I’m a retired software engineer and sparky, and I’ve been doing track days on and off for about 6 years. Most of my track experience is UK-based, simply because it’s much cheaper, but I have been to Portimao twice with my son and son-in-law, just to escape the wet UK weather and for a bit of an adventure.
This year I wanted to go abroad again, but Mike and Ben couldn’t come with me because they are investing all their hard-earned into house upgrades, so I decided to go it alone. This is the story of my first solo venture into the world of No Limits European track days.
How to do it
The hardest part is making the decision to go. Sure, the cost of the event is relatively low at around £600, but that’s just the start. You’ll need flights, probably a hire car, fuel, food, drink (lots and lots of that), and stuff. What stuff? Well how about tyres? If you’re a bit of a fast boy you’ll be needing to replace those shagged-out hoops from 2010 with a decent bit of rubber at both ends, and you’ll be lucky to get three whole hot Spanish days out of one set of tyres. And what if it rains?
Then there’s all the bits you’ve always wanted. “If I’m going to Spain, I might as well get that Quick Action Throttle, set of Rearsets, set of Chain Adjusters, new chain and sprockets”…you get the idea. You can spend as much or as little as you want on these events.
Booking a Euro event with No Limits is easy. Their online system here makes it a trivial exercise. Just make sure your ISP’s email server doesn’t file their emails as spam, like BT did for me. I wondered why I didn’t hear anything from No Limits for ages after my booking. Turns out all I had to do was set their domain (nolimitstrackdays.com) as a Safe Sender. Anyway, once the emails started flowing, the information from No Limits was always clear and concise.
By default they collect your bike at their Swindon depot, but more local pickups are possible at an extra charge. It cost me £60 for a Donington Park collection – well worth it for the convenience.
No Limits transport your bike in a stillage – a steel platform with room for two bikes and loads of kit. Just don’t try and take anything too big – stillages are great for taking lots small stuff, but your three-tier Snap-On tool chest will NOT fit!
There are tricks to loading up:
Get your bikes on first. Put small stuff under the bike in the main rail. Put axle stands around the wheels front and back. Use bungee cords to fasten down loose stuff. Put your spare set of tyres around your seat unit. Fill the gap between the two bikes with leathers, gloves, boots, helmets etc. Take your screen off, wrap it with cling film and stash it safely. Why? Because stillages are stacked on top of each other on the truck and your screen may be crushed if your stillage is on the bottom. It’s all common sense stuff.
When you’re all done, wrap your stillage in cling film/pallet wrap. You can buy it in industrial quantities on Ebay. Just make sure you use the clear stuff – customs don’t like the black wrap because they can’t see what it’s hiding. A stillage has four corner sockets for the posts that support the upper stillage in a stack. Don’t insert the posts, or wrap them in film: leave the sockets free and No Limits will sort the rest. Allow at least an hour for packing your stillage. And don’t forget to take a knife on day one to cut the film off!
I chose to fly with Ryanair from East Midlands. Typically for a low cost airline, everything is extra with Ryan Air, but I loved the sheer snob value of having a Priority boarding pass that gets you on the plane without having to stand around like a dork for three days while Mr and Mrs Troglodite and their children try to remember where they left their passports.
Aragon is in a relatively remote part of Spain near the town of Alcaniz. It’s a long drive from Barcelona airport (about 3 hours). You can halve that if you fly to Reus (a holiday airport used mostly for trips to the Costa Daurada), but I could only do that by driving further to a more distant UK airport – swings and roundabouts.
I pre-booked a hire car, but here’s a lesson for you. Don’t let the attractive lady in the Spanish hire car office “upsell” you. I got comprehensively upsold, from a Golf or equivalent to a Mercedes 220. I can’t believe I still fall for this stuff at 61 years of age! Be warned. It was a great car though.
Where to stay
No Limits offer two hotels for an Aragon event, one just five minutes from the track and one about 40 minutes away. I chose the nearer, because I expected to be tired after a full day on track and didn’t want the longer drive. The hotel (Hotel Ciudad de Alcañiz) was fine, but you might want to consider the other one (Vilar Rural d’arnes); it apparently has a pool, hot tub and the tariff includes an edible breakfast. It’s also set in a beautiful National Park, whereas the closer hotel is in an unattractive commercial area. The Alcaniz hotel served tapas and bar meals along with some fine beers in iced glasses – ideal at the end of a hot and sweaty day. But breakfast was €14 extra per night and some of the dishes bore a striking resemblance to dinner the previous night.
The Alcaniz hotel is very close to a petrol station and supermarkets for your supply of bottled water and bananas.
You’ve seen it on MotoGP – with its famous wall. It’s amazing. Fast and flowing, but with a couple of downhill chicanes that both feel like the corkscrew at Laguna Seca – very hard to tackle at speed. On the first day, there were several complaints about lack of grip from the Fast group, but it was a cloudy day with a cold wind blowing, so the track temperature was quite low.
I ride a Daytona 675R and at the start I felt completely outclassed by the 750/1000’s that came hooning past on the straights. But as I settled into a rhythm, I soon started catching them back up in the corners. Great fun!
There is no fuel at the circuit so No Limits provide a 20L container for €5 which you use to ferry your own fuel. You’d be well advised to brim your bike before travelling, so that you get at least a morning on circuit before you need to go in search of fuel.The garages have power, both the blue single phase 240V 3-pin and red three phase 240/415 5-pin jobbies.
There is a great restaurant in the garages complex, providing excellent hot food and drink. At lunch time the marshalls all desert their posts and eat here; recommendation enough.
Making new friends: Like Steve, Ian, Dave and Lee from the OMCC. My garage buddies who adopted me for the duration and took me to dinner with Simon Crafar on the last night. Dave deserves special mention. Six weeks earlier he crashed his bike at Cadwell. Nothing too exciting – he just drove into the bike in front, when it was dropped on the exit from the pit lane onto the circuit. Despite the low speed, Dave broke his collar bone. With his arm in a sling, he still turned up at Aragon just to support his mates. He also turned out to be a 675 specialist and helped me set up my suspension. Hero material.
Like Paul and Tracy from Skelmersdale and Paul’s brother Carlo. Paul binned his bike on day one and spent many hours doggedly reconstructing it, to eventually get it back on track. Carlo forgot his bike key. At first he was investigating how to hotwire it but then realised, even if he did get it going, he couldn’t refuel it without a key for the filler cap. So, showing the same steely determination as his brother, he set off for home – to get his key and return to the circuit! Another lesson for you – don’t forget your key!
Like Simon Crafar. What a star. Coming in to Turn 5 and wanting to demonstrate how he really was not braking or using the throttle, he took both hands off the bars and raised them high above his head while tipping in! Showboating? No – making a point memorably to his students.
Of course on any track day there’s always at least one twat. On this occasion the honour for twattiest twat goes to the Fast Group rider whose bike blew up and sprayed oil everywhere from Turn 8 to Turn 12. He didn’t bother to leave the track and use the massive concrete runoff. Result? A huge cleanup operation and a potential bill from the circuit management. Another lesson – don’t be a twat.
While there’s no denying I missed the company of my son and son-in-law, this was still a great trip. Aragon is a fantastic facility and you’ll love its challenges. The No Limits organisation is great at what it does: provides safe and easy access to some of the greatest racetracks in Europe, to enthusiasts like me. Use ‘em, or lose ‘em!
Next stop for me? Jerez in September, given half a chance!