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'Entrepreneurialism is alive and well in Spain'

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'Entrepreneurialism is alive and well in Spain'
Jeff Zaltman aims to develop local talent. Photo: Air Race 1
09:17 CEST+02:00
In the latest installment of My Spanish Career Jeff Zaltman tells The Local why he has chosen the skies of Catalonia for his latest venture.

The 44-year-old dual US-UK citizen has lived in six countries doing a variety of jobs from Naval aviation to telecoms consulting to M&A with Ford Motor Company. Now he has settled in Barcelona where he has devoted himself entrepreneurially to developing air sports events such as the Air Race 1 which will take place in Lleida later this month.

What is the idea behind Air Race 1?

Air Race 1 is the first international title in the sport of formula one air racing.  In formula one air racing, eight airplanes race together on the circuit directly against each other trying to be the first one to cross the finish line at speeds of up to 450kph.  The sport has been around for nearly 70 years but only national or local events.  So what we are trying to do is to bring the community together, develop it into a professional series and introduce this amazing sport to new audiences and make it more accessible and mainstream.  We have the recognition of the three formula one air racing associations (from USA, UK and France) who sanction and run the contests and we are the global promoter and rights-holder to the series, called the Air Race 1 World Cup.

Why do it in Spain?

We have been looking all over the world for venues to host this exciting sport and the Lleida-Alguaire Airport in partnership with the Government of Catalunya was the first credible and visionary destination to adopt an event in the series.  We are now holding the event in other countries – three this year and more next year – but our Lleida event is our heart and founding partner.  The decision to base our operations here was an easy one and we love it!

How easy was it to get your business off the ground?

The reception that we enjoy here in Spain is excellent.  The Spanish are avid sportsmen and in particular are skilled athletes and enthusiastic fans in motorsport, which is our sport segment.  It is also a very new and innovative project to get off the ground so naturally there are also difficulties in terms of convincing some parties to take a role in it, but certainly the positive reaction and keen interest in Spain is very encouraging.

Photo: Air Race 1

Do you think Spain is welcoming to entrepreneurs?

I spent a year in Spain about 11 years ago and I had looked at startup opportunities then.  I found it more difficult at that time to convert people from interest to action.  But now I find that entrepreneurialism is alive and well in Spain, at least in Barcelona where most of my experience has been.  Certainly the spirit of the entrepreneur is entrenched in Spanish and Catalan culture and mind and I feel the vibe here!

Spain seems to produce great sportsmen in many different fields. Does that also stretch to air racing?

Certainly the Spanish are great aviators and there are a lot of disciplines of air sports that Spanish athletes and teams routinely excel in and often win World Championship titles.  In air racing it is a bit newer here, and it is a very highly trained and practiced skill, but our aim is to develop local talent – which I'm confident will happen soon.  There is in fact one very good Spanish formula one air race pilot who we hope to have in our series in 2016.

What do you love about living in Barcelona?

My wife and I decided to settle here and we absolutely love the lifestyle and culture of Barcelona and all of Spain.  It's easy, but so true, to say that I love the food and the weather is gorgeous.  But it's more than that.  The Spanish history has always held an allure for me and there's something distinctive and charming about the Spanish sense of humour and way of life in general that is very inviting and comfortable.

The Air Race 1 World Cup will take place in Lleida, Catalonia on June 28th 

Photo: Air Race 1

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