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Party in the Park

Of the grand old racetracks I think Montjuic Park on the edge of Barcelona is my favourite. The Isle of Man TT course has the majesty, Monza the speed, Lario the mountains, Paul Ricard the south of France – but Montjuic Park has an intimacy and a history of its own. The first motorcycle event at Montjuich Park didn't actually run this 3.79km (2.35 miles) course. Instead, competitors were invited to start from a European capital, to arrive at the famous palace fountain on 18th October 1929 for the inaugural motorcycle races. 31 riders took up the invitation, leaving their respective capitals on the 14th October, with 25 motorcycles surviving the four day trip and kick-starting three days of competition: Montjuich Park was go, and would go on the host the Spanish Grand Prix. The 24 hour race was first held in 1955, instigated by Spanish racing federation president Mariano Cuguero and Don Paco Bulto, the latter then associated with Montesa: indeed it would be his family's frustration at Montesa closing its racing department in 1958 that would lead to them establishing Bultaco in 1959. Before that Bulto had no reason to jump ship, with Montesa winning the 1955 and 1956 events. The 1956 24 Horas also deserves a mention for its tragicomedy: practicing in the dark, Mariano Vilagrasa was shot dead by a palace guard: road racing in Franco's Spain was dangerous. By 1957 an upstart Italian engineer was giving the established order a new name to add to motorcycling's pantheon of greats: Fabio Taglioni's Ducati 100 Gran Sport won the third 24 Horas, ridden by Bruno Spaggiari and Alberto Gandossi. And so started a legend which would run to the final 24 Horas de Montjuich in 1986, which Ducati also won. In the end there were 32 24 Horas races, with Ducati winning 12. The second most successful manufacturers were Honda and Montesa, with four wins apiece.

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