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My name is Jan, and I am in charge of international sales at SSB Factory.
This time we were able to participate in the European Convention so wanted to share our experience. This is the first of its kind for us.
First time at an European tournament
I have always been interested in European competitions, and I wanted to go there to see if there were any differences between Japan and Europe in the way the event was run and the atmosphere of the competitors.
Outline of the Catalunya Cup
Friday, March 4, 2023: Arrival at the venue and dinner
Saturday, March 5, 2023: Practice
Sunday, March 6, 2023: Day of the Catalonia Cup competition
Monday, March 7, 2023 Bonus Practice Session (!)
Venue: Alcarras Racecourse (about 2 hours drive from Barcelona)
Unlike the competition in Japan, the Catalonia Cup, where many athletes take long hours to participate from all over Europe, has a Friday arrival & dinner with everyone there, a full day of practice on Saturday, and the real race on Sunday.
Interestingly enough, even the day after the tournament there is a practice day! This surprised me at first, but it seems that many of the athletes said, “Since I traveled such a long distance to participate, I want to run a little more! So they made an extra day!
Day 1: To Barcelona
From Oslo, Norway, where I live.
Barcelona is only 3 hours away by plane.
Since I would be borrowing my competition vehicle from a local, I packed my suitcase with equipment such as a helmet, boots, protective gear, and leather pants, and set off. Even though I was going to participate in a gymkhana competition, I did not have my vehicle with me, so even though I had one large suitcase, I felt as if I was going almost empty-handed.
It was early March. The daytime high in Barcelona is 18 degrees Celsius. It was 3 degrees Celsius in Oslo, where I left this morning, so it felt much warmer.
The venue is Alcarras Racecourse, less than two hours drive from here.
From the airport, we drove to the venue by rental car.
This time, I will be traveling with the members of Team NL, which has close ties to Japan. (Team NL’s website)
It was Martin and Marie, who participated in The Japan tournament 2022 last year and received JP ranking status, and two other Dutch members of Team NL, Jan and Bob.
Since the Netherlands is connected to Spain by land, the four competition vehicles were to be transported by a one-box + trailer, and those members who could not fit in the cars were to be transported by plane.
They divided into 2 groups. One driving and the other coming by plane. Although thinking that driving takes 15 hours each way, the plane group seems to be the somewhat easier option.
Arrival at the venue
We headed to the Alcaraz race track located on the west side of Catalonia with our friends from Team Netherlands.
It was a two-hour trip from Barcelona airport exactly as planned.
We passed through the endless and spectacular scenery of Spanish plantations and finally reached our destination of Alcaraz Racecourse located on top of a hill.
The venue was filled with motoGP type sounding sport bikes racing by.
The Moto gymkhana venue was on a mini course located directly beside the straight. This location wise is similar to what we have at the Tsukuba Circuit.
We arrived around 17:00 in the evening, and other competitors have already arrived at the venue before us.
Some of them had their bikes in one-box cars just like in Japan. But also seen were many campers, trucks, and rear trailer cars were also used.
Flying around the venue were greetings from many European countries!
This is the exact moment that I felt that I had now arrived to Europe to compete in Moto Gymkhana.
The sight of everyone working hard to unload their bikes and start working on them was exactly the same sight as what you would see in Japan.
The smell of gasoline and exhaust fumes. The all so familiar smell. It was calming to an extent. I could feel the tension and excitement that was just around the corner.
After registering my arrival at the organizer’s booth, the first thing I did was to visit the paddock where Rolf was whom I will be renting the bike for the event.
It seemed that the inspection of the bike had already been completed, and the sharp object check and brake light check had already been completed.
This Frenchman (Rolf) is doing an extreme bike show for his job. (If you’re interested, click here.)
Rolf greeted me with an exceptional smile.
Although I had never met Rolf before, our conversation went smoothly as we had already been interacting with each other through Facebook beforehand.
(I am not good at French, so his wife translated )
And this the vehicle we rented this time!
It is a CBR125R, a small car with narrow 110/70 profile rear tires, but was equipped with high-grip tires and had great potential fighting power.
On the first day, Friday, there was only preparation and no practice.
The place was a restaurant in the racecourse, where three long tables were set up for everyone to sit freely.
The menu was written in Spanish, so I ordered with help from a Dutch team member.
We chose one appetizer, one main course, and one dessert.
I had the salad, fish, and ice cream, all of which were delicious! Spanish food is indeed very good.
After the meal, it was already dark out so all of us headed back to our hotel.
Some of the other competitors stayed in the attached 4-person rooms, while others spent the night in tents or campervans.
Even though it is March, the nights in Alcaraz can be below freezing.. These must be very tough people. They are also participating from countries located dozens of hours away. Respect.
I stayed at the Hotel Zenit Lleida with the Team NL members.
It seems to be the hotel of choice for the participants of the Catalonia Cup because of its good cost performance. I saw many French and Germans also staying at the same hotel.
The room I stayed in had a bathtub, which is rare in Europe, a nice bonus.
Excitedly, I did some mental training before going to bed, and the first day came to an end.