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Racing Baja To Hell and Back Part I

Saturday, December 24, 2005
How s this for wicked  Our American Honda Precision Concepts race bike was a thing of beauty before the race. Afterwards would be a different story altogether.
How's this for wicked? Our American Honda/Precision Concepts race bike was a thing of beauty before the race. Afterwards would be a different story altogether.
So you like to ride off-road, do you? You think you're pretty good? How would you like to test your skills in the premier off-road race in the Western Hemisphere? I'm not talking about any woods race here. Not some ninny-assed enduro, but a race unmatched in the ferocity of terrain, both in terms of distance traveled, and the variety of hellish obstacles that require all of a rider's skill, courage and mental strength. You'll crash, get lost, punch cactus and get sandblasted by 800-horsepower trophy trucks. Then you get to do it all again - in the dark. Sound fun? Keep in mind that chances are you'll get sick, maybe crap your riding pants a little and be sore for a week afterwards, still want in? Yeah, us too.

Motorcycle USA's Ken Hutchison hitched a ride with the SoCal Fabshop team as part of their support crew/observer during their struggle to a fourth-place finish in the Pro ATV class of the 2004 Tecate SCORE Baja 1000. He came away so impressed with the margaritas, senoritas, rugged scenery and a race atmosphere unlike anything he had ever seen before that he swore to return. In documenting his adventure, Ken left our faithful readers with a teasing promise in his closing statement: "Check back with us next year, because we're going to do Baja again - one way or another."

They say a man is only as good as his word, so our Editorial Director went straight to work on getting MCUSA into the 38th running of the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000. Months and months in advance, we started making arrangements to ensure that we would again be a part of the phenomenal event. Watching from the sidelines is great, and from the bouncing seat of a chase vehicle is even better, but Ken figured that if he was going to compress his vertebra again it was going to be on a two-wheeled ride. We are "Motorcycle" USA after all.

Ever since Kawasaki dropped its desert racing support program in the '90s, Honda has taken the reigns and established itself as King of the Desert. Bruce Ogilvie heads the Red Giant's desert racing activities, and under his guidance the XR650R has emerged as the ultimate weapon for this application. The reliability, speed and corporate support makes racing on anything else that much more of a gamble. This is all relatively common knowledge to off-road motorcyclists, so Honda was naturally the first place to look for some assistance on our project.

Since Ken was our rider of record  he had to either start or finish the race. He elected to start the race only to have his pickup lines become the butt of the SCORE girls  nasty jokes. Girls can be so mean.
Since Ken was our rider of record, he had to either start or finish the race. He elected to start the race only to have his pickup lines become the butt of the SCORE girls' nasty jokes. Girls can be so mean.
Yes, we know, the whole shoot for the stars/go big or go home/fill-in-the-optimistic-euphemism-here scenario definitely applies, but Honda actually agreed to give us a 2006 XR650R to test in stock trim and then take south. Apparently we blasted the bejeezus out of those twinkling balls of flaming gas because not only did Honda accept our proposal, but they dropped a Perseids-sized meteor shower on us by giving MCUSA four other spankin' new XRs to pre-run with! To top it off, Precision Concepts agreed to prep our race bike for us. For those of you unfamiliar with the SoCal-based shop, perhaps you recognize the name Johnny Campbell or Steve Hengeveld? Those guys are the desert equivalents of Ricky Carmichael and Jeremy McGrath, and they hold the elite position of Factory Honda's "A" team riders. Precision Concepts is the company that builds every one of their bikes, and prepped doesn't exactly define what they had in mind for ours.

Campbell and Hengeveld have been teamed up since 2000, and have won the overall Baja 1000 title five times (Johnny has now claimed victory nine consecutive years). In order to keep them at the top of their game, PC has spent countless hours testing and developing engine parts and configurations, suspension setup, you name it to give their riders the best machines possible. When I dropped off our stock XR650, I oogled over the tricked-out bikes in various stages of completion; the next time I saw our bike my jaw dropped even more. This thing was built to the hilt! What we had in our possession was essentially Johnny's very own factory bike with the suspension tuned for our lowly status as mere mortals. We were in serious business. We actually took the bike out for a little warm up of our own by entering it in the Vegas-to-Reno race. With that under our belts, there was nothing left to do but get ourselves organized and start practicing our Spanish.

