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Sunday at the Ring

Sunday at the Ring

10. July 2011Nürburgring - Early in the morning the truck racers and the 212,000 visitors enjoyed a brilliant blue sky, so that the drivers did not really mind that the warm-up was again scheduled for 8:30. As usual, nobody let the cat out of the bag. Markus Bösiger, labelled as the jewel in the crown of truck racing in Switzerland by the commentator at the circuit, sprang a surprise on everybody. Yesterday Bösiger was having serious problems with changing the gears, although the gearbox was spanking new. The mechanics did an overnight job, removing the new gearbox and replacing it with the former one they had actually planned to recondition in the first place, and today the former European champion clocked fastest lap time – 1:56,634m.
About an hour later in the timed practice the moment of truth had come. Bösiger could not improve the lap time he had posted in the morning, but several other pilots bettered their times considerably – particularly MAN pilot Uwe Nittel (GER).
On the other hand, the “only aim” of the top pilots was to be among the top-ten. But in the SuperPole it was neck or nothing, however, Nittel once more bettered his lap time (1:55,582m), which his opponents found a hard nut to crack. The Spanish pilot Antonio Albacete claimed second fastest time and was 4 tenths slower than his German team colleague. But the Czech driver David Vrsecky (Buggyra Freightliner) saw to it that it did not end in an all-MAN triumph by snatching third place on the grid from under German pilot Jochen Hahn’s nose in the very last moment.
The third row on the grid was occupied by the two Renault drivers Markus Oestreich and Bösiger, whose fastest time was similar to the one he clocked in the warm-up, but that was only good enough for third row. Behind them was another Renault pilot, Adam Lacko (CZE), followed by British driver Chris Levett (Buggyra Freightliner), Gerd Körber (GER) on Iveco and the Russian Alex Lvov (MAN).
At the start pole setter Nittel was possibly a bit too keen to do well. He wanted to get the most out of it (that’s what he admitted later) and missed a gear. Anyway, he dropped back on third place behind Albacete and Hahn, closely followed by Bösiger, Oestreich and Lacko. And, just like the day before, the British driver Stuart Oliver was again involved in a collision at the summit of the Mercedes-Arena and suddenly his yellow MAN moved sideways and then spun round which caused mayhem in the field following behind, but the front-runners were totally unimpressed. Meanwhile Körber and Levett were involved in a battle for the positions 7 and 8, until the German ran into problems with one of his shock absorbers, probably caused by a hefty push from behind. But for some time he managed to defend the coveted 8th position – which means pole position in race 2. Bösiger encountered problems with his rear tyres, as they absorbed drops of oil that escaped from the turbo charger which evidently had some small leaks. The truck of the Swiss pilot lost some grip and he was passed by his team mates Oestreich and Lacko. Behind the three Renault trucks Vsrecky finished in 7th ahead of team colleague Levett who consequently would line up in pole position for the second race. Lvov came home 9th ahead of Körber who – handicapped by the damaged shock absorber – had to be satisfied with the last position in the points. In mid-race a spectacular crash took place at the end of the short configuration, involving the two MAN pilots Zoltan Birnbauer (HUN) and José Bermejo (ESP) and both drivers were forced to retire.
And as always Steffi Halm, the only lady in the FIA ETRC, was again in the spotlight of the media and fans. The MB Motorsport team had replaced the gear box and the power train the night before, and in the warm-up and the timed practice the young German again demonstrated her usual eagerness to succeed. In the race she lined up 19th on the grid, and in the field of 24 she again left some of her opponents with more powerful trucks behind. But towards the end of the race she took to the gravel, lost several positions and eventually had to settle for 17th place.
When the truck racers lined up for the final FIA race of the weekend, they had to say good-bye to the sunny weather. At first there was only a light drizzle, but gradually it turned into a steady downpour – alas, Nürburgring weather! The first row on the grid was occupied by the two Buggyra drivers Levett and Vrsecky; Hahn and Albacete lined up on the 4th row.
Already in the first lap at the end of the downhill passage in the Mercedes-Arena there was some aggressive pushing and soon afterwards several trucks spun off – with serious consequences. Some trucks were stranded, pointing in every direction. The drivers worst affected by the incident were Nittel, Hahn and the Brit Mathew Summerfield (MAN). After some time Nittel managed to drive on, but the trucks of Hahn and Summerfield had become stuck together and had to be pulled apart, so that the race had to be stopped and later was restarted with the trucks lining up in the same order as before.
However, Nittel’s truck was so severely damaged that team boss Lutz Bernau refrained from having the MAN start again. Furthermore the stewards decided to have two formation laps at the beginning, probably in the hope that by then the track would have dried out a bit. But evidently that hope was in vain, because frequently the pilots drove sideways rather than forwards, and spins and crashes were unavoidable. And again Hahn and Summerfield came off worse. Right at the beginning both MAN trucks were already severely damaged and remained stranded on the trackside grass. For both pilots the race was over before it had really begun.
In several sections of the circuit the pilots were permanently shown the yellow flag right from the start. The leading group of five, consisting of the two Buggyra drivers, Lacko, Albacete and Bösiger, was closely followed by Oliver, Lvov, Körber and Renault pilot Anthony Janiec (FRA). Under these adverse conditions Bösiger was at his best. First the Swiss pilot passed title contender Albacete and was now behind his team mate Lacko. Both Renault drivers were definitely faster than Levett, but the Brit resisted all passing attempts which meant that Vrsecky could establish a good lead and held this position unchallenged all the way to the finish line. Eventually both Lacko and Bösiger succeeded in passing Levett, and a bit later the Swiss got ahead of his Czech team mate, too, which meant that Vrsecky, Bösiger and Lacko would take the podium places. Levett finished in 4th, followed by Albacete and Körber with Oestreich hard on his heels. The man from Fulda did a 360 degree spin in the first lap, dropping him back to the back of the field, from were he sliced his way through the pack, up to 7th place. The remaining positions in the points ranking were taken by Oliver, the Finnish MAN pilot Mika Mäkinnen and Janiec.
Steffi Halm tackled the race with determination. Skilfully she managed to steer clear of all the trouble and finished in 13th, her best result so far this season. And in the final victory ceremony for the Sponsors’ Challenge – where those pilots are honoured who did not make in into the top-ten in the previous season and who do not belong to a team – she took third position behind Mäkinnen and the Belgian driver Jean Pierre Blaise (Renault)
With a total of 241 points Hahn still leads the championship ranking by a comfortable margin, followed by Albacete (197), Oestreich (158), Nittel (144), Lacko (137), Vrsecky (129) and Bösiger (113).
In the team ranking the first race was won by Cepsa-Trucksport Lutz Bernau (Albacete / Nittel) ahead of MKR-Technology (Bösiger / Oestreich) and MKR Team 14 Juniors (Lacko / Janiec). The winner of the second race was Buggyra (Vrsecky / Levett), and the two other podium places were again taken by MKR-Technology and Team 14 Juniors.
The final Mittelrhein Cup race started despite the rain, but after lots of crashes, spins and early retirements the race became a bit chaotic and had to be abandoned in lap 5 – without results.

Impressions:

Sunday at the Ring
Sunday at the Ring
Sunday at the Ring
Sunday at the Ring