Spanish Trip September 2015Having arrived back in Blighty yesterday (Friday 18th September), albeit somewhat grudgingly, it's time to reflect on what has truly been an amazing week away with the BaT team. Not content with the 'summer' the UK had given us we took ourselves to Spain for a week of track action in the sun, and we weren't disappointed.
The plan of action was to fly to Spain on Sunday, spend the day at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia on Monday, travel to Barcelona Tuesday and spend two days on track at Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya Wednesday and Thursday.
Woken up by a 3:30am alarm call can only mean it's travel time, and in true BookaTrack style Sally, Stuart and myself hit the road to Manchester airport, ready to switch a dark, cold morning for some sunshine. After arriving in the airport in Spain, and eventually finding some food we set up camp in a little cafe to await the next batch of staff. With three hours to kill we managed to change into summer attire, fit in a spot of sunbathing and even had time to make an amusing welcome sign for when they finally strolled through the arrivals gate.
Armed with the hired minibus it was finally time for the four hour drive to Valencia where everyone else was waiting for us. After a quick spruce up and a raid of the hotel freebies it was time for the gala dinner. The dinners are a great way to get everyone together and socialise. It is particularly good for me as I don't always get to chat to many of you from my pitlane perch, and it's nice to get to recognise people as more than just a pair of eyes through the visor strip.
Monday morning saw all hands on deck as cars were unloaded and prepped, sign on was ready and of course the all important refreshments station was set up. With just 23 cars on track it was set to be a quiet yet exciting day for our drivers. Plenty of clear laps awaited them as everyone headed out after the briefing.
With no-one having driven the circuit before the consensus was we were all in the novice boat. Sarah Reader, our chief instructor, found herself busy as she darted from car to car to share her expertise.
After speaking to a number of clients following their laps it was clear it had thrown up some very mixed reviews. Some raved about it, whereas others found it more difficult to come to terms with. The circuit is known for being a bike circuit, and as such was definitely more suited to the likes of the Caterhams as opposed to the Radicals we had out on track. The heat also meant strategic planning came into play, to make sure overheating wasn't an issue. A few laps at a time was enough for both the cars and drivers.
Despite the searing heat it seemed like a good idea to walk the circuit at lunch time. Armed with a bottle of water a few of us took to the track, and luckily managed to make it back to the paddock before being chased off track by cars - it was definitely too hot to be running away from them!
As the track opened after lunch the heat kept activity to a minimum. We had a few red flags in the morning due to spinners, but the afternoon ran very smoothly. Late afternoon was certainly busier on track than the morning session, as everyone opted to soak up the last moments of track time. I even managed to get a few laps with Jonny in the 620R.
Come 5pm it was time to pack up and head back to the hotel. As we were moving on to Barcelona the following day we didn't have the luxury of leaving things set up, it was a full clear up job. Despite a number of us on hand to help out, it was down to Mark, Mitch and Gareth to do most of the work, strapping down cars and making sure all three trucks were fully loaded, which was quite a challenge in the overpowering heat.
After another lovely evening and yet another nice meal it was time to hit the road. An 11am departure time meant we had quite a leisurely start on Tuesday. After a quick stop for food and drink supplies en route we finally arrived at Hotel Can Galvany near the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya. After a bit of time to relax and get acquainted with our rooms, Mark and Stuart headed off to the circuit to meet our truckie contingent and set up, whilst a few of us decided to make use of the outdoor swimming pool and our free spa hour before getting ready for our evening meal.
Thanks to the hard work of some of the team the night before, there was little to do for most of us upon arrival at the circuit the next morning. Whilst the lads were busy prepping the BaT cats and customer cars, I labelled up the garages whilst everyone began to arrive ready for sign on.
After 13 years away, the BaT name was back in Barcelona and before long it was time to head out on track. As we were only using a few of the garages I made myself comfortable right outside the BaT garage, which was a good position to be in, right in the thick of the action. I've never been so popular in the pit lane! Although I stand firm with the notion that had it been raining I'd have certainly been on my own out there. The sun definitely had a lot to answer for!
The majority of people hadn't been to Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya before, however our very own Spike (Sarah Reader) has raced there many times, so her knowledge was invaluable yet again. Once again she made herself comfortable alongside many of our clients as they strived to learn the circuit. Jonny has also driven the circuit before, and as ever it was great to bank a few laps with him in one of the BaT R300 Caterhams - always a highlight of our trips!
Upon seeing the faces of drivers as they returned to the pits it was clear the Barcelona circuit was definitely a winner. Everyone loved the challenge of it and we were able to enjoy two, almost uninterrupted, fantastic days on track. A brief red flag at 4pm on day two was a shame, but we managed to restart quickly for the final hour.
A fantastic effort at the end of day two saw staff pack three trucks, 16 customer cars and 4 BaT cats, flight cases, tools and many other extras in record time to arrive back at the hotel in time for the gala dinner. Another brilliant evening followed, with good company, good food and lots of smiling faces to the tune of another successful BaT trip.
A huge thank you to Jonny and Sarah for another fantastic trip, and of course to the rest of the BaT team and clients for making it so enjoyable - and for the many drinks everyone brought me in pit lane. Don't worry Giles, I kept myself well hydrated and topped up with sun cream!
Hope to see you all soon, although I expect it may be slightly cooler the next time our paths cross.
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23 September 2015
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