On their toes in the paddock

Two of our group travel colleagues work closely with Dorna Sports, the company that brings MotoGP™ to the world. We find out what they’ve been up to…


Dorna Sports S.L. is the international sports management, marketing and media company that exclusively holds the commercial and television rights for MotoGP™ and coordinates the season calendar for the racing programme. Founded in 1988, Dorna headquarters are in Madrid with divisions in Barcelona, Rome and Tokyo.


Our travel colleagues at CWT Meetings & Events in Spain are part of the wider team that helps facilitate all of the wild thrills and spills of the MotoGP™. They have worked closely with Dorna Sports S.L. for many years and have behind-the-scenes access to every MotoGP™ race – a perk that would make all motorsport fans green with envy.


Director of Dorna Sports onsite, Núria Vallcorba Tarragüel, and assistant director of Dorna Sports onsite, Israel Balmanya Balboa, work as part of the Group Travel team at CWT Meetings & Events in Spain, with more than 30 years of travel experience between them.


Here they share their tips and insights as well as their experiences of getting the show on the road!


What is the most unusual event you've ever had to deal with?

Núria Vallcorba Tarragüel When the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland erupted in April 2010, it spread volcanic ash into the atmosphere - causing the airspace over the north of Europe to be closed and the cancellation of over 5,000 flights. We had a race in Japan that weekend and while some Dorna staff were already there, others were stuck in Barcelona and another group were stopping over in Istanbul.


In the end, the race was pushed back to October so we had to bring back all those who had gone back to Barcelona, cancel all the passengers who hadn't travelled yet, and ask all those who were in Istanbul not to travel to Japan, but instead return to Barcelona.


Israel Balmanya Balboa One year at the same time as the Laguna Seca Grand Prix in San Francisco, there was plane crash at the San Francisco Airport, which had a massive impact on all travel into the area. We had to relocate 150 people and fortunately Lufthansa authorised us to relocate all 150 people using other airlines.


And the worst mishap? How did you resolve it?

NVT That was in 2009 at the Qatar GP. On the Sunday of the race, just a few hours before it was due to start, it began pouring with rain, which resulted in the race being delayed by a day. Thanks to the great efforts made by our team members in Qatar, Barcelona and Jerez who worked tirelessly throughout the night, we were able to change all of Dorna’s flights to come home a day later.


What's your favourite destination worldwide? Why?

NVT I love Australia. It's a fascinating country where you always feel really welcome. We like to stay in private homes and take every chance to visit the gorgeous places there.


IBB My favourite destination is Qatar because after working there over the years, we have built great relationships with people there at many hotels. Going back to Qatar feels like coming home.


What has been your best experience working in group travel?

NVT That would be the first year we organised the MotoGP™ in Argentina. It is held in Termas de Río Hondo, a place that's not easy to get to. We were asked to organise chartered flights to fly from Ezeiza to Termas and back for all paddock staff. It was a project that took months to prepare but went perfectly. It was the first time we had ever arranged chartered flights.


IBB My favourite experience might sound stressful for many but for me it was unique! We had to delay a chartered flight with 500 people on board for eight hours due to bad weather. The flight was supposed to leave from Buenos Aires and land in Austin. It was really nerve-racking but everything turned out fine in the end. You can imagine how happy we were when the plane eventually landed in Austin!


Which three things do you always check before you travel?

NVT Before leaving for a trip I always check that I have my passport, my visa if required, my international driving licence and MotoGP™ pass to access to the race tracks.


IBB My passport, mobile and MotoGP™ pass.


Three things you always carry with you when you accompany a group?

NVT I always take a large suitcase with me so that I don't forget anything, my laptop with Amadeus (without which I can’t do anything), my mobile phone and all my lists.


IBB Mobile, lists of people (rooming list, cars etc.) and my laptop with Amadeus so I can make changes or new reservations at any time.


Which recently discovered destination excites you the most?

NVT Last year I discovered Graz and Spielberg in Austria. In Spielberg, where the Red Bull Ring is, everywhere you look has beautiful scenery where you can do outdoor sports, ride a bicycle and get good food.


IBB Buenos Aires in Argentina. It's a really charming city.


What advice would you give someone starting out in sports events travel management?

NVT Put lots of energy into it, see it as a challenge and always try to improve. And most importantly – you have to work as a team, because you won’t get anywhere without doing that.


IBB Several things are essential when managing and accompanying groups. I'd highlight the importance of having good contacts at the places you visit, be very clear about all the details of the service contracts and memorise them so there’s no doubt at any time a customer asks you. And lastly, be patient and tactful with people.