Asphalt & Rubber is fortunate to publish this outstanding photos by friend and photographer/journalist Steve English. Most motorcycle racing fans will know Steve for his work in the MotoGP paddock, but thankfully his skills translate well on dirt ovals. We hope you enjoy his work and captions. -JB
Failure to prepare leads to failure. On Friday, Brad Baker made sure that everything was just right for him to succeed on Sunday. Having crashed heavily last year and broken his shoulder and elbow, the Washington native took a different approach to this year’s Superprestigio.
“Last year was tough and when I crashed I was just trying so hard. This year I took a different approach because the win is given on the last race and I was building all weekend towards it. Two serious surgeries in two years helps you realize that the most important race is the final. Last year I was going out to impress everyone and I crashed and missed the race. This year I was able to win both finals and it’s great after such an emotional year.”
Double Pro Flat Track Grand National champion Jared Mees wasn’t able to make the magic happen in the Superfinal, but enjoyed the weekend and said afterwards that “I’m glad Brad won because it means that it’s another win for America!”
The flat track rivals both joked that this weekend was a very different challenge for them. “For me and Jared we’re usually on opposite sides and looking to beat each other so it was fun that we both approached this weekend thinking ‘If I don’t win I hope you do,'” was how Baker summed up their approach to the weekend.
“Is that a penny at the apex?” Marc Marquez brought a tremendous style to MotoGP when he arrived three years ago and his flat track style is equally impressive.
Leaning so far off the bike to try and generate grip from the edge of the tire is a very different style to that employed by the full-time flat track racers, but on the 200m Barcelona track it worked well for the Spaniard.
The Marquez brother train on flat track throughout the year in Rufea and the biggest advantage they find is that it helps them be aggressive on track.
Both riders rarely need an invitation to launch an attack in road racing, but on the flat track of the Superprestgio, both struggled to force their way through on rivals with the track only offering a narrow racing groove as the dirt cleared.
Brad Baker is one day younger than Marc Marquez and the one-time National Flat Track champion is every inch as talented as his Spanish rival. From the outset of the weekend he looked instantly comfortable on the Catalan soil, and he confirmed his status as the pre-event favorite by winning the Superfinal.
Sitting at the apex of a corner as Jared Mees speeds towards you isn’t for the fainthearted but the sight of the Pensylvania native in full flow is something to experience. His balance and control was hugely impressive as he forced his way through the pack in races to make up for poor starts.
The weight shifting of Marc Marquez is hugely impressive on a dirt track bike. Riding a 450cc Honda the Spaniard was able to slide and power his way to the same times as the American riders.
As the tyres heated up through a race he struggled at times to adapt but by the 16 lap Superfinal he was comfortable with the bike and 17′ wheels and able to stalk Baker to the flag.
In the starting gate Alex Marquez readies himself for the hectic nature of a flat track race. The 2014 Moto3 World Champion showed flashes of speed but a series of crashes ultimately ruled him out of contention.
Marc Marquez wasn’t perfect all weekend at Palau Sant Jordi and in Saturday practice he found the limit of the track and tucked the front. Alex Rins, who missed the opening night of practice, was a victim of Marquez and also hit the deck.
Brad Baker, Marc Marquez, and Jared Mees claimed the podium spots in the Superfinal.
The defending Supreprestigio champion Jared Mees gets ready to be introduced to the packed crowd at Palau Sant Jordi. His resume as a double-national champion means he casts a long shadow over flat track racing, and in Barcelona he showed his ability with some stirring performances.
At the end of the night the spotlight was on Brad Baker and Marc Marquez in the Superfinal. The evening started with everyone expecting the race to come down to a fight between them, and as they waited to be introduced to the crowd the tension and excitment was palpable.
A faceful of dirt as the gates drop but it’s 2016 Moto3 rookie Joan Mir that gets the fastest start.
The Spanish youngster will race for Leopard next year on the KTM and having impressed in the Junior World Championship he looks primed to jump to the world stage and be a potential front runner in the next couple of years.
Having learned the value of clean clothes, I moved to the side of the starting gates for the next race! The tension as riders wait for the gates to drop is enough to have your hair stand on edge.
The races were generally won and lost by what happened as the gates dropped with a single line developing around the short circuit making overtaking so difficult.
Brad Baker waits for his bike to arrive at the starting gate. The 22-year-old was relaxed all weekend and looked incredibly comfortable throughout proceedings. Having won the first Superprestigio, he was impressed by how much the European talent level has evolved.
“The first year you could make a slow start or a mistake but now you needed to be flat out all race to win it. I couldn’t make any mistakes or else Marquez would have been through.”
During his end-of-the-season spat with Valentino Rossi the Italian said of the Spaniard that “Marquez only thinks of himself and not of racing.”
It’s a comment that struck Marquez to his core and one that he felt was completely out of order. Having spent the week entertaining his rivals at his Rufea training camp, and riding as much as possible, he felt that his actions spoke louder than anything else.
Marc Marquez waits patiently at the line for a Superprestigio heat to begin.
Marc and Alex Marquez take time between races to take in the atmosphere and enjoy the racing. The brothers may be best friends and enjoy racing and training with each other, but when they were on track together they were hell-bent on beating one another.
There might be a race to win but Jared Mees was still keen to keep up to date with everything back home during the brief downtime between races.
There’s a Marquez in front but not the one everyone expects! Alex had the pace to compete but wasn’t able to match the consistency of the top riders.
As the pressure reached its apex in the closing races, Marquez made mistakes and missed out on the Suprefinal despite having been one of the quickest Superprestigio riders all weekend.
Joonas Kylmakorpi was stylish on track but the Finn wasn’t able to hold the pace of the Open Class riders.
Fredrick Lindgren is part of the “Andorra Mafia” that has some of the world’s top Motocross, Road, and Ice riders in the world. The Swede took an early lead in the Open class final and had a sprited scrap with Baker and Mees before falling to third at the flag.
Waiting for the Superfinal to start Marc Marquez collects his thoughts as he keeps calm before the 16-lap scrap that would ensue with Brad Baker.
The key to winning championships is keeping calm and approaching the moments that mean the most relaxed as possible. Marquez was laughing and joking with his crew until the time came to strap on his helmet and suddenly his steely focus shone through.
Brad Baker leads from Marc Marquez in the Suprefinal. Baker would ultimately hold off the Spaniard by a tenth of a second but as Marquez closed the gap to the race leader the excitement in the crowd started to grow.
With the MotoGP champion closing by a tenth of a second a lap he was within striking distance but Baker was able to keep hitting his markers and on the defensive line it was impossible for Marquez to force a way past.
The differing styles of Marquez and Baker is perfectly illustrated coming out of the last corner of the race. Both doing all they can to get as much forward momentum as possible but it’s Baker with the drive and the line to take the win.
The stars of the show were as expected Marc Marquez and Brad Baker. On their slowdown lap their friendship was clear with both basking in the reaction of the crowd and keen to show their appreciation of the Catalans who came to the arena.
To the victor goes the spoils and the adulation – on his victory lap Baker soaks in the atmosphere and applause.
Photos: © 2015 Steve English – All Rights Reserved