As tough as we like to imagine ourselves, we knew that the more help we could get the better. Honda again stepped up and donated to our fledgling cause by waiving the $1400 fee that Honda-mounted racers normally pay for factory pit support during the race. We would have some of our own support too, but they were primarily used for our pre-run the week before the race. But, as you'll see later, it's good to have one of your own to count on in addition to the awesome support offered by Honda. So off we went. Gearbags, bikes, and not nearly enough Immodium crammed into the rigs and our Mexican Baja adventure officially started.

The rules are simple: 709 miles, 30-hour time limit and no cutting the course. Basically. Of course there was a bit more fine print than that, but essentially that was how this game was going to be played. Our group of racers would be fairly well prepared, on the best machinery possible, and we hoped our enthusiasm would make up for the rest.

The course was notoriously rough and technical  which meant that a big bike could be a handful at times. Tim Morton and his guys took that into account and elected to ride a Honda CRF250X. They finished first in Class-21 and 22nd overall.
The course was notoriously rough and technical, which meant that a big bike could be a handful at times. Tim Morton and his guys took that into account and elected to ride a Honda CRF250X. They finished first in Class-21 and 22nd overall.
Darin Hecker's contribution to the team wasn't purely his speed on the bike, but he also happens to have a decent pad with a garage right there in Ensenada where the race would start and finish. Without going into the details of our pre-run shenanigans, we were soon reunited as a team around Darin's dining room table three days before the race, pouring over maps and comparing mental notes from our pre-run. The goal was to develop a race strategy that would utilize the strengths of each team member and develop a strategy that would put us in the best possible position. As it turned out, everyone had their own idea as to what that strategy should be. As someone so eloquently described it: too many chiefs, not enough Indians.

Out of the pandemonium we managed to come up with an agreeable game plan that would give everyone a fair amount of riding in areas that they were familiar with from the pre-run. Well, not everyone, since two of our guys were still on their way down from the States. Gordon McCarty and Greg Gipe were unable to join us on the week-long scouting mission, so they would be responsible to pre-run their own sections in the final days before the race. It sucks to ride blind with no idea of what is coming around the next bend, so we were counting on them to have their act together once they got to Mexico.

We had originally met the duo in Nevada when we were doing our 500-mile warm-up race. Adorning number 903, Gordie and Greg were competing against us but were friendly enough to introduce themselves in the pits. It was a good move for everyone as it turns out, since when it came time for our Baja trip, their names were high up on the list. They had beaten us in Vegas so we figured they could hang without any problem. Thus, in the weeks leading up to Baja they became affectionately referred to as the 903 Guys. They too brought more to the team than riding ability. Gordie's father, Gary, and Greg's fiance, Deb, both came along to chase and support our team. Oh yeah, and they also brought satellite cell phones, the only form of communication that actually worked with even remote reliability during our escapade.

Scrotee Watson was our first rider to actually log some miles. His level head prevailed in the chaos of the start and we were several positions ahead by the time he would dismount.
Scrotee Watson was our first rider to actually log some miles. His level head prevailed in the chaos of the start and we were several positions ahead by the time he would dismount.
Our final draft of the race plan called for Ken, our rider of record, to start the first 50 yards of the race before handing off to Tom "Scrotee" Watson. Watson's family was in town for the event so, despite everyone's interest in the glory and fame associated with the start of the Baja 1000, it made the most sense for him to take the honors of riding the first section. Besides, Scrotee had already competed in the race five previous times as part of a buggy team so his experience combined with his naturally laid-back demeanor easily made T-Dub the least stressed-out about the whole thing.

Watson would ride the ultra-busy, high-traffic start through Race Mile (RM) 90. At that point Steve "Wilky" Wilkinson would take over for the arm-swelling, rocky and technical Summit followed by the dry, lake-bottom silt beds finishing his run at Honda pit 4 located on RM200.

