By Sean Kilcarr
A lot of folks think motor racing is a waste of time and energy, especially when the talk turns to burning fuel and generating exhaust emissions. That might go double for European truck racing, where big rigs chase each other around Grand Prix-style tracks at 100 mph during the course of 40 or so official events between the months of March and October.
Until you meet engineers such as Artur Klein, that is, as I got to do after spending a day at the famous Nürburgring Race Track outside Nürburg, Germany, last month.
Klein serves as racing team manager for the engine research division of Europe’s MAN Truck & Bus AG. He told me that three weekends of truck racing equate to about three to four years worth of over-the-road European commercial truck operation and between 124,000 and 186,000 mi. That’s due in no small part to the extreme acceleration, deceleration, violent maneuvers, and hard braking actions these racing trucks endure.
Many European trucking OEMs, especially engine makers, sponsor truck racing teams. So, what do engine makers learn? Well, Klein told me that four years ago MAN discovered that the metal material on some of its ball bearings didn’t withstand the strain, and that the tolerances for its piston rod connector pins weren’t up to snuff either. Changes made by the company to both resulted in a more robust on-highway tractor.