Four-time roadracing 500 world champion and consummate dirt tracker American Eddie Lawson's quote about dirt trackers slipped into my short term memory while watching Spaniard Marc Marquez trying to overtake Brad "The Bullet" Baker in the ending laps of Superprestigio Superfinal race.
The event was held on Saturday night at Barcelona's Palau Sant Jordi arena. There Marquez tried his best against American Baker, the undisputed dirt track master of the event coming from AMA series, he there alongside respected Race Director Kevin Clark, also in Barcelona for the occasion.
Hmmm. Very flat indoor short track race with a somewhat narrow groove. This was a track made for Grand National winner Nick Hayden, but the '06 MotoGP champ was home letting his recently fixed wrist fully heal before the Sepang tests.
|On his side, Baker won the Open class, a conventional series of heats, semis and a main, against some of the fastest local specialists and AMA #87, Merle Scherb, the chief instructor at Colin Edwards' Texas Tornado Boot Camp.|
Marquez was trying hard and looked as if he was having a ton of funup until his racing cannibal spirit smashed against the wall in the closing laps of the final. The Spaniard crashed after trying a no fear overtaking move on the American, who defended his leading position from the MotoGP rookie champ as if it was a once in a lifetime occasion. Which, Brad Baker versus Marc Marquez? It probably was once in a lifetime.
Marquez went over the limit on his latest move and paid the price, but it was clear Baker was always visibly quicker than the Spaniard, following with wider and faster lines that also kept him far from the conflicting inside line. Crashes came often behind the lead duo, getting tangled up or just being behind one at the wrong moment was enough to get pushed out of the fight for victory at an ultra fast 200-meter oval racetrack. No mistake is allowed at a short track and Marquez finished in eighth position. Moto2 raising star Tito Rabat ended up second far behind from Baker, with former Moto2 rider American Kenny Noyes in third.
Noyes won the F-USA Pro Singles Championship in 2000, raced some AMA Flat Track and was a Lodi Cycle Bowl regular. He lives in Spain and manages a dirt track camp at MotorLand Aragon racing facility.
The Superprestigio class podium was decided on points after four "Final Heats" with Marquez winning three and Noyes won, but a crash in the third heat dropped Noyes to third overall.
On his side, Baker won the Open class, a conventional series of heats, semis and a main, against some of the fastest local specialists and AMA #87, Merle Scherb, the chief instructor at Colin Edwards' Texas Tornado Boot Camp. Baker was on his own, with Spanish dirt tracker Jose Pedro Gomez second and Scherb getting the best of Spanish World Endurance regular Dani Ribalta for third.
The Grand Super Final matched up the top four riders from the roadracers' class (Marquez, Rabat, Noyes and Aleix Espargaro) and the Open class (Baker, Gomez, Scherb and Ribalta.) The battle between Marquez and Baker brought the 8,000 fans to their feet as they two rubbed and bumped until Marquez finally went down.
"I expected Marc and even a lot of the other GP riders to be fast, you know, it just happened to be cool that Marc was second-fastest to me all day long, and just from beginning to start we were side by side, and I just wanted it to be an interesting superfinal. Feel bad that he ended up falling down, it would have been cool to be one-two. But he's an amazing rider, and so are, Tito [Rabat] and Kenny Noyes. I'm definitely going to come back here next year, even if I have to make it happen myself. Spain has been amazing, people here are great, everybody's so kind and friendly, love motorsports in general, and especially motorcycle racing, Barcelona was a beautiful city, and I'm gonna go home and start learning how to speak Spanish, that way I can come back and communicate better with you guys and have a lot more fun. But I definitely want to come back for many years."
(On Marquez' crash) I was hoping that maybe he could get up pretty quick, but I just felt bad. I can't say it was totally his fault, but I had the line and he leaned really really hard. He could've sat up, waited for me to slide by, and squared me back up, I was just trying to make an interesting race, and I think he realized that. I just felt really bad, it was a picture perfect race from the beginning to the end, if it would have been those last two laps us racing together, it would have been great. Still, that stuff happens in dirt track, for that to happen, it shows people that that's part of of racing in any kind of racing, and especially short track flat track racing. Then after that, I felt bad, but came here to show why America has the best flat racers."
"I enjoyed all this day. In the final I enjoyed it a lot, this race with Brad. We have a tough battle, but in the end, this is racing, sometimes this happen. I enjoyed it a lot, for me it was a pleasure to ride with the best guy in the dirt track category here in Barcelona. Everybody survived, that is important, because sometimes in these races it's a little bit dangerous we have to say, because it's a bike racing. Today I had so much fun!"
Marquez, Baker and Noyes seemed to be the fastest riders on track. On his side, Baker won the Open class against some of the fastest local specialists. Baker was very impressed by the level of Marquez and several other Spanish riders and both Marquez and Baker said they are looking forward to doing it again next year.
Back in the early nineties, Jay Springsteen and Steve Morehead raced in the Palau and those who saw those races still talk about them. Now a new generation of Spanish fans have seen the magic of dirt track return to Barcelona after many years of absence. Baker showed how it is done and the Spanish riders went away determined to improve and get ready for a rematch.
The magic of dirt track returned to Barcelona after many years of absence. The show even included a demonstration and grudge-match race between trials masters Toni Bou and Takahisa Fujinami during intermission.
On the whole, Baker was impressive, and certainly "nobody to screw with". No doubt European riders would improve a lot if they spent some time in the US.