Eventually all good things come to an end and the adventure is over and we arrive in Portland, Oregon for the last race, but not before dinner at Hooters and a walk around town to see what’s going on. As it turns out it has more homeless drug addicts than I’ve never seen before.
So the journey ends here and it’s been a brilliant and eye opening experience as I mentioned earlier the team was badly managed but having spoken to others in motor sport since who have told me it’s better at other places but not by much so I’ve concluded that Motorsport definitely isn’t for me.
I’d like to say thank you to Dave Nickalls who I shared a truck with and who I have known for a few years now. We had a chance meeting 4 years ago in a German autohof, when he worked for Red Bull Racing. Dave has become a friend and worked for me driving my trucks a few times. Dave was also the one who invited me out to America and gave me the opportunity to take part in this trip.
Once the race is over and the trucks loaded it’s the last drive the big one! 2050 miles in two and a half days. I haven’t written much about the actual driving yet so here it goes, how I see it.
Most of the roads are straight flat and there isn’t much to look at so it’s necessary for the trucks to be able to do the same speed as cars as 56mph would be torture. The drawback is that it’s a lot more tiring as your always on it, trying to pass some or being held up by someone albeit not much as the car drivers in America get a move on as well unlike home! You’re not likely to encounter many people dawdling along in the middle lane at 50mph and if you do there doesn’t seem to be any rule against just undertaking them. In most places you can just use lane 3 in a truck anyway. As a result after 11 hours (which you can do every day of the week!) driving you do feel properly f**ked you can see why some drivers here feel to use amphetamines to stay awake when driving. As for the speed it work’s for the reasons mentioned and because of how the trucks are designed with the double drive bogies and axles on the back end of the trailers, they are surprisingly stable when tanking along at 75mph or even 92mph which I reached (accidentally honest) at one point.
The cabs are brilliant to be honest. I think what we had was technically a fleet spec motor but still better than anything we have in Europe, the space is awesome and so comfortable it’s like driving around in a studio flat. The Freightliner itself is a nice truck, we never found out the horsepower of the trucks as it’s not written on the side of the motor or on the engines. The Detroit engine pulled well still doing 50mph loaded at 36 ton up some big hills easily as steep as Bourge-en-Bresse and as I said before they have the Merc gearbox working better than Mercedes do!
The last 4 hours of the drive are the best by far. We travel on the I84 which runs along the Columbia river and runs side by side a train track the views are stunning. It is up there with the best roads I’ve ever driven. The freight trains you run alongside are incredible we counted one to be 90 carriages long at least 1.5 miles but more likely 2 miles long!!
The next day at the track we get our duties over with a lot quicker than we’d like, then go for a walk to see the sights. As you can imagine with the size of an Indy Car event, there are loads and loads of different trucks and vehicles. Race teams the world over use high spec, top quality trucks and Indy Car is of course no different, some may even say these are better than the rest! Big trucks, big paint jobs but still a few oddments. Just when you think you have seen an amazing cross section of US trucks, you come across a Ford Cargo!
The day cabbed Ford Cargo may be a rarity but not unique. What I am sure is unique in North America is a fully liveried in Liverpool Football Club colors, Volvo VN. Soccerball is not my sport, but some of your are football crazy, so if you move to the United States and want to personalize your truck…….well, paint it red and add some famous Scouse names and phrases and Robert is your mothers brother!
So the next day it’s onto the racetrack to repeat the whole process again in St Louis. We did manage to get one afternoon off though where we went to visit the Gateway to the west a 630ft arch that you catch a carriage to the top of and can get a view of the city.
Eventually once the torture is over, the race is cancelled 30 laps before the finish due to the weather, so it is time to pack away ready to head off for the next race. The next drive is 877 miles which is do-able on a double drive but not necessary so we are stopping in Indiana where most of the other teams are based. We are taken out for the night by Geoff, a former truckie for Carlin Motorsport who now works at a different team based in Indiana. Geoff takes us to a place called the 1911 grill which is a really cool sports bar and includes a ski ball alley, a shuffle board table and a go kart track… yes that’s right a go kart track!! Believe it or not, the best meal of the whole trip, a steak to die for!
The next morning (05/09/19) we set off at 0800hrs to finish the last bit of the drive to the track. We spend the next few days setting up and working at the track which if I’m honest wasn’t very interesting. The time management at the team isn’t very good, so there’s a lot of time standing around with nothing to do and by a lot I mean around 9 hours a day, so there’s plenty of time to wander about and see what else is going on between duties.
We set off on September 4th and it’s 1240 miles from the workshop. We are double manning in two Freightliner Cascadia’s. I drive a Mercedes-Benz Actros at home so there are some familiar sights and sounds right away as Mercedes have some steak in Freightliner (Both owned by Daimler – TB) as the gearbox is the same, albeit hooked up better than it is in the Merc and the steering wheel and a lot of the buttons and dashboard are the same. Our first destination is Kenly 95 a truck stop in North Carolina. Some of you will know the truck stop shop in Lymm and some of you will know the one in Brescia est (Italy)… well if those two had a baby then put it on steroids you’d get this place! There’s so much in there it’s hard to know what to look for in there. It’s so big it has a Peterbilt truck on a turntable in the window and a Kenworth with a trailer on the shop floor. The highlight was the aisle of stack exhausts that from the other side of the room looked like a church organ!
On the 3rd of September we go to the workshop to meet our new rides and load them ready for the first race in Pocono. Two amazing Freightliner Cascadia’s will be our steeds for the trip. We get everything ready and of course help get all the equipment loaded up.
I’ve been saving these blogs for a while but they make for great reading! Increasingly regular blog contributor Luke Power-Hippisley, the big boss down at Tudor Services in Bristol, did the road trip of a life time at the back end of the summer. This trip would be a bucket list trip for most of us in a car or camper van, but to do it in a brand new Freightliner pulling a race trailer across the USA…….well some people get all the luck……or do we make our own?! The rest of these blogs will be in Luke’s own words.
6 weeks ago I was sitting in Altafulla (Spain) thinking about who to call to drum up a bit of work for September and before I could get started ringing around the call came to me. To see if I was available to go to America to work as a truckie on the Indy Car Series for the British team Carlin Motorsport and take the truck from track to track and help setting up and packing down. They also asked if I could bring a second driver so I called on of my best friends Matthew Campbell and asked if he was up for it and as you can imagine we ripped their arm off!
We flew to Orlando on September the 2nd and were told upon arrival one of our new colleagues would be picking us up from the airport in a blue pick up truck. What I didn’t expect was the beast in the picture with a total length of 40ft!
We will be flying to Orlando then making our way to Boca Ranton to the workshop, then we will be driving for the next three races. First Pocono, Pennsylvania next St Louis, Missouri then lastly Portland, Oregon before flying home.