He feels like at home in Spain. That’s the reason why Brad Baker flew to Europe on the 10th of November, five weeks ahead of the date of the event in Barcelona. Nothing is enough for him to prepare this race properly. Two wins out of two participations set “The Bullet” as the big favourite for a third victory in the Palau Sant Jordi arena. But the 2013 AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National champion is well aware of the fact that all his opponents, starting with Marc Marquez, are improving their flat track skills really fast…
Jared Mees said recently that last year Marc Marquez was the fastest guy in Superprestigio #3…even though he lost the superfinal to you. Do you agree with him?
Last year Marquez was quicker than me in times, not going to deny that, but he was not as consistent in his times as I was. I focused on being smooth and figuring out new lines if I was to have to overtake in a race. In the end it is more important to be the rider that crosses the finish line first, not the one who had the fastest lap times.
What is your opinion regarding Marc’s progression as a flattracker?
Obviously Marc is very talented on just about anything he swings his leg over. I do not think there is any more speed for him to gain, just control and consistency. Even though the Palau Sant Jordi is just one type of track out of the many types that we compete at, I give him a lot of credit for how well he can ride a dirt track bike and how quick he has learned.
In which ways could Marc improve his flat track riding?
If he can manage to calm down a little and go the same speed without having to push so hard then I think it will help him in a race because less mistakes will be made. In fact, we have seen him calm down in MotoGP as well, by starting to ride smarter not harder. However, he has an amazing style and continues to get wiser every year.
Is Marc demanding your best to beat him so far?
Last year he was demanding my best, whereas the first year I did not have to push to race with him. It depends a lot on the track surface. If there’s less traction and the surface is smooth, Marc is very fast. If the surface is rough and there is a lot of grip, then my ability to navigate the track is superior.
As a result of Jared Mees’s injury, who will be the new “number 3” rider, able to fight for the overall win together with you and Marc?
I don’t think we should choose a “number 3” rider to pop up. The Flat Track Spanish Cup and the Dirt Track Copa Rodi Michelin champion, Ferran Cardús, is a great outsider…but not only to make it third. Ferran is more than able to win the Superprestigio. Should he perform good starts, overall win must be on his target.
How will your 2016 Superprestigio bike be?
I’m riding a 2016 Honda CRF 450 provided by Honda Impala in Barcelona. I bring over almost all the performance parts minus a few things I use on my race bikes in the USA and build the bike myself when I get here. There is nothing really special about my bike, it is another CRF 450 just fine-tuned to my style. You don’t need a special factory HRC motorbike to go fast on a small dirt track and to win the Superprestigio.
Which bike parts do you bring over from the States?
I travel together with three big boxes containing all suspensions, wheels, the electronic unit -ECU-, the crankshaft, some engine components and other stuff… A good setup comes next. This is key factor, because close racing is expected once again in the Superprestigio…
What is your opinion regarding flat track progression in Spain?
Yeah, the level is definitely increasing. Riders have been training hard and doing their homework to catch up to us. The new Flat Track Spanish Cup is really good for the sport. Most importantly, the champion Ferran Cardus has earned a full ride to the American flat track season opener in Daytona Beach, Florida, in March. This will be an amazing experience for Ferran and will increase the level of Spanish riders when he brings his improved skills home with him.
You arrive in Spain more than a month in advance to the date of the Superprestigio. Why? Race preparation purposes?
I enjoy Spain and have been doing a lot of networking for future opportunities. The weather being nice and getting plenty of track time to prepare is definitely a plus. But there is a lot more reason to my early arrival that just getting a lot of training. My best friends live here, they are Ricky and Ferran Cardús, so it is fantastic to spend a few weeks with them. Flat track training and having fun with your best friends, that is simply perfect!
Besides Marc Marquez, any other roadracer deserving a special mention regarding his performance level on the dirt?
Toni Elías has really stepped up his game. He was very quick last year, so he’s the one to be followed closely.
BAKER’S PERFORMANCE IN SUPERPRESTIGIO DIRT TRACK
Participations: 2 (2014-1, 2015)
Overall wins: 2
Results in heat races: 4 races / 4 wins
Results in Open class finals: 2014 (1st), 2015 (4th-1st-1st)
Overall results in the Open class: 2014 (1st), 2015 (1st)
Results in Superfinal races: 2014 (1st), 2015 (1st)
BAKER’S PERFORMANCE IN 2016 AMA PRO FLAT TRACK GRAND NATIONAL
Overall result: 6th
Wins: 1 (Sonoma County)
Podium finishes: 3 (Daytona -3rd-, Illinois -3rd-, Allen County -3rd-)