February's Fun in the Sun
After months of planning and hard work, our first winter European trip took place last weekend in Southern Spain and Portugal. Seven race transporters, four mini buses and sixty guests arrived in the Malaga area on Friday afternoon to begin an amazing few days of track driving, socialising and stunning scenery.
Our first stop on the trip was the pretty town of Ronda just 10 miles from the Ascari race resort. Those lucky enough to arrive early afternoon had time to enjoy the beautiful hotel converted from the old town hall, perched high up on the edge of a 300ft gorge. Clients took the opportunity to wander round the old town visiting the many shops, restaurants and tapas bars on offer.
The next morning began early with the short journey to the Ascari resort. This purpose built circuit complex was constructed to replicate the owners favourite circuits around the world. This was the venue that drivers on the trip were most excited about and the circuit certainly has a very special aura to it. The 5.4km track was extremely fast with many gradient changes and a huge variety of corners. All of this was set in an immaculate resort that included a swimming pool, club-house and patio overlooking the race circuit and the Ronda Range.
After everything was packed up at Ascari we all headed off on the 70 mile journey to the former Formula 1 race circuit of Jerez. On Sunday morning we arrived at the circuit again to fantastic sunshine, having to remind ourselves that it was only February! At the circuit the F1 teams were already setting up for a week of testing and media events. We looked on in awe of the fantastic trucks and equipment and were lucky enough to get a guided tour of the Red Bull set up by one of their mechanics (a friend of one of the BaT staff).
This was the venue that many drivers were expecting the least from and were delighted by the surprise that lay in store. A classic former F1 circuit it offered the challenge similar the former F1 circuits we have visited such as Dijon, Zandvoort and Zolder. The fast and sweeping corners offered a challenge to the huge variety of cars in attendance. By the end of the trip many declared this as their surprise favourite.
A leisurely three hour drive into Portugal saw us arrive at the fantastic Meridien Penina golf resort. This impressive complex offered comfortable rooms, an impressive selection of restaurants and a championship golf course. Again everybody had the afternoon off to relax in the sunshine on the bar patio or take in a round of golf.
After another early start we took the short journey to the amazing Portimao circuit. Even as you exit the motorway the purpose built roads to the circuit offer a taste of what is to come. The facilities at this new circuit offer an insight to the F1 ambitions of the owners. Everything is built on a massive scale and kept in pristine condition like Ascari the circuit also has a swimming pool! The circuit again didnt disappoint. The huge elevation changes and blind corners offered a fantastic challenge and topped off the trip nicely. Most drivers declared the venue as their personal favourite and during the finale dinner that evening eagerly discussed the prospect of returning.
Overall, this fantastic few days spent in Southern Europe gave the track day enthusiast a great insight into circuit driving. The variety of circuits showed the vision of one man to build his dream circuit in a purpose built resort, the glory of F1s past and the proof that F1s future is not all dull. Only one question springs to mind can we go again next year?
09 February 2011
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