Baja 1000 Preview and Review

Kit Palmer | November 2, 2004

The following release is from SCORE…

Motorcycles started the legend of desert racing in Mexico’s Baja California and their presence is still felt as the record-setting Honda factory team of Steve Hengeveld and Johnny Campbell will lead nearly 100 entries in the motorcycle and ATV portion of this month’s 37th Tecate SCORE Baja 1000.

The season finale of the five-race 2004 SCORE Desert Series – the world’s foremost desert racing series, the 37th Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 will be held November 16-20 as a rugged peninsula odyssey of 1016.3 miles from Ensenada in Baja California to La Paz, in Baja California Sur.

To date, an impressive total of 281 vehicles have officially entered this year’s Tecate SCORE Baja 1000. When registration is complete, nearly 300 vehicles competing in 26 Pro and 5 Sportsman classes for cars, trucks, motorcycles and ATVs are expected to compete in Mexico. Among the motorcycle and ATV classes, Class 22 (Open motorcycles) has 12 entries and Class 25 (Open ATVs) has 11.

The colorful history of motorcycles in the granddaddy of all desert races includes the vintage exploits of motorcycle legends Malcolm Smith, J.N. Roberts, Larry Roeseler, Jack Johnson, Ted Hunnicutt Jr., Paul Krause and the late Danny Hamel. For 30 of the first 36 years, motorcycles have recorded the fastest overall times in the event. The last 4-wheel vehicle winner to beat the time of the motorcycles was Ivan Stewart, who did it in 1993 while winning the unlimited Class 1 in Toyota SR5 pickup truck.

For motorcycles, Honda has won 14 overalls, followed by Husqvarna with 11, Kawasaki 9, and Yamaha 2.

The amazing Smith, 63, Riverside, Calif., a five-time overall winner in the SCORE Baja 1000, including twice on a motorcycle (1967, 1971), has introduced with SCORE the new SCORE Malcolm Smith IronRider award for motorcycle and ATV riders who complete this year’s race riding the entire distance solo. Nearly a dozen riders are expected to make the grueling attempt, nearly all on a motorcycle.

Smith, who won his three overall 4-wheel vehicle titles in 1975 and 1977 with Bud Feldkamp and in 1987 with Bob Gordon (father of NASCAR regular Robby Gordon), was featured in the historic 1971 motorcycle documentary ‘On Any Sunday’, in which he starred with the late Steve McQueen.

Smith will be back in the saddle after an absence of several years. He will be a part of a SCORE Baja 1000 ‘Dream Team’ this year, riding in Class 50 (motorcycle riders over 50 years old) with Chris Haines, 53, Dana Point, Calif., and Jack Johnson, 52, Las Vegas on a Honda XR650R. Between them, the ‘Dream Team’ has 26 Class wins, including nine overall wins. Haines has 10 class wins, Johnson has nine and four overalls and Smith has seven class wins, including five overalls. Smith still maintains a strong presence in Baja, supporting the people of Mexico through an orphanage in Valle de Trinidad that bears his name.

Since 1997, the motorcycle battle in the most storied desert race of all time has been all about Honda’s Johnny Campbell. Six of this year’s riders have combined for 13 overall motorcycle victories in this race.

Drawing the first start in the motorcycle and ATV classes this year was the legendary American Honda racing team of Hengeveld, 29. Oak Hills, Calif., and Johnny Campbell, 33, San Clemente, Calif. The pair has won an amazing nine consecutive SCORE races. Campbell also has seven consecutive overall motorcycle victories in this race, including three with Hengeveld (2000, 2002 and 2003).

Sharing seat time on the No. 1x Honda XR650R, Hengeveld also has one other motorcycle class win in this race. In 2002, Hengeveld/Campbell set an average speed record in this race for a motorcycle, averaging an incredible 62.45mph, finishing a very similar course to this year in just over 16 hours. The third team member this year will be talented newcomer Kendall Norman, 19, of Santa Barbara, Calif. Each riding for approximately one-third of the grueling race, Campbell will start the race in Ensenada, followed by Norman will make his debut by riding the middle section, and Hengeveld will bring it the last 330-plus miles to the finish in La Paz.

