A familiar place: Aragon
Midway between Madrid and Barcelona in the Teruel province is our final destination ahead of the infamous flyaways. Like many other circuits, this track has evolved from an urban street racing phenomenon to a larger scale motor-racing event. It has adhered to its heritage and proudly accompanies (or fights for position?) three other Spanish rounds on the 2018 MotoGP calendar. The Gran Premio Movistar de Aragón situated in Alcañiz, Spain is our stop this week and is a location immersed in history dating back to the 11th and 12th century. So, let’s take a walk down memory and get you ready for the days ahead.
Visiting Aragon and municipalities like Alcañiz is equivalent to that of a real life lesson. The streets are bestrewn with Mudéjar, a prominent ancient aesthetic trend (highly inspired by Islamic tradition) featuring the innovative use of bricks in architecture. The craftsmanship is simplistic, unspoiled and has a unique way of transporting you back in time. This quickly became an intrinsic part of the local’s identity and in 1986 UNESCO declared certain sections a world heritage site. This location (along with much of Spain) holds an endless array of sensations, from the production of authentic wines and local Spanish cuisine to the very structures that have forged their communities. It is home to some of the most diverse geography with thriving pastures, rivers, mountains and valleys acting as the ultimate organic backdrop and luckily for us motorsport lovers, it is also the abode to the annual MotorLand Aragón Grand Prix.
During the mid ‘60s in Aragon, the first active origins of street racing emerged. It was a thrilling 3.9 kilometre urban circuit running through Alcañiz and managed to draw in sixty to seventy thousand spectators. A rise in safety concerns soon enforced change and the concept of a safer, purpose-built track was born. Renowned German engineer, racing driver and circuit designer, Hermann Tilke was entrusted with Aragon’s precious new baby. His duty was to create a circuit that represented the town’s antiquity but not at the hands of safety, that was the priority. The inaugural GP opened its doors in September 2010. A 5.1km long circuit with 17 turns and a 968m straight was evidently an enviable sequence and for the first time in history, IRTA granted the MotorLand Aragon GP with the ‘Best Grand Prix of the Year’ award in it’s very first season. The layout showcases a variation of sweeping, slow and tighter curves and has distinct elevation changes. These changes are most prominent at the end of the main straight (which bestows a high speed challenge in itself) down through turns 8-9 and are said to have similar characteristics to that of the acclaimed Laguna Seca Corkscrew. Much like the Mudéjar architecture seen throughout Aragon, the illustrious ‘Stonewall’ has become a dramatic backdrop for the annual GP. It is a showcase of the culture, art and society which UNESCO fight to protect and the people are very proud of.
The Spanish are no strangers to the ‘top step’ and in Aragon they are some of the most successful. From 2012 onwards victory has been claimed by one of three Spaniards, Marc Marquez (whom is the most successful rider at this track), Dani Pedrosa or Jorge Lorenzo. The last non-Spanish rider to win at this circuit was Australian World Champion, Casey Stoner in 2011. Marquez is a big fan: “Aragon is a race track that I like…” and has no intention of attacking the weekend any differently to last. “In Aragon I will push again. If we cannot win, the way to finish is on the podium in all the races. This is my target”. Not only have we seen some great rivalries between riders here, we have also witnessed our fair share of dramatic junctures. In 2013 Marquez inadvertently cut the traction control cable on Pedrosa’s bike, sending him tumbling into a huge high side. The only positive to blossom out of this situation was the development of a guard to hide the cable to ensure no future clashes had a similar result. In 2014 in typical flag-to-flag fashion, the slipping and sliding and misjudgement of strategy concluded Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez, Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso’s race and put Jorge Lorenzo, Aleix Espargaro and Cal Crutchlow on top. It can be a nail biter from start to finish or a witchhunt for the man out the front.
My guess is as good as yours regarding the victor this weekend. However, from the past and how the present is panning out, I’d put my money on red and yellow. Particularly, a young man going for the World Championship again. Whether you are watching from the comfort of your home or attending the race first hand, it is no feat to get a grasp on the local culture and immerse yourself in the vibe that runs through the veins of the towns and residents in them. You, ladies and gentleman are in for a treat.
By Sienna Wedes @SiennaWedes
Photos by CormacGP @cormacGP