Truck racing gets even greener
09. March 2020The FIA European Truck Racing Championship was high on the agenda when the World Motor Sport Council convened in Geneva last Friday. One of the WMSC’s decisions was to approve the implementation of a new data logging system that will not only monitor adherence to the 160 km/h speed limit but also keep tabs on what’s coming out the tailpipe. The slightest suggestion of black smoke makes the stewards see red.
It all looked quite different some 40 years ago, when the sport first started. The thicker and darker the exhaust plume, the wilder the fans went. There’s been a sea change over the decades – at first, the race trucks were fitted with particulate filters, but in the last 15 years or so the 1,200 PS engines burn so clean that filters are no longer necessary. Assisted by a panoply of sensors, a contemporary race engine is exquisitely tuned to maintain a constant balance between high performance and a clean exhaust. But the ambient air density, temperature, and humidity all influence the system and could – together with other variables – occasionally tip it in the wrong direction. At such times the settings need to be adjusted. Having to pit during a race means the certain loss of several positions, and should the fix not satisfy the stewards, the competitor is disqualified forthwith.
Such decisions, against which there is no appeal, do not always appear justified to the drivers affected by them. That, hopefully, will now change and penalties for visible smoke be decided on the basis of hard data.
The WMSC also approved an action plan for even greater safety in truck racing. The final point has to do with standardising penalty markers. Trucks that hit or run over these plastic bollards, erected kerbside to prevent drivers from cutting corners, are reported to the stewards by the track marshals. The driver is then given a warning; three such warnings result in a drive-through or, alternatively, 30 second elapsed-time penalty. In seasons past there’ve always been questions about just how reliably the marshals can identify which of a group of trucks in the heat of battle was responsible for knocking a corner marker over or sending it flying. At some circuits the infraction is recorded by camera. However, none of those that feature on the ETRC calendar have had this system so far.