When the opening round of the 2023 FIM Flat Track World Championship blasts into action at Britain’s National Speedway Stadium in Belle Vue, Manchester, this coming Saturday (5 August) the rider everyone will be aiming to beat is reigning champion Gerard Bailo (KTM).

The twenty-eight-year-old Spaniard won an incredibly close decision last season and expects this year’s title fight to be just as fiercely contested.

It was very exciting until the last moment,” said Bailo. “I hope this year will be the same and, logically, Matteo Boncinelli – my main rival in 2022 – will be my main rival again, although we will have surprises like Sammy Halbert among others.

Bailo began his racing career in karts and did not start riding motorcycles until he was nine years old, taking the decision to switch to two-wheeled sport only after a serious accident.

My family has always liked motorbikes, but nobody competed. My older brother was a mechanic for a racing team and that helped me to start in Supermoto. In 2014 I had the opportunity to test the Flat Track bike that Kenny Noyes was going to race in the Superprestigio in Barcelona and after that test I realised that it was a discipline that I really enjoyed.

Bailo has enjoyed considerable success in International Supermoto competition, but his career highlight so far has to be winning last year’s FIM Flat Track World Championship at a nerve-racking and rain-hit finale in Italy.

The truth is that it is a unique feeling to win a World Championship for the first time and even more being the first from my country to do it and I hope I can do it again. I do not feel any extra pressure as defending champion – for my part I have already achieved my goal which was to be World Champion, everything that comes now I want to enjoy just as much or more!

Competing as a privateer, Bailo does not enjoy the luxury of being a full-time professional rider and has to work to help finance his racing activities, although he realises that as a relatively ‘young’ championship – Flat Track only achieved full FIM World Championship status in 2020 – this has to be accepted.

For now though, the man who cites Valentino Rossi as his racing hero will be aiming to emulate the MotoGP icon over this year’s five-round Flat Track series and add another World Championship title to his CV.

The goal of course is to win it again,” he added, “so we will go for it!

The 2023 FIM Flat Track World Championship gets under way on 5 August in Great Britain and continues throughout September with rounds in Hungary, Italy and the Czech Republic before concluding in France on 8 October.