths longer, and his Löwen Power teammate Albacete was a further three hundredths slower. Three more racers squeezed under 1:56 – Mercedes-Benz pilot Norbert Kiss (HUN) and Germans André Kursim and Steffi Halm (both Iveco). Only seven tenths of a second separated the top six, who all returned forthwith to conserve their tyres. Iveco pilot René Reinert (GER) and Czech Adam Lacko (Buggyra Freightliner), also evidently certain of their places in the Top 10, did likewise.
The two remaining positions were hotly contested till flagfall – Portuguese MAN pilot José Rodrigues (MAN) was joined by Gerd Körber (GER) in the Schwabentruck Iveco, displacing Brit Shane Brereton in the brand new MAN in the dying seconds of the session.
Following a five minute wait in parc fermé, the usual suspects were back on track for the decisive Super Pole. Hahn took his fifth pole in a row with 1:54.782, a little over a tenth faster than Albacete. Kiss climbed to third over Lenz, who was followed by Halm, Kursim, Lacko, Reinert, José Rodrigues, and Körber. Just when you thought everyone would be satisfied with the times they’d managed, all ten decided to make another go for it. But only Lenz was able to improve his position, at Kiss’s expense.