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Smolenskring – This and That

Smolenskring – This and That

12. August 2010Rarely ever a TruckRacing event has left all people involved with more ambivalent feelings than the „Truck Battle Russia – Smolensk 2010“. The preparations alone in the run-up of the event were more cumbersome than ever before. Added to that, the information about how to observe the many country-specific regulations differed widely. And finally there was the long and weary journey on roads that, in parts, could easily have served as a truck trial route. However, all these matters should rather be subject of a separate consideration. But in principle the FIA set several precedents this weekend. And should in future the FIA committee be critical of any basic conditions which, in their opinion, are insufficient, they will always have to measure up to their decisions in regard to the Smolenskring.
What the people on site achieved during the last few days before the start of the event – even though creating several makeshift solutions – is unbelievable. On Friday night – with the track lit up by spotlights – the crash barriers were completed. Several pits were equipped with lavatories and showers, and also an Internet Wireless Lan was set up on short notice. Several things were only put into operation for the “Truck Battle Russia” and will be completely re-equipped afterwards. Not only the paddock will get a totally new asphalt surface but also the tarmac on the track will be completely resurfaced.
But the truck racers coped very well with the track as it was at that time. However, there were only 13 starters – 12 FIA pilots and local hero Mike Konovalov as a guest pilot in the second Buggyra Freightliner – on the very tight track with the many extremely sharp bends. For instance, there was a starter field of 26 trucks at the TGP at the Ring. But in Smolensk the odds were in favour of those pilots who had not yet managed to gain any points so far. And indeed, the two MAN drivers Jean-Pierre Blaise (BEL) and José Bermejo (ESP) made it into the 2010 championship points table.
In his probably sole appearance in the FIA ETRC this year, Konovalov gained 9 points. Normally the truck has got the start number 36 and is usually piloted by Uwe Nittel.
And certainly Antonio Albacete, who currently is at the top of the points standing, is among the winners, too, although the Spaniard threw away several points because of a somewhat unnecessary jump start which resulted in a drive-through penalty and therefore collected “only” 41 points. But the Swiss Markus Bösiger in his MKR Renault – up till now Albacete’s nearest rival in the championship – gained 23 points; not enough to hold his points lead over Jochen Hahn, the top scorer at Smolensk. With 53 points out of 60 – the highest possible score in a championship round – the German moved ahead of Bösiger to 2nd in the overall standing. The second Russian pilot, Alex Lvov in the yellow MAN, at times seemed to be a bit too keen to do well – despite or perhaps because of the loud cheers from his fans – and got off the track several times. By the way, his father drove a lap of honour in the old race truck he had competed with in the European Truck Racing Championship during the 90’s. One of his mechanics was a certain Mike Konovalov.
Konovalov had ample opportunity to prove that he is a multi-talented person. Already during the run-up he acted as contact person for the teams and the media representatives. At the Latvian-Russian border he aided the teams with their paperwork for the Russian customs authorities, while TRO manager Fabien Calvet did the same with the Latvian customs, and afterwards they both saw to it that the convoy consisting of approximately 30 trucks and service vehicles could start the last stage of their journey – the 450 km trip to the Smolenskring. And later, when the teams went on their return voyage, Konovalov was again on hand to make sure that the departure from Russia went off without a hitch. But what would both of them have done without their “assistant” Fadi. As already told in our report “Friday in Smolensk”, the bubbly cameraman from Kamiono TV was constantly available to each and every one to act as interpreter. Without the enormous efforts from those three men the “adventure” Truck Battle Russia – Smolensk 2010 would probably have been even a lot more adventurous.
At the circuit everybody suffered from the scorching weather with temperatures of around 40 °C, so that the most important thing was to stay in close vicinity to a water pipe in order to cool down trucks, humans and animals. Many teams had installed small showers which were frequently used.
That the appearance of the truck racers meant quite a lot to the local people was clearly evident. There was a great opening ceremony, and the drivers were asked to plant trees. All that certainly builds sort of a bond, but yet it left everybody with an ambivalent feeling.