Mugen Honda Ariel Atom winter testing at Circuit de Guadix, Spai06.03.2016. Mugen Honda Ariel Atom winter testing at Circuit de Guadix, Spain. Photo: Dave Ayres - Picturesports Spending the weekend at the Circuit de Guadix near Granada in Spain with the Ariel Atoms, unfortunately also required a budget Arline flight. Whereas it is common practice to moan about the flights, the service and how they pack us in, we always agree to this because of the low cost. How else do I get to southern Spain from the middle of England for £120 return? Nonetheless, armed with a set of head phones and an ability to sleep most anywhere, the flights may have been irritating yet didn’t dampen a great weekend.
The Circuit de Guadix is 40 minutes north of Granada in the very south of Spain. An easy 2 hour drive, on the excellent roads, from Malaga Airport. As the road passes through the Sierra Nevada mountains you might wish to consider something other than the asthmatic Fiat 500 I’d booked. The 500 is a great car but the very small engine I had in the hire car version struggled and that was with just me and the camera equipment in the car.
The circuit sits in the valley between mountains and has the luxury of being far enough away from everyone to run long uninterrupted days and that includes Sundays. The track configuration is fast and flowing, yet technical enough to always be hiding that extra second you are searching for. There is also a natural elevation in the standard layout that adds an extra dimension.Ariel Atom Winter Testing at Circuito de Guadix, Spain05.03.2016 - Ariel Atom Winter Testing at Circuito de Guadix, Spain
The drive out of the last corner, for example, is up hill on to the pit straight and whereas you are trying to maximise the speed out of the corner so that it benefits you along the straight, the rise saps the acceleration, leaving you willing the car to go faster. What goes up of course has to come down and the downhill slope in to turn 1 tempts you to leave your braking that little bit later than you should, followed by the inevitable lock up, especially when you are trying to keep the weight on the front wheels to aid the turn in.
Other parts of the Guadix circuit offer you quick left right flicks to master, hairpins to explore, fast turn in corners with never as much room on the exit as you think there is and some long, long sweeping bends that will frustrate anyone with too much understeer. Yet with a natural tendency for dry weather, even in winter when there is snow on the surrounding hills, you will get hours and hours of running to dial out any handling issues.
So abundant was the track time over the weekend, that when I asked for 20 minutes to complete some tracking shots, everyone was more than happy to extend lunch a little so as to give me the time I needed. Can you imagine a similar reaction on a test day in the UK, where every second of track time has to be fought for?
And while I’m thinking about lunch, I should also mention the food. Over the years I have eaten some truly awful food at circuits and equally been amazed at the quality of the food produced by the paddock kitchens at major events. However the majority of the time at test days, the over whelming memory is one of plastic tables if we were lucky and that week old stale chip smell, that somehow seems to get baked in to everything.
I dislike cones even in sunshine05.03.2016 - Cones will survive the nucular blast - Winter Testing at Circuito de Guadix, Spain Not so in Guadix. It may be a cliché to visit Spain and eat Paella however the ladies running the kitchen kept the hungry engineers, drivers and the photographer (!) very well fed, for which I must say thank you.
Balancing out the travel against the facilities, track time and a configuration that tests all areas of the car, coupled with the predominant weather conditions, testing in southern Spain has to be a viable if not preferred alternative to the start of the season.
The scenery is good too. Certainly makes for picturesque backgrounds, if you shoot around the cones.