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Navarra This And That

Navarra This And That

07. June 2013In Spain, as in many other countries, there are many race tracks. The fact remains, though, that the construction of any new track is an issue of prestige for the region round about it and the tracks are supported by public money.
Now it’s no secret that Spain has been suffering from a major economic crisis, and some regions have been particularly hard-hit, like the region around Albacete for example. And so, for the second year in a row, the truck racers have had to take their show elsewhere, even though this town in the middle of Spain, where Cervantes’s Don Quixote once tilted at windmills, has traditionally occupied the calendar slot for the first weekend of June. This year the circus made its stop up north around 150 kilometres from the French border — at the ultramodern Circuito de Navarra not far from Los Arcos, a little village of 1,300 inhabitants hitherto known only to pilgrims on the Way of St James. The Community of Navarra is definitely on a more financially sound footing than Albacete, being one of the richer provinces on the Iberian Peninsula with, evidently, not only the demand for a large event like an FIA truck race but also the money to pay for it.
The solitary track, set in a seeming wilderness, belies just how many people live in the territory surrounding it. The cities of Pamplona, Vitoria Gasteiz, and Logrono, with a combined population of more than 600,000, are all within the radius of a one-hour drive; the metropolises of Bilbao, Santander, San Sebastian, Gijon, Burgos, and even Zaragoza, which alone has a population of 700,000, can all be reached within two hours by road. And so the spectator count of 35,000 isn’t really surprising. Indeed, the FIA ETRC emerged as the biggest draw so far in the brief history of the Circuito de Navarra, beating the FIA GT1 World Championship, with its 18,000-odd spectators, by a large margin.
All the truck racers took a shine to the new circuit, the landscape reminding many of the Nürburgring. The only irritant was the extremely strong wind — the track is situated a good 500 metres above sea level, encompassed by the up to 1,000m-tall foothills of the western Pyrenees, so it can blow real hard on occasion. That apart, it’s a truck racer’s delight, as the German MAN pilot Stephanie Halm remarked after her first familiarisation lap. The very tight corners alternating with sweeping high-speed curves, and succession of up- and downslopes, allow the drivers hardly a second to breathe deep. Experience and ability count for much more here than on many other circuits, though the young Hungarian Norbert Kiss’s (MAN) advantage of having raced here a few times before (as part of the Spanish Seat Cup) showed.
There were 27 race trucks on the track, which meant that frequent collisions were inevitable, some of them pretty severe. One of them not only loosened plastic panels on Swissman Markus Bösiger’s Renault but also shed a few metal parts across the track. Even so, no race truck was ordered into the pits to have loose panelling removed, a decision by the race control at the last event in Misano that had made many teams not so happy. Instead, what we had here on the Circuito de Navarra was another cause for upset after the two German MAN drivers Markus Oestreich and René Reinert clashed right at the entry to the main straight and Oestreich’s truck, which was stranded at right angles to the traffic with its face pressed into the barrier, at the beginning blocked more than half of the width of the track. The marshals were quick to realise the danger of the situation and were ready with their red flags to halt the race.
Oese, who at this point was still in his truck, and his Hungarian MAN colleague Benedek Major, only narrowly avoided disaster, as footage from TRO-TV and Major’s own Team OXXO showed. Reinert was eventually shut out of the results and penalised five places on the grid for the next race in Nogaro. The MAN pilot also has the sword of tightened scrutiny hanging over his head at the next two race weekends. Oestreich, never shy of making a biting comment, viewed his collision with Reinert as little more than a race incident. But he too excoriated the decision to continue the race after the crash.
Following the race, some of the teams drove their semitrailers, or at least part of their equipment, directly to the Circuit Paul Armagnac, which is on their way home. Others brought their stuff to Toulouse to TRO chief and FIA coordinator Fabien Calvet’s premises. All, though, would have preferred it if the race weekend in Nogaro directly followed that in Navarra, which would have cut out a lot of travel and time.
The TRO-TV report of the Navarra race will be aired on Sport1 (in Germany) at 10:45 am on Saturday.

Supported by Meritor Translation: Eliot Lobo

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Navarra This And That
Navarra This And That
Navarra This And That