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05 January 2010 12:00 GMT / Scania in the United Kingdom
Flight of fancy: Concorde Captain Mike Bannister pilots the International Truck of the Year 2010
As part of its promotional programme for the new R-series, the International Truck of the Year 2010, Scania (Great Britain) Limited recently arranged for former Concorde Chief Pilot Captain Mike Bannister to test drive the first example of the new model to arrive in the UK.
Captain Bannister took to the wheel under the instruction of Scania's Mark Agnew who, as the company's Driver Training Manager, has responsibility for Scania (Great Britain) Limited's nationwide driver training and Driver CPC programmes. Staged at the Qinetic test track in Chobham, Berkshire, this was the first time Captain Bannister had taken to the wheel of a truck.
"In terms of my expectations, I anticipated the truck being heavier to drive than a car, less responsive, difficult to manoeuvre – especially in reverse – but to have great visibility due to its higher driving position," commented Captain Bannister. "From a technical point of view, I was especially curious about the nature of the engine.
"Inside the cab, I found it extraordinarily easy to make myself comfortable. The range of seat adjustments in all directions is excellent and the steering wheel can be set just as I like it, which is near to vertical, rather like an aircraft's control column. I also very much appreciated the pilot's style layout of the controls, with everything within finger-touch reach just as I would want – and Scania's ergonomic people must have done the job properly as everything was very logical and instinctive.
"It is also remarkably quiet inside the cab, given the power of the engine. And although I had the option of selecting manual on the Scania Opticruise gearbox, the auto system was so clever I simply didn't need it.
"I took it steady on the first lap, but after that felt completely confident to run at full speed. The Chobham test track is partly banked and while I'm used to banking as a pilot it's an unusual experience on the road, especially when you're driving a 44-tonne truck!
"While cruising, the ride is completely sensation-free. But the new R-series is such a sensitive vehicle that when you change speed or direction you can actually feel it through the truck itself, which makes for a very intuitive ride. In some ways, it's similar to an aircraft where you feel the steady state of the plane change and react automatically. I have to say I wasn't expecting that in such a large vehicle."