Desert racing champions become legends in Baja and Southern California’s popular Johhny Campbell is hoping to enter a league of his own by winning a race-record 11th overall motorcycle title next week during the legendary 41st Tecate SCORE Baja 1000. The world’s most grueling and famous desert race will be held Nov. 19-23 in Ensenada.
A veteran American Honda factory rider and former longtime Honda employee, Campbell, 37, of San Clemente, Calif., is completing his first year as owner of Johnny Campbell Racing (JCR) with three factory-supported Honda CRF450X motorcycles entered in Class 22 for open motorcycles that will lead over 150 motorcycles and ATVs into the wilds of the northern part of the magnificent and mysterious Baja California peninsula.
Spending more time with logistics and team management this year, Campbell did pinch hit for then-injured 1x co-rider Kendall Norman, Santa Barbara, Calif., and won the Tecate SCORE San Felipe 250 with team rider of record Robby Bell, Sun City, Calif. Campbell is expected to ride about a third of this year’s race as part of the Bell/Norman team in his quest to capture an unprecedented 11th overall motorcycle win. The 1x team won both the SCORE San Felipe 250 and the SCORE Baja 500 this year and the team will be looking to win SCORE career season point titles No. 11 for Campbell, and third straight for Bell and Norman.
Hoping to break the 10-10 tie in overall motorcycles wins with legendary Larry Roeseler in this race, Campbell has also signed up on the JCR’s 10x Honda that will be ridden by Caleb Gasselaar, Juniper Hills, Calif./Timmy Weigand, Santa Clarita, Calif./Quinn Cody, Buellton, Calif./Tim Morton, Escondido, Calif. While Gasselaar and Weigand are new to the Honda team, Cody was part of the overall winning motorcycle team in 2006 and Morton is a veteran Baja racer with four career class wins in this race.
Riding the third JCR entry, the No. 16x Honda will be the ‘futures’ that features newcomers San Clemente, Calif./Justin Seeds, Phelan, Calif., and Bryce Stavron, San Clemente, Calif., with veteran Baja racer Ron Wilson, Encinitas, Calif.
With over 375 entries expected to compete in 28 Pro and 7 Sportsman classes for cars, trucks, motorcycles and ATVs, the granddaddy of all desert races. Completing its 35th year as the World’s foremost desert racing sanctioning body, the event is the finale of the five-race 2008 SCORE Desert Series. To date entries have come from 39 U.S. States and 20 countries.
“I have been incredibly blessed in my motorcycle racing career, not only with the opportunities I have received to ride for the Honda factory team, but even more importantly, to learn how to ride and about the sport from a great teacher like Bruce Ogilvie,” said Campbell, who also has seven career overall wins in the Tecate SCORE San Felipe 250 and five in the Tecate SCORE Baja 500.
“Now that my position has changed to team owner, the demands are even greater and I am thoroughly enjoying the process of developing and maintaining the next generation of factory-supported Honda desert racers. We could likely sweep the podium at this year’s Tecate SCORE Baja 1000, but the important thing is we will be well-prepared, be riding on the best equipment available, and should be right in the thick of things throughout the challenging race. I’ve ridden just about every inch of Baja and I can’t remember an overall more difficult and demanding course than this year’s race.”
Campbell’s JCR team has also taken over operation this year of the prominent Honda pit program that will support more than 50 of the motorcycle teams entered in the race with 15 pits spread out along the race course.
In desert racing, riders don’t retire as early as other sports, they move onto the very competitive age-group classes that SCORE offers at its three Baja races.
Racers are so attracted to riding the magnificent Baja California peninsula that SCORE has Pro classes for engine size as well as age group classes for motorcycles and two Pro ATV classes for engine size. Additionally, SCORE offers competition for two Sportsman Motorcycle classes based on engine size and one Sportsman ATV Class.
And riders enjoy racing in Baja so much that many ride for multiple teams, hoping to pull of double class wins if possible.
Among the motorcycle and ATV classes, Class 22 for open motorcycles has the most entries to date with 16, followed by age group classes Class 30 (riders 30 and older) with 11 and Class 40 (riders 40 and older) with 10.
