Marc Marquez Gets The Win He's Been Waiting For

The reigning MotoGP World Champion finally beats Brad Baker on the dirt in front of his home crowd at the Superprestigio

Marc Marquez and Brad Baker
Marc Marquez and Brad Baker are now tied for wins at Superprestigio... so now there has to be a fifth annual event in 2017.Photo By Andrea Wilson

Brad Baker added his name to a list of some of the best riders in the world. Unfortunately, it was not a list that the American Flat Track racer wanted to be on – those who have been beaten by the reigning MotoGP Champion Marc Marquez. After years of trying, Marquez finally beat Baker at the fourth running of the Superprestigio, an all-star short track race at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona, Spain.

In fact, it was a night for road racers on the dirt as MotoAmerica Superbike racer, and former Moto2 World Champion Toni Elias finished second, pushing Baker further back to third. It was a big moment for Marquez, a win that has the pair tied with two wins each (Marquez’ first win was when Baker was sidelined with injury in 2014).

“You know the Superprestigio victory is a different feeling than MotoGP,” Marquez said. “Here it is 16 laps. And then it is like, you know that it is one race and you can win or lose; no more. This makes you much more excited. And yes, this is maybe the most special one because Brad beat me every year that he competed and this is the first time that I beat him. Yeah we have 2-2, but for me we are 2-1, so still he is leading.”

As for Baker, he preferred the shorter list he used to be on: the guy that Marquez can’t beat.

“It would have been cool to beat him, to be one of the only people in the world to not be beaten by Marc Marquez,” Baker said. “Now it creates a story to come back and to push harder. I’ve always thought that the wolf climbing the hill is always hungrier than the wolf at the top of the hill. So now I’m the wolf at the bottom of the hill, and he’s the one at the top. So now I’m chasing him instead of him chasing me. That gives me extra motivation to come back harder next year.”

Marc Marquez 2016
Marquez was in a celebratory mood, and well prepared for some champagne retribution with his goggles on.Photo By Andrea Wilson

The showdown between MotoGP and American Flat Track’s 23-year-old hotshots is something that everyone looks forward to every year, which started the first year when a relatively unknown Baker had Marquez eating dirt. They had another close battle last year, so anticipation was high for another heavy weight battle.

While the racing was great, unfortunately this year wasn’t much of a battle. Baker made a mistake in tire choice and had to try and protect the last podium spot. Like all racers, Baker is not happy with not winning and he’s kicking himself for his poor tire choice. He’s also slightly rethinking how transparent and helpful he has been to try and close the gap between the level in the U.S. and overseas.

“If I come back next year the goal is obviously going to be a win again, but it’s going to be more important to counteract to Marc’s win this year,” Baker said. “I think next year I’ll definitely take a different approach. Now that these guys are as fast and they have such a good understanding of dirt track, it’s time for me to let them figure it out and me to go back to the drawing board myself and try to increase the pace and increase the level and let them catch up again. It’s not going to be easy and I don’t know if I can do it, but I got to try.”

Baker has instrumental (and Jared Mees to a certain extent) in helping with setup and techniques, whether it was shared or observed with the time he’s spent overseas. Even though there was the post-race - why did I give so much away? At the heart of it, spreading the growth of flat track and seeing it thrive at home and abroad is really important to Baker. His efforts haven’t been wasted, as was apparent with the raised level of competition. After all, it’s a group of top racers around the world, and when school was in session, they definitely paid attention and have picked it up pretty quick.

Toni Elias 2016
Toni Elias (24) was on top form and ended the night second, impressing everyone and even surprising himself after struggling in testing the week leading up to the event.Photo By Andrea Wilson

“Last year I was with a really low bike but I saw Toni (Elias), Brad (Baker), and I tried Jared Mees' bike, which I liked a little bit better. This is one of the things,” Marquez explained. “Then in the end dirt track races, you must have the pace, you must be fast, but the start is crucial. Last year Brad led the race. I was there, pushing him but it was not possible to overtake. This year I led from the second corner and everything was much easier. Everything is related.

“Also the level increase, because after one year we have more experience with the bike, we have more experience with the riding. And I can adapt a little bit easier to the track, to the different conditions.”

The man in the middle – Elias – also has learned a lot from the Americans. In fact, the week leading up to the race was a complete disaster. So Elias phoned a friend, or two - Dave Zanotti (who he raced for at last year’s Superprestigio of the Americas) and Mees. It was a night and day difference that made Elias’ performance the surprise of the night, next to Baker finishing third.

“Yesterday morning we didn’t expect this because at the last test with Suzuki Catalonia guys (at Rufea), they were a half second faster every lap,” Elias said. “Every day, every practice, everything I try is disaster! I don’t know how to manage this situation. I said okay, I need to test something very different. I called (Dave) Zanotti, I called Jared Mees, I called everybody. Finally ideas from USA, from Europe, and the bike… Yesterday I said, ‘oh, we are saved!’ It works and I start to enjoy riding the bike, start fighting with Brad and Marc.”

Marquez was impressed with Elias’ turn around. “We were riding on Thursday in Rufea and he (Elias) was lost. And I say, ‘okay, one less,’” Marquez laughed. “One less that will be in my class. But then I arrive here and in the second practice he was faster than me. Toni did an incredible job.”

Besides winning, Marquez was also happy with the event. It is his pet project after all. He was happy to see the bar raised and happy to be surrounded by a group of riders who chose motorcycle racing on their holiday over the beach: “The riders that come to this race, who spends his holidays here in Barcelona with the race, it means they have a real passion for the bikes.”