Fernando Alonso in his racing car at the Spanish Grand Prix, held at the Barcelona-Catalonia Circuit in Montmeló. Photo: EFE/Alberto Estévez.
Motor and speed: A Spanish passion
In addition to two of the world’s most popular sports, football and basketball, Spain stands out in motorcycling and motor racing at the international level. There are lots of motor enthusiasts in the country, as well as four top-level grand prix races and a bunch of amazing pilots that includes Fernando Alonso, Carlos Sainz, Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Márquez.
Motor racing has a long tradition in the country. Almost everyone has a favourite pilot and celebrates their victories. And who is to blame for this? Ángel Nieto. The motorcycle racer from Zamora was a pioneer, paving the way for pilots to come and making motorcycling known in a country where virtually no-one had heard about it before.
Today, Nieto continues to be the motorcyclist with best trophy record in Spain – second best in the world, behind Giacomo Agostini: six victories in 50cc and seven in 125cc.
The passion for motors makes a lot of noise in Spain. Our country hosts four out of 19 Grand Prix motorcycle races and one F1 Grand Prix race. No other country hosts so many top-level competitions, but Spain offers mass influx of spectators and world-class circuits, so safety and fun are guaranteed.
Ángel Nieto-Jerez Circuit (Jerez de la Frontera, Cádiz)
Opened in 1985, this circuit was renamed after Ángel Nieto when he died in 2017. It hosts the Spanish motorcycle Grand Prix, which gathers 250,000 visitors in just one weekend. This sporting event has a positive economic impact on the economy of the province, estimated at 50 million euro.
The circuit also includes a Motor Museum and a Pilot Training School, helping Spanish pilots develop their skills.
MotorLand Aragón Circuit (Alcañiz, Teruel)
It opened in 2010 to host the Aragón motorcycle Grand Prix, a real classic that gathers over 100,000 fans every year (the province’s population is 130,000). Its economic impact on the regional economy of Bajo Aragón has been estimated at 20 million euro, to which we should add another 9 million for other activities being held through the year.
Ricardo Tormo Circuit of the Region of Valencia (Cheste, Valencia)
Opened in 1999, this circuit plays host to the Valencian Community motorcycle Grand Prix. Since this is the last Grand Prix of the season, the circuit has taken on the role of jury: 15 world championships from all three categories have been decided here since 2002. Other competitions are held here too, such as the Racing Legends (classic vehicles), the Valencia NASCAR Fest, the Ferrari Challenge or the 24h Cyclo Circuit.
Barcelona-Catalonia Circuit (Montmeló, Barcelona)
This circuit, which opened in 1991, is the only one to host three world championships: the Catalan motorcycle Grand Prix, the Spanish Formula 1 Grand Prix and the Catalan Rallycross Championship.
With a capacity for 131,000 spectators, the circuit offers more than 10,000 temporary jobs a year, which makes it a driving force for the regional economy. This year, it will host 16 sporting competitions, which means it will be active every day. In 2017, it welcomed 565,550 visitors, with an impact estimated at 340 million euro.
Trophies on wheels
Motorcycling is one of the sports in which Spain has had the best results and has the best pilots. Marc Márquez is captain and commander, having won four the past five MotoGP championships (2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017).
To him we should add Jorge Lorenzo (three-time MotoGP world champion, in 2010, 2012 and 2015), Pol Espargaró (Moto2 world champion in 2013), Maverick Viñales (Moto3 world champion in 2013), Dani Pedrosa (125cc world champion in 2003 and 250cc world champion in 2004 and 2005) and Ana Carrasco (the youngest female motorcyclist to take part in a world championship and the first woman to win).
In Formula 1, Spain has great pilots too. Top of the list is, of course, Fernando Alonso, world champion in 2005 and 2006. But we can also mention Pedro de la Rosa and Alfonso de Portago, both of whom stepped onto the podium.
A global reference
Other pilots worth mentioning are Jaime Alguersuari, Marc Gené and the younger generation, whose most salient members – Roberto Merhi and Carlos Sainz Jr., son of double World Rally and Dakar Rally champion Carlos Sainz – are already knocking on the doors of motor teams.
The success of Spanish drivers is the result of the sound planning done by Spanish federations, the hard work put into local championships and the money mobilised by motor sports in the country, which makes them look attractive to sponsors.
The model is already being replicated in countries like India or Malaysia, where they are implementing strategies to engage youths and organise national competitions where they can gain experience and improve their skills.
Superbike, kart racing, classic vehicles, and more
Motor lovers in Spain have much more to have fun with than Formula One or motorcycling. The MotorLand Classic Festival, held at MotorLand Aragón, is a must for the nostalgic crowds. Last year, it drew more than 1500 classic vehicles.
Motocross has had an amazing growth. The RedSand MX Park in Vilafamés, Castellón, is this sport’s temple in Spain (and internationally as well), playing host to the Motocross GP until 2022 at least. Participants include Spanish stars Jorge Prado, Iker Larrañaga and José Antonio Butrón, among others.
Last but not least, mentioned should be made of kart racing, a sport that is getting a boost from the Royal Spanish Motor Racing Federation, which considers it to be a useful training platform. After all, many great pilots, including Fernando Alonso, Carlos Sainz and Roberto Merhi, took their first steps in karting.