The Baja 500 is just around the corner. Here is a look at some of the news and rumors that are floating around.
Probably the thing that is still forefront on everyone’s mind is the tragic loss of Jeff “Ox” Kargola in a trail riding accident a couple of weeks ago. This has left the JCR Honda squad short at least one rider. Former KTM and Husky factory rider David Kamo has signed on to ride the #Ox Honda CRF450x alongside Colton Udall. Everyone expects this will be a good match. David has wanted to race Baja for a long time, but it was never a part of the KTM or Husky program. As they are leading the points, these two just need a solid, mistake free ride to get settled in together and keep the series lead.
Of course, leading the way for this years event will once again be the JCR Honda dynamic duo of Kendall Norman and Quinn Cody. After their loss at the San Felipe 250, these two will clearly be on a mission to win the 500.
First off the line will be the 2x THR Kawasaki of Shane Esposito. With a second place finish at the San Felipe race, Shane and Bobby Garrison are in a strong position to challenge for the championship. But with only the two of them and Bobby as a Baja newcomer, they probably need a little more help to get on top. To that end, word is that THR has talked to just about everyone looking for an additional rider. It looks like they could not come to terms with Destry Abbott or Robby Bell and now might be trying to strike a deal with David Pearson to step off his Purvines Honda and ride a Kawasaki for Baja.
There will be no KTM effort for the rest of the year. For that matter KTM really does not even want to talk about any future Baja plans, too busy with everything else they are doing. It is strange, because everyone who has any contact with the factory in Austria knows that winning Baja is always a goal of the company. But for some reason they can’t seem to get together with KTM North America to dedicate the resources to make it happen.
That leaves Ivan Ramirez out in the cold. His deal with KTM Mexico has him riding the Mexican National Enduro Series, but doesn’t give him anything for Baja. Somebody needs to step up and help support this talented young rider.
As for the old guys, the 400x bike will be Jeff Kaplan and Ronnie Wilson. Louie Franco is going to sit this one out after his big get off in SF. They have asked me if I will be on hand to assist if they need an emergency back up rider, so who knows, I may get a stint at the 500 myself.
So that is all the news for now. The course will be more or less similar to previous years. It looks like the route to drop down on to the coast will change a little. Here is the map: