MAN Truck & Bus
It never really brightens on this stormy morning in Linthe near Berlin, the rain has been falling for hours. The conditions for training the MAN team bus driver at the ADAC Driving Safety Centre in Berlin-Brandenburg could hardly be worse – and are therefore ideal. Because handling hazardous situations is on the curriculum. The captains of the Bundesliga buses must prove they can keep a cool head and react correctly in an emergency.
The new FC Bayern Munich team bus gleams red under heavy skies. Men in club tracksuits from Wolfsburg, Augsburg and Basel gather in an inquisitive attitude by the cockpit. No need for concern, a big “hello” as the doors open. Michael Lauerbach and Armin Kriz invite these curious colleagues to visit their MAN Lion's Coach L. The bus drivers know and understand each other well, no trace of club-related rivalries. The privilege of belonging to the great football circus unites them. Animated conversations on the Bayern bus: the technology holds the undivided interest of the professionals, but not that of a Lewandowski. “The gear shifts really are as soft as butter”, enthuses Lauerbach about the automated 12-speed MAN TipMatic gearbox, which supports very smooth and quiet operation.
WHEN I STARTED AT WOLFSBURG, I FIRST HAD TO HAVE THE OFFSIDE RULE EXPLAINED TO ME SO I COULD TAKE PART IN CONVERSATIONS.
The team bus is an important retreat for the players and promotes their concentration and regeneration in everyday travel between encounters. That is why the MAN bus modification centre in Plauen also offers installation of modern comfort features. Four height-adjustable, face-to-face tables in the first row provide space for meetings with coaches and mentors. The stars make themselves comfortable on 32 leather seats with adjustable head restraints beneath starry LED lighting – always in their regular places. Lauerbach has already driven Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger when they were still green behind the ears and were playing in the Munich youth teams. He has been driving professional footballers to their destination since 2006. They are ready for their first training session, which is on the slalom course. Bayern's drivers test the 500 horsepower team bus to the limit for the first time. Kritz manoeuvres the Lion's Coach through the pylon course at a speed of 30 km/h. That doesn't sound particularly fast, but the bus is almost 14 metres long and the permissible total weight is around 25 metric tons. Holding tight, tires squealing and highly concentrated, the 46-year-old along with the assistance systems hold the rear that is swerving slightly on the changeable road surface. Club managers pay special attention to safety. The FC Bayern bus is equipped with ESP, an emergency braking assistant, a lane monitoring system and numerous other assistants. It also has surround monitoring via six cameras. Their market value does not differentiate professional footballers from other passengers and require special safety precautions in regular service, even in terms of protecting “valuable freight”. “The players are just normal passengers to me”, stresses Kriz.
“Always remember: coordinate your steering and your view ahead. The sensor technology measures the steering angle and supports you best when you are looking where you want to go”, resounds Heinrich Degenart's voice via radio in the cockpit of the Bayern bus. The experienced MAN ProfiDrive instructor is in an observation turret at the track and checks to see whether the bus driver is assuming the correct steering wheel position, adhering to the specified exercise speeds and reacting properly.
Test track in view The Team MAN ProfiDrive training manager conveys instructions to the drivers via radio.
Whether on the slalom course, during training how to brake or when cornering: each situation requires the right reaction.
An understanding of the relationship between vehicle weight and speed is crucially important.
Reconciling steering movements and fields of vision is where safety assistants can provide optimum support to drivers.
Yildiz Zekeriye, nicknamed “Zico”, takes the reins. Emergency braking at a speed of 20 km/h on different smooth and structured surfaces. Brake training simulates a situation that can arise in every town with rails laid into the road bed. The FC Augsburg bus comes to a halt after three metres. A new attempt at a speed of 30 km/h and the braking distance has increased to over ten metres. “The vehicle’s weight adds more and more propulsion with increasing speed”, explains the father of three children thoughtfully.
The ardent FC Augsburg fan has worked his way up; for over five years he drove the youth and second team, during the week also in regular service. Zekeriye first obtained the OK from his family as it became clear that his dream of driving the first team was to be realised. “I am always on the road at weekends during the season. I have to time my holidays to avoid the team's match dates and I'm in the training camp during the summer holidays.” The family goes along with his profession, “Zico” is immersed in it. “I love my profession.” The 45-year-old is able to watch the matches in the stadium, is on familiar terms with players and coaches and is included in hotels and at mealtimes. The retinue navigates through the maze of different training tracks on the 25-acre site on top of a hill. “We team bus drivers all keep in touch”, says Zekeriye before the next session starts. “We all help each other.” When a visiting team's driver can no longer drive the players to their hotel after an evening match in Augsburg, because it would exceed his permitted daily driving time, he calls his colleague Zekeriye. Does a city have construction sites or underpasses that have to be considered on arrival? The home team driver knows best.
The buses travel down the hill at 40 kilometres per hour into a watered bend. The task: emergency braking, and immediately stabilise the bus if it swerves. Facilitator Degenhart reports in by radio: “You have to steer as soon as you brake. Show the bus where you want to go and the assistance systems will help you stay in control.” Thomas von Mulert may be completing his first driver safety training, but he masters the task immediately. Von Mulert used to drive public and long-distance buses, but “being a team bus driver is extraordinary”. He likes basketball, the team spirit and the fact that there are common goals when he is driving. His rolling realm is more modest than that of his football colleagues. While they enjoy their own on-board kitchen, it is not unknown for von Mulert's basketball team to order a pizza delivery to the driver's door after a match.
Evening is descending in Brandenburg’s Linthe, Udo Graßhoff and Guido Vicinotti are driving the VFL Wolfsburg bus to the last exercise. The buses are picking up momentum on a downhill stretch and are supposed to brake in front of a water obstacle and avoid it. “Closing your eyes already?”, jokes Vicinotti. “I'd rather tighten my seatbelt.” Nothing flusters the oldest drivers on the circuit; they have been driving together for ten years. “When I started at Wolfsburg, I had to have someone explain things to me so I could take part in conversations”, relates Graßhoff. The 59-year-old doesn't have much fondness for football. And yet: “The players are nice, easygoing passengers.”
The Bus rolls down the ramp at a speed of 40 km/h. Graßhoff shows what he has practised today: In a skilful combination of braking, steering and viewing ahead he drives round the water fountain without getting his vehicle wet. Vicinotti applauds.
End of the manoeuvres Training programmes that include driver training courses are mandatory for all professional bus drivers.
The automated 12-speed MAN TipMatic gearbox with integrated retarder installed in the FC Bayern team bus guarantees an especially smooth ride. The new Smart-Shifting transmission function plays a key role in the optimum balance between efficiency and comfort during selection. It combines a fast switching sequence in all gears, support for higher gear selection and shifting to match the driving situation.