For any MotoGP or Formula 1 fan the Catalunya circuit in Barcelona is definitely a bucket list item. I was very fortunate to not only get to attend the event last week, but also get the full VIP treatment – courtesy of Monster Energy who are the event title sponsor as well as sponsor two of the teams.
The buildup to the event was definitely an emotional one. The rivalry between Yamaha team mates Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo was one of the main talking points with eyes also on local boy Marc Marquez who has the most number of poles on the track. Maverick Viñales however (Team Suzuki Ecstar) threw his name into the hat late in the practice sessions by posting the best time in the premier class and led a free practice for the first time this season.
The event took a turn for the worse however, with the unfortunate passing of Luis Salom who had a fatal crash during Friday’s Moto2 practice session. He was airlifted to the nearby hospital and despite the best efforts of the trauma team, he passed away later that afternoon. There were a number of tributes to him throughout the weekend, including a 500 bike strong lap of remembrance after Saturday’s qualifying sessions.
When we arrived for the qualifying sessions on Saturday morning there was a clear, somber mood at the track. The qualifiers went off without any glitches and Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) once again proved why he is one of the best on the circuit, clinching pole position at his home track. He was followed by Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha) and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) making it an all Spanish front row. Italian MotoGP superstar Valentino Rossi occupied the second row on the starting grid with Spaniard Héctor Barberá.
Off the track, the hospitality experience was truly world class and I got some exclusive peaks into some of the areas of the event, which is run like a machine. Just looking at the paddocks area and the number of moving parts that need to be coordinated, is enough to give even the most experienced of event organisers a heart attack.
As the event title sponsors, Monster puts on a pretty spectacular activation headlined by the world famous Monster Girls, probably only equalled in popularity by the golden child Valentino Rossi. The fact that Monster also sponsors Rossi just further amplifies the brand’s dominance at the circuit and in the sport. The Monster village features a Monster Girl stage complete with splash pool as well as a merchandise store and a triple story viewing deck for that next level viewing experience. People were literally falling over one another to try and get a picture or any other item that the Monster Girls were handing out. I’ve never seen grown men so keen to get a t-shirt or a z-card in my life.
On race day it was clear that even though the Spaniards were on home turf, Rossi is most certainly the most popular man on the circuit. With Marquez and Lorenzo starting ahead of him on the grid he had his work cut out for him.
They don’t call him The Doctor for nothing because he remedied that quickly even with a poor start, which still saw him take the lead after just 6 laps. From then on it was vintage Valentino as he set the pace for the remainder of the race. Marquez came close to snatching it from Rossi with 3 laps to go but ultimately finished second for a valuable 20 points which put him 10 points clear of Lorenzo on the overall standings. A highlight of the day was being able to watch Rossi crossing the finish line inside the Monster team’s pit box with the rest of the technical team. Definitely a once in lifetime type moment.
On a side note, I didn’t even know there was a South African on the circuit but Brad Binder, a young 20year old born in Potch, clinched pole position in the Moto3 series and ended the race in second place.
Aside from Rossi’s win, one of the highlights of the race was the truce called between Rossi and his rival team mate at the press conference. I think the Salom tragedy really put things in perspective for the racers and they decided to focus on the important things rather than trivial beef. Let’s hope it lasts.
The weekend was definitely a highlight in the travel journal and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity.
About the circuit
In 1989, through the joint collaboration of the Catalan Autonomous Government, the Montmeló Town Council and the Royal Automobile Club of Catalunya (RACC), work began on giving one of Europe’s most beautiful cities a state of the art race track to match. The Circuit de Catalunya opened on the doorstep of Barcelona in September 1991 and welcomed its first international event that same month, hosting the Spanish F1 Grand Prix. It went on to host the European Motorcycle Grand Prix and in 1995 became home to the Gran Premio de Catalunya. Considered to be one of the best designed circuits of the recent era, the Circuito de Catalunya won the much coveted IRTA ‘Best Grand Prix’ trophy for 2001 and has a general admission capacity of 104,000 spectators.
Corners: 5 left & 8 right
Longest straight: 1047m
Total distance: 118.2km
Most wins: Valentino Rossi (46)
Most poles: Marc Marquez (93)