Barcelona WorldSBK is coming on 5th, 6th and 7th of May as the fourth Round of the 2023 season. A recent addition to the WorldSBK traveling circus, is the first time in the short history of the Catalan Round where action will take place in spring rather than in September.
The Spanish riders tend to be protagonist for the delight of the local fans in Barcelona, who also profit of racing in great installations and the proximity of Barcelona city, a main attraction in the country. Thanks to a combination of nice weather and the possibility to do both mountain and beach tourism, Catalonia have many attractions for the visitor. Let’s maximize our stay during the Catalunya WorldSBK!
Barcelona SBK: a recent love affaire
The installations of Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit guest the World Superbike Championship for the first time in 2020. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, the race was behind closed doors; a strange premiere for all the involved. In Race 1 Jonathan Rea bring the trophy home for the delight of the member of the Kawasaki Racing Team; the green factory team have its headquarters just outside the track and considers this his home Round. Other races were won by Michael Van der Mark and Scott Redding.
2021 also offered variety of winners, with Redding and Rinaldi giving victories to the Aruba.it Ducati team, while Rea won the Superpole Race. Next year, Álvaro Bautista enforced his law, wining the three races of the weekend with big superiority. The Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit is suitable ground for the Ducati Panigale V4R and Bautista is a master at home, so local fans are delighted with the possibility of watching the Spanish rider win again in this round.
The layout of the track, of 4.657 meters, features a near one-kilometer-long main straight that brings the riders to turn 1-2, maybe the best overtaking spot, and to a flowing section of corners. The third one, the curvone, is specially loved by the riders, as the rear tire loves to spin all the way to the exit. While maybe not a proper roller coaster of a track, it features significantly bigger changes of gradient compared to what seems in TV. For example, corners 5 to 7 are a constant downhill, while going through 8 and 9 riders go uphill.
The rear straight connects the second part of the track. The entry on turn 10 is another great overtaking point and a fan favorite. Riders then must hold the lead while descending to the straight line again; turn 13 and 14 are quite enjoyable and a final attack can be prepared for a passing before the checkered flag.
What to do near Barcelona SBK?
Although Barcelona city is just 20 kilometers from the track, there are more attractions to see without needing to head down to the Catalan capital.
We can start a route in Caldes de Montbui, a thermal village that is at a mere 15 kilometres from the track. Dating from the roman times (in fact, Caldes name comes from the latin word caldarium), you can find the Lion’s Fountain, a hotspring with a temperature up to 74º, which make for one of the highest in all Europe. Next to it, there’s the old roman bath that is visitable, but not in use. To take a bath, there are different spa in the town, some of them with XIX modernist architecture.
From Caldes de Montbui, we can depart north to Sant Feliu de Codines where we can enjoy splendid views all over the area and visit two interesting sites. The first attraction is the Cim d’Àligues (the mountain of eagles), a preservation center for birds of prey: with more than a hundred raptor and exhibitions of fly, it’s a perfect place to enjoy the majestic of these animals. From the town there’s a road that heads into mountains that brings you to the Sant Miquel del Fay waterfall. A beautiful ‘punch bowl’ type waterfall with an old monastery next to it that is pleasure to visit when temperatures get high.
For mountain lovers, maybe it’s worth a visit Montserrat mountain. With its characteristic ‘handsaw’ shape (indeed, Montserrat means ‘serrated mountain’), this multi-peaked mountain range is quite different from any other and maybe for this reason become the spiritual heart of Catalans since the Middle Ages. In Montserrat we can have a cultural visit in its monastery and pay a visit to ‘La Moreneta’ a black representation of the Mary Virgin. But also, we can enjoy the multiple paths and tracks all around this unique mountain range.
For those seeking more for beach and sun, the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit is not far from the sea, just 25 kilometers from Mataró and its beaches. And if you look for a shorter and nicer route, try the twisting roads through the mountains of the Alella wine region. Stopping in this town can be a nice opportunity to try this local product before having a swimming. Overall is about a mere 15 kilometers from your site in the grandstand to the sand of the beach!
