Albacete delighted to be back following a 'strange' year off
The return of Antonio Albacete, following a year spent away from racing, is one of the talking points of the 2017 European truck racing season. The FIA European Truck Racing Championship not only got back a formidable competitor, but also a universally popular figure in the paddock.
It turns out that being forced to spend a year on the sidelines was a genuine heartbreak for the great Spanish champion. "I’m in truck racing since 1997, so it’s a long, long career. It was a bit strange to be off for a year," he admits.
Albacete’s long-term sponsor, Spanish petroleum giant CEPSA, pulled out following the 2015 season leaving him and his self-run Albacete Truck Team high and dry.
"It was a shame that the sponsors didn’t want to continue, because we finished 2015 strongly, winning races and we had a very good truck for 2016. We were trying to be in the championship in 2016, but it was impossible to find the budget. I had to stop and sell all the team’s asset. It was a very sad moment, but that’s life, it happens." he recalls.
A new family
Following the loss of sponsorship, Albacete spent 2016 concentrating his efforts on mounting a challenge for this year. As a result, he joined the Truck Sport Lutz Bernau team.
"I was lucky that Lutz had a seat for me and we could put everything together. It’s a good team, they’ve been in truck racing for many years, and they have experience and a good truck, so I think that we’re in a good position now. I just have to get used to the new truck and the new team. Everything is quite different since for me it was like a family. But I know Lutz for many years so I’m very happy to be back with them," says Albacete.
Getting up to speed
Given that the three-time FIA European Truck Racing Champion sat out an entire year, he managed to re-stablish himself as a force to be reckoned with.
Initially, he made a low-key return to competition, finishing tenth and seventh during Saturday’s part of the competition during round one of this year’s championship held at Red Bull Ring.
"I was not so happy on Saturday. I crashed in the first corner. I was last after I had a drive through, so it was not a very good beginning of the season, but after that we did a seventh place and on Sunday it was a lot better," says the Spaniard. By "a lot better" he means third and fourth places achieved on the day.
Round two held at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli was a different story altogether – Albacete was in the mix, fighting at the sharp end of the field from the off and impressed with consistency, securing three fourth places and one third and now lies fourth in the overall standings.
"I think I need a couple of race meetings to be on top of my game again and to get used to a new truck, but I think it will be OK," admits Albacete. "It would be very nice to be in the top three [at the end of the year], but I know it’s going to be difficult," he adds, revealing his target for the season.
There’s definitely more to come from the Truck Sport Lutz Bernau MAN driver as the season goes on. Surely he will do his best to give the top three a run for their money.