He was all of 20 years old.
Yeah, he had a Grand National Championship under his belt,
but no passport.
When the ink dried, he hopped a jet to Spain.
To face a man
even the great Valentino Rossi couldn’t beat.

Brad Baker’s style and skill made him the National Flat Track Champion, but would it serve him against the very best racer in the world, Marc Marquéz? [Brad Baker]
In the road racing world,
Marquez was the newly crowned MotoGP wonder-boy
whose speed seemed effortless
and victory inevitable.
The Superprestigio race
was created to showcase Marquez’ ability
to dominate on dirt as well as asphalt in front on his countrymen.
Two worlds would collide in Spanish arena.
For the first time, a MotoGP World Champion would
face an American Flat Track Champion on a dirt track.
The idea was to jump-start the then-declining sport of flat track
and legitimize the sport to the nonbelievers.

Superprestegio was meant to bring the best of different motorcycle racing disciplines together,
but no American Flat Track riders were invited initially.
American journalist Mark Gardiner heckled the promoters via social media,
and soon after, the new American champ,
Brad Baker received his invitation
and an offer of a bike from the Spanish KTM importer.

Two brilliant and very young racers: Marc Marquéz and Brad Baker. [Brad Baker]
Arriving in Spain,
Brad was hustled to a press conference,
suitcases in hand,
and met his competitors.
They may have been superstars,
but every one was friendly.
Brad was surprised by the sea of press
and the army of enthusiastic fans.
He’d never been put on such a pedestal.
Motorcycle racing is huge in Spain,
but American flat track racing
has a county fair vibe.
After the press conference,
a fellow racer toured him around Barcelona.
From the back of a scooter,
Brad saw the old city,
its architecture and its nightclubs.

Arriving at the oval dirt track,
was where Baker finally felt at home.
This was his world.
His European competitors were pleasantly surprised
and found him a fine ambassador.
The Superprestegio format had two categories,
dirt racers and road racers.
The top 4 from each final advanced to the super final.
Baker dominated the dirt
while Marquez had his way with road racers.

Up close and personal: a match between the very best in the world. [Brad Baker]
They faced each other for the first time in the Super Final.
When the gates dropped,
Marquez came out swinging,
taking the holeshot.
But Baker was on him,
showing a wheel constantly.
A few laps in,
Brad ran around Marquez’ outside in turn four.
but Marquez hit him firmly,
bouncing Baker off the outer wall
hard enough to bend his exhaust.
Baker said ‘he was aiming for me’.
Marquez was playing for keeps.
But this wasn’t Bakers’ first rodeo.
He lived the unwritten rule in flat track:
you can bump but you can’t knock ’em down.
He gathered himself up and set off in pursuit.

Baker lined up for a pass down the front straight,
charging hard up the inside.
Marquez tried to block him,
chopping his throttle and swinging to the left,
but his timing was late.
He bounced off Baker’s side
and was slammed unceremoniously onto the track.
Sure seemed like flat track justice to me.
Baker looked back to see the MotoGP champ
lying on the track and thought “Oh F***!”
He took it easy for a lap or two
to show it wasn’t intentional,
then picked up the pace and wheelied across the finish line
to take his win.

Marquez did not seem too happy at first,
but shook it off and congratulated Baker.
All was forgiven, and the party began.
Baker returned to Spain many times,
and now considers it a second home.

For years after, I badgered Baker for an interview
about that first Superprestigio race.
But every time I lined him up,
he’d throttle up and out.
Did he not see the significance?
In 20 years he’d be giving speeches about the night he beat Marquez.
I wasn’t going to give up,
though I could read between the lines.
At that point, Baker was too busy looking forward to talk about the past.
For him, life was a blur of travel and racing, punctuated by victories.

Gladiators and friends at the 2013 Superprestigio race: Marc Marquéz and Brad Baker [Brad Baker]
My brother John and I were having dinner with Peter Starr,
who directed ‘Take it to the Limit.’
As a kid, I saw the film and it changed me.
Suddenly, being a fan was not enough.
I sat quietly, soaking up his words,
trying not to say anything awkward.
But I had a chance to speak
of a race that deserves to be remembered.
Of a young American who traveled overseas
to face the World Champion,
on a borrowed motorcycle.
I confessed I’d been struggling to lock down an interview.
Peter asked “so what’s the holdup?” and picked up his phone,
right in the middle of dinner.
“Tom, ask Baker to make time for Mike Lawless.”
Peter encouraged me to keep at it.
Maybe I’d get my story after all.

A few weeks later, in the pits at Williams Grove,
it’s after the main and packed with fans.
I’m just a fly on the wall,
but the sea of people parts
and Baker walks over to me, still sweating hard from the race.
‘Hey, sorry I’ve been tied up.
I got stuff going on for the next couple of weeks.
Message me and we’ll talk.”
I was floored – did that just really happen?

I waited those weeks, then nervously shot him a text.
Several minutes later my phone rang.
Coffee in hand, I grabbed my notepad, and had that interview.
Flat trackers are a humble lot
and Brad is no different.
He plays the strong silent type well,
but warmed up as the words flowed,
about his wonderment for that Spanish experience.
The interview was worth the wait.
Thank you, Brad Baker.


Michael Lawless [@electric_horseman], our ‘Poet of Packed Earth’, is the Flat Track Editor for TheVintagent.com, and has his own blog: Electric Horseman
Related Posts

Racing Towards The Dream

Cameron Smith is the only African…

The Vintagent Trailers: Motorcycle Man

Racing legend Dave Roper is hardly an…

The Universal Racing Motorcycle

Dimitri Coste attempts the impossible:…

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter