How do motorsport cars engaged in the German Touring Car Masters circuit DTM actually get to the race track? With TGX trucks provided by MAN. Or at least the cars run by the DTM racing team Audi Sport Team ABT Sportsline, based in Bavaria’s Allgäu region, do. We followed the transport from workshop to Hockenheim.
Florian Pewlinski moves into his next lap. His blue Floortec R 670 B snugly hugs the smooth and anthracite-coloured surface, while he completes round after round in concentric circles throughout the ABT Sportsline DTM team’s vast building in Bavaria’s Allgäu region. Trial runs? Or training? Actually, neither. Pewlinski, a mechanic in the team of DTM race driver Miguel Molina, sits aboard a riding sweeper and is cleaning the workshop. Although the conventional perception of an automotive shop is not exactly met here, considering the well-organised appearance of this bright and spacious hall. Six colourful and highly polished DTM race cars of the type Audi RS 5 DTM are meticulously lined up in a row as if parked in an automobile museum.
Cleanliness plays a major role within the German Touring Car Masters circuit DTM. “No team would ever show up with a dirty car and an unwashed truck,” explains Johannes Riedmüller, the vehicle fleet and logistics manager of the Audi Sport Team ABT Sportsline.
Riedmüller is responsible for getting the material from the workshop in Kempten to the racing course – ranging from screwdrivers to replacement parts and tyres up to the cars themselves. “We require fully equipped workshops in the pit lane.” In order to accomplish this mammoth logistical task, he relies on his staff, his decade-long experience – and on trucks made by MAN.
During the DTM championship, the three automotive manufacturers Audi, BMW and Mercedes compete for the title with a total of 10 teams and 24 drivers. Between the season’s nine racing weekends overall, the cars are repaired in their teams’ workshops. In terms of transport, every team has its own vehicle fleet provider, the “Official Truck Supplier”. The managers of the Audi Sport Team ABT Sportsline unit work together with MAN. Four silver-coloured TGX 18.480s with special motorsport trailers are accurately parked and polished to a shine in the hall, awaiting their freight with opened loading hatches. It is a Tuesday in mid-October and the season finale in Hockenheim is scheduled for the weekend. The Audi Sport Team ABT Sportsline still has all chances for a win. Any particular tension? Riedmüller just shrugs. “We merely deal with the race cars during loading.” And what else? “Loading up, travel planning, logistics and organisation.” In the meantime, his 12-member staff has started pushing huge flight cases, namely metal boxes the size of refrigerators, onto the open trailer. Soon to follow are the tyre stacks, the scooters and e-bikes for the drivers, replacement parts, wheel rims, tools, ladders, cable drums, brooms. During this late morning, an overall load volume of 70 cubic metres disappears into every truck.
Finally, the motorsport cars are loaded up. Four men manoeuvre the Audi towards the mighty lifting platform behind the trailer. One of the mechanics sits behind the wheel, steering and braking, while the other three men are shunting forwards and back. Watching the RS 5 being moved upwards via the powerful hydraulic system, into the upper floor of the trailer, so to speak, does appear rather risky, and this undertaking is a matter of millimetres. The driver’s door has been removed, for the trailer would otherwise lack the required width. Once the platform has arrived on top, the vehicle is pushed into the cargo area’s confinement and fastened with securing straps. Altogether, this spectacle is repeated four times, with the Audis of Miguel Molina, Nico Müller, Edoardo Mortara and Mike Rockenfeller finally ensconced in the trucks and ready for their journey to the racing track.
Johannes Riedmüller – who is also one of the truck drivers – has taken a seat in his TGX and started the engine. Astonishingly enough, the 480 hp–strong engine is hardly audible within the cab, and the cab feels surprisingly comfortable, even cosy. There is a cushy lounge bed behind the driver’s seat, with ample storage room and reading lights for driver and passenger. “There are certainly worse job sites,” says a laughing Riedmüller, before setting forth with his truck. It is a distance of about 300 kilometres between the seat of ABT Sportsline in Kempten and his destination, the racing track in Hockenheim, Baden-Württemberg.
Swathes of mist engulf the Hockenheim-Ring this morning. The trucks of all teams, including the four silver-grey trucks of ABT Sportsline, are assembled on an expansive green field near the hairpin bend. Work begins at 10 am sharp, when the first trucks drive over the home straight to the Ravenol curve and take a turn into the pit lane. Among the loading crew, the mood is still relaxed, with jokes exchanged among the colleagues of other teams. Then it’s off, with Johannes Riedmüller standing in front of one of two ABT pit openings, awaiting the first truck. The loading hatches are opened and the men scurry quickly to move hard boxes, tyre stacks, wheel rims, tools and replacement parts to their intended spots. The cars are covered by tarpaulin, and as soon as the vehicles roll down from the truck ramp, they are pushed into the pit. “We want to grant the other teams as little opportunity as possible to become familiar with our special car features,” explains Riedmüller. It takes less than three hours until the trucks are emptied and the workshop is set up in the pit. Johannes Riedmüller can take a deep breath, for he and his crew have installed the perfect setting for a successful racing weekend. “Now it’s up to the others to win,” he says, laughing.
Images: © Günther Bayerl