Motorcycle Racing in Jerez, Spain
In all my Spanish travels I never knew how much the Spanish people loved motor sports until I went to the Circuit of Jerez, a raceway in the city of Jerez de la Frontera, in the heart of Andalusia’s sherry country. I was in Spain for the food and the wine, what does Motorcycle Racing in Jerez have to do with that? Apparently, a lot more than I thought.
Motorcycle Racing in Jerez
After all the work to grow the food and make the wine and prepare the meals, Spanish men and women need to blow off a little steam. Some race their cars and bikes and some watch, and there’s nowhere better to do that in this part of the country than at the Jerez track.
The Circuito de Jerez opened on December 8, 1985 and hosted the first international motorcycle race in Spain the next spring. It also hosted the Spanish Formula One Races for the first few years until its rural location caused them to relocate to Barcelona. Still, out-of-the-way or not, it’s been a wildly popular motorcycle and car racing venue since then, partly as a training track and partly for the big races.
The day I was there an America motorcycle team was roaring around the curves getting in some track-time practice. This is not an oval track. The 2.75 mile serpentine raceway was smoking as those guys burned their way down the straight-aways to slide nearly horizontal around the curves, the traction of their fat tires somehow keeping them from skidding off into the bunkers. It was amazing to watch!
I had my choice of locations to see the races. Bleachers set on the rising slopes around the twisting ribbon of track and down near the finish line can seat as many as 125,000 people. Then there’s this flying saucer-shaped, glass-walled disk that straddles the track for the VIPs. For $1000 you can sit there in air-conditioned comfort and watch a 360 degree view of the action.
For the press there’s a 350 seat Media Room, with phone & wifi and overhead screens if you’re not looking out the wall of glass alongside the track. There’s even a “news desk” set up to broadcast TV sportscasts with highlights of the race and interviews with the winners.
My favorite room was the control room, normally restricted to officials during a race, but open to me for the facility tour. A wall of monitors showed the action from every angle on the track. Controllers could zoom in and pull back to scan every movement of all the racers. I thought it was too much of a real big-brother kind of scenario until I realized it was for the safety of racers. While I watched, one of the American teammates slowed down and pulled off the track in some kind of distress. Immediately, the camera zoomed in on him as someone was dispatched to help him and get the bike back to the pit, while someone else signaled when it was safe to wheel the bike across the track. Good thing! If any racers came around the turn and found him walking on the track they would have to ditch their bikes and still might not miss him.
Everything worked as it was designed to and he was brought back safely, an upset stomach his only ailment, and practice continued. After that excitement the empty podium visit seemed a letdown until I realized I was standing where some of the best riders in the world, Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, Valentino Rossi, Marc Márquez and so many others had stood, waving to the crowds as they received their trophies. Then it was exhilarating!
The final thing to see is the museum of motorcycles, formula one cars and all the suits, engines and helmets of the famous drivers who’ve won at Jerez. It is an amazing collection of memorabilia all under one roof. Even though I didn’t see any real races, the bikes on the track and all this racing stuff made me feel as if I had. Especially after they let me take one on a test drive – Wow!
It turned out that a visit to the Circuito de Jerez can be a thrilling experience for motor sports fans even when there are no races scheduled. So, when next in Andalusia, take a break from all that great food and sherry and get thee to the track!
Circuito de Jerez http://www.circuitodejerez.com facility tour 6 euros.