After sitting out the 2020 FIM Flat Track season during the global pandemic, Gerard Bailo (Husqvarna FS 450) makes his return to the track and his World Championship debut in 2021. The short break ahead of the final Round this weekend in Italy is a unique opportunity for the Spaniard to evaluate this new series and describe racing at the top of the Flat Track tree from a rider’s perspective.
Bailo of course is no stranger to FIM competition, having finished runner-up in the FIM Flat Track World Cup when it was staged on a single night in 2018. The 2021 season, the second as an official FIM World Championship, is a very different proposition for the riders, as Bailo explains: “It’s a great opportunity for all of us to have a World Championship, it’s great for the sport’s prestige and of course it’s a real additional motivation for us as riders to chase this title. Getting to know new circuits that are different to those we are used to in Spain has been a sizeable challenge for me. It has forced me to raise the level of my riding to measure myself against the best.”
“I started riding Supermoto when I was thirteen, and I only started out in Flat Track in 2014, riding for Suzuki Català (now Català Racing), and that was the year of the first Superprestigio Dirt Track in Barcelona. I was given the chance to try Kenny Noyes’ bike, and both the team and I were surprised at my level given how new it was to me. So we gave qualifying to the Superprestigio a go and we made it; that event helped the sport to become more widely known in Spain and I grew with it.”
“I really like the discipline, the kind of people there are around it, and that’s one of the things that keeps me involved. When you explain to people that you race on an oval, two big left-hand bends, they ask “isn’t that a bit boring?”. But even though it looks simple the sport has its own complexities: we have different types of oval, with different track surfaces, then we have the TT circuits that I love because of my Supermoto background. So even though you might not think it, you have to be a full package as a rider to be competitive, and of course very well prepared to take on a World Championship.
“Claiming second place in Misano in 2018 was an incredible sensation for me. Taking advantage of the same MotoGP weekend to run was brilliant because there were so many fans, it was a real party right up to the fireworks on the podium. That atmosphere means you can enjoy it more as an experience. And to be honest it is one of the things that made me want to return to the Championship.”
“Because of Covid we spent quite a while unable to race, really, so the focus has turned to physical training and bike time: motocross, enduro, a little bit of everything to be as well-prepared as possible. As for Flat Track, we did some testing in pre-season, it’s a new bike this season compared to what I was used to and it has taken some time to get it right.”
“The first Round almost came as a bit of a surprise because we didn’t know how it would go but I got on the podium, which gave me a real boost to keep on pushing for the rest of the Championship. It was all a bit of an adventure: shall we go for it, where is the first Round, Germany? Let’s do it; all a bit haphazard. But it has been a great experience, I have learnt so much, especially in Debrecen where the track was different to what I am used to: the kind of difficult weekend that makes you improve, and come back stronger for the future, which is the aim. I’m really enjoying it, so let’s see if we can keep up these results. The idea is to challenge for that World Championship podium at the end of this season.”
Bailo is separated from the bronze medal position by just three points heading into the 2021 season finale this weekend in Boves, Italy. The lone TT circuit on the calendar should suit a rider with Supermoto experience, although he will arrive something on the back foot with the four riders ahead of him in the classification having already visited last season. He says, “Of course it’s true that our rivals have experience of this track, and we have very little time in practice to get the bike up to speed, but we’ll try to enjoy it as much as possible and do as much as we can.”
The FIM Flat Track World Championship makes its second visit to the Bisalta Motor Park in the Province of Cuneo on Saturday 9th October for Final Four of the 2021 campaign. Practice starts at 10am local time while racing at this title decider gets underway four hours later.