Truck Trophy 2017 – The exciting final – Part II

Action, trucks and new friends.

Great challenges in the icy cold: the final round of the Truck Trophy 2017 takes the drivers to their limit – and beyond.

Part II. Twelve drivers – one team.

The Truck Trophy is only for strong team players. It ends with one single strong team – twelve friends.

 

Back on the river. It is the third morning. Minus 11 degrees, clouds – there's snow in the air. Back on to the drift circle once again – it must be possible! So – drive around the outer edge of the circular track, shift into 8 or 9 manually, then carefully depress the pedal so that the rear swerves out, and then countersteer. At the same time, don't slow down and stay in drift mode by minimally moving the accelerator pedal and steering wheel. Nicolae from Romania, who everyone calls Nico: "That moment is great when you stop driving and begin to drift. It's as if something big is happening!" Trainer Markus's instruction laps are making an impact: more and more of the participants are managing to hold the truck in a good solid drift for three quarters of a lap, a whole one, or even two or more. Then the contest. The first one to manage a drift for the maximum time of two minutes is Kevin. Big applause! And his team partner, Kris: "It went much better today. Of all my attempts, I was best during the competition. Now I'm truly in competition mode!"

 
 
 

Alexandru has been to Sweden many times and knows all about driving on snow and ice. He particularly likes the slalom. "Being in a slide around the cones in the tractor unit is like a dance on the ice. Straight away, it's always dangerous with a trailer when something slides somewhere!"

 
 

Teamwork counts.

There is something special on the programme now as a competition for the slalom: blind trust. That's only possible with teamwork! One person is given diving goggles with the glass taped. So he can't see anything. The other person directs him. "If you've got no orientation, you feel as if something will happen any minute." You really have to trust the other person completely," says Pascal, taking the goggles off.

 
 

This morning there are two further tasks to complete. Back to the hotel and on to the model Actros course. A tight bend with a lot of backwards and forwards, chicanes, coupling and uncoupling the trailer. Always fast; every second counts! Cheering, laughing, groaning, clapping – is that not more like everyone for everyone rather than everyone against everyone? Przem is the fastest, then Fabi and then Kevin. For the overall result this means: a draw between Team Switzerland and Germany. The next three follow with a minimum difference in points. It's still completely undecided!

 
 

Fortified with a salmon lasagne and salad, it's time for the next round. It's not easy to turn a 2x2 metre truck tarpaulin when six grown men are standing on it. But it's great fun, and the teams, each from three countries, give their all to be faster than the others. The Netherlands, Switzerland and Belgium win!

 
 

Friends fry eggs.

But things still aren't decided because there are still two tasks to complete. The tug-of-war is won by the three-country team comprising Romania, Poland and the Netherlands. But then: fry an egg. Easy to do? Not if you first have to search for the egg which has been equipped with an avalanche search device and you have to make the fire yourself. Your tools are a log of wood, a knife, a flint and an underlay. Six men with digital receivers in their hands and snow shoes under their boots race off, repeatedly sinking up to their thighs in snow. Those that remain try to light a fire. Everyone starts by cutting up the log with the knife. But how small should the pieces be?

The men with the digital receivers are highly concentrated. There – Lodewijk seems to have something in his hand and he hurries back, taking huge strides. Lighting a fire is an art. Pascal's children are scouts and he has learned something from them. The solution is very small, thin chips and long swipes with the flint. It's burning! Now fast: move the fire out of the pan onto the underlay and get the egg into the pan – yeeessss, it'll be the tastiest egg in the world. Przem and Janusz from Poland are the next ones. The Swiss follow them whilst the others struggle on. However, the Truck Trophy has its own laws. The first three teams are hardly finished and they're already helping the others because making a fire is different with every log of wood. These aren't competitors at work, but friends!

 
 

 

Family celebration.

The dogs are already barking. A dog sled tour is the grand finale of the Truck Trophy 2017. The most beautiful face of northern Sweden's winter landscape, accompanied this time by five or six huskies in front of each two-man sled. And a herd of reindeer in the middle of the forest. That is Lapland!

At the same time the points are being added up at full speed. The award ceremony in the igloo is another exciting moment. What has happened to the scoring since this afternoon? The winners are Fabian and Andreas from Switzerland, with Pascal and Lodewijk from the Netherlands hot on their heels.

Przem and Janusz from Poland are third, then Kevin and Kris from Belgium, Andreas and Alexander from Germany and Nicolae and Alexandru from Romania. It's a great delight on the one hand, but the days in Lapland were much, much more for the twelve finalists. Alexandru: "The Truck Trophy is an experience you only enjoy once in your lifetime. Whatever your score – participating is what counts; just like at the Olympic Games."

And Kris says: "I will never forget this adventure, just like everything I learned from Udo about driving on ice. Above all, we twelve finalists got on so well from the very beginning. Together we're a super team!" Lodewijk will return to Lapland soon. "When my boys are a little bit older, I want to drive a snowmobile and ride a dog sled with them and definitely eat reindeer meat. But the best thing about the Truck Trophy is the friendship." Fabian feels the same way: "For me, this here was much more than a competition – it was a family celebration that lasted almost a week. I will be telling people about it for the rest of my life."

 

 
 

Part I. Ice, spikes and cool reactions.

Experience the action, control the trucks, master the challenges, be friends – Arctic adventures for drivers and trucks.

