Superprestigio Of The Americas: Welcome To The Fun House Of Finesse

Re-importing the Spanish twist on this all-American sport

Main event finals start

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Main event finals start.Flat Trak Fotos

How many turns are on an oval racecourse with no straights? Maybe it depends on what type of calculus you’re doing: the type you do with a calculator, or the type you do with your butt.

The Superprestigio of the Americas took place on a hockey arena at the Orleans Casino, in Las Vegas, Nevada, on a racetrack one-tenth of a mile around, if you measured it on a wide arc of gracious optimism. Lap times were 10-point-something-seconds for the entire full field of over 15 Flat Track racers and 15 All Stars, vying first for a class win and then for a place in the Superprestigio final. From about 30 heat races of four riders each, only eight qualified for the final race, which was a 15-lap feature of two-minutes and 35-seconds. The Superprestigio event is sort of like the Kentucky Derby: long on pomp, short on circumstance. But it works.

I’d never before seen an indoor race, well, at least not since my older sister chased me around our home’s conveniently circular floor plan, resulting in six stitches in my left ankle and no TV for two weeks. Anyway, it’s equally insane for professional roadracers, flat trackers, a stunt and GNCC racer, and a hill climber, to compete on a track so short, and with climate control.

But it’s a good and entertaining kind of crazy. Just ask Elvis. He was there. He looked much better than I’d have guessed.

Roger Hayden and kenny coolbeth race action

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Roger Hayden #95 and Kenny Coolbeth #2Flat Trak Fotos

Roger Hayden #95 and Kenny Coolbeth #2

Before the final night’s racing we talked with a number of competitors to get their impression of the event, the track, and the unique challenges. The common theme was the weirdness of feel to race on a tiny track of clay and gravel topped with ground granite. Adding to that weirdness was the fact that the track changed every lap. For that the flat trackers had the edge by the hilt, the others had only the edge.

Multiple AMA Pro Superbike champion Josh Hayes said, "I've done some dirt track. I've a track at home nearly double the size of this one. I've been on the track with Jared Mees, Brad Baker, and Brian Smith. Each time I've basically done nothing but get bludgeoned with a hammer.

"This is a really tough little racetrack. Lap times are so close. Yamaha has given me an awesome motorcycle that's way above my level. I'm just hoping that my learning curve is steep and I get up there and figure out how to get around some guys.

“The traction is definitely not what I’m accustomed to. But compared to dirt tracks, this track has been different every time I’ve ridden it. The way it’s prepped currently is how it was this morning and it was horrifyingly slippery. But after only a handful of laps there was a rut and a berm around the outside all around. The track changes constantly and being able to figure those things out is going to be where the experienced guys really have an edge. We need to see what we can figure out and how quickly we can do that. Roadracing is an exception to this; hanging off the inside of the bike on a track with ton of grip. Hopefully I’ll leave here a little better of a dirt track-rider than when I showed up. But it’s stupid how much fun you can have going in a circle on a motorcycle.”

Briar Bauman race action

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Briar Bauman #14Flat Trak Fotos

Briar Bauman #14

In contrast Briar Bauman, a two-time AMA Pro Grand National 1 winner and fifth in 2015 points told us, “I grew up racing flat track. This is really tiny compared to what we’re used to. We ride a lot of little tracks around our houses but as far as racing on something like this; it’s pretty wild. It’s small. It’s tough. The bike is the same that I’m used to, but I’m running first gear on this track; first gear only. It just shows how small it is.

“We messed with the suspension a bit but it’s the same bike as at the nationals. We have so many different surfaces and today it’s more like a “cushion” track; kind of a lose surface where you’re not really very hooked up, throwing a lot of dirt with the rear tire. Last night was more of a groove; it was slicked up to where the thick dirt was pushed up to the top and we had rudder laid down from our tires making the groove. From what it was last night to today, it’s two completely different tracks. Literally every time I’ve been on the racetrack today it’s been different. It’s a lot of fun.

“The only time we’re ever really going straight is when we hit a hole and it sends us straight towards the wall. Other than that, you’re always leaned over, turning. We’re starting a lot further back so it will be interesting. I think we should all adapt.”

