It is a common sight in the MotoGP paddock to see these trucks and their tents offering catering services to teams, sponsors, and suppliers of the Championship. The hospitality facilities are now a common feature of the races, although their presence has become more widespread over the last two decades. The first ones arose to provide service to the teams themselves, but sponsors soon understood that offering their clients and guests a meal in the paddock is a resource that is widely recognized and appreciated by all.
Repsol inaugurated theirs in 1995 when they began their partnership in the premier class alongside Honda. It was a tent that, in the background, served as a social center; a meeting point in the heart of the circuit where journalists, guests, and the Repsol team at the races could have breakfast and lunch and begin relationships with the different groups at the championship, from the organizers to the suppliers, either in a meeting room or in a more relaxed way, either eating or having a drink.
Over the last two decades, the role of hospitality facilities has become much more defined. Today, they serve a multitude of guests and journalists during a Grand Prix weekend, where they can enjoy special menus with every imaginable comfort and attention to detail. They are every bit as good as a nice restaurant because in the end there is no difference. Well, yes, the hospitality facilities are on wheels and every two weeks they go to the different circuits of Europe.
To find out what the catering work is like at the circuits, there is no one better to explain than Javier García who is in charge of the Repsol hospitality option and manages with his team the complexity required for such an important set-up.
Offering a catering service of these characteristics differs little from what happens in a restaurant. “First of all, what we look for when we prepare the menus is a wide gastronomic variety. The menu is agreed on with the client, in this case, Repsol, at each race. It varies for each Grand Prix so that no dish is repeated during the season. And we like to work with local products. For example, if we go to Jerez, the menu must include shrimp from Sanlúcar, or in Aragón there are always peaches from Calanda or the lamb of the region. We design our menus with a health specialist who reviews all the processes and checks everything concerning allergens, gluten, and other intolerances, which we communicate properly to the guest. In dietary issues, we work differently since the menus are not designed for riders directly, who are the most careful in this regard.“
All the dishes are prepared on-site. There are no precooked items: “In our facilities, we receive the raw materials that will be used to finish the menus on site, and the only things that are prepared are the basic ingredients, sauces, and things like that, which are not overly elaborate. The hospitality’s central kitchen is a logistics platform where we can produce everything.”
Currently, Dorna has imposed several restrictions on access to the MotoGP paddock as a result of the pandemic, which has significantly reduced the number of guests accessing the hospitality facilities: “With these restrictions, the paddock has changed a lot and we have fewer guests. The Repsol hospitality facility hosts by a number of guests accredited by Repsol and the press, which means about 250 to 300 guests for the weekend. Before, there were approximately 450,“ Javier told us.
What does it all take to make it all work?
Twelve people work in the Repsol hospitality facility, plus some mechanics who sporadically work on technical issues. Three trailers are used: one is for the hospitality facility itself and is also the kitchen, where there is even a meeting room and office; a support truck that acts as a generator, air conditioning, etc.; and a third cargo truck, where the entire structure, furniture, and all the catering material goes. We are talking about trucks that, with their tractor, have a length of at least 16.5 meters. So moving vehicles of this size always require a great deal of planning.
Moving, assembling, and disassembling the hospitality facility also requires a very precise logistics exercise: “We usually arrive at the circuit on the Sunday afternoon before the race. On Monday, IRTA gives us the entrance, tells us our location, and there we set up and start with the assembly. We have to place and level the platforms, which are the floor of the hospitality, and on Tuesday we install the tent. On Wednesday we set up the furniture and leave everything ready and finished, and on Thursday we prepare the catering, in order to provide the service from Friday to Sunday. And when it’s time to dismantle, we start on Sunday to finish on Monday, and be ready to travel on Tuesday.“
Traveling to all the European Championship events is a complex logistical task, especially when there are back-to-back events. “In this case, absolutely everything changes. Everything has to be broken down by Sunday, in the early hours of the morning, until whatever time it is, because the trucks have to be ready to roll on Monday. This also means doubling the number of drivers, so that we have drivers as a backup. It’s extremely complex and risky because you’re always working on the edge with time.” A “back-to-back,” as consecutive runs are often called as slang, also means there is one less day to work. “These races sometimes require us to make a real logistical display, as when we went to Turkey, which involved road transport, several ferries, etc.,” explained Javier.
All this organization makes the Repsol hospitality facility one of the most highly praised of all the paddock, a place where even Karlos Arguiñano has praised its many virtues.