Hungaroring This And That
01. July 2019Our synopsis of the opening round of the FIA European Truck Racing Championship in Misano ended with the bad luck of German Iveco pilot André Kursim. At the second round on the Hungaroring, another pilot was buried in an avalanche of misfortune – 2017 champion Adam Lacko. The Czech racer came to Hungary with a two-points lead over defending champ Jochen Hahn (Iveco); now Hahn leads the standings (which is no surprise) and Lacko is only sixth, down 41 points on his German rival.
Just how could the Buggyra pilot, as much a favourite for the title this year as Hahn, cede 43 points over a single weekend, and that without having been involved in a single accident?
Lacko is driving a brand new Freightliner with a new engine. Teething troubles are only to be expected, even though no other team track-tests its trucks as rigorously as Buggyra does. Moreover, the season-opener in Misano a month earlier went off with no problems at all.
The rules of the FIA European Truck Racing Championship stipulate a speed limit of 160 km/h. To avoid drastic penalties for inadvertently exceeding this limit even by a fraction, a narrow grace window is permitted – see our 25 August 2018 article “Truck racing explained: Overspeed”. The opportunity afforded by this window has been exploited to the maximum in the last few years. On longer straights, when the trucks are at the limit within a few metres, the active speed regulation around 160 km/h can very clearly be heard in the modulation of the roar from the engine – a momentary fuelling spike till the truck touches the top permissible limit, followed by an immediate throttling-back. The control loop executes a series of such “blips” till the driver brakes for the next corner.
This season the wiggle room has been cut considerably. That’s not all; infringements are now recorded instantaneously and penalties applied during the course of the race itself. (Appendix 4 to the 2019 Sporting Regulations – FIA European Truck Racing Championship, 5 December 2018.) As a consequence, the teams are all exercising great care in the programming of their speed limiters.
On Saturday Lacko was done in by the overspeed penalties; on Sunday he could fare no better. P9 in the Super Pole was no place for the Czech to find himself in and in the second race of the day a technical problem stopped the Freightliner in the first lap.
The second pilot who’d had a rather successful weekend in Misano, Norbert Kiss, could not really make it to the top on his home circuit. His tankpool24 Mercedes team had fervently hoped for rain, and rain it did in abundance – just not when it was time to race. And the sun had to play spoilsport, diligently drying up every last puddle it could find.
Kiss’s only podium the entire weekend, for third place in Race 3, was thanks to Sascha Lenz’s failure to finish. The MAN pilot was in no danger of being caught by Kiss when, on the penultimate lap, he was forced out by a sudden steering problem. Lenz and his MAN were the epitome of reliability last season, when the young German scored in every single one of the 32 races.
Now, though, is no time for premature jubilation or self-doubt – we have all of 24 races ahead of us. A pilot can still score up to 360 points in an ideal case. To use a soccer analogy, no game is decided after just 20 minutes.