Here is a great candid break down of this years race from front runner Robby Bell
The Baja 1000 is such a tough and grueling race and this year’s course was no exception. It would be a loop race departing from Ensenada, up over the rocky Summit section, around the whooped out San Felipe loop, across to the coast and back up to the finish in Ensenada. The San Felipe loop has had a lot of action this year and was definitely showing the wear and tear; I’ve never seen it so whooped out, rocky and rough. My team, the Bonanza Plumbing/THR/Precision Concepts Kawasaki, consisted of myself, Steve Hengeveld, David Pearson, Bobby Garrison and Shane Esposito. I would be riding the first 91 miles of the start and then get back on for 110 miles of the San Felipe loop. I would be 8th off the line the morning of the race with the 1X JCR Honda of Kendall Norman, Quinn Cody and Logan Holiday starting second and the 0X JCR Honda of Colton Udall, Timmy Weigand and David Kamo starting fourth.
The start of the race saw a bank of fog roll in which usually helps me get past the lesser teams a bit quicker, but I knew it would benefit the two Honda teams as well so I’d need to make progress quickly to achieve my goal of reeling them in. The green flag waved and I left the line at a starting interval of three minutes behind the 1X bike and two minutes behind 0X. There were five other teams in between myself and the two Hondas and I managed to pass one of them within the first mile out of town; a good start. About five miles later I came up on the next bike and made a quick move by to the inside. I felt good; the fog was indeed helping to keep the dust minimal, and within the next few miles I had made my way past another team. By now we were all out of the fog and the freshly rising sun would be an annoyance every time the race course would turn into it, making the little bit of dust seem even thicker. I made my way past the next two bikes without incident and with just the two Honda teams ahead of me, the race had begun. I love the first ninety miles of the race: the fans, the locals and other team members on the side of the course cheering, the flowing winding roads leading out of town, opening up to a fast sweeping two-track road that covers the final fifteen miles. I felt great and the bike was strong, but the Honda guys (Kendall and Colton) were on pace as well and by the time I got off at mile ninety one we were all very much even on adjusted time.
From there Shane took over from me and David Kamo got on the 0X Honda, Kendall would ride to around mile 210 and then wait again for the bike at mile 608. Shane lost a little bit of time to the 1X bike, but was able to pass 0X when a miscalculation left their bike out of gas about a mile from their pit. Bobby Garrison got on our bike at mile 200 and set out to reel in Quinn, who would take the bike from Kendall, through a set of hideous whoops to mile 214 where David was set to get on. With such a vast area being covered by the race course, radio communication was scarce and we were only getting bits and pieces of information, but it sounded like Bobby had reeled in time and David was doing the same over the first sixty miles of his section and had us right back to around even on adjusted time. Around this area in the San Felipe loop is where it really gets rough, but there are also lines a ways off track that allow you to get around the bad sections. Unfortunately this created a bit of a talking point after the race; we use GPS tracking units now that SCORE reviews afterward to make sure the racers don’t “short course” or deviate too far from the intended race course. It’s a bit of a gray area in the rulebook so we decided, as a team, to stay very close to the course and not push the limits of what’s legal so as not to get docked with a time penalty or disqualification. The 1X was a little more liberal with its line selection and from around mile 280 it started to pull away from us.
David had a good ride and got the bike to me at race mile 322 for our first major maintenance pit. Just before he got the bike to me I watched Quinn go by and a swell of confidence came over me; I felt like I was going to reel him in and pass him. The pit crew did a fantastic job with the maintenance and I got going around six minutes and fifty seconds behind the 1X bike physically (3:50 back adjusted). By this point in the race the 0X bike had fallen well off the pace, were over twenty minutes behind us, and wouldn’t threaten again. I mounted the bike got on top of the whoops and set after Quinn with vigor. The bike was still running great, was handling the rocks and whoops through the first of two nasty washes really well and I felt I had to be making up time. I made it out of the first wash and turned up the twenty miles of whoops to the second wash still feeling good and charging. Coming down the second wash I was hitting most of my lines and flowing pretty well but I was just starting to feel all the pounding I had been taking. I kept telling myself to push, “the pain doesn’t matter… just keep pushing.” I made it through the wash and turned north through another ten mile section of whoops preceding my second to last pit before I was to get off the bike. By this point in the loop the course narrows down and for the next thirty miles there’s no choice but to just man up and pound the whoops. I got to the pit and was astonished to hear that I had actually lost a little over a minute and that I was now eight minutes behind physically. I couldn’t believe it so I just gritted my teeth and put everything I had left into the final thirty miles of whoops in my section. My back was burning, I was even screaming at myself a few times to push harder and by the time I got the bike to Bobby I had reeled over a minute back in and the gap was back down to around 6:40 physically. In that first section where I lost the time I just wasn’t willing to take the lines that the 1X bike took. They ended up being completely legal lines so I can’t complain about getting pulled, I just have to do my homework and be better prepared the next time I’m down there; there’s no doubt in my mind I’ll be smarter and much faster at the San Felipe 250.
Logan Holiday got on the 1X bike about 10 miles before I gave the bike to Bobby and, as we had hoped, Bobby started to put time on him. In Bobby’s super rough forty miles he managed to put two minutes into Logan before giving the bike to David for the abbreviated “Mike’s loop”. David kept it going and put another minute and a half on Logan before bringing it to mile 608 where both bikes would undergo maintenance and also put the headlights on for the night time. Just as the 1X bike was leaving its pit David came in and once again our crew in the pits did a fantastic job and got Steve out right at three and a half minutes behind Kendall; we were almost level on adjusted time and darkness was falling: game on again. The bike would be on the other side of the peninsula so updates were hard to come by yet again; one report had Steve reeling in thirty seconds in the first thirty miles of his section. It ended up being a moot point, however, because just at this time disaster struck our light set up. We were very confident about our headlights, but unfortunately we suffered a bit of bad luck and the tiniest Allen head bolt backed out of the frame, loosening the driving light and causing it to turn off. For the last forty miles of his section Steve had to run with just the fog light and lost some time to Kendall. By the time they fixed it in the pit and Shane got on the bike for the final seventy miles, we were down around eight minutes physically. From here Shane put in a good effort, but Kendall was on fire and kept pulling to the checkered flag finishing with a gap of around thirteen and a half minutes (10:30 adjusted).
We put together a heck of an effort for this year’s Baja 1000. I’d like to thank Scott, Rob and everyone at THR for giving me the opportunity to race in Baja again; Bob, Phil and John at Precision Concepts for building such a great bike, and effort, and putting a good plan in place; Dean at Bonanza plumbing for supporting our effort and Monster Energy for coming on board. I’d also like to thank Fox Racing for doing so much for me, Alpinestars and Scott Sports for being with me every step of the way. It wasn’t a win, but it was a warning. We’re going back down for the whole series in 2012 and we’ll be one year smarter, one year stronger, one year faster and we’ll have our sights firmly set on sweeping the series and capturing that 1X plate.