Rafel Royes Lopez
The need for speed
A day at Montmelo includes classes and driving
On a beautiful Saturday morning, four men slipped their helmets on and stepped onto the Circuit de Catalunya racetrack at Montmeló. Covered from head to toe in bright fire suits, they adjusted their gloves and slid into their vehicles. The mechanics helped them strap in and attach the steering wheels. The gas tank was opened, primer set and ignition started. Four engines, each a 135-horsepower Renault F2N, sputtered and growled, literally resonating in the breastbone. As the pace car accelerated and disappeared around a curve, it was followed in sequence by the four drivers.
One of the mechanics, Albert Esquerda, stepped back from the track and smiled from under his sunglasses. “The one thing these people all have in common is they have gasoline in their blood.”
Despite the world-class track and professional-level equipment, the drivers themselves were not professionals. Ranging in age from their early twenties to mid-sixties, they represented half the participants in a Formula Renault debut course conducted by the RACC Automobile Club. They—and four others in their group—had just finished a short class in theory, in which they learned the basics of the vehicle and what to do if it goes off track or spins around.
“There are people who come that know how to drive, people who don’t. Mostly, they’re people who want to feel what it’s like to drive in a formula car. They’ll do four laps and we’ll note which drivers can handle the car best,” said Esquerda. “Then we’ll give them a little more instruction and do four more laps, this time with the best driver in pole position and the slowest going last. After that, the next group of four will get their turn. From start to finish, they’ll be here a little over two hours, with about 20 minutes of actual driving.”
There’s plenty of demand with a waiting list of up to four months. The cars are open-wheeler, Formula Renault vehicles: the kind that competitive drivers learn on before moving on to Formula Three and beyond. They’re capable of going from zero to 160 kilometres per hour in 4.85 seconds, and braking to a full stop from 200 kilometres per hour in 4.6 seconds. Weighing only 455 kilogrammes with a height of less than a metre, these vehicles can really fly. “It takes a curve very fast,” said Esquerda. “Such a beautiful feeling, the way it holds a curve. Not at all like a standard sports car that you take on the highway.”
Oriol Pedrola, a salesman, whose friends got together and gave him the course as a gift, was pacing back and forth beside the track. He shook his head, flushed with excitement. “It’s an incredible sensation. It gives you a real adrenaline rush.”
Beyond the debut class, there is also a superior class which lasts a whole day. Drivers begin with a class in theory, then do various laps together and alone, followed by more instruction. “In a superior class we make note of more detailed observations. We tell them, ‘You have to brake faster or slower, sooner or later, you have to start in this gear not in the other.’ We write down everything perfectly so that each driver can learn the maximum.”
And for those who desire even more thrills and with more disposable income, RACC also offers a Formula I class beginning at €2,700 (plus IVA), which also lasts a whole day.
• Debut Course, Formula Renault: €305 • Superior Course, Formula Renault: €753
• Formula One Course: Starting at €2,145
VAT (IVA) is included in these prices; €50 discount for RACC members.
How to get there:
• Autopista Barcelona-Montmeló/C-33
• Renfe to Montmeló, taxi to track.