Five men finished ahead of Marc Marquez in races this past year – Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, Valentino Rossi and Cal Crutchlow. Oh, and Brad Baker.
Baker did it on Saturday in the Superprestigio dirt track held at the Palau Sant Jordi indoor arena in Barcelona, Spain – a race made possible by Marquez and Spanish magazine Solo Moto. The idea behind the short track was to rekindle the Superprestigios of the past (Spanish international road races where the likes of Colin Edwards made his international debut on a TZ250 at Jarama in 1992), but on a short track dirt oval where top-level road racers could strut their stuff on the dirt against each other and against dirt trackers. All while remaining relatively safe from injury.
The idea was a good one and one that worked – mainly because Marquez is a huge dirt track fan who uses his Honda CRF450F to train on during the off-season. He’s also a damn good little dirt track racer. So Marquez got behind the event and when you have the Spanish MotoGP World Champion behind a motorcycle race in Spain, it’s going to be a success. Period.
The only mistake Marquez made was taking the bait set in the water by Motorcycle-USA.com columnist Mark Gardiner. Gardiner figured that in order to have a true international dirt track, the AMA Grand National Champion should be there. So he did some work and made it happen. Good for Gardiner, good for Baker and good for Marquez. Sort of.
After the two qualified for the SuperFinal by pretty much dominating all of the heat races in their respective divisions, it came down to what everyone wanted to see: Marquez vs. Baker. Diminutive MotoGP World Champion vs. big, bad, back woods American flat tracker. Two 20 year olds with enormous talent levels doing battle on a short track in Spain on modified 450cc motocross bikes. Euro’s best vs. America’s best. What’s not to like?
It was almost too good to be true as the race was everything it was billed to be. The two went back and forth with contrasting styles – the ultra-smooth Baker running it in deep and squaring it off while the rattier Marquez tried the more conventional and parabolic line through the tight two corners.
All was good until a few laps from the end when the two came together at the end of the front straight. That’s when Marquez came out on the short end of the stick with Baker showing him a bit of elbow that sent the Spaniard sprawling to the ground. The crowd was quickly quieted, Baker rode on to victory and somewhere Jorge Lorenzo was doing his victory jump from the coffee table in front of his favorite couch.
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