2013 AMA Pro GNC Brad Baker chatted with Motorcycle USA after an exhibition ice race in Aspen, Colorado aboard the new Harley-Davidson Street 750.
Brad “The Bullet” Baker is as skilled as they come on a dirt track these days. He’s been racing for nearly 10 years and has numerous amateur dirt track championships to his name, both nationally and within his home state of Washington. Professionally, he’s the 2009 AMA Pro Singles Champion and last year earned the top spot in the sport, becoming the 2013 Grand National Champion. Following his success it was announced that Baker would join the Harley-Davidson and Screamin’ Eagle Factory Flat Track team for 2014 piloting an XR750. The 20 year-old rider will also get help from seasoned Flat Track tuner Craig Lager and 1988 AMA Pro rookie of the year, Kevin Atherton. Baker has become an ambassador for the sport overseas as well, thanks to his participation in the well-publicized Superprestigio put on by 2013 MotoGP Champion Marc Marquez in Spain.
Baker’s latest venture lands him in Aspen, Colorado for a bit of ice racing. Along with 2012 Grand National Champion Jared Mees and his wife Nichole Mees, Baker is working with The Motor Company to bring motorcycle ice racing into mainstream focus by making it a Winter X Games event. The three riders put on an exhibition, which will be aired during ESPN’s coverage of the 2014 Winter X Games on January 23, to give fans a taste of what ice racing is all about. They’re also running a campaign to gauge interest in the sport and fans are encouraged to leave comments on Twitter at hashtag #XGIceRace. And last but not least, all three riders are piloting the new Harley-Davidson Street 750, H-D’s newest motorcycle and one of the first completely new models to come from the Milwaukee-based brand in over a decade.
We were able to chat with Baker during some down time in Aspen, to get his thoughts on the new Street 750, ice racing, the upcoming Grand National Championship and more.
Do you have much experience racing on the ice?
Not a whole lot, the exhibition we did on the new Harley-Davidson Street 750 for the video that’s going to air on the X Games tonight on ESPN was actually my third time. It has a lot of the same riding characteristics as flat track though.
How does it compare to the dirt track?
It’s pretty close as far as the way you ride and handle the motorcycle, finding traction and getting the thing hooked up. It’s on an oval course that’s usually three-eighths to half-a-mile with speeds up to 100 mph, so that’s pretty similar to flat track. Then again, you’re on the ice and we have studded tires with sharp screws in the tires and that’s more of a risk factor that makes the racing more intense. Definitely don’t want to fall down and get run over by any buzz-saw tires.
What are your thoughts about ice racing becoming an X Games sport?
It’s a very intense sport and it’s something I think the X Games needs. It’s the type of racing that’s portrayed right in front of the fans; you never have any problem with racers going out of view or fans not being able to watch a whole race. I think the intense factor of being on ice and having these studded tires will have everyone the edge of their seat and not wanting anyone to go down and get run over by one of these things. But we’re really leaving it up to the fans to see if ice racing might stick as a future medal sport in the X Games and we’d like the fans to try to get involved and want them to pretty much be the sole opinion of if ice racing sticks. They can do that on Twitter by using the hashtag #XGIceRace and pretty much voting yea or nea on whether they like ice racing and want to see it as a future X Games sport.
It’s something that’s been around for almost 100 years and is a natural fit for Harley-Davidson to be a part of it. They’re almost the pioneers of the sport and have been in it for nearly 100 years as well. I think everyone’s going to love it.
Would you be in line to compete if ice racing becomes a Winter X Games sport?
If it happens you can count on me being on a motorcycle, that’s for sure. I definitely want to be a part of it. I’ve only had a minimal time on an ice bike, but the little bit of time I’ve had on one I’ve felt right at home and was pretty fast. I really hope the fans get involved and use the hashtag (XGIceRacing) to pump this thing up and make it happen.
How’s the new Harley-Davidson Street 750?
The new Harley-Davidson Street 750 is an amazing bike. I was very comfortable riding it for the first time. Being pretty much an OEM motorcycle with studded tires on it, it handled really well. The new engine is amazing. It’s liquid-cooled and it really meets the demands of stop and go traffic and urban requirements on the street but at the same time translates over for nice smooth, ridable power on the ice. And, of course, it’s a lot smaller than a normal Harley-Davidson. It has low-swept bars that feel a lot like dirt track bars; you sit low on the seat so you got a really good feel on the motorcycle and a low center of gravity. For being a streetbike the thing is really nimble and has a lot of agility and maneuverability, the new motorcycle is amazing.
