Midterm report - part 1
Technically it’s impossible to pinpoint a mid-point of a nine-round season, but a six-week-long summer break is a good time to have a look how this year’s FIA European Truck Racing season has played out so far.
Before the action even kicked off, during pre-season testing, double champion Norbert Kiss anticipated the closest campaign in years. Now, with four rounds into the season and five more remaining, it’s fair to say that the Hungarian ace wasn’t far from the truth. It is indeed close and the season has featured six different overall winners, five of whom can be expected of delivering further victories on a regular basis in the races still to come at Hungaroring, Most, Zolder, Le Mans and Jarama.
Mainly owing to his stellar performances at Misano and then at the Nürburgring, Adam Lacko emerged as the main title contender.
During the season-opener held at Red Bull Ring the Buggyra International Racing System driver was there or thereabouts, but there was little indication that he would emerge as such a force to be reckoned with.
Then came Misano and (similarly to last year) Lacko was in a league of his own, winning all but a single race.
At the Nürburgring the combination of the Czech racer and his Freightliner was formidable in the largely wet conditions and the 32-year-old took a clean sweep of wins (three in that case, with race four being cancelled).
At Slovakia Ring Lacko wasn’t able to challenge for victories but two podium finishes and a couple of fourth places which earned him a healthy haul of points and, with 182 currently to his name, allowed to keep the opposition at bay.
Despite the fact that it’s Lacko’s title to loose now, the balance of power shifts from circuit-to-circuit and it’s far too early to predict the final outcome of the championship. With 30 points between second and fifth in the standings and only six points separating second-placed Norbert Kiss and fourth-placed Steffi Halm it’s all to play for in the chasing pack.
Norbert Kiss and his Team Tankpool24 Racing outfit were busy over the winter months working hard on extracting more speed from their Mercedes-Benz truck.
The Hungarian lacked consistency at Red Bull Ring, but since Misano was a constant front-runner. Wins remained elusive though. But then came Slovakia Ring, a new venue for this year in FIA ETRC. This turned out to be a tyre-eating track and it all came together for the double champion. Kiss won twice and added another podium finish to round up a very successful weekend. With a total of 139 points amassed the Hungarian headed into the summer brake leaving Lacko looking over his shoulder.
Third place in the standings with two race wins and 47 points down on the championship leader sounds like a decent campaign. But given the fact that these records belong to four-time champion Jochen Hahn, it must be labelled as a building phase for his new venture with Iveco.
The German and his family-run Team Hahn Racing swapped their proven MAN for Iveco over the winter and there have been some teething problems with Hahn’s new vehicle. At Iveco’s home race at Misano the truck suffered from technical issues that forced him to abandon race four where he was due to start on pole.
At the Nürburgring there were struggles too. The man himself complained about setup and it was evident there was much work still to be done. Despite a sometimes troublesome campaign, the reigning champion is a constant front-runner and remains optimistic about the second part of the year, saying that circuits yet to come should suit his Iveco much more.