Robby Bell and the 4x THR Motorsports team broke the 15 year Honda stranglehold on the Baja 500 with a long-awaited win aboard the Kawasaki KX-450F. For Bell and Hengeveld this is a particularly sweet victory since both riders have been trying to make a name for themsleves after leaving the powerhouse Honda squad in ’07-’08.
The THR Motorsports Monster Energy Kawasaki team of Robby Bell, David Pearson and Steve Hengeveld snapped Honda’s 15-year winning streak by capturing the overall motorcycle victory in the SCORE-International Baja 500. The trio split time on the KX450F and posted a winning time of 9:10:03 with an average speed of 49.09 mph, despite having troubles early on. The JCR Honda squad finished second (Colton Udall, David Kamo, Tim Weigand) and KTM’s factory effort came in third (Kurt Caselli, Mike Brown, Ivan Ramirez, Marc Coma). Kendal Norman was fourth overall with a solo effort.
“I kept stopping at locals across the side of the track trying to get some gas and finally I found two that had some and they were more than happy to give me enough gas to get to pit two,” said Bell. “I would really like to thank them. It is pretty awesome that out in the middle of nowhere, two guys have some gas and they’ll give it to me. They kept us in the race though we lost about four or five minutes from that but it kept us in the race. My teammates Steve (Hengeveld) and David (Pearson) rode so well. I’m so happy with how the day went. It (having Kawasaki back on the podium) is great for the sport and for the brand. I’m stoked to get Kawasaki down here because I know Honda has a huge history in Baja but so does Kawasaki.”
With the Johnny Campbell’s JCR Honda 1x team lead by Colton Udall slowed some by two crashes during the race, Kawasaki’s winning trio defeating the Honda team by two minutes, 28 seconds. Udall raced with David Kamo, Caldwell, Idaho and Tim Weigand, Valencia, Calif. to a time of 9:12:31. Udall injured his shoulder on his second spill and Weigand was forced to stay on the bike and ride the 48 mile final section to the finish line that he had not pre-run prior to the race.
“I just fell a little bit and basically picked the bike up and it bent the disc and instead of stopping and straightening it I continued,” said Udall. “I went in about five corners later and just pushed the front and went over the bars. I bent the whole rear end of the exhaust up and basically squished the exhaust so the thing was plugged. There were sections where the fastest I could go was 80 on the dry lake wide open.”
Ivan Ramirez of the FMF/Bonanza Plumbing/KTM Team went over the handlebars early in the race and was lucky to escape without major injury. The bike suffered serious damage and the team lost valuable time in the melee. Despite their trouble, the semi-factory KTM team took third.
The FMF/Bonanza Plumbing/KTM Team was headed by Kurt Caselli and was made up of off-road heavy-weights Mike Brown, Ivan Ramirez and Marc Coma. Caselli started the team off in seventh and quickly handed the bike to Ramirez who was scheduled to ride to mile marker 97. Ramirez crashed within the first 15 miles of the course; the team lost eight minutes and had to deal with damage to the bike. Brown took over next and was able to gain some ground, actually passing the JCR crew for a period. The bike then suffered a mechanical issue that dropped the team back to third. Coma took over at Pit 7 after the fix and was able to finish the race without incident, just six minutes behind Johnny Campbell’s Honda team.
In giving Kawasaki its first win in this race since 1996, the victory was Bell’s fourth overall win in the Tecate SCORE Baja 500, Hengeveld’s seventh and Pearson’s first. It was also Kawasaki’s ninth overall motorcycle win in this challenging desert race.
The rugged 450-mile course, which ran in a clockwise direction, resembled a deflating balloon, winding east to Ojos Negros, down to near San Felipe, back West to the Pacific Ocean below San Vicente and back north east through Santo Tomas on the way back to Ojos Negros and then Ensenada.
Not only was there a significant variety of terrain on this desert race course, elevations ranged from sea-level to the 4,155-foot summit at race mile 110.47 with temperatures fluctuating between the low 50s to the 100s Fahrenheit between the Pacific Coast, summit, dry lake beds, washes and Sea of Cortez.