Leading the Sportsman classes in the race to date are Sportsman Motorcycle over 250cc (44), Sportsman ATV and Sportsman Motorcycle under 250cc (16 each). Testimony to the lure of this great race, all seven Pro motorcycle and both Pro ATV class winners have returned to defend their titles this year. Among the legends of Baja who will be riding in this year’s race are nine riders who have earned 64 class wins between them.
Besides Campbell’s 10 wins in Class 22, entered this year are Chris Haines, Dana Point, Calif. (13, Class 50), Craig Adams, San Clemente, Calif. (11, co-rider in both Class 50 and Class 40), Jim O’Neal, Chatsworth, Calif. (7, Class 50 and Class 30), Richard Jackson, Acton, Calif. (6, Class 60), Bill Nichols, Peoria, Ariz. (5, co-rider in Class 60), Scott Pfeiffer, Costa Mesa, Calif. (5, co-rider in Class 50), Tim Morton, Escondido, Calif. (4, co-rider in Class 22) and Gerardo Rojas, Vicente Guerrero, Mexico (3, co-rider in Class 30).
On the ATV side of the race, the battle for the overall appears to be between the two Honda-supported teams of No. 1a Danny Prather and No. 8a Wayne Matlock. Both teams ride the new Honda TRX700XX ATV. Riding with Prather, the 2007 SCORE ATV point champion from Ramona, Calif., are Mike Cafro, Bonsall, Calif./Chad Prull, Laveen, Ariz. and Levi Marana, Hemet, Calif. Riding with Matlock, El Cajon, Calif., who has led teams to victory in the first two SCORE Baja races this year, are Harold Goodman, Brownstown, Mich./Marc Spaeth, Ramona, Calif. and Wes Miller, Fallbrook, Calif.
The motorcycle and ATV classes in this race have also attracted adventurers from not only the U.S. and Mexico, but also, Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Panama, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. To make the challenge even greater, nearly three dozen Motorcycle and ATV riders are expected to enter the race as a solo rider. If they succeed, they will each receive one of the prestigious Sal Fish SCORE IronRider awards.
So far, these 32 riders have officially confirmed they will be attempting to ride solo: Class 22—4x Jack McCormick; Class 30—303x Lloyd Andrew, Class 40—402x Daren Griffiths, 403x Steve Corrie, 408x Robert Barnum; Class 50—503x Gary Barr; Sportsman Motorcycle <250cc—205x Scott Anderson, 214x Jason Lulis, 217x Baron Keffer, 218x Eric Forster, 249x Yoram Lavee; Sportsman Motorcycle >250cc—253x John Crowley, 257x Adrian Lovelace, 258x Michael Ott-Eulberg, 260x Mike Kaplan, 263x Mark Lucke, 269x Andrew Vela, 270x Vernon Smith, 277x Greg Matherly, 278x Yvan Perroud, 279x Davy Patterson, 281x Graham Wilson, 282x Robbie McAlerney, 286x Ken Kosiorek, 288x Brett Bardsley, 289x Tibi Imbuzan, 290x Brady Van Mare, 292x Laurent Lazard; and Sportsman ATV—51 Martin O’Leary, 53a Josh Hogan, 57a Warren Lovelace, 65a Yoav Regev.
Andrew, Griffiths, Adrian Lovelace, Warren Lovelace are all from Australia, Lavee and Regev are from Israel, Ott-Eulberg is from Germany, Perroud is from France, Lazard is from Uruguay, Imbuzan is from Hungary, Patterson, Wilson and McAlerney are all from Ireland and O’Leary is from Spain. As an added bonus will be $150 for the fastest Sal Fish SCORE IronRider, $100 for the second fastest and $50 for the third fastest posted by Ott-Eulberg, a German attorney who will be making the attempt himself. Ott-Eulberg’s posting has been matched by Tom Wimberly of Bakersfield, Calif. It’s the oldest and most well known of all desert races, and it remains as the single most appealing accomplishment to a driver. Since 1967, the Granddaddy of all desert races has been run over the mysterious Baja California peninsula. Because of the economics and logistics involved, some years it is a peninsula run while most years it is a loop race, starting and finishing in Ensenada.
