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8 days ago
By motogp.com

Barcelona with Joey Dunlop, The Who and Queen

Former MotoGP™ Nick Harris commentator reflects on the unique history of Grand Prix and Barcelona

Tags MotoGP, 2020

Sitting by the hotel pool in Castelldefels with the greatest ever road racer Joey Dunlop watching the equally greatest ever rock bands U2, The Who, and Queen perform live at Wembley Stadium on the television so reminds me of my very first taste of motorcycle racing in Spain.

It was my one and only visit to the legendary Montjuic Park circuit with the roofs and spires of the City of Barcelona shining in the sunshine below the hillside location. The circuit that started the Grand Prix revolution in Spain back in 1951. The 3.790 km Parkland circuit that had staged 17 Spanish Grands Prix.

It was a hot July weekend in 1985 and the Spanish Grand Prix had long moved on to the purpose-built circuit at Jarama on the outskirts of Madrid. Montjuic Park was still alive and certainly kicking. I was there with the Rothmans Honda TT Formula One team for the Spanish round of the Championship. There was also a round of the TT Formula Two World Championship with the real bonus a round of the World Endurance Championship which meant watching motorcycles racing at night on the hallowed tarmac. It was one massive party for tens of thousands of spectators who knew how to party while the mighty monsters roared round the circuit with headlights blazing and exhausts glowing.

Montjuic Park had such a special place in motorcycle folklore. In 1951 it hosted its first Grand Prix and the 500cc race won by Umberto Masetti on the Gilera in 2:10:56.2 at a speed of 93.9 km/h which is the slowest ever average speed recorded for a premier class Grand Prix. Two years later Fergus Anderson became the oldest rider to win a premier class Grand Prix. He was 44 years old at the time and so do not give up Vale, you have three more years!

Japanese factories also have good memories. Australian Tom Phillis brought Honda their first-ever Grand Prix win with victory in the 1961 125cc race. Eleven years late Chas Mortimer gave Yamaha their first-ever 500cc premier class win on the 352cc Yamaha (Well Chas said it was 352 cc).

My second visit to Barcelona came seven years after that trip to Montjuic Park. It was a completely different City totally swamped by Olympic fever. New roads, new airport, and most importantly a spanking new Grand Prix circuit on the northern outskirts near Granollers. The showpiece to the World was the magnificent Olympic stadium built on the site of the Montjuic Park circuit. How times had changed in the comparatively short seven years.

The new 4.747 km Barcelona – Catalunya circuit matched everything that Barcelona had built for the Olympics. Brilliant technical track with superb facilities for the 1992 Grand Prix of Europe. It was the way ahead. Wayne Rainey won the first Grand Prix on the new surface in front of Mick Doohan and Doug Chandler. The circuit has staged a Grand Prix every year since then.

Back to Montjuic Park in 1985 coupled with both sadness and joy. British rider Tony Rutter, who had won four consecutive TT Formula Two World titles, was very seriously injured when he crashed his Ducati in the F2 race.

That weekend back in England the greatest ever live concert was being staged at Wembley. Live Aid was beamed throughout the World which of course included Castelldefels. I cannot remember who Joey Dunlop’s favourite band was, but probably U2 instead of Queen or The Who

What a Barcelona weekend.

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