Truck racing to give U.S. another go

A group of men, which includes stunt racer Mike Ryan, plan to pump new life into truck racing in the U.S. beginning next year with a full 8-race schedule set for 2015 at famous tracks such as Daytona International Speedway and Michigan Motor Speedway.

It is an ode to the past when truck racing existed in this country from 1979 through the mid-1980s. Various attempts have been made through the years to revive a “big rig” racing series with little to no success. But Ryan, perhaps most famous for racing his specialized Freightliner racing truck up Pikes Peak, will be joined in the effort by John Condren, founder and CEO of ChumpCar International, which sanctions endurance road racing, and Fabien Calvet, president of Truck Racing Organisation (TRO), which is owner and series promoter of the European Truck Racing Championships.

 

Last week, I was invited to the Czech Truck Prix, which is part of the 10-race European Truck Racing Championships and sanctioned by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), by Shell Oil for an event. While there, I had the opportunity to discuss the new American truck racing plans with Calvet, who said there has been some initial support from U.S. OEMs and that the group is excited to bring Class 8 truck racing to the U.S.

“We will introduce the race in 2015 in America, on a different concept than in Europe, but it will be big rig racing,” Calvet told me. “We will start in March of 2015 and I think it will be a great show.”

The organizers of the new ChampTruck World Series are approaching this endeavor with an eye towards controlling costs. The trucks will be 2-axle Class 8 tractors with commercial available diesel engines between 10L and 15L, they said. The catch is that all the trucks must be at least 5 years old to compete, meaning that for the inaugural season of 2015, the newest model will be a 2010. Restrictors will be placed on all trucks, limiting speeds to 100 mph.

(Videos of the Czech Truck Prix truck racing championship can be found here)

The idea behind the older models, organizers say, is to keep costs down and allow manufacturers, small fleets and independent drivers to compete in the series.


“We have the agreement already in place for 8 races in 2015 and we will see, maybe more in 2016 and 2017,” Calvet says. “I think it will be a great experience.”

Calvet adds that the trucks will probably, in most cases, be conventional models common in the U.S. rather than the cabover models that dominate the European circuit (although the winner of one of the races this weekend was driving a conventional Freightliner model).

Whether this latest effort finally brings a racing series to the U.S. or not remains to be seen, but as someone who just watched a European race event, I can tell you it was both exciting racing and a fun experience.

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