It’s been like the countdown to having a baby, except the period was only 5 months not 9. I’m talking of course about the time elapsed since I was last on track. The winter break had given me time to fettle the R1, and now all I wanted to do was to get out on it again, brush off the cobwebs, and get back to thrashing around a track, and it’s a good one to start the season with, the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain.
As per usual there are three of us going. Me and my R1 which has been updated with an HM Quickshifter and Zero Gravity Corsa screen, Mark, who has bought Andy’s S1000RR and will be riding it for the first time, and Andy, who is bringing his R6 Cup race bike, as his brand new purchase of an RSV4 Factory has not yet had sufficient running in miles put on it.
The phone lines had been buzzing in the days before the off, with the main concern being the weather. It seems we each have a forecast that differs from the others.Mine shows a little rain on day one and all day on day two, whilst Mark and Andys reference sites don’t show rain. Regardless of what the forecasts say, the weather will sort itself out, but of immediate annoyance is the fact that as per usual, the day before an event when the car/trailer needs to be loaded, it’s raining again, meaning quick dashes outside to load the car in between showers, whilst I’ll need to get up early on departure day to load the bike.
After an early rise the next morning the bike is loaded and Sue and I set off at 9.20, some 20 minutes later than planned. The circuit is circa 800kms and an 8 hour drive for Mark and Andy, and 700kms and 7 ½ hours for me. We’ve planned to meet at the La Palme Ouest services near Perpignan at around 15.00, which would allow us some time for catching up and to fill the cars and petrol cans. With the track only being an hour and a half from the services we would hopefully arrive bang on time for the entry time to the circuit which the organisers had advised as being open from 18.00.
The journey down was largely uneventful, and passing the giant windmills near Carcassone I know we’re nearing the coast and my least favourite bit of motorway in France around Perpignan, The winds down here can be horrendous, and I have vivid memories of riding my CBR1100XX SuperBlackbird down here and being blown from one lane to another as the winds had been so strong!
Our planning turned out to be close to perfection as first we rolled into the services at 15.07, and just 7 minutes later Mark and Sev arrived. An sms to Andy telling him we were here led to him calling us saying he thinks he’s just passed the services as he was looking for La PalmeOuest, and he only saw La Palme on the services sign, later realising that our side of the autoroute was the west side and the opposite the east. Confirming he has gone past we agreed that he should stop at the next petrol service station and wait for us to join him..
At this point our well oiled plan started to go off the rails a little. Mark notes he only has 7 litres of petrol left, and after a quick check it seems we can’t get back round to the petrol station from where we’re parked. I suggested he take a petrol can round and get 5 or 10 litres and just top up a bit, but he decided that there should be enough to push on, or so he thought!
Heading back onto the motorway and driving at the speed limit rather than taking it slowly to preserve petrol, I wondered whether driving so quickly was smart given the lack of petrol he had? Sure enough after 10 minutes he started to slow, another few minutes later and he called asking how far it was to the services? I didn’t know, and passing two pull -offs without petrol, and having to pass a service station on the other side without an exit ramp on ours to get to it, I sensed it must be getting a bit touch and go if he’d make it. Our speed dropped and dropped as we ran shotgun behind before eventually a services 2km ahead sign hove into view, walkable if necessary. Painfully slowly we got closer to the services, only to find 300metres from the exit ramp the traffic had backed up and lorries seemed to have turned the autoroute into a car park. With an engine gasping on fumes and with them sat motionless drinking the last dregs, I sounded the horn and motioned at him to follow me down the hard shoulder to the services.
Andy had been waiting for quite some time as we had been going so slowly, so after Mark had put some much needed fuel back in the tank and we’d had a quick catch up chat, we decided to head off immediately and have a major fill up at La Jonqueras services, which is the first service station over the border in Spain and where the petrol would be cheaper to fill up the jerry cans. The lorries were still parked up and seemingly going nowhere, blocking the entry to the motorway, but we managed to slip in between the gaps and get into the outside line which was moving slowly, but at least it was moving!
The cause of the long tailbacks became evident when we arrived at the peage ahead and found not only multiple lines of traffic being filtered into just a few lines, but then into an effective slalom of cones and jeeps created by the Spanish Gaurdia Civil, who were there with their machine guns and dark glasses checking out each vehicle as it passed. Clearly they were looking for someone but their search was causing motorway misery for miles.
Deciding that La Jonqueras would be busy we decided to continue to the next services, where a quick fill of cars and cans soon had us on the way, although Andy soon left us, as following trailers when you have a bike inside your van means you’re not limited to the lower speeds we were. Arriving at the circuit we were amazed to see it so busy given the entry time was supposedly only 25 minutes before we arrived, but it looked as if people had been there all afternoon there were so many people there!
Eventually finding our way to where Andy had very kindly blocked off enough space for the three tents and cars, we started to unpack and set up the tents and living space for the next couple of days.
With the tents erected and bikes on the stands we went and registered, and chose to take this rather fetching and top quality cap rather than a t-shirt, as our souvenir of the event.
Next came fitting of race numbers and transponder. Me applying my number, 107
Andys R6 Cup race bike
As you can see there was a great sunset over the paddock that night
Full of expectation for the next days riding and a forecast that looked rain free, we turned in for the night. Let’s see what tomorrow brings!