Winning their respective motorcycle and ATV classes for the second of three SCORE Baja races here were the teams led by Mike Johnson, El Paso, Texas (Class 30, Honda CRF450X), Jeff Kaplan, Thousand Oaks, Calif. (Class 40, Honda CRF450X) and Marc Prince, Malibu, Calif. (Class 50, Honda CRF450X). It was the sixth class win in this race for Kaplan.
Jim O’Neal, Simi Valley, Calif., led a team in Class 21 to victory on a Honda CRF450X to give him 16 career wins in this race and Richard Jackson, Action, Calif., earned his 14th class win in helping rider of record Al Perrett of Canada captured Class 60 on a Honda CRF450X.
Among the other first-time motorcycle and ATV class winners this season were Gabriel Williams, Provo, Utah (Class 20, Honda CRF250X), Manuel Jimenez, San Felipe, Mexico (Class 24, Honda TRX450R and Carl Vella Ardsley, N.Y. (Class 26, Can-Am Outlander800).
The fastest sportsman motorcycle racer was Carlos Sanchez, Chula Vista, Calif., who led a team to victory on a Husaberg 450. The fastest Sportsman 4-wheel vehicle was Nick Tonelli, Huntington Beach, Calif., who won the SPT Truck in a Ford Ranger for his third class win of the season.
The second-oldest desert race in the world, Round 4 of the five-race 2012 SCORE Desert Series, the World’s Foremost Desert Racing Series, featured 259 starters, competing in 36 Pro and 7 Sportsman classes for cars, trucks, motorcycles and ATVs.
SCORE is in its 39th year as the world’s foremost desert racing organization. This race is traditionally one of the most popular events on the SCORE schedule and is the first desert race produced by SCORE on July 26, 1974.
Entries this year came from 34 U.S. States from Hawaii to New York and the U.S. Territory of Guam along with the additional countries of Mexico, Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Finland, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan and Spain.
Post Race Quotes:
KURT CASELLI, No. 7x (Third in class and third overall motorcycle. Caselli rode with Ivan Ramirez and Mike) — CO-RIDER IVAN RAMIREZ said: “It was a good. All day we were battling and trying to catch those guys (Robby Bell and Colton Udall) but it was a tough day for me. I think it is pretty good to be in the top three and I’m happy with the team. I had trouble in the start around mile 15. I was in the dust and couldn’t see a rock and went over the bars and had a little concussion and hurt my elbow. I tried to be up front again but those guys rode pretty good and didn’t have any problems. I’m happy with the race.”
KENDALL NORMAN, No. 9x (Fourth in class and fourth overall motorcycle. Norman rode the race by himself) – “It was awesome. It (riding solo) was a new experience. I’m pretty fried right now. It was an awesome experience and probably one of the most memorable and most fun times I’ve ever had in Baja. I just thank the awesome friends that I have that stepped up and wanted to help me do what I do because everything was so last minute. I broke my hand eight weeks ago. In pre-running, I think I rode more before noon (today), then I have since the Baja 1000. Coming out and doing it and having all these people help is just awesome. I honestly didn’t know how the day would go. I had one blunder. I thought a pit was supposed to be in a place and I ended up stopping for a minute and going ‘Oh my God, where’s my pit at? I need gas.’ I ended up stopping at a big crowd of people and yelling ‘neccisito gasolina.’ It was like a Chinese fire drill and one guy pointed and I saw a five gallon can full of gas. I ran over and we filled the bike to the top and this guy goes ‘hey, what’s your name?’ and I said Kendall and he said ‘hey, I’m Charles.’ It was Kurt Caselli’s old mechanic who is a good friend. In the middle of nowhere where I stopped you are right here with five gallons of gas.”
GABRIEL WILLIAMS, No. 179x (First in class. Tim Morton shared riding duties) – “It was hot and dusty. It was the driest I’ve ever seen it. We were just smooth with no problems at all today. I think that’s what it takes.”