 

Creaking, cracking ice under the spikes. Six white Actros trucks roll onto the frozen river and quite a lot of cones indicate: everything is perfectly prepared. There's a concise briefing for the twelve finalists of the Truck Trophy 2017 and then time to get used to the new surface. The slalom course and drift circle are marked out and trainers Udo and Markus are on hand to provide support. "Driving the truck on ice without a 25-tonne load on your shoulders, is definitely something special," says Fabian from Switzerland. His team mate Andreas goes on: "I've just learned that in order to drift, I need to switch on the rear axle differential and deactivate ESP. You also have to change into the manual shifting mode. Otherwise, the transmission shifts up every time you take your foot off the accelerator and then you don't have enough power." Massive fun for the twelve drivers.

 
 
 

Skilfulness and rational thinking.

The first task is about to start. It's about skilfulness and rational thinking: turn out of a parking bay bordered by cones, drive through a slalom, turn again and enter the next parking bay. Do the same again, but in reverse and don't touch any cones in the process. Lodewijk from the Netherlands: "I'm really nervous, my hands are really shaking." 3, 2, 1, go! The stopwatch is running. He valiantly enters the course; swiftly, but not too fast. "Come further over – OK – let it roll – slowly" – in this exercise, it's every man for himself, but team mate Pascal is on-hand to help.

 
 

Team Belgium is doing the second task: guessing the height and width of the trucks. "Lower, much lower, further – stop!" Teamwork is what's required here: Kevin did the guessing and Kris the driving. Will it fit? Easy. The Actros' roof spoiler has about 60 centimetres of space underneath the bar. But it didn't touch, and that's what matters here. Kris guesses the width and Kevin drives. Here too, there are a few centimetres too many, but it doesn't matter. Victory goes clearly to the Romanians with only one centimetre between the upper edge of the roof and the bar. Incredible!

 
 

Jigsaw piece and spinning.

Everyone is feeling much stronger after the lunch break: time for the jigsaw puzzle competition. OK – put down the four corners first and then complete the upper edge. What can you recognise inside the radiator grille, headlamps; the Truck Trophy logo on the top-right. Team Germany has finished the edges and most of the inner pieces have been put in place. Alex murmurs quietly: "Registration plate ... no, we need a headlamp piece." There is tension in the air and the stopwatch is running. The Dutch have fewer unused pieces on the table. Piece after piece, the growing picture starts coming together. "Finished!" Twelve minutes, six seconds – that's a record! "I'm sweating buckets," says Pascal.

The Vindelälven, a river which flows around 400 km from the Norwegian border to its estuary in the Baltic, is a paradise for anglers in the summer months. And it is now the ideal playground for the Truck Trophy. Whilst some concentrate on the jigsaw pieces, others are out and about in the Actros. With perseverance, fun and undesirable spins, they practise drifting and slaloming.

 
 

Concentration, courage and strength.

Back to the hotel. It's been a full day until now, but the tasks are far from over! The projector beams 30 words onto the wall. Words like GigaSpace, driver's inn, Fuel Duel, and Active Brake Assist. Then the competitors are given a pen and three minutes to write down the terms. Everyone does well!

The twelve finalists subsequently make their way to the evening meal in snowshoes and bearing flaming torches. That is where the last exercise of the day awaits them: as the co-driver in a racing car, it is the participant who remains the coolest during an excitingly fast trip across the ice who wins. Everyone's pulse is measured. The highest reading is 191, the winner with a pulse of 92 is Andi from Switzerland – courage and strength are useful characteristics!

 
 

Full brake application instead of hesitation.

"If you need to fully apply the brakes, then do it – don't hesitate!" Udo leaves no doubt that he wants to see a full application of the brakes. It is the second morning of the Truck Trophy. The thermometer shows 9 degrees Celsius and ground fog hangs over the Vindelälven river. It doesn't matter, you can see for the next 150 metres. First, it's time to practise braking. Janusz accelerates to 50 km/h and then abruptly steps on the brake pedal. The truck slides over the ice. "It is completely different to being on the road, there's absolutely no comparison. But you can still maintain control of the truck. You feel totally safe," says the driver from Poland. Everyone gets a feeling for the braking distance required. The fog has cleared, the sun drives away the last swathes of it. It's a magnificently clear morning with blue skies above Lapland.

First exercise today: what is the braking distance required for a full brake application from a speed of 70 km/h. Every participant puts up a cone with their name on it. The next exercise is a full brake application from a speed of 50 km/h in front of an obstacle. The person who is closest wins. Whoever touches the obstacle scores zero points. The drivers achieved respectful distances.

Now its time to practise the slalom and drifting again. Markus, the trainer, demonstrates and makes it look so simple. "It's great fun, but it takes a lot of practice until you get it right," says Fabian from the Swiss team. Andreas adds: "And it goes totally against the grain. We always practise not allowing the vehicle to break out."

 
 

Animal tracks and heirs to the throne.

Time for lunch. The twelve finalists at the Truck Trophy 2017 need to gather some strength for the afternoon, when they will first have to complete the original Swedish Scavenger Hunt – a bit like a paper chase on skis. Very different skills are called for at the five stations. Who knows the line of succession to the Swedish throne? Only team Belgium. And Kevin and Kris lost points when naming the animal tracks. Who is the best shot? Poland is clearly in the lead. Lodewijk and Pascal win the animal call competition, while Nico and Alex from Romania win the points for estimating what a kilo of snow looks like. The men all return in a sweat. The leadership board has been completely mixed up. The difference between the team scores is minimal. The participants have completed 8 of the 14 tasks and all of them still have a chance to win overall!

And now for some more fun: time to put on snow suits and helmets before driving two and a half hours through the winter landscape of Lapland on a snowmobile. What a joy!

 
 

Photos: Sebastian Vollmert
Videos: Martin Schneider-Lau