Euro trackdays are BACK!
By Kar Lee
For almost two years European trackdays were off the menu thanks to the pandemic. In a post-Brexit world, are things back to normal now? Kar Lee booked himself onto a No Limits Cartagena 3-day event to find out.
It’s been three years since my last euro trackday back in winter 2019
That was before certain phrases had really entered into everyday conversation. COVID; Pandemic; Social distancing; Lockdown; All so familiar now, but until the end of the 2019 COVID was just something happening on the other side of the planet, it wasn’t something that would affect us in good old Blighty. Add to that the UK hadn’t quite finalised the Brexit process – that wasn’t due until the end of 2020 as we would have a year-long transition period until January 2021.
In March 2020, as the virus swept across Asia making a beeline for Europe, the UK went into lockdown. We all know what happened next as businesses shut up shop and people were told to stay indoors and not mingle with anyone out of the immediate bubble. We had to protect the NHS by not getting on our motorbikes and falling off and we definitely could not go abroad on a multi-day foreign trackday bender. The annual winter pilgrimage to Spain was not happening. Pfft.
It was eighteen months until the harshest restrictions had been lifted across the UK and Europe, and by then the public’s anxiety about the virus had all but gone. Keen to get back to normal, European trackdays had restarted by the end of 2021 and by early 2022 Euro dates were selling out faster than ever as riders were chomping at the bit to enjoy tracktime in the Mediterranean sun.
Fast forward to autumn 2022 and I’ve finally booked myself onto a 3-day event at Cartagena with No Limits...
So what's changed post-Covid and Brexit?
The first thing I notice is that prices have risen from £449 to £529. “This is a result of unavoidable price rises in the hotels, circuit hire and fuel prices in transporting the bikes” explains Clare Keeley, Operations Director at No Limits Track Days. It’s understandable that No Limits have had to pass on the cost of that to their customers, and credit to them for absorbing the cost of the additional bureaucracy involved since leaving the EU, which leads me neatly into the second thing I notice…
There’s now a more detailed list to fill out in the form of the ATA Carnet – essentially this is a ‘passport for goods’ that is now required since our EU departure and is a declaration that there are no customs charges due. Previously a manifest was a sheet of A4 paper with a scribbled list of the stuff that you were packing in your stillage. This time round, the manifest is a much more comprehensive statement that is completed online via a link that No Limits supply and there are more sections to fill out. The name of the item, the country of manufacture, and the approximate value and weight. Not everything needs to be listed, thankfully – only the major stuff, but after speaking to a few riders everyone’s interpretation seems to vary with some listing everything in the tool box with others more economical with the details.
Admission Temporaire or Temporary Admission (ATA) Carnet
I opt for the middle ground and list the main items, estimating their weight, value, and country of origin. This process turns out to be the most time-consuming of the new post-Brexit procedures and has gone from what was previously a few minutes with a Biro on a sheet of A4 to a couple of hours to complete online. Once the form is completed (it needs to be done weeks in advance of the trip) it is ‘locked’ by the system and any further changes to it need a phone call to the No Limits office to unlock it so it is editable.
It sounds like a hassle… and it is, but it is even more of an inconvenience for the No Limits admin team who have to spend their time chasing punters who haven’t filled their forms in correctly, or at all. “People don’t realise how important the carnet is now. We have to post this paperwork back to the Chamber of Commerce and if it’s not filled out correctly there’s a real chance of the bike not making it out of the UK and a risk to every other bike in that trailer too.” The prospect of turning up at a sunny circuit in the morning all giddy and excited but then realising your bike is still stuck at customs is a sobering, balloon-popping one. Whether it’s Jerez in Spain or Laguna Seca in the US the process is now the same – a carnet is needed.
Simply put, if it goes out of the UK and is on the carnet list, it needs to come back. So for example if I take a set of tyres out with me and use them, leaving the old ones at the track as before, use them, and the lorry is stopped by French customs for inspection, there will be additional duty to pay as they’ll assume the tyres were sold. In reality, the chances of a stop at the border are slim, but the results would be… unwelcome. Consumables such as oil and brake fluid are also not allowed in the stillage. This has always been the case but due to the carnet situation is now even more of a no-no. If in doubt, leave it out.
Find out more about the ATA Carnet process.
Another essential that needs arranging beforehand is Repatriation Insurance
“It’s not a legal requirement, it’s a circuit requirement. There’s no law that says you can’t ride around a racetrack and smash yourself to bits, but the circuits insist that you have enough proper cover if there is €20,000 worth of hospital treatment needed” says Luke Terry, Admin Manager at No Limits. In cases where you’ve run out of talent and need a ride back to the UK after a stint in hospital repatriation insurance is a must, and it’s crucial that the insurance taken out is worth the pixels it’s viewed on.
Clare Kelley expands on this: “We’ve had instances where we’ve discovered the rider’s insurance only covered them up to a 125, 250, or 400cc bike, so I’d advise people to not get caught out and check their policies carefully because if they’re not covered for, say, private track use and something happens they’re potentially liable for a bill in the thousands”. Stuck in a foreign hospital as Billy-No-Mates where they don’t speak English with an invoice for £15k being waved at you really doesn’t sound like fun. No Limits provide a list of insurers that are popular with riders and I opt for a policy that costs me just £65 to cover me for the three days. Speaking of insurance, No Limits fully insures your bike while it’s stored overnight in the garage at the track and claim to be the only UK trackday company to do so.
Speak to a BeMoto Track Day Insurance specialist on 01733 907000 about the policies we offer, including Motorcycle Trackday Damage Insurance (yes, we actually sell policies to cover your bike for a spill on track).
A week before departure I’m at Donington Park to chuck… I mean, carefully load my bike on a stillage
I’m armed with a few tie-downs and some pallet wrap film which stops any spillage from the stillage and keeps things snug during transit. I turn up alone but there are loads of other riders helping me lift the Tuono into place. It’s a camaraderie that is common on UK tracks but especially Euro days, people are more relaxed and there’s every chance you’ll be sharing a beer with them at the hotel bar.
The holiday vibe is something that comes as standard, along with more track time, warmer riding conditions and better value for money overall. Clare agrees; “There’s less red flags and stoppages so typically lots more tracktime. Our Euro days are becoming much more popular, especially with some tracks like Portimao, Brno, Aragon and Jerez selling out quickly”. But hasn’t the pandemic and Brexit put a dampener on things? “People are over it now, leaving the EU has given us a few admin headaches and the cost of living crisis is making people a little pickier but that’s all, really”.
Stillage: A frame or stand for keeping things off the ground (in case you were wondering)
It's the day before the trackday and I’ve just touched down at Almeria airport with a couple of mates
There’s a hire car to collect and again, the prices have risen – instead of 50 quid for a few days it’s almost £180. Ouch. It’s an hour’s drive to the hotel and typically I’ve missed a few turns along the way. By the time my little group check in at the hotel it’s almost midnight, we’re knackered but can’t resist a celebratory arrival beer.
The next three days on track are a blur of apexes, having a laugh with loads of other riders exploring lean angles and topping up the tan… in November. The last time I was here in 2019 I managed to lob my wife’s CBR600RR into the gravel at the first corner. Luckily it was on the last day and the only damage was a fractured finger and cosmetics on the CBR.
With those demons exorcised and the banishment of any anxiety about taking my bike abroad post-Brexit I’m already planning next year’s trips. Portimao, I’m coming for ya...
Scroll down for links to other useful articles about motorbike trackdays at home and abroad.
Thanks to Clare Keeley and Luke Terry at No Limits trackdays.