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Saturday in Zolder

Saturday in Zolder

17. September 2011Zolder - The nice summer weather was gone, but – contrary to the weather forecast – at least it stayed dry. At the free practice early in the morning the young Hungarian pilot Norbert Kiss surprised everybody by securing 10th position in both practice sessions. He will be piloting the OXXO MAN for the rest of the season as a substitute for Zoltan Birnbauer who has taken time out from truck racing for occupational and family reasons. In the first timed practice Kiss posted 11th fastest time, missing the top-ten for the SuperPole by a mere 14 hundredths. Anyway, in the top-ten all trucks were very close together; the Czech Renault driver Adam Lacko in 10th position and the fastest driver, the Spaniard Antonio Albacete (MAN), were separated 6 tenths only. Behind Renault pilot Markus Oestreich (Germany) the second “surprise man” of the day, Oese’s fellow countryman Gerd Körber (Iveco), clocked 3rd fastest time. On the other hand, several pilots had already returned to the pit after only one fast lap, probably believing that they had secured a top-ten place. That in the end it would become that tight nobody had certainly really reckoned with.
The top-ten for the SuperPole were completed by the three MAN pilots Alex Lvov (RUS), Jochen Hahn and Uwe Nittel (both from Germany), the two Freightliner pilots Chris Levett (GBR) and David Vrsecky (CZE) and the Swiss driver Markus Bösiger (Renault). But in the decisive SuperPole Lacko, who had only just made it into the top-ten, was able to better his times by more than two and a half seconds – clocking 1:57.018m, a time the others couldn’t keep pace with, although some of them improved their lap times considerably, too. Finally Albacete secured 2nd position on the grid alongside pole setter Lacko, followed by Bösiger, Oestreich, Hahn, Vrsecky, Nittel, Körber, Levett and Lvov.
In the following race Lacko used his pole position to good effect and immediately took the lead. In a first turn skirmish Körber was on the receiving end of a crash. His Iveco was so heavily damaged that he was forced to retire after only one lap. Lacko meanwhile had pulled away a bit from his chasers, and Albacete was the only one to match up with the speed of the Renault pilot. But soon Lacko lost momentum and the Spaniard not only succeeded in overtaking him, but also pulled away gradually. And eventually Bösiger, too, passed his team mate – who had trouble with the braking – and secured 2nd place on the podium ahead of the Czech.
Behind them there was a nail-biting fight for the positions 4 – 7 going on. And after 12 laps finally Oestreich, Vrsecky and Hahn – driving almost neck and neck – crossed the finish line in the above-mentioned order, with Hahn having Levett glued to his rear-bumper. For Kiss it was a perfect race. After the skirmish at the start, where – besides Körber – Nittel didn’t escape unscathed, either, Kiss managed to slot into 8th, and effortlessly held his position against the constant attacks from Lvov. This meant that the Hungarian secured pole position for the second race in his very first race of the FIA European Truck Racing Championship, where the top eight finishers from race 1 line up in reverse order. The Frenchman Jeremey Robineau (MAN) finished in 10th, the last position within the points.
And of course the media and the audience again focused on Stefanie Halm in her Mercedes Benz. The commentator at the track emphasized several times that the young German driver was the only “Amazon” in the ETRC. But already in the second lap Steffi was a bit too optimistic while entering the sharp chicane before the finish straight, she lost control briefly, her RaceTruck swerved and she had to go through the gravel bed. She rejoined the track at the back of the field, managed to pass the two other Mercedes pilots, Sascha Lenz (GER) and Florian Orsini (FRA), so that she at least was the Mercedes driver with the best ranking, but finally she had to settle for 19th position.
The Schwabentruck Team had succeeded in repairing Körber’s Iveco in time for the second race, but due to his early retirement in the first race the man from Rheinau had to line up at the back of the field of 24 trucks.
Now all eyes were focused on Kiss. How would the rookie cope with the pressure from the chasing pack in his second race? To come to the point: the performance of the Hungarian pilot was impressive. Levett who had lined up beside him – at the age of 27 only 1 year his senior, but a lot more experienced as he can look back on numerous truck racing battles – was immediately outpaced by Kiss. But already in the second lap Oestreich stormed ahead. The former European champion has more than 20 years of truck racing under his belt and certainly his MKR Renault is also faster. However, it took Oese 9 laps and finally a bit of brute force to defeat the young Hungarian. Now Kiss’ resistance began to weaken, and eventually both Albacete and Lacko passed the black MAN, thus securing 2nd and 3rd podium place, resp. behind Oestreich, so that the Hungarian had to make do with the unrewarding 4th position. The remaining positions within the points were taken by Levett, Bösiger, Nittel, Vrsecky, Lvov and the Frenchman Anthony Janiec (Renault).
Bad luck for Körber and Halm. “Mr. Truck Racing” had already left 9 opponents behind, when his truck decided it had enough. Steffi Halm met a similar fate. She had already passed 7 male colleagues with considerably more powerful engines, when – with only a few more laps to go – she had to retire because of a cable fire.
Although Hahn’s advantage in the overall ranking has shrunk a bit, he is still leading by a wide margin (324 points), ahead of Albacete (269), Lacko (234), Oestreich (222), Vrsecky (217), Bösiger (206) and Nittel (178).
In both races the team ranking was won by MKR-Technology (Bösiger / Oestreich), followed by Cepsa-Trucksport Lutz Bernau (Albacete / Nittel) and MKR Team 14 Juniors (Lacko / Janiec).

Impressions:

Saturday in Zolder
Saturday in Zolder
Saturday in Zolder