The 903 Guys were to cover the next 200 miles through the nasty San Felipe sand whoops and Matomi Wash. They would give the bike back to Ken who by that time had leapfrogged down from the start to put in the really significant portion of his ride. He would snag our wicked Precision Concepts bike at Honda Pit 9 and take it through Mike's Sky Ranch all the way to RM570, just shy of San Vicente where Rarin' Darin would bring home the gold. And that's the way it went. Mostly... 

We knew it would be crazy, but no matter how steeled we were it just didn't suffice for the experience of pre-race Ensenada. That place was off the f***ing hook!! Live bands, dancing girls and thousands upon thousands of people crammed into about a half-dozen city blocks. Mexico doesn't have much in the way of traffic laws to begin with, but this was ridiculous.

Trying to get registered and find our team was a challenge  but just taking in everything that was going on was overwhelming enough.
Trying to get registered and find our team was a challenge, but just taking in everything that was going on was overwhelming enough.
There was a line of trucks, buggies, bikes and quads snaking their way through the massive crowd, so we followed that until we found the Precision Concepts trailer at the back of vendor row. Ogilvie was there and we asked if he had seen Ken at any time, not that it would have made any difference since I knew he had certainly wandered off after the first senorita to pass by. Anyway, Bruce hadn't seen him so we continued our fruitless search. Eventually we were able to get a brief conversation with him on the phone when he informed us that registration was going to close in about 15 minutes. Nine-oh-three and I busted ass to the Riviera Convention Center and got everyone signed in with about 10 minutes to spare.

As everyone and their uncle tries to vamoose out of Ensenada on race day, hyped on adrenaline-fueled race-fever and chasing their riders, things can get pretty sketchy. We (903 and I) loaded up in their rented Ford F350 and bombed back down to San Felipe that night so that we could avoid the race-day traffic jam that we knew was coming.

The desert racing gods had smiled upon us earlier in the whole Baja process when we wound up as the 29th bike off the line. We followed the 1x of Johnny Campbell, the 4x of Honda's B team rider Robby Bell, a few other guys and then 11 of the riders in our class. Racing the 30+ Pro Motorcycle division, we stood proudly on the starting line with number 312x emblazoned across our number plates. Our blackened front fender armed with the white, triangular Pro Honda sticker signaled our semi-factory status, and a Mexican flag sticker gleamed from the right handguard, another of our defenses against would-be ambushers lurking along the course.

Not only was this said to be the toughest, most technically challenging course in the illustrious history of the event, but we would also be contending with obstacles beyond the natural realm. We had heard the horror stories of unfathomably dangerous booby traps that would be waiting for us out in the middle of nowhere. In San Felipe, whoops so deep that locals would toss refrigerators between them just for opportunity to witness the spectacle of a cartwheeling motorcycle. Tales of brush-covered pits dug so deep that buggies were swallowed whole. We weren't sure what to believe, but the Mexican flag sticker proved our over-riding theory: If you can't beat them, join 'em.

Bruce Ogilvie had warned us just before leaving the States. We called him up with a few questions in mind and the first words out of his mouth were: "This thing is rough! Just finishing will be an accomplishment." We believed him.

All eyes were on Johnny Campbell. Everywhere he went people were wondering if he would keep his winning streak alive. He did  and the Baja legend has ruled the event for nearly a decade now.
All eyes were on Johnny Campbell. Everywhere he went people were wondering if he would keep his winning streak alive. He did, and the Baja legend has ruled the event for nearly a decade now.
At 6:43 a.m. it was time to get it on in the Mexican desert! The MCUSA/American Honda/Precision Concepts race bike, which throughout the course of the next 28 hours would become affectionately known as Pepe, launched off the convention center starting line and thrust our team into a series of events that would push us to the limits. Little did we know that our biggest mistake had already taken place and we were doomed to realize it much too late.

The first rider swap went like clockwork. Ken pulled over immediately after the start and handed the bike to Watson. Spectators had to have been wondering just what in the hell was going on because it must have seemed like we were handing off to a raging, desert maniac who would chase down the physical leaders. Regardless of what they thought, everything was clean and clear as far as the rulebook goes, so we were off and running in our first-ever Baja 1000.