JIM O’NEAL, No. 102x (First in class and second overall motorcycle. Shane Esposito, Scott Meyers, Morgan Crawford and Ricky Brabee shared riding duties.) — CO-RIDER SCOTT MEYERS said: “We had a pipe blow apart that we had to switch and we had to change a whole exhaust system which cost us about 10 or 15 minutes. We had one burn and come apart so we had to put another pipe on so that cost us some time. Other than that, everything was great. The Honda five pit did everything. They were doing the wheel and the exhaust and fuel and everything. They got it going. It took us about 15 minutes to get everything done and then we got going. We lost a lot of time. That’s a big gap. We would have been real close to third overall I think. Shane (Esposito) had a couple of little tumbles in the dust and other then that it was a perfect day.”
MIKE JOHNSON, No. 300x (First in class. Jason Truby, Ben Brinkley, Shane Bell and Steve Garnett shared riding duties)– CO-RIDER JASON TRUBY said: “Our day was pretty smooth. I started and went to mile 100 and it was clean, just a lot of dust. We passed seven or eight bikes maybe. About midway through the race we started having motor issues. Maybe carburation but I’m not exactly sure what the problem was but it was just cutting out really bad off and on and was unpredictable. We more or less nursed her home. Everyone stayed safe and no major crashes. It wasn’t a perfect day but it was a good day.”
JEFF KAPLAN, No. 400x (First in class. Ron Wilson and Louie Franco shared riding duties) – “I rolled the start and went to the hotel and then Ronny (Wilson) started and had a great ride and gave it to me with a pretty good lead and then we just maintained it. We gained a little bit throughout the day but not a lot. The guys racing us were fast and stayed with us all day. They kept the pressure on. It was a good day. Louie (Franco) had a clean ride. Nobody hit the dirt, nobody did anything wrong. Really clean. Johnny Campbell talked about getting on the bike but he didn’t get on.”
MARC PRINCE, No. 501x (First in class. Dave Potts, Eric McKenna, Ray Spore and Doug Smith shared riding duties) – “We were ahead for a while but I got passed on the bottom of the summit. I got off the course and got passed. We had a six or seven minute lead and we lost a little bit coming through. It was hot and it was dusty. A quad passed me and I got stuck in his dust and got off the course. We won the 250’s and now we’ve got to get to the Baja 1000. I’ve never done the point to point before and I’m looking forward to it.”
AL PERRETT, No. 601 (First in class. Richard Jackson and Mark Force shared riding duties) – “I’m glad I’m here. I’m 74 years old. I wanted to do this when I was maybe 35 and 40 but, you know, family and business… I came down here in 1990 for my first Baja 1000. I was 52 years old. It gets into you and you’ve just got to come back. It’s a challenge for sure.”
GREG ROW, No. 5a (First in class and first overall ATV to finish. Josh Row, Dustin Nelson, Travis Dillon and D.J. Noerr shared riding duties) — CO-RIDER JOSH ROW said: “For the race that we had it was a day of mistakes and bobbles and things like that. We were just making less mistakes than everyone else. We had gas and go all day, other than a couple of rider errors and getting a couple of flats. Other than that, everything was flawless. I can’t explain it. I was stoked. I was coming over the summit and I overshot a corner and stuck it into some rocks. I had to get off and pull it out. It tired me out a bunch. Finding all my lines, it was a long day but it was well worth it. This is my second or third Baja 500 racing to win and we got it done today.”
BRANDON BROWN, No. 3a (Second in class and second overall ATV. Richie Brown, Jorie Williams, Kenny Sanford and Jamie Kirkpatrick shared riding duties) – “We had a pretty solid day all day. The competition is tough and we just kept on doing whatever we could do. We had our pivot bolt come loose and luckily we were able to catch that before it got catastrophic on us. We had to fight that all day but really it didn’t take that much time off of us. Everybody worked hard and rode hard and we could have used another three minutes from the sound of it. I’m pretty proud of everybody involved in our program. We came up a little bit short but we’ll be back at the Baja 1000 and see what we can do there. We split up the riding evenly for what we had and we had a pretty good day.”
MANUEL JIMENEZ, No. 102a (First in class. Dorian Mendez, Julio Gomez, Heriberto Marquez and Daniel Salazar shared riding duties) – “The day was very hard and Saldana was very hot. At mile 100 we were in third and the axle was a little hard on the tires but everything was good. The lock in the axle was broken and the nut was out. In mile 300 we fixed the axle and everything was good.”
