Against the backdrop of the impressive Three Sisters Rätikon Alpine ridge, the first ever tri-nation Young European Truck Driver final for Austria, Germany and Switzerland was decided over the weekend.
“It makes sense to combine forces since we have a common language,” says YETD Manager Holger Maier. “We found the ideal spot in Austria at the crossroads between the three countries.”
When all the stages were completed with the concluding four-corner Knock the King challenge, Austria’s Stefan Büchele, Switzerland’s Thomas Knüsel and Germany’s Patrik Schildmann stood as victors. Each country entered six drivers in “Das Grosse Dreiländerfinale”, ranging from relative newcomers to seasoned drivers with many thousands of kilometres road experience. Regardless, they shared the distinction of having advanced through the qualification as the best in their nation.
Challenge – knock teddy bears off stools
The final was held at a driving camp, providing excellent facilities for organisation. With the many competitors, interest was high among relatives to attend and cheer their young combatants.
Initial stages included the obligatory check before driving, fire-and-rescue, load securing and the combo manoeuvring exercise but a few additional crowd-pleasing events had also been added. In one challenge, competitors were given the assignment of pushing a small cart ahead of the truck to knock cute teddy bears off stools. In another devilishly difficult challenge, participants were forced to, in the fewest possible manoeuvres, turn around a tractor in a confined 9.5 x 9.5 metre square.
After the morning, the two participants with the lowest scores were eliminated and the four remaining faced a new obstacle course. The two best were finally pitted against each other in the four-corner Knock the King. It was tight and one final was actually a photo finish that had to be decided after examining the video.
Won by seconds
Austrian champion Stefan Büchele, who lives in the immediate area and normally drives a refuse truck, was just a second quicker than the runner-up. “That was really tight but I tried to keep my cool and concentrate.”
Germany’s Patrik Schildmann is a YETD veteran, having placed second in the 2010 European final. In the final race in Södertälje that year he made a decisive mistake and is now looking for revenge. With an added five years driving experience he rates his chances as fairly good. “But you need quite a bit of luck also.”
The happiest man of the day was Switzerland’s Thomas Knüsel, 28 years. As an added bonus, the three winners from each of the countries entered a final challenge to crown the tri-nation champion. With a convincing victory, he couldn’t be more pleased, especially since working as a dispatcher he nowadays drives trucks sparingly. “I’m concentrated when driving and seek that right feeling rather than being methodical in my driving,” he said as enthusiastic Swiss fans cheered.
The three are now preparing for the YETD final in Södertälje 24–25 April. Their chances? Each will give his best and may the best European young truck driver win!