Watson's 90-mile stretch was relatively uneventful in comparison to the rest of our race, aside from the fact that he was mired in traffic the entire time. Luckily there was a decent breeze that would crop up fairly regularly to help minimize the dust caused by the torrent of racers blasting off at a rate of one per minute. After the early classes got started, the time between racers dropped to 30 seconds. Tom held his own against those in our class, but the faster guys that started behind him were quick to put the hammer down. By the time he handed the bike off to our second rider, Scrotee had managed to get around a couple guys and we figured that we had moved up a spot from our 12th-place starting position in our class.

Wilky was as cool and collected as possible waiting for Watson to deliver Pepe. Despite the mayhem and carnage that awaited us, there were definitely some cool moments experienced by everyone in Baja. Wilky, always the social guy, couldn't pass on the opportunity to chat with Baja legend Campbell.

"I stood in the Honda Pits next to Johnny Campbell and other Honda riders awaiting their rides," Wilky later recalled. "My stomach in butterflies, I casually mentioned to Johnny that we could switch bikes if he would like. I could tell by the look on his face and the lack of a reply that now was not the time for humor."

Seeing how we were on his replica bike, their exchange is that much more entertaining, though it was a bit wasted with Campbell's preoccupied state of mind. "Anyway," he continued, "his ride somehow showed up first and off he went followed by what seemed like the rest of the entries before Tom flew into the pits atop our trusted mount. He jumped off and I jumped on. Tom yelled something at me about the clutch, and I think he might of asked me to the prom, but I was already two turns down the course."

Thousands of spectators lined the course  especially at the start in Ensenada. Half crazed and half drunk  it s a miracle there aren t tons of fans mowed down by the trucks and buggies.
Thousands of spectators lined the course, especially at the start in Ensenada. It's a miracle there aren't tons of fans mowed down by the trucks and buggies.
The clutch theme would be one that continued for the rest of our race as the adjustment went from bad to worse without our being able to remedy the situation.

All of us at MCUSA know that Wilky can haul ass on just about any kind of dirt bike, but sometimes there are unforeseen obstacles that can hold a rider back. During the pre-run, Wilky had been using light-sensitive Blur goggles. After a week of following one another through the dust and wiping the lenses with our gloved hands, by the time race day rolled around it was like driving to work with a frosted windshield. Wilky opted to swap the trusty Blurs for his standard fair of Scott Voltage units. What the wily veteran rider didn't take into account is that riding full-tilt across a Mexican lakebed is different from putting around in the mountains of Idaho.

Wilky discovered the error of his ways as the speeds neared the 50-mph mark. The air-flow through his Voltage goggles was so great that he instincutally reverted to his old ways and cried like a late-blooming teenager in a locker room towel-snapping brawl.

"My eyes were watering so bad I couldn't see a damn thing," he insisted. "They were flowing way too much air, so I had to keep my speeds down."
Honda s B Team of Robby Bell  Kendall Norman and Quinn Cody set a blistering pace early on. But as night closed in  the A Team s elder statesmen picked up all the time they needed to steal victory once again.
Honda's B Team of Robby Bell, Kendall Norman and Quinn Cody set a blistering pace early on. But as night closed in, the A Team's elder statesmen picked up all the time they needed to steal victory once again.

After being passed left and right on the flats, Wilky started to make up for his eye-watering blunder in the rocky hell known as the Summit. His mountain-goat style was the reason we had chosen him to ride this section, and our theory proved sound as he waxed other riders up one side and down the other. 

Greg, Gary, Deb and I were anxiously awaiting Wilky's arrival at Honda Pit 4. We had arrived just in time to see number 307x come blasting through, making our pulses race thinking that our man was close behind. As it turned out, a quick check of the tracking sheet showed that 307x was our class leader and was roughly 30 minutes behind the 4x bike of the Honda B team and the 1x bike of Campbell and Hengeveld. It was 10:56 a.m.

Just over an hour later, Wilky hopped over the road crossing and came barreling towards us. Greg strapped on his goggles, took the refueled bike and roosted out of there in under a minute. Our NASCAR-esque pit was an extra shot in the arm for our Team Pepe as Wilky reported that the bike was working flawlessly with the exception of our funky clutch situation. MCUSA was the 23rd machine to pass through the pit and we sat in ninth place in our class at 12:03 p.m. While we weren't exactly flying, things were looking great after the first five hours and 20 minutes of riding, and our race strategy was working. We were sticking to our guns and our Honda six-shooter was blazing.