Have you been able to ride the 750 on the street?
Not on the street, I’m definitely excited and looking forward to doing that in the future. But really me, Jared Mees and his wife Nichole Mees, we were pretty much the first three out of the factory to ride the thing and it was pretty interesting that we got to do it on the ice. The motorcycle so far is good and if it handles that well on the ice I imagine it’s going to be great on the street.
So you’re fresh from Spain and the Superprestigio with Marc Marquez. How was the experience racing dirt track overseas?
I had a great time over there. The Spaniards treated me really well, becoming friends with Marc Marquez and a handful of other great riders I mean it was an amazing experience. RPM Racing did a great job putting on the event. It was probably one of the biggest dirt track events as far as publicity goes for a lot of years now, so they did an amazing job and I had a lot of fun riding with those guys. I was happy to be able to put America on top of the box and show why dirt track is so famous in the United States.
According to our Backmarker, Mark Gardiner, you were a gracious guest, opting to hold back a bit rather than trounce the competition.
When it came to the open class I just laid down my laps and pretty much won by half-a-track and showed them what was going on. But when I rode with Marc Marquez I held back some and made it a very interesting race for the fans. Unfortunately he ended up going down at the end of the race, it wasn’t exactly a good deal but that’s dirt track racing for you, it sometimes happens.
Are you and Marquez still on good terms after the crash?
I think we’re on better terms, I think he respects me a little bit more now. He knows I won’t back down. He’s pretty aggressive in MotoGP, but we hung out that night and we were all good after the race. We’re definitely on good terms and I look forward doing stuff with him in the future.
How are preparations going for this year’s Grand National Championship?
Going fine, I’m just pumped to be with Harley-Davidson Factory and the XR750 and representing for Harley there. I’ve got a great team I know I’ll work well with and am looking forward to getting things started with them. And of course the little bike program, the 450 program, still looks great for Daytona riding on KTMs for Fun Mart Cycle Center, so I’m just excited to get the 2014 season in full swing and defend that number one plate.
There are some interesting stops on the 2014 schedule, including one at Sturgis during the rally. Are there any rounds in particular you’re looking forward to?
Especially Sturgis and the rally, which is really, really fun. Another cool event that’s hopefully going to happen that’s on the schedule now but is still in the works is in Knoxville, Iowa. That’s going to conjoin with the World of Outlaws so that will be a cool event to get the fastest of the fast on dirt track for four wheels and the fastest of the fast on two wheels two days in a row. I think that event will be really cool, but whenever you got to a Grand National dirt track event you are pretty much in store for some great racing.
Who’s your toughest competition going to be this year?
I think he’s hanging out with me here at Aspen. I think Jared Mees is a really consistent, great rider. He has Harley-Davidson behind him as well and has some awesome motorcycles. He’s a really consistent rider on all types of race tracks and he’s a guy that dedicates his whole life to racing like me. It’s not that others don’t as well, but he tries really hard. I feel like Jared Mees is going to be a tough competitor and we’ve been poking at each other quite a bit the last week or so. But when you get to this point in the game there’s all sorts of amazing racers, there’s probably 10 of us that can win on any given night so it’s going to be a sweet 2014 season for sure.
What’s it going to take to defend your title in 2014?
Of course, winning motorcycle races is key. If you’re on top of the box there’s no way to earn more points than that. But it’s all about consistency. You’ve got to win races but you’ve got to get on the podium, get top-fives. If you make your worst night a fifth or a fourth then that’s staying really consistent and I’ve found that out in years past from all the riders winning championships by being consistent. Every time you go out on the race track the point is to win and if you go out there with that attitude you either win or most of the time get close to it. It’s hard to get to the top but it’s even harder to stay there. I’m just going to give it my all and I know Harley-Davidson and I are going to have a really great shot at it.
Finally, would you be game for a reunified Grand National Championship?
I wouldn’t be opposed to that. It would really be interesting that’s for sure. It would be going back about as grassroots as it gets. It would be really cool to see and would pretty much bring out the best rider because you’d have to be good at everything. Whether it would ever be attainable to happen, it’s probably pretty slim, but I’m definitely not against it, I think it would be pretty interesting.
For more information about the Harley-Davidson Street 750, visit www.h-d.com/street.
Click here for more on the H-D Street 750 racing on the ice.