POWERSTAR HEADS TRACKSIDE
DAVE WHYTE JOINS THE MOTOLOGIC TEAM HONDA FOR A DAY AT THE RACES
It’s been a while since we’ve featured an Iveco Powerstar on these pages, and, having driven so many different trucks in the meantime, the offer to drive the Motologic Team Honda Racing transporter seemed like a good opportunity to get reacquainted with the only Euro-style bonneted truck on the Aussie market.
Since the withdrawal of the bonneted Volvo and Scania models, the Powerstar stands alone in the on-highway market by offering both a European cab and a bonnet. The irony is that the Powerstar is actually an Australian design, engineered and developed locally to replace the popular S-Line. The fact that Iveco will soon be one of only two manufacturers to offer both cabover and conventional trucks in the heavy-duty market proves that the Powerstar is a viable product, and worth the investment, even if it’s only produced for the local market.
In recent times, the number of Powerstars on the road has increased dramatically, most notably since the introduction of the 26-metre B-double regulations.
With the cab set back from the steer axle, the Powerstar benefits from improved ride and, with the engine out in front instead of underneath the cab, reduced engine noise in the cab. There is plenty of legroom for the driver, something not found on all 26-metre-compliant prime movers, and easy access using the steps mounted on the fuel tanks. The cab is also full width, offering a feeling of spaciousness and more room to move around inside.
Powered by the 12.9 Cursor engine, the Powerstar is available in two power ratings, 450 hp/2200 Nm or 500 hp/2300 Nm, and with a choice of 12-speed or 16-speed EuroTronic AMT, or 18-speed Eaton manual transmissions.
The Motologic Team Honda Powerstar is powered by the 450 hp/2200 Nm Cursor matched with the 12-speed EuroTronic AMT transmission. Team owner, Paul Free, is full of praise for the Powerstar, saying, “We’ve had a few different trucks over the years, including Freightliners and Western Stars, but this is the best truck we’ve had yet. The engine and transmission combination is just brilliant”.
And Paul should know, as he spends a lot of time behind the wheel of the Powerstar driving to and from Australian Superbike Championship rounds and sponsorship events. Presentation is also important, as the unit acts as a mobile billboard for the team and its sponsors, and Paul says, “I like things to look right, and this truck and trailer combination certainly looks good”.
The custom trailer, built in 2013, is a very neat unit. Not only does it carry the team’s motorbikes, but it also acts as a mobile workshop, bathroom and loungeroom.
The bikes and associated equipment are all carried down low, meaning easy access for loading and unloading, while the top deck features a living area with kitchen, a change room with shower and a workshop area at the rear.
The workshop is used for working on components, such as changing suspension setups, and is spotlessly clean. The trailer is fitted with two water tanks and a hot water service, allowing the riders to have a hot shower after each race and providing the kitchen area with hot and cold running water. Also mounted in the trailer is a 200-litre fuel tank, used to carry fuel for the bikes. Roof-mounted solar panels and an inbuilt battery system keep the whole unit powered, making it self-sufficient for days at a time. A 240-volt connection also allows it to run on mains power, or can be used to recharge the batteries after a weekend at the track.
All up, including the bikes and gear, the combination weighs in at around 26 tonnes. This makes life pretty easy on the Powerstar, with ample power and just enough weight to iron out the bumps.
As mentioned, team owner Paul is the usual driver, but on this occasion he handed me the keys for the drive from Winton, in northern Victoria, back to their base in Campbellfield. It was a pretty miserable morning that greeted us at the track, but even still, the transporter was shining. There was no chance it would look so good at the other end, with heavy rain forecast for the morning of the drive promising to apply a coat of anti-shine en route.
When you drive a race transporter, as I have learned in the past, the experience is very different to normal trucking. Firstly, you are piloting a mobile billboard, and representing not only the team but also all of their sponsors. This adds a little pressure on the driver, but it also has it positives. The reactions from passers-by and the courtesy shown by other drivers are quite extraordinary, and make it even more pleasurable to be behind the wheel. The waving and tooting from passing traffic is coming for all the right reasons, not something often experienced out on the highway.
The vision from the driver’s seat of the Iveco is fantastic, as was evident while negotiating my way out of the circuit. Those first ten minutes behind the wheel, usually spent getting accustomed to the truck, showed just how easy the Powerstar is to drive. Everything was within easy reach, and easy to find, making life a lot less stressful at a time when you really don’t want to do anything embarrassing. Having waved to the enthusiastic few left at the track, it was time to hit the highway.
With plenty of power on tap for the amount of weight behind, the Powerstar found top gear in no time, and from there it only dropped out of 12th once before hitting the suburbs of Melbourne. In the traffic, it moved off in 3rd gear, skip-shifting every second gear to 9th before using each of the three top gears. This made for smooth acceleration from the traffic lights – all 350 sets of them (or so it seemed). It really did the job so easily, with no fuss and very little noise inside the cab.
Paul says he’ll probably keep this truck for a long time, and it’s easy to see why. It might seem that a truck of this size is overkill for the task, but in many ways it’s the perfect candidate for the job.
Without being ridiculously overpowered, it has enough power to please Paul, someone who is equally as comfortable on a 300 km/h motorbike. While it only travels around 23,000 km a year, it does it efficiently (averaging 2.7 km/l on this drive) and comfortably, meaning he gets to the other end feeling fresh. Importantly, it also looks the part, and does a great job representing the team and its sponsors, not only to those at the track but to all who see it on the road heading to or from race meets. Make no mistake, when you’re carrying the reigning Australian Superbike Champion, Troy Herfoss’, ride around the country, plenty of people take notice as you roll by!