This weekend's Superprestigio in Barcelona will see American Flat Track ace Brad Baker out to defend his crown against MotoGP champion Marc Marquez.
Their careers have followed similar trajectories, with both marked out from an early age for their tenacity and speed. In 2013 each won their respective premier-class championships, with Baker claiming the GNC1 title in the US and Marquez his first MotoGP crown.
Since then their paths have crossed at various junctures, but most publicly at the Superprestigio.
Baker is the defending champion and also won the inaugural running of the end-of-year showcase. Marquez then claimed the honours in December 2014, but only after Baker had been sidelined with an injury in a qualifying heat.
Having spent much of his time in Spain since the final round of the Flat Track championship in September, Baker has been training with a variety of riders. Ferran Cardus has been central to this and, having won the Spanish championship, Cardus will race at the opening round of the 2017 American Flat Track Series at Daytona.
In addition to Spain, Baker has also been further afield with a day at Valentino Rossi's Ranch (see video below featuring Rossi, Baker and another US flat tracker Sammy Halbert). It was something Baker had been looking to tick off his 'bucket list', although he was in no doubt as to why the likes of Rossi and Marquez invite him to train with them.
“It's great to ride with Marc or Valentino, but I'm definitely someone that they use to gauge their [dirt track] performances on," Baker said. "It doesn't matter what type of bike they are on, they want to know how good they can be and until someone of my calibre comes over they don't have that true gauge for dirt track.
“With Marc you can definitely see some influence from dirt track on his riding. He's always looked like he's pushing the limits. He has the mentality that helps and as he gets more experience he is letting the bike hang out more and more. It feels natural for him now. But you can definitely spot the road racers when they try Flat Track!
“Their body positioning and how they sit on the bike is good, but the way they use their body means you can tell from their style that they're road racers. I think that you can see an evolution in their styles - whether it's Marc or Valentino - there is a progression.”
The fourth running of the Barcelona Superprestigio takes place on Saturday night.
Picture by Steve English