Visiting Barcelona city: a metropolis for bikers
Barcelona is a major tourist attraction and the list of things to see is remarkable. In fact, taking the touristic bus and choose whatever routes and monuments you would like to see is a good idea. Nevertheless, there are certain ‘must’ to do in the Catalan capital in terms of places to visit.
Sagrada Familia is the main tourist attraction. This makes for long queues of people trying to see this rather unique basilica. Be advised: it’s better to buy tickets in advance to spend less time in queues. But don’t get discouraged: the inside of this Gaudi building is also exceptional! Sagrada Familia may be the more famous, but there’re more buildings of Gaudi through the city. La Pedrera, Casa Batlló or Park Güell are also open to visits and pretty inspiring in its architecture valor.
The city has a historical center with its origins dating Roman and Middles Ages times. Roman vestiges are fewer than other European cities, but the old quarter (Ciutat Vella and Born) still feature many Middle Ages buildings: the Sant Jaume Square, the Cathedral, the Major Royal Palace, the Cathedral of Sant Maria del Mar… Also, in this part of the city there are the Rambla, probably Barcelona’s most famous street. It’s a promenade leading from Plaça Catalunya (probably the heart of the city) to the sea front. In the Ramblas we can find the Liceu opera theater and the colorful and Boqueria Market; a place to visit and taste!
For those looking a different vibe, there are alternatives. From the sea promenade (called Passeig Maritim) and the old fishermans quarter called Barceloneta (little Barcelona) to the more indie neighborhoods of Gracia and Sants, full of bars for locals where enjoy the afternoons beer in hand.
Barcelona is a city were the touristic interest are spread all along the city. Maybe because of this is a good idea to take advantage and head for the city in your motorbike. Barcelona has the second biggest motorbike vehicle park in Europe just after Milano. Overall is enjoyable to ride, having quite places to visit, usually there’s good weather, and the traffic is dense, but car drivers are used to motorbikes all around them.
Montjuïc circuit: Barcelona’s racing heritage
Also, there’s a strong heritage of motorcycling racing in the city and can be worth a visit. The first stop is at Montjuïc. This mountain is renowned for many attractions: the National Palace that holds an art museum, the fair of Barcelona, the ‘magical fountains’ that illuminate during the night, the Olympic stadium… and in the avenues and streets that cross this hill, we find the route of the original Montjuïc Circuit, a street track that was used in 1932 for the first time until 1986. In fact, Montjuïc is the reason why the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit was constructed as a replacement in 1991.
Doing a lap to the old track is possible – obviously, at moderate speed respecting the traffic rules – and the layout is quite fun and enjoyable.
If we start in the original grid, in the Rius i Taulet Avenue, just in front of the stairway with the fountains, we can go in uphill direction to 'Poble Espanyol', zigzagging along the ‘S’ shaped avenue. We will arrive to a roundabout with a monument to Saint George (Catalonia’s patron saint) and we continue straight. This is the fast part of the old track, going still uphill in this avenue that will lead us, in a constant, fast bend to the Olympic Stadium complex visible on our right. Just after passing the stadium there’s a plate as an homage to all the riders and drivers who raced there; the plate is next to the Olympic Museum, worth a visit for any sport fan.
After the stadium there’s a sudden change of slope, were racing motorbikes of the era jumped! This marks the beginning of the downhill section. Few meters ahead there’s a traffic light: in this cross we must turn to the left (direction ‘Teatre Grec’ and leave the avenue for a winding tight street called ‘Passeig de Santa Madrona’. Enjoy the turns and twist of this section and keep going until a second traffic light; at our right there’s the entrance of the Greek Teather. Again, we turn left in this traffic light and follow this street, that will lead us to the original starting point in the Rius i Taulet Avenue.
