Test the best.
Magic moments at the Hockenheimring with Mercedes-Benz Buses.
Test the best.
French, English, German, Dutch, Russian – all of which were spoken over these few days at the Hockenheimring, and all of which are just as colourful and varied as the customers of Mercedes-Benz themselves. Around 600 of them took Mercedes-Benz Buses up on the invitation to descend on the racetrack in the Electoral Palatinate (Kurpfalz) region for four days.
Approximately 20 nationalities were represented at "Test the best"; an event as truly unique as the star-adorned brand hosting it. Buses, trucks, vans and of course passenger cars were all on the track to impressively demonstrate their multiple skills or to simply be driven for pleasure.
The various stations along the ring.
The line-up is definitely a looker: the entire Grand Prix track and the driver safety training centre at the Hockenheimring were taken over by Mercedes-Benz during the event. Experienced instructors and trained driver safety trainers continually and knowingly pushed man and machine to their limits. For example, when test driver Hermann Zehender demonstrated the patented anti-jackknife control of the new Citaro G with some rather extreme manoeuvres, as a passenger, it became very difficult to hold on even with both hands. Another example of this was when the doppelgänger of the German football team's Travego Edition 1 showed its true potential as a touring coach as it hit the aquaplaning area of the track's sloping section. One member of the Mercedes-Benz family which is definitely a must on the Hockenheimring is the Citaro Euro VI, which two weeks prior to this event had been at the World Congress for public transport in Geneva where,
thanks to its very special paint finish, it really drew the attention of the visitors. Here though, the "Bus of the Year 2013" made its way along the curved track with its curved aquaplaning area, where it perfectly demonstrated to astounded passengers how useful ESP® really is in urban regular-service buses.
A well-rounded bus route.
At first, one might wonder why an urban regular-service bus needs ESP®? However, after driving instructor and OMNIplus driver trainer Theo Ruder swerves to avoid an obstacle in a bend, it suddenly all became clear to everyone on-board: even at what appears to be a slow speed (Theo Ruder accelerates in the circle to a maximum speed of 40 km/h), ESP® helps the bus hold its line. On the Citaro, ESP® adjusts the braking forces at each individual wheel and simultaneously reduces the engine performance which in turn also reduces the risk of skidding. On regular-service buses, this is currently unique but in such a field of application, it is also particularly important. The reason: in urban traffic, the dangers are sometimes unpredictable and thus quick reactions are of crucial importance.
Please hold tight.
As an experienced colleague from development with 40 years' experience as a test driver for all sorts of vehicles, Hermann Zehender is more than aware of this fact. He guided the 18-metre-long version of the Citaro, the Citaro G with anti-jackknife control, along the pre-defined course at the Hockenheimring's driver safety training centre. "Please hold tight with both hands, and I'm not joking", requested instructor Andreas Türk, who accompanied the journeys and explained how the anti-jackknife control works. Before everyone was safely seated and holding tight as requested, the bus wouldn't move an inch – and there's a very good reason for this, as what Zehender did to the bus is not something which you would like to experience on a regular bus journey. Equally at the moderate city speed of 50 km/h at most, by means of continuous, short but intensive steering movements, he forced the rear of the bus to break away and lurch. The Citaro remained serene and adamantly followed the provocative path laid out by the driver.
Seated firmly in the bus, you can get a rough idea of what immense forces must be acting on the components of the flexible coupling and the work which the system actually carries out.
A famous face.
Well, almost famous! Of course it wasn't really the original bus of the German national squad which was being put through its paces on the Hockenheimring and letting itself be photographed by awe-inspired fans. Fear not, the original was still going about its regular work with the German national football team. This doppelgänger, however, demonstrated
rather impressively on the aquaplaning area of the track's sloping section just how capable the touring coach fleet from Mercedes-Benz really is. Here, the participants were able to truly "experience" the benefits of having finely attuned the ABS and ESP® safety systems to one another and subsequently combined them with a good set of tyres.
On to the next station: roaring V8 engines, screeching tyres and breathtaking drifts – just one of the adrenaline-filled highlights of this event. A ride around the Hockenheimring at race speeds in the racing taxi. Wolfgang Müller, Head Instructor for Mercedes-Benz Driving Events, made it possible for his brave passengers as he did three laps of the Grand Prix track in a C 63 AMG kitted out for racing.
Besides completing a few laps around the track during guided driving in single-file, what participants got the chance to do here will surely stay fresh in their mind for a long time to come. The laws of physics aren't pushed this far on a daily basis.
Today is super.
Zdenek Kratochvil's summary of the day, accompanied by his content smile, couldn't be any clearer. The Czech transport company owner was one of the guests invited by Mercedes-Benz Buses. He travelled more than 600 kilometres just to be at "Test the best" on the Hockenheimring. "But with my car it's a pleasure", he admits with a quick wink before leaning on his car – a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Coupé. The 64-year-old entrepreneur is truly taken by the brand with the three-pointed star and his enthusiasm is systematically applied across both his private as well as his professional spheres. "I have about 900 Mercedes buses in my company. Why? No why – Mercedes-Benz is just the best company! And in our family everybody drives a Mercedes", answered Kratochvil, seemingly baffled at the idea of the question as to why. The fact that the question really didn't need asking can be seen by the fact that this year there will be more than 100 further buses added to his fleet.