RACE MODE

Dave Whyte

PowerTorque

01/08/2016

HONDA SHOWS IT’S OPEN TO NEW SUGGESTIONS WHEN IT COMES TO TAKING THE TEAM TO THE RACETRACK

Usually when people find out what I do, they ask the same question: “So what truck would YOU buy?” The answer is always the same, being that it depends on the job you want to do with it.    

A big bonneted road train prime mover would just make life hard on around-town work, and, conversely, a lightweight rigid would make the drive from Melbourne to Brisbane seem like a long way. There are some roles, however, that blur the lines between needing a highway truck and a good around-town runabout, where a 600 hp prime mover would be overkill, but too small a truck would be painful over the longer distances. These are the roles that often lead to the design of something different, and this is definitely the case with the Motologic Team Honda Racing Motocross team transporter.   

When the team outgrew its previous rigid transporter, the replacement was to be purpose-built, with the needs of the team in mind. Not only did Motologic want a truck to transport its bikes, tools and pit equipment to and from the track, but there was also a host of other features on the wish list. The combination it came up with ticks all the boxes, while also looking the part as a mobile billboard for Honda and the team.   

When I was invited to drive an IVECO Eurocargo from Melbourne to Nowra, I didn’t expect it to be anything like this. The Team Honda Racing Eurocargo is a prime example of the blurred lines when selecting the right truck for the job. While most Eurocargos are used as local PUD rigids, this one has been adapted to suit a specialist task, and adapted very well.    

The Eurocargo ML140 4x2 Crew Cab is powered by IVECO’s 5.9-litre Tector engine, and produces 251 hp/850 Nm, which is driven through a five-speed Allison automatic transmission. Combined with a 4.3:1 rear diff ratio, this has the engine working at around 1800 rpm at highway speed.    

The truck is fitted with a custom-built body, including a huge toolbox behind the cab, and a checker plate floor running from there to rear of the chassis. This floor is fitted with tie down points, meaning the truck can be used to transport the bikes, the team and a small amount of equipment, to test days and the like, without the need to take the trailer. The pin for the fifthwheeler connection simply lowers down into the floor to provide a flat surface, for easy loading and unloading.   

The trailer, built by Panton Hill Welding in Campbellfield, is 40’ (12.2 m) long, and comprises two main sections. Towards the rear of the trailer there is ample room for the bikes and tools, while the front end is dedicated to the comfort of team members. A fully functional kitchen and shower are located on the lower floor while the gooseneck area is set up as a bedroom, with bunks providing sleeping quarters for four people.

Underneath, the trailer is fitted with a 1500-litre clean water tank and a 500-litre grey water tank. The clean tank is fitted with two pumps, which means a rider can have a shower while the pit crew are washing down his bike. Twin gas bottles are also mounted under the trailer to provide hot water. Solar panels fitted to the roof provide power to the battery bank that powers all the appliances on board, and, should they not keep up, the truck-mounted generator can be used as a backup. With all of this gear on board, the combination is truly self-sufficient, including the ability to wash the whole outfit en-route to a race meet (which only takes two people half an hour, by the way).

With such a long wheelbase (5.175 m) on the Eurocargo, and an overall length of just under 19 m, driving this combination is very similar to driving a semi. In fact, it performed like a fully loaded single trailer combination in many aspects. With a gross weight of around 16 t, the Tector engine did a good job of getting the unit motivated, and maintained a good rate of knots on the open road. In the hills, with only 250 hp, it would pass the loaded B-doubles and keep pace with the loaded single-trailer semis. In regards to fuel economy, though, it would leave most single trailer combinations well behind, achieving almost 4.0 km/l over the length of our journey.   

On the downhill runs, the exhaust brake did a commendable job of holding speed, with the auto dropping back a gear to keep the engine speed in the best range for exhaust brake performance. The only exception was the drop down Mount Ousley, where I had to stop and manually select first gear in order to keep under the 40 km/h limit for trucks and buses. Using first gear meant the exhaust brake would keep the truck at 30 km/h, which must have been annoying for those in other trucks who followed me down the hill, but second gear would let it run away well over the posted limit. Not being one to push my luck, and not wanting to run out of brakes, first gear seemed like a good option.   

The driving position in the Eurocargo is really very good. A fully adjustable ISRI seat took care of all the bigger bumps, though the ride quality overall was excellent. Interestingly, the passenger’s seat up front was a fixed unit, with no adjustment available to make things more comfortable. Being a crew cab, it would be safe to assume there would be a front seat passenger a lot of the time, and while the rear seat is fixed, it is also further back from the steer axle. An air suspended, and adjustable, seat for the front passenger should be standard fitment on a crew cab, and this was made very clear over the day-and-a-half of travel from Melbourne to Nowra.   

Vision in all directions is exceptional, with a big windscreen and large Euro-style mirrors assisting in this area. For what it’s worth, the wipers also got a workout, and provided a large swept area to maintain good vision in the rain. In order to maintain rearward vision, I made use of the mirror heat switch, an old trick I like to use on rainy days. Noise levels inside the cab, even with the larger crew cab, were low enough to maintain conversation at normal levels, and not have the radio blaring to hear your favourite song.

While the Eurocargo was not designed primarily for this role, it does do a good job of getting it done. Given the size of the engine, and the associated power output, it may seem like this little truck is batting a little above its weight. The reality is, though, that this unit provides a versatile and efficient solution to a role that falls into grey area, taking into account the light weight but the need to travel long distances. When you consider the benefits in stability over a ute-based fifth-wheeler, and the increased cost of a full-sized prime mover and trailer, the IVECO seems to fit the bill just nicely.