The 631.35-mile race will start for the 34th time and finish for the 19th time in Ensenada. The motorcycle and ATV classes will start their journey at 6:30 a.m. (Friday, Nov. 21) with the car and truck classes starting at approximately 10:30 a.m., or three hours after the last ATV leaves the line. Vehicles will leave in 30-second intervals in the elapsed-time race and while the fastest finishers are expected to complete the course in approximately 14 hours. All vehicles will have a 31-hour time limit to become official finishers in the legendary adventure. The race will start and finish on Boulevard Costero along the picturesque Bahia de Todos Santos in front of the historical Riviera del Pacifico Cultural Center in the heart of Ensenada.
By drawing the first starting position in the race, Grant Steele, 38, Temecula, Calif., and his team, will lead the 16 entries to date in Class 22 for open motorcycles on a Honda CRF450X. Grant’s older brother Cameron Steele, San Clemente, Calif., drives the No. 16 SCORE Trophy-Truck and will be a third driver in Class 7SX on the team led by his wife Heidi Steele. Heidi Steele is leading her class point standings entering the race and is attempting to become the first female driver of record in history to capture a SCORE season truck class point title. While late entries are accepted up to race day, a total of 369 entries have officially been accepted for the race as of today which will put the starting field in the top five in the 41-year history of the storied event.
With massive crowds reaching nearly 300,000 anticipated to again be spread out along the rugged course that travels through the Pine Forest up over the infamous La Rumorosa grade to near Tecate and Mexicali, down Laguna Salada to San Felipe and back to the Pacific Coast and up through Santo Tomas and back to Ojos Negros on the way back to Ensenada, covering much of the northern half of the majestic Baja California peninsula.
Pre-race festivities on Thursday, Nov. 20, for the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000, including the vastly popular tech and contingency of all vehicles and the SCORE Manufacturer’s Midway will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Boulevard Costero in front of the Riviera del Pacifico Cultural Center. The pre-race mandatory driver/rider briefing will be held Thursday, Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. in the Cathedral Room at the Riviera del Pacifico Cultural Center. Racer and media registration will be held at the San Nicolas Resort Hotel from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 19 and from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 20. The post-race Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 Survivor’s Celebration will be held poolside at the San Nicolas Resort Hotel at 10 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 23.
The car and truck classes with the most entries to date are the unlimited Class 1 (31), SCORE Trophy-Truck (29), Class 1-2/1600 (19), Class 5/1600 (16), SCORE Lite (14), Baja Challenge Class (13) and Class 10 (12).
This year’s Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 desert race will be televised on a delayed basis as a one-hour NBC Sports special for the fifth consecutive year, scheduled to air at 1 p.m. (EST) on Sunday, Dec. 14 on the NBC Television Network. It will also air on a delayed basis outside of the U.S. on ESPN International.
The 2008 SCORE Desert Series also includes the chase for the $20,000 Volkswagen of America Point Leader Bonus and the run for the Toyota Milestone Awards for car and truck racers who complete every required mile of the season.
The Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 also features the $5,000 Volkswagen bonus to the highest finishing Volkwagen-powered vehicle in the race. Among the other special awards at the event will be the Sal Fish SCORE IronRider award presented to all declared motorcycle and ATV riders who are official finishers of the race while riding solo.
Current SCORE official annual sponsors are: BFGoodrich Tires-official tire, Volkswagen of America-official vehicle, Sunoco Race Fuels -official fuel supplier, Bilstein-official shock, Instant Mexico Auto Insurance-official Mexican auto insurance, Slime-official tire sealant and Red Bull–official energy drink. Associate sponsors are: Tecate Beer, Coca-Cola of Mexico, Las Vegas Events, Terrible Herbst Inc., Blue C Enthusiast Advertising, Kartek Off-Road, American Suzuki, SignPros, P.C.I. Race Radios, McKenzie’s Performance Products and Advanced Color Graphics.
Additional associate sponsors, for the 2008 Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 is the Fideicomiso Publio para la Promocion Turistica de Ensenada.
For more information on the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000, contact SCORE at its Los Angeles headquarters 818.225.8402 or visit the official website of the 2008 SCORE Desert Series at www.score-international.com.