CARL VELLA, No. 200a (First in class. Vella shared riding duties with Mike Penland) – “It was a rough, rough course. I took one tumble, I fell, got bruised but dusted myself off and got back on the bike, but here I am.”
Top Overall Baja 500 Finishers
1. Robby Bell/David Pearson/Steve Hengeveld (Kawasaki) 9:11:33 (Class 22)
2. Colton Udall/Timmy Weigand/David Kamo (Honda) 9:12:31 (Class 22)
3. Kurt Caselli/Mike Brown/Ivan Ramirez/Marc Coma (KTM) 9:18:39 (Class 22)
4. Kendall Norman (Honda) 9:49:38 (Class 22)
5. Jim O’Neal/Shane Esposito/Scott Myers/Ricky Brabee/Morgan Crawford (Honda) 9:54:05 (Class 21)
6. Mark Samuels/Ian Young/Matt Eddy/Max Eddy (Honda) 9:58:24 (Class 22)
7. Francisco Arredondo/Ryan Dudek/Matt Karlsen (Honda)10:04:15 (Class 22)
8. Francisco Septien/Roberto Villalobos/Brandon Prieto/Eric Yorba (Honda) 10:12:24 (Class 21)
9. A.J. Stewart/Justin Morgan/Corey Freeman (Honda) 10:15:02 (Class 22)
10. Jeff Kaplan/Ron Wilson/Johnny Campbell/Louie Franco (Honda) 10:35:26 (Class 40)
1. Greg Row/Josh Row/Dustin Nelson/Travis Dillon/DJ Noerr (Yamaha) 10:52:07 (Class 25)
2. Brandon Brown/Jorie Williams/Kenny Sanford/Jamie Kirkpatrick/Richie Brown (Honda) 10:55:47 (Class 25)
3. Wayne Matlock/Josh Caster/Wes Miller/Aldofo Arellano (Honda) 11:06:24 (Class 25)
4. Rafael Torres/Damacio Maduena/Carlos Cansteneda/Felipe Torres/Carlos Casaneda/Stefano Caputo (Honda) 11:57:36 (Class 25)
5. Manuel Jimenez/Dorian Mendez/Heriberto Marquez /Jorge Lopez (Honda)12:09:42 (Class 24)
CLASS 22 (450cc or more)
1. Robby Bell, Menifee/David Pearson/Steve Hengeveld (Kawasaki) 9:11:33
2. Colton Udall/Timmy Weigand/David Kamo (Honda) 9:12:31
3. Kurt Caselli/Mike Brown/Ivan Ramirez/Marc Coma (KTM) 9:18:39
4. Kendall Norman (Honda) 9:49:38
5. Mark Samuels/Ian Young/Matt Eddy/Max Eddy (Honda) 9:58:24
6. Francisco Arredondo/Ryan Dudek/Matt Karlsen (Honda)10:04:15
7. A.J. Stewart/Justin Morgan/Corey Freeman (Honda)10:15:02
8. Mike Brown/Quinn Cody/Homero Diaz (KTM) 11:20:46
(8 Starters, 8 Finishers)
CLASS 20 (400cc or less)
1. Gabriel Williams (Honda) 12:07:24
2. Tony Gurule/Garrett Mola (KTM)13:31:30
3. Chad Broughton/Paul Broughton/Eric Ducolik (KTM)17:07:21
(4 Starters, 3 Finishers)
CLASS 21 (450cc or less)
1. Jim O’Neal/Shane Esposito/Scott Myers/Ricky Brabee/Morgan Crawford (Honda) 9:54:05
2. Francisco Septien/Roberto Villalobos/Brandon Prieto/Eric Yorba (Honda) 10:12:24
3. Arnulfo Verdugo/Rigoberto Gomez/Emmanuel Verdugo/Francisco Aldrete (Honda) 11:13:54
4. Carlos Casas/David Gonzalez/Carlos Gutierrez (KTM) 11:49:32
5. Adolfo Palacios/Luis Mariana/Luis Santos (Honda) 15:09:09
