One of the more interesting things I learned during a most interesting “back stage” tour of European Truck Racing last week (courtesy of Meritor) is how much the sport represents a “rally point” for Europe’s trucking community.
Indeed, more than a few of the race team members I got a chance to talk with at the famous Nurburgring track outside Nurburg, Germany, told me that out of the 240,000 spectators expected for this particular racing weekend, some 80% work directly or indirectly for the trucking industry.
[You can view more photos by clicking here.]
“These are our people,” one racer told me. How cool is THAT sentiment, I ask you?
[FYI: below are a few views of the Nurburgring race track from the 2012 European truck racing championship event. It shows you just how tight the turns are that these 100-mph 5.5 ton behemoths must navigate.]
The other neat part in all this revolves around the camaraderie of the racing teams themselves. While out on the track it’s a no-holds-barred competitive environment, off the track the teams – drivers, technicians, and owners alike – share meals and swap stories like an extended family would.
They also support each other when things go wrong, with rival teams often sharing equipment if something goes wrong.
And of course there’s the interaction with the fans, with racers openly encouraging fans (even journalists!) to drop in for a chat. One diver I met – Dutch racer Benny Tijhuis (at right, kneeling) – warmly offered to share coffee, answer questions, and allowed me to take photos of whatever I wanted in his corner of pit row. “We’re Dutch; it’s what he we do,” he said.
Yet aside from all the friendly banter, there’s a seriousness to the truck racing culture, too – in no small part because these races offer Europe’s truck and engine OEMs to test out their products in extreme environments; a characteristic I noted in this space last week.
Nurburgring is also home to the famous “Green Hell” test track used by automakers from around the world to test out the capabilities of their products – as a video from Cadillac so aptly describes below.
One thing is for certain: there’s rarely a dull day at the Nurburgring racing complex I can tell you!