Back to what is one of my favourite cities, and we were pleased that when we arrived the weather had returned to the usual hot, dry conditions we were used to experiencing here. As we arrived in the evening and it had been the day of the race at Hungaroring we decided on eating in a restaurant local to the hotel rather than exploring the town which was bound to be very busy. The next race was yet another ‘back to back’ which meant another double drive, and thankfully my mate had come out again to drive with me.
The next morning we had breakfast then left the hotel at 11:30 on a coach. On arrival at the circuit around an hour later we found the trucks all loaded up and ready for the road, the riggers had done another sterling all night job in breaking it down. I put the T.I.R cord around my sheet as it helps hold it in place and stops it flapping around. I set off following the other floor truck, one of the curtainsider trailers and the glass trailer out. There are a couple of tight turns to get out of the circuit, one of them being over a small bridge, but we were soon out and onto the ring road. Traffic was light and the journey back to the border with Austria was uneventful, however at the border we came across a queue that was 3km long. It took some time to get close to the border post and it appeared most of the problem was caused by the cars being delayed by security checks. Following the signs for trucks there was a solitary Austrian police van on the border checking trucks. They would let half a dozen pass through, then stop one and ask to see inside the trailer. Instead of pulling them forward and to one side where there was a huge empty space they were doing this in the queue, and although the majority of the delay was being caused by the car traffic, this wasn’t helping. Once through we followed the signs for Vienna, and on the ring road we stopped at the S1 services we’d grouped together at on our southbound journey. This stop wasn’t for fuel for the truck, it was fuel for the driver!
One nice thing about this job is the fact that we will always stop for a dinner break. On the move again we retraced our steps from the previous trip back to the German border, the A8 turning into the A3, and pulled into the customs area. As I suspected we found the Toll Collect office closed, it was 1am! Not a problem, we would do as in previous trips and drive half an hour down the road to the services at Passau, buy a ticket there and ‘backdate it’ so it showed our entry point as the border at Suben. All mileage in Germany has to be accounted for, and they know exactly where you have been from the cameras on the motorway, so there is no escaping paying the tax. We reached the services and pulled in and as with most German service stations at night it was rammed full. We parked by the fuel pumps and went into the shop only to find the Toll Collect machine out of order. We had no option but to travel another hour to the next services and hope we didn’t get pulled over in between. Pulling into the next services there wasn’t anywhere sensible to park by the shop and fuel pumps, so we continued into the parking area which was very full. Amazingly we found a space but my friend had to blind side it in with my guidance, which he achieved first time. Walking back to the shop we mused at the Stobart F1 trucks that had parked in front and opposite the parking spaces similar to what we had parked in. Quite how the poor souls who had parked properly in spaces would get out with them parked there was beyond us. Thankfully this machine was working, and I backdated the tax to Suben, and entered the exit point of our destination, then paid with my DKV card. Using the machines this way is a time consuming pain, but Mclaren F1 don’t consider the limited time the trucks spend in Germany worth justifying the cost of fitting automatic Toll Collect tags in the windscreens.
We bought a coffee and were suddenly joined by most of the rest of the Mclaren F1 fleet, they had all done exactly the same as us and were relieved to find this machine working. After around an hour of chatting and drinking coffee we headed off into the night with me driving again. At Nuremberg we were supposed to turn west onto the A6 but in the darkness and confusion with roadworks on the junction I missed the slip road and ended up getting back onto the A3 heading north. No huge problem, I went up a couple of junctions and picked up the A9 going south until I turned onto the A6, and pulled right on behind our plant trailer. I hadn’t lost a big amount of time but the problem would have come if I had been spotted by a police or ‘ministry van, as my Toll Collect ticket stated the route I must take and officially I had been ‘off route’. Skirting Heilbronn and the huge museum at Sinsheim which has aircraft on stilts visible from the road, I soon came to the A5 where I turned north, and pulled into a services. I was going to be just short of time to get into the circuit and I also needed fuel, so after filling and a driver change we set off the short distance to Hockenheim.
I was convinced we were ahead of most of the other Mclaren F1 trucks, but was put right when we pulled into the circuit parking area around 6am and found most of them already parked up. We pulled up onto the end of a line of trucks next to some Red Bull M.A.N’s. We packed our gear away, drew the cab curtains-I still haven’t found out the official reason that F1 trucks pull the curtains shut when parked up, and joined our colleagues waiting for a lift to the hotel. The riggers arrived in vans about an hour later and we used these to get to our hotel in Speyer. We had a few hours sleep then went to spend the rest of the day at the fantastic transport museum in the town. It has the same owners as the larger museum at Sinsheim, and was a very enjoyable day out. In the evening we went into the beautiful old town of Speyer and had a glorious traditional German meal. It was a shame to fly home the next morning, I could have spent a week there.
The photo below was taken by my lead driver Ian Hodges, a Schenker Mercedes showing just why haulage companies offering free trucks and drivers does not work in F1. Scenes like this in the paddock or parking areas were simply not seen up until a couple of years ago. Stobart were the first to offer free haulage, and started an unwelcome trend of drivers sleeping in cabs at the circuit.
TB – That shouldn’t be allowed! F1 is known for its glitz and it’s glamour, then you see that at a circuit……no thank you.