Montjuïc Circuit had been the place of many big races: from the Formula One and Motorcycling Spanish Grand Prix to the popular Montjuïc 24 Hours for bikes and many other series. Legendary clashes toke place with legendary riders like Mike Hailwood, Angel Nieto, Giacomini Agostini, Barry Sheene…
On the other side of the city there’s another mountain with association with motor racing. In fact, it’s one of the roads that lead out from the city: it’s the Carretera de la Rabassada. It was the place of a very popular hill climbing that was disputed intermittently between 1922 and 1983. And still is the road for any motorcycling enthusiast who wants a little bit of action close to the city; it’s easy to find groups of bikers enjoying the route.
Rabassada proper denomination is BP-1417 and starts on the Exit 6 of Ronda de Dalt, one of the city’s ring roads. As soon as we take this exit in direction of the BP-1417 we start the route, of which the first 5 kilometers are the historical part. We can say is Barcelona’s Mulholland Drive, with fantastic views over the city; is worth to stop to take some pictures from the lookout.
Tourism in Catalonia during Catalan WorldSBK
Overall, Catalonia is a major tourist destination in Spain. Barcelona is a big part of this attractive, but also the possibility of enjoying both high mountain sports and sun and beach tourism in the same country.
At 150 kilometres north from the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit you can enjoy the beauty of the Pyrenees Mountains in the Cerdanya Valley; just a 2 hours ride and easy to access via highway. Going northeast, 80 kilometres form the track we can meet the famous Costa Brava beaches, with rocky and littles bays that are similar to Cote Blue from the French Provence. This area extends for about 60 kilometres from the French frontier going south and features iconic seaside towns like Cadaqués, Salvador Dalí’s town. Not far from the Costa Brava is Girona, about 100 kilometres form the Circuit. Is a city with a well-preserved Middle Ages centre that was featured in some episodes of Games of Thrones; a beautiful stop.
Going south, there’s another big Catalan city: Tarragona. Situated 120 kilometres from the track, Tarragona features numerous Roman remains: an amphitheatre, a circus, palaces and other elements of the former Tarraco, the capital of the Hispania Roman province. Before arriving to Tarragona there are two major spots to visit. First Sitges, a touristic destination thanks to its beaches, promenade and nightlife all in a classical Catalan seaside town. The other is Vilafranca del Penedés, perhaps the wine capital of Catalonia thanks to the Penedés wine and cava (champagne) protected denomination.
Enjoying the food at Catalan SBK
Spanish gastronomy is well known and reputed but has big variations from region to region. Catalan cuisine is Mediterranean and shares a common links with Valencian and Balearic dishes more than other places like Andalusian or Castille, were famous things like ‘tapas’ style food are more common. Also, being Catalonia a mix of sea and mountains, you can find big a high variety of dishes all year.
For meat lovers, Catalonia is very focused on pork: from cured meats like fuet o llonganisa (kind of salami) to the local sausage ‘botifarra’ and all parts of this animal; in all country you can find a passion for pig’s feet with many different recipes. Seafood and fish fans will also have many dishes to choose from, like for example the Suquet de peix (Catalan bouillabaisse) to all kind of preparation for cod and other fishes. Rice dishes are also very prominent, sharing variations of paella style dishes or even made with pasta, like ‘fideua’. A curious mix common in Catalonia is the surf and turf dishes; meatball with cuttlefish or chicken with crayfish are good examples.
Is a must to try ‘pa amb tomàquet’. Is a toast with tomato and olive oil that is the perfect companion for any lunch, breakfast, or dinner. A very simple but delicious dish that has a trick: the tomato pulp must be smeared against the bread! Don’t forget to taste the local sauces: allioli (garlic and oil) is a powerful addition for meats and romesco is more suitable for vegetables and even fish. Also, the samfaina, a variety of the French ratatouille.
And for drink, you can enjoy all kind of wines Spain can offer you. If you want to try local, you have plenty of options of Catalan white, red and rosé wines: Priorat, Empordà, Terra Alta, Penedès… and also the cava, the local version of champagne. It’s really a country to enjoy in the mouth!