27 Posted: 27th Jun 2018
    • SEAT Leon CUPRA and show jumping horse measure up in fascinating test of agility
    • Professional rider Virginia Graells took on race driver Jordi Gené at Barcelona’s Royal Polo Club 
    • The horse can reach 70 km/h at full gallop – but the Leon CUPRA boasts a 300-horsepower engine

    A competition show jumping horse has taken on a 300-horsepower SEAT Leon CUPRA in a fascinating race against the clock.

    Steered and led respectively by race driver Jordi Gené and professional rider Virginia Graells, they met up at Barcelona’s Royal Polo Club for a twin challenge: a speed race and an obstacle course challenge.

    One of the most presitigeous polo clubs in Europe, the Barcelona venue saw the four-wheeled competitor out of its comfortzone, but the sheer power and agility of the Leon CUPRA meant it was more than a match for its four-legged rival, named Calgary. 

    -Agility and strength, the merits of champions: Calgary is nine years old and comes from Germany. With his impressive 500 kg frame he is able to reach 70 km/h. Where does his strength lie? Virginia Graells certainly knows:“He’s a jumping horse and therefore extremely agile and skilled; he’s very accurate and doesn’t knock down any rails”, she explains. On the other hand, the SEAT Leon CUPRA draws its power from its 300 hp 2.0 TSI engine. “The best thing about it for me is its resilience after making quick manoeuvres. It’s very dynamic and agile, which enables you to quickly gain a lot of speed” says driver Jordi Gené.

    -Rituals prior to the starting gun: Virginia always makes an initial contact with Calgary in the stables: “I pat him on the back and treat him to a sugar cube before mounting. I also make sure that his bridle and saddle are firmly in place”, explains Virginia. Likewise, Jordi Gené examines the SEAT Leon CUPRA and inspects the track. “In this case the terrain is sandy and unconventional. I also check the surface of the tyres to get an idea of how the car is going to respond”. Before the race he shares his ritual with us: “I always get in the car with my right foot first. I’ve been doing this since my very first competition”, he admits.

    -The first challenge – a matter of speed: The car and the horse begin the face-off by taking their positions at the starting line. Standing side by side, Calgary is going to gallop straight across the polo field while the CUPRA heads down the sandy track. Calgary takes off covers the 100 metre distance in 15 seconds. The SEAT Leon CUPRA crosses the finish line in just under 4 seconds, reaching a speed of 100 km/h. “Even though I was competing on a very soft, sandy surface with the odds unevenly stacked against me, the car handled magnificently. Thanks to its 300 hp engine and 4Drive traction, I won the speed challenge”, says Jordi.

    -A dozen obstacles for the second challenge: On the next track, the competitors are faced with an obstacle course. Calgary has to jump over all of them without knocking down any rails, while the CUPRA has to go around them. Thanks to Virginia’s skill and her horse’s training, they clear the 2-metre high obstacles in 57 seconds. To his credit, Jordi Gené takes a slalom approach, driving around the hurdles at 80 km/h to finish the course in 31.43 seconds.“There wasn’t much room to manoeuvre the turns, so I cut it close making it around the obstacles. But thanks to the chassis of the SEAT Leon CUPRA, I was able to change directions very quickly”, he concludes.

    -Afraid? Who, me?: Virginia Graells was a member of the Spanish team of young riders and competed recently at two international championships at Barcelona’s Royal Polo Club. She says that ever since she mounted her first horse when she was 14, she’s “never been afraid”. The same goes for Jordi Gené, who became Spain’s youngest Formula car champion when he was just 16: “You can’t be afraid or falter for even a second. If you do, you’ll never be able to compete.”

    -Reversing roles: At the end of the challenge, they declare the outcome a draw. For a short time, Virginia and Jordi decide to reverse roles, although they both seem to prefer their original steed. “This car gives me a special vibe and warmth; it gives me an adrenaline rush and enables me to take control”, says Jordi. Virginia also saddles up to return to the stables: “At full gallop I get a unique feeling of freedom and connection with my horse. Today I’m going to treat Calgary to a double helping of carrots and apples.”

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