The sun rises sedately over the barren hills and casts its morning shadow over the dappling waters below. The mighty Ebro River flows through the valley, taking snow melt from the Pyrenees to its outflow into the Mediterranean Sea.
The sleepy Catalan village of Riba Roja d’Ebre sits on a rocky outcrop overlooking the sinister waters below, surrounded by olive groves, vineyards, fincas, sharp rocky outcrops and meandering roads, more suited to rally drivers than farm machinery.
The sleepy backwater is also home to a rising star of the power boat racing world.
Brothers, Hector and Icar Sanz López, work at the nearby nuclear power station in Asco and are keen fishermen. In Riba-Roja, you need to be.
The river is home to thousands of monster carp and catfish and attracts anglers from all over Europe during the summer and autumn months.
But Icar and Hector are also power boating enthusiasts, run Club Nautica at the foot of the town and are the only Spanish team currently taking part in either the UIM F1 or F2 World Championships.
Hector explains about the early days:
Many years ago, my father came to live in Riba-Roja by the river.
He started to use remote controlled boats and then moved up to speed boats around 1986 and then finished in ’94 with S-850 boats.
He loved the magic of the Ebro River and he created Club Nautica in the town to make competitions and a local training circuit.
Every day I see boats in my home and, when I was young, I went to the company every day and to the lake, where my father rented out boats.
When I was eight, I began to drive little aluminium boats.
When I was 16, I made a race with my brother with the PR-550.
Hector, 27, is the speed king of the family and team manager Icar manages the business end of the power boating operation that has seen them achieve success in Spanish domestic competition, F4 and just complete a first full season with Icar Nautica Racing in F2.
They also have the support of race engineer Martí Garcia, set-up engineer Dídac López and mechanical engineer Stefano Malayassi.
Powerboat racing in Spain in difficult, ut the sport received a boost with support from the federation in the 90s. Now, I have the support of the Catalan federation.
But, it is not easy when you are the only driver in F2 from your country to explain your problems or sell the idea.
After setting competitive lap times in Antwerp this year, the F2 race was cancelled because of weather conditions, but the Catalan qualified 10th in Norway and finished 14th.
He then rounded off the top 10 at his first attempt at the European Championship race in Kupiskis, Lithuania. Race officials cancelled the F2 race in Campione d’Italia because of inclement weather, but Sanz wrapped up his 2017 campaign in Portugal to finish 16th in the points’ standings.
I started my racing with the PR-550 and the I moved on to the T-850 and I used my own boat – the BMS (Bagnato Marti Sanz), which was a better boat than the older Bagmar.
Four years ago, in my first race with the GT-60, I saw an S-850 race in Portugal and loved it and decided to leap to F4 and then to F2.
I did two years in F4 before the switch to F2. I gained a lot of experience this season and was fastest in free practice in Portugal.
I was sure that we could have raced in the two that were cancelled this year. I voted yes for both races.
This year, I had a heavy boat. I knew the problem.
I know I am fast, but my start is poor. I know I give 150% when I am on the water.
In Campione, I broke my best prop and I tested as much as I could with the other prop in the bad weather.
Pushing hard with aggressive driving got me a yellow card.
The youngster is now preparing for a second full season of F2 and relishes a soon-to-be-announced calendar of races that includes Norway, Portugal, Lithuania, Denmark and Switzerland and a new race in Sri Lanka.
I thank my crew for all their efforts so far and we are all looking forward to 2018.
I will have a new boat (DAC) and will be pushing hard to fulfil my dream.
The objective is to win one race and stay in the top five. I know I can do it….
We have a cold winter in Riba-Roja, but we can test all year round on our own private circuit.
This is great, because the water is only five minutes from my warehouse.
Any driver is welcome to come and test here.
It’s a quiet and beautiful place.