Greg ripped through his first 65-mile leg despite some early struggles as he adapted to the bike and nasty terrain. His section wound closer to the Sea of Cortez coast and then shot straight through miles upon miles of sand whoops to San Felipe.

Wilky struggled early thanks to a massive oversight  or should we say under-sight  on his part. He made up for it though when the going got rough.
Wilky struggled early thanks to a massive oversight, or should we say under-sight, on his part. He made up for it when the going got rough.
"I took the bike from Wilky and he didn't say a word - he just gave me the bike and kind of wandered off," Greg said. "I left the pit area and just a mile or so in passed a rider that had left just before me. I felt pretty strong and felt like I was going fast for the first 20 miles of whoops. Then after a bout with arm pump and a lot of self reflection, I realized I had 20 more miles of sand and rock whoops to get through. I started to pray for strength and talk to myself, telling myself to push through the pain and get to San Felipe."

As well as we had tried to prepare, things just seem to go awry in Baja. Our best-laid plans went straight out the window when our lights refused to shine from the moment we installed them. Theories raged back and forth about what the problem was, but nothing we did could get the lights to work. We wouldn't know it until after the race, but our blazing guns had blown off every single one of our collective toes.

Things started to go south soon after the first rider swap between Greg and Gordie. After stopping for truck fuel on the way to RM260, Gordie was late getting to the rendezvous. With his prayers answered, Gipe stormed into the rider exchange at 1:45 p.m. as Gordie was frantically putting on his gear. Caught with his pants down, literally, Gordie was in full ballistic mode as he tried to get himself dressed and collected for the massive task before him. With the help of some spectators, Greg had the lights attached by the time Gordie made it over to him. Attached, but not working. Despite their best efforts, Gordie was forced to ride towards the next pit in hopes that the Honda guys could give us some help. "I didn't come to the Baja 1000 to quit," he said. "If the bike was running I was going to race."
We witnessed Jimmy Lewis  BMW-mounted team come tearing through Honda Pit 4 as we waited for our rider to show up. There were some reports that the new HP2 Beemer had shock troubles throughout the race  but the damn thing podiumed the premier Class-22.
We witnessed Jimmy Lewis' BMW-mounted team come tearing through Honda Pit 4 as we waited for our rider to show up. There were some reports that the new HP2 Beemer had shock troubles throughout the race, but the damn thing podiumed the premier Class-22.

Not only were we facing the obvious struggle of riding in the dark armed only with mountain bike lights and AA-powered mini-mags taped to our helmet, but the reduction in speed created a whole new batch of problems. There's a reason that the XR650R is the king of the desert, and much of that lies in its ability to go really fast for a long period of time. Momentum is the key to negotiating nearly all desert-related obstacles, or any off-road challenge for that matter.

Sand will suck in your front tire at low speeds and serve up a nice, fat sand… well, sandwhich, as you auger over the bars. Getting speed built up and staying on top of the loose soil is imperative and makes life much easier. Rocks are the same type of deal. The bike will bounce and deflect especially in gnarly rock gardens, but it's even worse running in low gears. A Honda XR650R is big and heavy, so once there's some speed behind it, it tends to plow through most rocks and actually smooth out the terrain. Got silt? Pin it. Hillclimbs? Keep moving. You get the idea, momentum is key.

And herein lay our newest problem. We understood the momentum concept, but we couldn't see well enough to go fast - so we crashed more. Then we'd tone it down another notch and eat crap again. Then repeat. Even before it was completely dark, Gordie was suffering the consequences of reduced illumination as he wallowed through the infamous San Felipe sand whoops and Matomi wash.