What Bauman is referring to is, unlike flat track the Superprestigio heats and race didn’t start midway down the front “straight” at the finish line, they started from MX gates outside turn four.

Another roadracer we spoke to was Taylor Knapp, who finished 2015 second in the AMA Pro Superstock 1000 championship. “It’s definitely different than road racing,” Knapp said, “I’ve ridden some ice racing before. I was hoping it’d be a little more like that than it is, but it’s been pretty tricky for me so far. This is a lot more slippery than ice racing.”

Jared Mees wins

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Jared Mees wins!Flat Trak Fotos

Jared Mees Takes Checkers

Brad Baker, who is a championship-winning flat tracker and who finished second in the Superprestigio, felt right at home. “It’s kind of right in the norm for me,” he said. “I grew up in the northwest and this is pretty much what we race on when the weather is bad. We have a bunch of indoor tracks up there. So it’s kind of identical to what I started out racing on, and what I do throughout the winter.

“The surface keeps changing making it really rough, but making it interesting for the fans. But it’s also very physical for us. Last night it was hard packed and slick; pretty rough in a couple places. Today they put a couple loads of new dirt down and more water and now it’s a sort of fluffy cushion but more racy to ride, so it’s better.

“After last night I know that anything can happen. Another rider can knock you down. It’s very easy to make a mistake. Sometimes the fastest guy doesn’t win the race. My intentions are to win my class and the ‘Super’ final. Last night I had help to hit the ground pretty hard from a fellow rider. He didn’t exactly do a good move on me. When you get a good start and get off clean and everything is going smooth things turn out fine. But as soon as you get behind it’s hard to get yourself back up again.”

Jon "Corndog" Cornwell, a former roadracer and former World Superbike suspension tuner for Öhlins, who worked with Carl Fogarty and the BMW team. He's currently a Canada Superbike and AMA Pro Road Racing suspension tuner and crew chief, and accomplished dirt tracker. He pointed out to us the plethora of hidden details to which he has to pay attention. "Dirt track is a very unique sport: it's not motocross, it's not road racing," Cornwell said. "The parameters you have to work with are something you don't find very often.

Superprestigio of the Americas podium

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Kenny Coolbeth, Jared Mees, and Brad Baker on the podium.Flat Trak Fotos

Kenny Coolbeth, Jared Mees, and Brad Baker

“When you’re trying to set up the motorcycle you can’t stay fixed in one area because the racetrack changes constantly. You have to watch the racetrack and plan. The track they’re riding on now is not going to be the one they’re riding later. So you have to be a little bit clairvoyant in your plan.

“You have to pay attention to how much water goes in. You have to know how many bikes have been on the track, what the humidity is, how cold it is. You have to watch the track as it evolves. The other thing is, with these 450s you don’t have the ease to make the changes that you can on a roadrace bike. You can’t just whip the shock out, change the spring, whip the forks apart, change the springs, change the valving; so you kind of have to fudge it. You work with the chassis a little, work with the tire pressures, work with the clicker positions. But most importantly you have to instill the belief in your rider that what you’re doing is the right direction from the information you’re getting.

The news from the Superprestigio is that it has once again been proven that it doesn’t matter what’s being raced or where the race takes place. What only matters is the level of competition, and the Superprestigio had heaps of wheel-banging heart on the Chris Carr designed course. Plus, it all took place in Vegas, baby. Hit me.

Superprestigio of the Americas Final Results:

1. Jared Mees, Honda, Flat Tracker

2. Brad Baker, Honda, Flat Tracker

3. Kenny Coolbeth, Jr., Honda, Flat Tracker

4. Larry Pegram, Honda, All Star

5. Joe Roberts, Yamaha, All Star

6. Oliver Brindley, Kawasaki, All Star

7. Roger Hayden, Suzuki, All Star

8. Bryan Smith, Kawasaki, Flat Tracker

briar bauman race action

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Briar Bauman #14Flat Trak Fotos
jared mees race action

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Jared Mees #1Flat Trak Fotos
main event race action

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All-Star Main event race.Flat Trak Fotos