(7 Starters, 5 Finishers)
CLASS 30 (Riders over 30 years old)
1. Mike Johnson /Jason Trubey/Ben Brinkley/Steve Garnett/Shane Bell (Honda) 10:56:13
2. Javier Hernandez/Rodrigo Fernandez/Alejandro Parada/Alejandro Martinez (Honda) 12:16:20
3. Mario Valenzuela/David Topete/Eduardo Rosas/Luis Goniez (Honda) 12:43:50
4. Ricardo Silva/Humberto Rodriguez (Honda) 17:58:20
5. Christopher Parr (Yamaha) 19:38:09
6. Adrian Cruz/Adrian Valdez/Felipe Jaramillo/Scott Clemens/Joel Leighton (Honda) 20:04:25
(6 Starters, 6 Finishers)
CLASS 40 (Riders over 40 years old)
1. Jeff Kaplan/Ron Wilson, Encinitas/Johnny Campbell/Louie Franco (Honda) 10:35:26
2. Mike Johnson/Rex Cameron/Charles Manchester/Mike Baxter/Jason St. John (Honda) 10:42:41
3. Mike Prunty/Sterlyn Rigsby/Lester Lehigh/Robert Barnum (Honda) 11:40:38
4. Mike Kay/Todd Romano/Michael Rasp/Jack McCormick (Honda) 13:49:07
5. Oscar Fazz/Randy Harman/Agustin Maduena (Kawasaki)15:58:32.
(6 Starters, 5 Finishers)
CLASS 50 (Riders over 50 years old)
1. Marc Prince/Eric McKenna/Doug Smith/Dave Potts/Ray Spore (Honda) 11:20:12
2. Mark Winkelman/Jim O’Neal/Steve Williams/Mike Korenwinder/Mike Whitcomb/Paul Ostbo (Honda) 11:21:13
3. Seiji Kubota/Masayuki Kudo (Honda) 13:52:56
4. Ken Kosiorek (Honda) 21:21:04
(4 Starters, 4 Finishers)
CLASS 60 (Riders over 60 years old)
1. Al Perrett, Canada/Richard Jackson/Mark Force (Honda) 14:53:58
(2 Starters, 1 Finisher)
CLASS 25 (450cc or more)
1. Greg Row/Josh Row/Dustin Nelson/Travis Dillon/DJ Noerr (Yamaha) 10:52:07
2. Brandon Brown/Jorie Williams/Kenny Sanford/Jamie Kirkpatrick/Richie Brown (Honda) 10:55:47
3. Wayne Matlock/Josh Caster/Wes Miller/Aldofo Arellano (Honda) 11:06:24
4. Rafael Torres/Damacio Maduena/Carlos Cansteneda/Felipe Torres/Carlos Casaneda/Stefano Caputo (Honda) 11:57:06
5. Juan Sanchez/Angel Sanchez/Cristian Rojas (Honda)12:14:23
6. Christian Vera/Edgar Moreno (Honda) 12:55:11
7. Josh Frederick/Dillon Zimmerman/Collins Webster/Cesar Lopez (Can-Am) 12:56:53
(8 Starters, 7 Finishers)
CLASS 24 (450cc or less)
1. Manuel Jimenez/Dorian Mendez/Heriberto Marquez/Jorge Lopez (Honda) 12:09:42
2. Nick Nelson/Nick DeStout/Keith Carlson (Honda) 12:29:43
3. Guillermo Berenguer/Gilberto Perez/Javier Lursel/Rodolfo Navarro/David Nunez (Honda) 12:50:09
4. Rafael Torres/Juan Naranjo/Arnoldo Castaneda/Jose Meza/Julio Lizarraga (Honda) 13:22:00
5. Gabriel Valencia Jr/Sergio Lopez/Jorge Carbajal/Miguel Arellano (Honda) 14:05:50
6. Oscar Ruiz/Ivan Mejorado (Honda) 17:34:37
(8 Starters, 6 Finishers)
CLASS 26 (Limited, Utility)
1. Carl Vella/Mike Penland/Rick Matteson (Can-Am) 17:46:12
(2 Starters, 1 Finisher)