Steve finally came bombing into Pit 4 and performed a text-book rider exchange with our next rider Greg Gipe. It turned out to be the best pit stop of the entire race.
Steve finally came bombing into Pit 4 and performed a text-book rider exchange with our next rider Greg Gipe. It turned out to be the best pit stop of the entire race.
"The color of the sand made everything look flat. I would be riding, thinking it was flat and then cross over a rut and crash. After so many get-offs, I was getting exhausted from picking up the bike and re-starting it, my body had reached a boiling point," he said. "In the sand I had to go fast enough to plane on top of the sand so I didn't get stuck, but the faster I went the less I could see. After many more crashes and not sure if I was even on the course anymore, I had to stop and let the bike cool down because it started to overheat."

Meanwhile, we hadn't anticipated it taking the bike so long to get to Honda Pit 9 where Ken, Wilky, the Watson family and I had all met up and were impatiently waiting. Once Gordie had thrown caution into the wind and bailed out of his pit with no lights, the rest of the 903 Guys started desperately trying to get ahold of us on the sat-phones to inform us of the situation. Let me tell you, when a scratchy, chopped up phone call from your teammates ekes out of the satellite phone to tell you that they've spent almost an hour trying to fix broken lights, it does something to a man, especially when you can't get the whole story because the reception is crappy.

Now, perhaps I have too much faith in technology, but I simply cannot fathom how our phones could refuse to work. Reception on regular cell phones are sketch, I know, but on a satellite phone for chrissake? In the middle of the Mexican desert with not a tree or mountain nearby and not a cloud in the sky and we couldn't get reception! Doesn't NASA rely on satellites for their communications? Aren't they relaying messages to space ships? SPACE SHIPS!?! Why the hell was this happening to us? Not only was our bike screwed, but we couldn't even get the message passed along to the next rider and let the poor bastard know what he was getting into!

Greg and Gordie were in high spirits before the race  but just after this photo was snapped  out came the rubber gloves and a full-blown drug search commenced. The whole light fiasco just added insult to injury. Wait  I guess it was the other way around.
Greg and Gordie were in high spirits before the race, but just after this photo was snapped, out came the rubber gloves and a full-blown body-cavity search commenced. The whole light fiasco just added insult to injury. Wait, I guess it was the other way around.
Anyway, they eventually got the message across sending us into a frenzy of brainstorming activity. Our initial thoughts, after conferring further with the 903 Guys who had accessed a volt meter and done some preliminary troubleshooting, was that the voltage regulator had been fried. Wilky immediately got on the CB radio with the Honda Pits in an effort to locate a spare regulator somewhere in the 156 miles between Gordie and us. We located one at Honda Pit 7, about 79 miles from where Gordie took the bike. That meant that he would have to haul through Pit 6 and try to get there before dark. He was doing pretty well, but we had no way of letting him know that he needed to request the regulator at Pit 7. Thinking that we had possibly come up with a band-aid solution was something of a relief, but we were soon dealt another blow of bad news.

Gordie gassed at Pit 7 and took off without ever knowing that a voltage regulator was waiting with his name on it. In the confusion of the race and the intensity and excitement that surrounds every racer's pit stop, it is easy to see why nobody at the Honda Pit remembered to mention it. We would have run down there ourselves in our chase vehicle but Pits 6, 7 and 8 were inaccessible during the race because the only way into them was on the course. Way too dangerous.

Upon receiving Gordie's distress call from out on the course, the 903 Guys were, in their own words, "ready to throw in the towel." They conveyed this to us on the sat-phone and we did our best to convince them that the bike simply had to keep moving. They weren't copping out, but the fact of the matter was that things were getting damn sketchy attempting to race against the trophy trucks without any lights. But, as far as MCUSA was concerned, heads would roll if we DNFed on our $15K race bike again (Vegas-to-Reno didn't turn out very well).

Even before it was fully dark  the glare from the sun was a killer. Our guys made like an ostrich and buried their heads in the sand on many occasions.
Even before it was fully dark, the glare from the sun was a killer. Our guys made like an ostrich and buried their heads in the sand on many occasions.
What goes around comes around, they say, and Gordie's generous nature came back to help him in a big way. At one point he had stopped to assist the 9x bike which was suffering from crash damage. Later, when Gordie got off course for awhile becoming slightly disoriented, he managed to find his way back and the first bike he encountered was the familiar 9x. In returning the favor, the guy rode alongside Gordie 20 miles into RM370 under his light. I've never met the man, but he might have saved our entire race. Gracias, amigo.

