Behind the scenes of a MotoGP Grand Prix, there are always stories of anonymous people who are fundamental to the optimal development of each race. The riders are at the center of it all, obviously, but for everything to work, they have to feel comfortable and at ease, not only on their bike, but also when they get off it.
The motorhome where riders rest between sessions, where they recover, relax, and isolate themselves from everything, is an important part of enjoying a perfect Grand Prix. In the sport’s past, it was the drivers themselves who traveled from race to race driving their own caravans. The British were in the majority in the sport, and when spring came and the Grand Prix season started in Europe, they used to travel around the continent together, from race to race, like a circus troupe. Hence the nickname by which the World Cup became known: Continental Circus.
Much has changed since then. Fortunately for the riders, their travel is more comfortable and faster. Moto2 and Moto3 riders must sleep in hotels outside the circuit or rent one of the GP Rooms, but MotoGP riders still need their motorhome, so someone has to take care of them. Space restrictions within the paddocks at the circuits have meant that there are no longer so many motorhomes. But there are still a few, including those belonging to Repsol riders Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro.
What is their job like, and what is their day-to-day life like at the races and between races? To get to know him better, we spoke to Juliá Márquez, who in addition to being Marc and Àlex Márquez’s father, looks after the motorhome they both share, as well as Joan Ferrando, who looks after Pol Espargaró’s.
It is admittedly a demanding job, often requiring long journeys away from home: “The life of a motorhome driver is normally two to three weeks away from home every month, which involve driving, traveling, cleaning and maintaining the motorhome,” Juliá explained. “My life as a motorhome driver is exciting,” Joan tells us, “It may sound pretentious, but I feel lucky. Motorcycles have always been my passion, and when your passion becomes your job, well, you can imagine: it’s a dream come true. As for the work, nowadays these trucks are very new, automatic, easy to drive, very comfortable, and once you have the setup in your hands it isn’t complicated. You have to be careful because it has a lot of hydraulic parts and one mistake could cause a small disaster.“
The job is not just about driving and traveling to the circuit in question. You have to travel ahead of time to anticipate any mishaps and ensure your presence at the circuit according to plan because the logistics of each race are like a well-timed choreography. “We usually leave early Sunday or Monday morning, at 6 or 7 a.m. We travel to the circuit and stay overnight there. On Tuesday, we wash the truck, and after lunch you wait for your order to enter the circuit to set up the motorhome.”, Juliá told us. “Between races we go to the next circuit to leave the truck parked there, and we take a plane back home. And the following week we fly on Monday to the circuit so we can be there on Tuesday and enter. If the races are back-to-back, we travel directly to the next circuit and don’t go home.”. It’s a question of cost, Joan explained, “so we avoid moving the vehicle so much, because it’s more costly in terms of time, money, and everything. It’s more efficient for us for the drivers to go by plane.”
The days before or after a race, it’s not uncommon to cross paths with them on the road: “We usually drive in the daytime even though there is less traffic at night, because sleep is every driver’s worst enemy. We prefer to leave a day earlier and have plenty of time, and also so you don’t mess with the body’s biological rhythm,” Joan told us. “Between races you usually go home, but there are also back-to-back races that overlap, but you can spend 18 days away from home. This is perhaps what is a bit hard to take at first, especially when you have small children.” In this case, Juliá has it easier because he drives his sons’ motorhome.
Carrying out the organization’s logistical plan.
It is important at all times that the motorhome follow the logistical plan established by the championship organization, which is responsible for organizing all the paddock spaces. It plans the entries and decides the locations for each motorhome: “We can enter the circuits on Tuesday afternoon. The organization gives us the order of entry and where to park,” Joan explained.
In this sense, Brexit has become quite a challenge for them: “The trip to Silverstone is a bit more complicated. We travel to Calais to cross the Eurotunnel by train. Other colleagues cross the Channel by boat. Then you go through customs. I don’t know if much will have changed with Brexit, because this is the first time we’re going to travel,” Juliá acknowledged.
Joan, however, has suffered the consequences of the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union: “The British GP is not usually liked and now with Brexit it is more complicated. You have to identify the vehicle type with a document. You spend hours at the border.”
In Spanish races, the dynamics are the same, but the deadlines change given their proximity: “In races in Spain the work doesn’t change much. Maybe you know more people, there are family members, friends of the driver. There are more people moving, but it is always the same,” Joan noted. “After the race we leave the truck at home, and we leave a day before to go to the European circuit we have to go to,” Juliá said.
Now that the World Championship is entering a long period of inactivity, it’s vacation time for everyone, including the drivers, who leave everything prepared ahead of time for the next round of the championship. “Before the vacation season, we go directly to the circuit that will be our destination after vacation, we look for a guarded pay parking lot, we leave the motorhome there, and we fly back home. And after vacation, we return there to pick up the motorhome, wash it, and go into the circuit,” Juliá told us.
After so much traveling from one side of Europe to the other, what we most want is to rest at home. “On vacation I stay at home, enjoying time with my family, with my parents, who are older, and you enjoy family, your hobbies, and so on. Well, it’s just being on vacation, doing what you like the most,” Joan said.
Life on the circuit
And what is life like for the driver at the circuit and his relationship with the rider? “I look after Marc and Álex’s motorhome, and as I am their father I have the same relationship I can have at home, because when I work with them it is in the motorhome, which is a home, and it is as if we were at home. As for the box, it is their work, and I have no relationship with them. I don’t get involved in their stuff.“
For food, he work’s with the team’s hospitality crew who take care of them. Although they also make sure there is some food in the motorhome: “The food in the motorhome is simple, some non-perishable food, and the rest of the food comes from the hospitality team. Although sometimes there has been a small celebration,”Juliá explained in a relaxed tone.
“Normally the meals are at the hospitality spot,” Joan said, “which is a very good place to eat. Although the motorhome is like a house, there is a kitchen, a fridge, you could cook without any problems. And if we need something special the cooks have no problem preparing it on the spot.”
One of the most complicated moments they have gone through as motorhome drivers has been the hard period of the pandemic, especially 2020: “Covid has really affected the trips,” Juliá noted, “When we stopped to eat, it was always with tupperware, pre-cooked food, eating outside the service areas, or eating inside the truck. It was very different from normal life.”
Joan noted an added difficulty with the continuing uncertainty of testing, possible infections, and the consequences this could have on his work: “Covid has been complicated. If we had to enter a country, a few hours before you had a PCR, and it would always hit you hard if you tested positive: who would take care of the truck, who would take care of the gear? Because of course, these trucks are prototypes, tailor-made. There are four of us motorhome drivers of riders, and if one of us gets sick or has a problem, we always cover for each other. Any professional can drive the truck, but the gear requires some knowledge, it has its own process, and each truck is unique. Now, at least we are all vaccinated and you have more peace of mind. Dorna has been very strict, but everyone has been great. Although sometimes the program took a long time to validate your pass, and you had to wait for the time to enter. I had a hard time, because every race you were suffering until you had a negative PCR and all the OKs.”
Fortunately, the situation is frankly better, although still not completely normal. Nevertheless, nothing is stopping them. Now they will also enjoy their well-deserved rest, and a trip and some relaxation in a few weeks to tackle the last European Grands Prix before the World Championship heads off on its tour of Asia and Oceania.