MAN News for the Truck Racing Championship 2011
New race pros on the MAN teams for more thrills, new tyre rules for more fairness.
The upcoming Easter weekend sees the truck racers back at Donington Park (UK) to start an exciting 2011 season. Around 20 drivers will be lining up for the first race of this year's FIA Truck Racing Championship, and most of them have opted for the qualities inherent to MAN racing trucks. Reigning champion Antonio Albacete, the most successful on the grid with three European championship titles under his belt, is in the cockpit of the Cepsa MAN truck carrying the big 1 as its start number.
Björn Loose, Head of Marketing at MAN Truck & Bus and responsible for motor sport, looks forward to a thrilling season: "We know that the combination of highly motivated drivers and great MAN vehicles can only grab the fans' imagination again this season! Our goal is, of course, to defend the title."
This year there are 10 events on the FIA championship calendar, with the season closing on the second weekend of October at Le Mans (France). The historic Nürburgring racetrack will be hosting the show from July 8 to 10 for the German Truck Grand Prix, traditionally the climax of the racing season. Truck racing will be showcased by Sport1 in a dedicated broadcast each race Saturday morning for all the trackside thrills and spills.
The MAN teams for the 2011 season
Antonio Albacete knows what he has to do this season: defend his champion's title. That will be his goal once again with the Cepsa MAN team. Ever since he joined the near-series race class, the man from Madrid has put his trust in Lutz Bernau's capable team responsible for building these fast and reliable race trucks. Working closely with the mechanics from Cepsa, Bernau also takes care of maintenance and service over the race weekends. The total reliability of his MAN truck was an important launchpad for Albacete on his way to his third championship title in 2010: the Spaniard was the only top-ranking driver to rack up a points score every time out.
Best-placed German driver Jochen Hahn – third overall in the 2010 ranking – was early announcing that he would be lining up again as the MAN in Black driver for 2011. Two other teams are also relying on race know-how from Germany's Black Forest: the co-operation agreement with the Hungarian Oxxo team has been extended through 2011. Zoltan Birnbauer is the man behind the wheel of their MAN race truck. Mika Mäkinen, many times Finland's champion driver, is another new face. Last year he had two test races in a MAN race truck on loan from Hahn. Vehicle and service were obviously right on the button, because this season the Finnish driver is on board for the entire European championship.
There was a lot of suspense about who would be handling the second MAN TGS race trucks for Truck Sport Bernau and Truck Race Team Allgäuer. Russian race ace Alexander Lvov will be driving in the characteristic yellow Team Allgäuer MAN for the third season in a row. Allgäuer has also signed up former European title-holder and many times UK champion Stuart Oliver. Lutz Bernau led the charge on rookie Uwe Nittel and has signed up the former rally vice-champion of the world for the 2011 truck race season.
New for 2011: tyre rule and safety details
The biggest change in the rulebook for 2011 concerns tyres, an issue that gave rise to heated discussion over all of last year. The teams and the FIA have reached an agreement geared toward equal opportunities right across the leader group. In 2011, the drivers who rank in the top ten before each race will have to take part in a tyre lottery. On each race day the drivers draw lots for each set of six tyres and then have to use them for qualification and racing. There is no check of tyres used in practice and on warm-up runs. And then there are six "joker tyres" for the entire season: drivers can use these joker tyres at their discretion after at-fault accidents. It will be FIA technical delegate Ross Garrett's job to record the ID number of each tyre assigned to each team. And to exclude even the remotest possibility of manipulation each tyre comes with a microchip moulded into the rubber.
Team owner Egon Allgäuer is fully aware that the tyre question is one of the most important issues for the upcoming season: "To my mind it is crucial that the rules make for a level playing field in this matter of tyres."
Other changes to the rules will increase safety out on the track. Ross Garrett cites some examples of the new rules: changes to the design of the roll-over cage, nets mandatory for the side windows, and mudflaps to stop flying stones being spun up off the wheels.
The silhouettes stay largely the same with the rules calling for cabs from series production for 2011, so the engine specialists from MAN have been refining details of powerplant design. "Over the winter break we didn't do that much work on the hardware, concentrating instead primarily on radical revision and modification of the engine electronics", reports Artur Klein, the man responsible for preparing the race-truck plants at the engine development centre in Nuremberg. "Output is unchanged at about 1250 horsepower, that's the limit with the governor required by the rules. But we were able to tweak the torque curve and now we have much better response. As well as that, this season's engines can deliver that maximum over a wider rpm spread."
The team bosses are looking forward to a thrilling race season. Egon Allgäuer is also keen to see the duel that is bound to develop between his two drivers: "I'm wondering who will cut the better figure. Tried-and-tested Stuart Oliver with all the routine of the job, or Alex Lvov, who tends to be more tactical in his driving."
Lutz Bernau is convinced that this time round the competition will be even tougher than in the past: "We saw how the new teams got off to a good start last season and I've no doubt that they were all hard at work over the winter break. Everything will be up for grabs in the driver and team ratings, I'm sure."
Pre-Season Testing in Nogarao (F): The MAN engineers around racing engines expert Artur Klein (r.) achieved a broader torque range. Talking to Stefan Honens from the Hahn team (l.).
Pre-Season Testing in Nogarao (F): Wet weather, new drivers, new aerodynamics on the front valances.
Ross Garrett, the FIA's technical delegate, supervises the new tyre regulation and checks all the technical specs.
The FIA has levelled the playing field by changing the rules on tyres. The Top-10-Teams teams will now have to draw lots for their tyres.
Ten times UK champion Stuart Oliver will race one of the yellow MAN Racetrucks of Team Allgäuer.
New in the Cockpit of Team Bernau: Ex-Rallye-Pro Uwe Nittel is driving a Lutz-Bernau-built MAN in the 2011 season.
MAN Season 2011 Racetruck of Team Cepsa, Champion Antonio Albacete starting with the Start No. 1.
MAN Season 2011 Racetruck of Team Lutz Bernau.
MAN Season 2011 Racetruck of Team Allgäuer.
MAN Season 2011 Racetruck of Team Hahn Racing.