After thrashing his body for 110 miles through arguably the toughest section of the course, at least the most infamous, Gordie was relieved to hand our flailing 650 over to Greg for his final stretch. Gipe hadn't been wasting time during those hours of waiting for Gordie. Preparing for the impending gloom he had pawned some mini-mag flashlights off nearby spectators and found one big one for attaching to the bike. By attaching I mean duct taping. Do not go to Baja without a big, fat roll of the stuff, believe me. The high-tech mounting brackets were duplicated to stick the small lights securely to his lid.

"I did my job and got the bike to mile 370, not as fast as I would have liked but it was still fun," Gordie said. "After the fact I realized how many things I didn't prepare for properly."

There s never a lack of star power in Baja. The race seems to draw big names like Travis Pastrana who s ripping through this wash. The  Dream Team  of TP  Rick Johnson  Greg Godfrey and Andy Grider wound up DQed courtesy of a transponder issue  but at least they had lights.
There's never a lack of star power in Baja. The race seems to draw big names like Travis Pastrana who's ripping through this wash. The "Dream Team" of TP, Rick Johnson, Greg Godfrey and Andy Grider wound up DQed courtesy of a transponder issue, but at least they had lights.
Greg's heads-up preparation with the flashlights helped keep him on two wheels as he began his final run, but it wasn't enough to keep him entirely off the ground. "I made it about 100 yards, not even out of the pits and wadded in some deep sand whoops," Greg said. "I picked it up kicked it over and realized this was going to be a slow, careful 35-mile night ride."

And the trucks kept coming. Every so often a bike would meander through, less and less as the sun fully disappeared and the final rays of light spent the next few minutes traveling millions of miles before sealing our fate in darkness. Up the road at RM391 we still had no rider, no solutions, and ultimately no lights. What we did have was a bunch of stressed out dudes tossing out one hypothesis after another as to the seriousness of our predicament and the likeliness of fabricating an electrical miracle for our ultra-trick race-bike that had effectively been reduced to a 3-speed bicycle compared to its normal capabilities.

Continuing on, Gipe ran into a couple more problems along the way including another dirt-siesta in a soft, cozy silt bed that swallowed his biggest light source. A bit further down the road, he came across a downed rider that seemed to be in pretty bad shape. Fortunately there were four or five people already attending to his medical needs which saved Greg the stress of dealing with a comrade's broken bones and spurting blood. Struggling more and more, Greg was suddenly faced with an oncoming headlight traveling the wrong way on course! As it turned out it was a spectator heading back to the downed rider to offer support. Gipe assured him that things were under control and talked the North Carolinian into riding with him until Honda Pit 9. Bribing him with the promise of refueling his old XR, the guy reluctantly agreed and guided the two of them side-by-side under the power of his stock headlight. "He rode me in at about 25 mph," said Greg. "I have never been so glad to see a Honda Pit."
A San Felipe sunset is stunning when you re sipping margaritas on the beach  but deep in the Matomi wash  it was like someone closing our casket lid.
A San Felipe sunset is stunning when you're sipping margaritas on the beach, but deep in the Matomi wash, it was like someone closing our casket lid.

By this point our clutch had been smoked like a frat-house blunt. Releasing the lever brought forth a howl of protest as the abused clutch engaged with an unnatural lurch. Each rider attempted to spin out the quick-adjust at some point during their stint, but our bumbling fingers were simply insufficient to find the correct amount of tension. As a result, the situation grew worse and worse as the miles/hours ticked by. Our attempts to remain in contact with the 903 Guys and to call ahead to inform Darin were met with similar success. Our decompression lever had been sheared off, making starting the beast nearly impossible. Not to mention, there was a strange clacking noise coming from the motor...


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2013 Red Bull A  Day in the Dirt 16 Preview
If you’re into dirt bikes, camping and camaraderie then the 16th edition of the Red Bull A Day in the Dirt is something you don’t want to miss.

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brian -want help  November 13, 2009 11:14 AM
hey, im 15, i dream of racing in the baja 1000 at age 20. i want to know what i need, and all the things i need to know about racing in the baja 1000. please email me at warrenbrian94@yahoo.com. thank you much.