Title win in Le Mans: Jochen Hahn wins FIA ETRC for the fifth time
With beautiful late-summer weather and a total of 57,200 delighted spectators on site, Iveco pilot Jochen Hahn achieved an early victory at the 7th and penultimate round of this year's FIA European Truck Racing Championship on Circuit Bugatti in Le Mans winning the title of the European Truck Racing Champion for the fifth time. With this, he draws equal with the legendary English truck racer Steve Parrish (European champion in 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1996). At three out of four races, Hahn achieved a podium position and finished fourth once.
Together with his teammate at "the bulls on Iveco Magirus" and pilot of the Schwabentruck Iveco, Steffi Halm, the new champion turned the truck-racing festival – besides the races of the FIA ETRC, there were also four races of the French cup – into an Iveco celebration. After all, the Italian commercial-vehicle manufacturer did not only celebrate the championship victory on the driver standings, but also the win of the FIA team championship. Jochen Hahn has always loved racing on Circuit Bugatti. Accordingly, he started this race weekend quite relaxed as well. This year, the training sessions were scheduled for Friday afternoon already – for the first time ever in Le Mans. This meant a significant relief of the tremendous time pressure which has become usual on Saturdays in Le Mans.
At the Super Pole qualifying of the top ten pilots, he easily won the second starting position on the grid for the first race. Next to him, MAN pilot Sascha Lenz completed the first row standing on the pole position. At the start, Lenz prevailed and took the lead. At a long bend, however, he abandoned the ideal line. Jochen used his chance and the gap to pass him thus taking the lead. Soon after, the leading duo left its chasers behind while they were fighting one another. As a result, Jochen achieved a safe first victory of the weekend with Sascha Lenz ranking second. The Hungarian pilot Norbert Kiss (Mercedes-Benz) finished 3rd on the podium. Jochen's teammate Steffi Halm ranked seventh. Together, they easily won the first rank on the team podium.
At the second race of the day, Iveco colleague André Kursim – piloting a Hahn customer race truck – started from the pole position due to the reversed grid. Kursim took the lead right away while Steffi Halm and MAN pilot René Reinert started chasing him. Right at the first lap, the English race driver Jamie Anderson (MAN) got stuck at the gravel on a highly sensitive place. The yellow flags were raised. When the trio consisting of Reinert, Halm and the Czech title defender Adam Lacko crossed the section driving next to each other, some collisions forced Reinert into the gravel, too. As a result, he suffered a flat front left tire and had to give in dropping out of the race. Even Jochen hat to pass the skirmish, but he got through quite undamaged. With each lap, he closed up to the leaders, but André Kursim, Steffi Halm and Adam Lacko were too far away for the pilot from Altensteig to seriously threaten their podium finishes. And yet his fourth rank was more than enough for him and his teammate Steffi Halm to achieve another team victory for Iveco.
It is well know, fans in Le Mans have always turned Saturday night into day. The official schedule lasts until late at night. Afterwards, the party continues at the concerts.
For Team Hahn Racing, Sunday began quite relaxed – but highly focused. Even at the Super Pole, Jochen didn't miss out on anything. At an extremely exciting and close qualifying, he prevailed over Sascha Lenz winning the pole position by a wee bit. His strongest competitor for the title, Buggyra pilot Adam Lacko (CZE), would have needed at least 8 points more than Hahn to seriously threaten the title win of the race driver from Altensteig. But for this to happen, Jochen would have had to drop out as the Czech pilot only achieved the 7th starting position on the grid.
As you see, Jochen was likely to be able to celebrate his fifth title after this race. And, of course, the Iveco pilot would disappoint neither his team nor his fans: As on Saturday, the duo consisting of Hahn and Lenz took the lead and finished first and second respectively. Kursim finished third prevailing over Norbert Kiss and Steffi Halm. For "the bulls on Iveco Magirus", the great team outcome did not just imply the 3rd victory at the 3rd race, but also winning the team championship early on.
At the final race, the English MAN pilot Ryan Smith started from the pole position. His Spanish MAN colleague Antonio Albacete completed the first row on the grid. Albacete, however, is disputing the 3rd rank on the final FIA podium with Norbert Kiss. Right at the start, the Spaniard took the lead while Kiss, being under severe pressure, dropped back pretty far before finishing the race on 10th position.
Jochen, for his part, started quite relaxed into the race. After all, he knew, there was no way anyone could endanger his victory anymore. While Albacete and Smith increased the gap towards their chasers, Jochen easily ranked up from 8th to 4th position. This took him right behind the truck of his teammate Steffi Halm. When Steffi – unwillingly – opened a gap, Jochen accepted the invitation and passed her. He then continued closing up to the top, but the advantage of the leading duo was just too big. In the end, Jochen was happy ranking 3rd thus completing the podium of Albacete and Smith. Steffi Halm crossed the line ranking on 4th position. For the team, this meant: 4th victory at the 4th race.
Jochen later on said: "This race weekend was exactly what I was looking for. I've always liked racing in Le Mans. The whole atmosphere, the aura on this track, they have a very special effect. And well, this results in things like these: three podium finishes in four races with two victories at the first races of the day with higher score, the fastest lap time at all of the four races – and winning the title at the driver championship and of the team championship together with Steffi and Schwabentruck early on.
We thank all of our partners and especially Iveco. Two years ago, they placed their trust in us, now we met their expectations.
I'm really looking forward to the final in Jarama. I'll take it even easier than this weekend. After all, we already reached our goal!" Next weekend, i.e. on October 6th and 7th, the final will take place on Circuito del Jarama north of the Spanish capital Madrid.