The Barcelona Superprestigio dirt track event returns for its fifth edition this December 16th. But the indoor short track held in the Palau Sant Jordi in the Olympic Park on the Montjuic hill south of the city center will be without a couple of its big name riders this year, including the originator of the idea, Marc Marquez.
The Spaniard announced a few days ago on his Twitter account that he would not be racing in the event, citing the need for a rest after a long season. Just how much it was his own decision, and how much the result of pressure from Honda, is unknown. HRC were known to be deeply unhappy about Marquez racing in an event which is fraught with the risk of injury, but were unable to stop him. Common sense on the part of Marquez, or perhaps the changing of the guard in the Repsol Honda team - both Shuhei Nakamoto and Livio Suppo, the two men who were instrumental in bringing Marquez to Honda, have now left the employment of HRC - have persuaded him to step back.
Despite the absence on track of Marquez, the racing will still be worth watching. Seven current and former world champions from various disciplines and at least two American flat trackers will take to the dirt oval in Barcelona in pursuit of the Superprestigio crown. Headlining for the road racing disciplines are Johann Zarco, MotoGP rookie of the year and best independent rider after a phenomenal first season with the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team. Toni Elias, MotoAmerica Superbike champion will also be back, and hoping to go one better than the second place overall he scored last year.
There will be other road racing champions contesting the Superprestigio as well. Current World Supersport champion Lucas Mahias will be present in Barcelona, along with Stock Endurance champion Gregg Black.
The offroad disciplines will be sending a similar quality of riders. Supermoto world champion Thomas Chareyre will once again be racing in Barcelona, as will fellow Supermoto rider Sylvain Bidart. The UK flat track scene will also be well-represented, with rising young star Ollie Brindley racing, along with Toby Hales. Spanish veteran dirt tracker Dani Ribalta will be making a return, having competed in several editions of the race.
The American contingent will be without some familiar names, with Brad Baker out through injury and Jared Mees skipping the event. In their place, two of the most talented short track riders will be representing the US flat track scene. JD Beach is a familiar figure in Europe, having raced in the Red Bull Rookies and even a single Moto2 race back in 2011. Since returning to the US, he has raced both on asphalt and dirt, winning the MotoAmerica Supersport championship in 2015, and racing the AMA Pro Flat Track series at the same time. Briar Bauman is an exciting young American with a solid tally of victories on the dirt. Bauman won his first GNC race at the Daytona event, a short track not entirely dissimilar to the Superprestigio event.
The Superprestigio takes place on Saturday, 16th December in the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona. The riders are divided into two classes: the Superprestigio class featuring the top road riders and invitees, and the Open class, for the various off road disciplines and dirt track racers. The two classes compete separately, with the four best racers from each category eventually going forward to the Superfinal, a single race over 14 laps in which the overall event winner is crowned.
After morning practice, gates open at 5pm local time, with the first race of the evening kicking off at 6:30pm. After a series of heats, qualifiers and finals, the eight best riders in the event face off in the Superfinal at 9:11pm.
Tickets for the event can be bought through the official DTX Barcelona website. They start at €22, and go up to €50 for tickets close to the finish line. The seats directly opposite the finish line are for Gold Pass holders, who also get access to morning practice. The Gold Pass costs €130.