Beach And Bauman Dominate Superprestigio Dirt Track Invitational In Barcelona

Americans deliver stunning performances in Spanish short-track debut

JD Beach, MotoAmerica, Yamaha, Supersport, DTX Barcelona, Superprestigio
Former MotoAmerica Supersport champ JD Beach celebrates his Superprestigio SuperFinal victory at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona, Spain.Courtesy of DTX Barcelona

Spain's annual Superprestigio Dirt Track Invitational gets better every year. Even with previous winners Marc Márquez and Brad Baker absent, the fifth edition of this invitation-only short-track race held at the Palau Sant Jordi arena in Barcelona did not disappoint. Europe's best improved once again, but at the end of a hectic night of racing Americans JD Beach and Briar Bauman finished first and second in the eight-rider, 16-lap SuperFinal. Two-time Spanish champion Ferran Cardus rounded out the podium.

The racetrack—a billiard-table-smooth clay paperclip—was really similar to that which Superprestigio promoter RPM Racing had created for the previous four events. After practice, Bauman said a small rut developed at the exit of one of the corners. He and Beach were planning to use that rut for traction, but their European counterparts made sure it was erased. Márquez and company have stepped up their flat-track game, but they still favor a glass-like racing surface.

As in the past, this year's event had two classes: Superprestigio and Open. The former is reserved for riders who participate in world championship roadracing series, such as MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3, World Superbike, World Supersport, and World Endurance. The Open class, meanwhile, is basically a catchall for other international two-wheel disciplines, including enduro, flat track, speedway, supermoto, etc. Eight world champions, including 2017 MotoGP rookie of the year Johann Zarco, were on this year's entry list.

Márquez has always been the cream of the crop in the Superprestigio class. After beating Baker and taking second in the SuperFinal last year, current MotoAmerica Superbike champion Toni Elias was my early favorite to win this class. In fact, the 34-year-old Spaniard grabbed the win in the Superprestigio final. Elias is a tough, experienced racer and takes his flat-track training seriously. In preparation for the Barcelona event, he contested the Singles class at the final round of the American Flat Track series at Perris Auto Speedway.

Elias was definitely fast on Saturday, but he didn’t flat-out dominate his class in the way I expected he would. Others who advanced to the SuperFinal included Moto3 racers Albert Arenas and Fabio Di Giannantonio, as well as Moto2 rider Remy Gardner. Son of 1987 500cc World Champion Wayne Gardner, the 19-year-old Australian pulled off one of the most impressive performances of the night, winning one of the Superprestigio finals on the only two-stroke in the field. That’s pretty cool, if you ask me.

Although the competition was stiffer, the Open class was much more predictable, at least as far as who would advance to the SuperFinal. Even though my American peers were making their Superprestigio debut, I had a lot of confidence in them. I was a little nervous for Beach when he was 11th overall after qualifying, but I knew he would step up his game when the racing began. I also knew Bauman would have good speed, and I was certain he would get good starts with the motocross-style, gate-drop starting system.

Bauman was unquestionably fast, but for some reason he struggled with his starts. Beach won all three Open class finals, easily advancing to the SuperFinal. Bauman likewise advanced with a third and two seconds. In terms of riding style, Cardus is like the Spanish version of his mentor, Baker, and he punched his ticket with 2-3-3 finishes. The last rider to qualify from the Open class was a bit of surprise to me. Professional horseman Guillermo Cano was seventh in this year’s Spanish flat-track championship, but he capitalized on the mistakes of others to move forward.

This event is a crapshoot. In my experience, the slicker and smoother the track, the more difficult it is to make up time as the race progresses. The Michelin rain tires that the riders use level the playing field even more. If you look at lap times, experienced flat-track riders, such as Beach and Bauman, were less than half a second a lap faster than a handful of guys with little experience on dirt ovals. You simply can’t afford to make a mistake with lap times that close.

The starting gate and long straightaway into turn one are a double-edged sword. As a rider, I would likely find it stressful because of its unpredictability and the carnage it can produce. As a fan, I love it because of its unpredictability and the carnage it can produce. Heading into the final event of the evening, which takes the top four points-earners from the Superprestigio and Open classes and groups them together in a winner-take-all showdown, I had little to no clue of what to expect.

I didn’t have much hope for anyone in the Superprestigio class to win this year until Elias grabbed the early lead. Beach was right on his heels, while Bauman was buried in fifth or sixth. Beach didn’t wait long to make his move. Cardus followed Beach and passed Elias for second. Bauman, meanwhile, was making passes on a track that didn’t provide many passing opportunities. He eventually caught Elias and made an aggressive pass for third. At the front, Beach did what Beach does best: no mistakes and smooth sailing to claim the win. Bauman made a brilliant last-lap pass on Cardus to finish second.

As a fellow American Flat Track racer, I couldn’t be more pleased to see our boys grab the top two spots. I believe we have some of the most talented motorcycle riders in the world racing flat track in America, and we were once again able to show that to the world. At the same time, I am impressed with the progress the Europeans have made. They continue to improve and will be a force in the future. With Beach’s victory, America now has a three-to-two edge in the Superprestigio. Your move, Marc Márquez.