You might well know the name of Ellen Lohr already, having been a professional racing driver for some 28 years she has competed across a numerous range of world and national championships. Like most top flight drivers her career began at a young age, racing karts. From those humble beginnings she has since gone on to race a huge variety of vehicles, from a Formula Ford in her native German Championship to Formula 3, DTM (winning a race), trucks and has even tried her hand at competing in both the Dakar and German Rally championship…
Now while the sight of the iconic gold and yellow suspension units of Öhlins on a motorcycle or exotic car is commonplace throughout racing paddocks and showrooms around the globe, what might not be so well known is the Swedish suspension manufacturer's involvement and success in truck racing, namely the European Truck Racing Championship (ETRC).
Considered one of the toughest Truck Championships in the world, Öhlins have won four ETRC titles since the start of the millennium in these 1,000 horsepower plus machines. Two at the hands of Lutz Bernau in 2001 and 2003 and two back to back Championships courtesy of Antonio Albacete in 2005 and 2006. Antonio also went on to finish runner up in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
The European Truck Racing Championship is actually a discipline of motorsport that Ellen knows very well, "I've always had a love for all things four wheels," stated Ellen who turns 50 next year (!) , "and first tried my hand at truck racing back in 1998, where I raced for the Mercedes factory team for a few seasons. At the turn of the century I decided to switch back to touring cars and also try some other disciplines such as rallying but decided to return to the world of truck racing in 2012 and haven't looked back since!"
Her return to these 18 ton monsters once again came with Mercedes, however their presence had declined, meaning 2012 saw her as one of the few drivers on the grid to actually race with the German brand. Unfortunately for Ellen, the company's interest in the sport had also waned and the truck that she would be racing was a 2006 model, with just the shell coming from the New Mercedes Actros. This meant that throughout the season she would suffer from an incurable and often severe lack of horsepower when compared to her rivals, making her unable to match or truly compete with the lap times of the leaders, who were all using the latest equipment.
Ellen and her team knew they had to find an alternative way to claw back some precious time over the course of the lap, and with no new model for the 2013 season they decided the best option would be to change the suspension of their trucks. With such a strong pedigree in the sport, turning to Öhlins was the obvious choice for the team and with the help of Gerhard Guenther from Zupin Moto-Sport, they were able to considerably reduce Ellen's lap time. Gerhard explains a little more, "We hadn't actually had much experience working on the Mercedes trucks, but we found that they are quite similar to the MAN vehicles we were used to so we built a set of S46HR1C1W dampers for Ellen, basing them on the experience we had winning the titles with Lutz and Antonio in Team TSB."
"Throughout 2012 I wasn't happy with the handling and performance of my front axle," Ellen explains further, "and with the lack of power we knew handling was the only option we had to try and improve our times. We decided to test the Öhlins units that Zupin Moto-Sport has built for us, unfortunately as usual, time was very tight so we couldn't actually test them properly so the first roll out of the truck was for the official practice at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. We ran them back to back with our existing set and changing nothing else were able to improve the lap time by over half a second, which is a huge step in racing with very little change. It not only improved my lap time, but also my confidence in the truck."
Unfortunately for Ellen, while she was able to run a stronger pace various problems outside of her control, such as engine failures, prevented her from showing her true potential while her team mate, Dominique Orsini, was able to finish the year in eighth place.
For more on the European series see www.truckracing.de