It’s been a mixed first season for the newly formed T Sport Bernau team, with a rocky start and some teething problems with their brand new truck at the season opener in Most.
“With a new race truck comes a lot of hard work, and lots of small problems, but we all kept our spirit up, kept fighting and made really good progress. We’ve grown together well as a team,” said Melanie Derflinger about their first season.
The Austrian, who looks after the team management and marketing, runs the day to day business alongside her partner Tim Frost, the technical manager and chief race mechanic, who built the new MAN racing truck from scratch.
A trained joiner, Tim started in truck racing at the age of 15 and worked as a race mechanic for Oliver Racing with Stuart Oliver in the British and European Truck Racing Championship.
In 2011 when Oliver signed a driver contract with Team Allgäuer which was based in Austria, Tim made the move to work as a full-time race mechanic for the first time and also met Melanie, who worked for the team at the time. The team was sold after the season and they both wanted to keep working in truck racing so they took a job with Hahn Racing. When Tim worked alongside Stefan Honens on Jochen Hahn’s truck he learnt the ropes of how to build a race truck.
After a stint with Lion Truck Racing in 2014, the couple finally realised their goal of setting up a truck racing team and opened their own motorsport workshop, Unit 8 Motorsport Systems in Tim’s home town in England.
“While we slowly built up our own team, we supported René Reinert and Steffi Halm in the FIA ETRC and some teams in the British Truck Racing Championship,” said Melanie. “Tim and our full-time mechanic Tom Eckersley who started working for us shortly after we opened our workshop, completely rebuilt and helped to build several race trucks for Oly Janes, Jamie Anderson, John Newell and Ray Coleman.”
When the opportunity came along to join forces with Lutz Bernau and Egi Bartman at the end of last year, there was no doubt it was the right thing to do. “Lutz and Egi were both looking at taking a step back, so they approached Tim and I and asked if we were interested in taking on some of their responsibilities. That’s when we decided to merge our two teams together – so we could be even stronger and more competitive as a small, focused and well-organised team, supported by great partners.”
The streamlined team worked around the clock to get the new truck ready for testing and for the season. “From start to finish it takes about 3-4 months (12-14 hour days, 6-7 days a week), depending on which level you are building a truck. I’m quite into details which means we invest a lot of hours into a new build,” said Tim. "It was certainly a big task to take on to build a race truck from scratch in only a few months and we were up against it. With Christmas in between it was a challenge to get all the parts we needed on time and not to miss out on booking slots to paint and powder coat the cab and chassis. We certainly benefitted from having good connections and knowing where to get things from."
The team was finally able to test the truck in Nogaro in July, taking onboard the feedback from the team’s driver Antonio Albacete to help with the set up of the truck.
When the season finally started at the end of August in Most, things didn’t quite go to plan for the team, when Antonio struggled with the way the air system for the brakes was set up, which had a significant impact on his performance and saw the Spaniard at the back of the field.
However the team worked hard on sorting the brakes and some smaller set up changes to adapt the new race truck to Antonio’s driving style, and by the end of the season the Spanish FIA ETRC champion was competitive enough to challenge for the podium.
“It’s been a challenging year but as a team we’re really pleased with the progress and the developments we‘ve made during the season,” said Melanie. “Not only did we build a brand-new race truck, we also gave our team a fresh new look. As a team we really stuck together and the passion for what we do really came to light. We believe we are in a great position for a successful 2021 truck racing season together with Antonio Albacete!”