“To say I’ve been blessed with some incredible good fortune in SCORE races in Baja, is a major understatement,” said Campbell, a devout Christian who has raced with Honda since 1992 and has been an American Honda employee since 1995. “We have already pre-run this course once in its entirety, and will do it several more times before race day. Individual preparation, pit and chase crew support and the world’s best desert motorcycle are keys to victory, and while we do have our assigned sections to ride, anything can happen during a race like this one so we will memorize the entire route, not just our part. I guess you could say that my blood is Honda Red because I have never raced on another motorcycle than a Honda.”

With different objectives, joining Honda to attack the Baja will be factory teams from KTM and BMW.

Pre-race festivities will be held around the Riviera del Pacifico Convention Center in Ensenada and the San Nicolas Hotel, on Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 16-17. The race will start on Thursday, Nov. 18, in front of the Riviera del Pacifico Convention Center with motorcycles and ATVs getting the green flag at approximately 6:30 a.m., followed by the car and truck classes at approximately 10 a.m. Vehicles will start one every 30 seconds in the elapsed-time race. The finish line will be on the outskirts of La Paz adjacent to the tourism office. While the fastest finishers will complete the rugged route in approximately 16 hours, each vehicle will have a 40-hour time limit to become official finishers in the historic event.

Two-time Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 overall motorcycle champion Scot Harden, Menifee, Calif., is spearheading the KTM effort, bringing the Red Bull KTM U.S. Dakar Rally Team to Baja to hopefully contend for the overall and Class 22 motorcycle victory. Joining Harden, 48, in Baja will be his KTM Dakar teammates Chris Blais, 23, Apple Valley, Calif., Kellon Walch, 21, Las Vegas, and Andy Grider, 31, Los Olivos, Calif.. Blais and Grider are experienced SCORE Baja racers and Walch was the young lion selected from the Red Bull KTM rider search program to complete the team.

The team will ride a specially prepared factory KTM 700cc LC4 motorcycle just for this race and KTM has also announced it was field a full factory team in the entire 2005 SCORE Desert Series.

“Last year we rode our 950cc twin KTM Dakar Rally bike in Baja as a training exercise with the goal of simply finishing the event,” said Harden, the KTM U.S. Dakar Rally team chief. “This year, we have a very competitive motorcycle in the LC4, and are looking for much better results. We know we have our work cut out for us. Honda, for sure, is a formidable team, we have a lot of respect for the track record they have earned in Baja. We do think that having more major manufacturers entered will add a lot of interest to this year’s SCORE Baja 1000.”

Veteran rally racer Jimmy Lewis, Costa Mesa, Calif., who was the overall motorcycle winner in the 1998 Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 riding with Johnny Campbell, is leading the special BMW factory effort which will feature a mammoth 1200cc engine on a BMW GS motorcycle. Lewis, who is the editor of Dirt Rider magazine when he isn’t racing or running riding schools, has put together a veteran team with significant Baja experience. The 1200cc engine will be the fastest motorcycle to ever race a SCORE race, with top-end speeds approaching 130 miles per hour.

Joining Lewis, 36, for the BMW effort will be Tim Morton, 37, Escondido, Calif., Jonah Street, 32, Ellensberg, Wash., and Dave Donattoni, 41, Thousand Oaks, Calif. The team will race in Class 30 for riders over 30 years old and the riding order is expected to be Street, Donattoni, Lewis and Morton.

“This motorcycle is incredible, kind of like going into a boxing match with a nuclear weapon,” said Lewis, who was part of the BMW Dakar Rally team in 1999, 2000 and 2001. “Our team is a collaboration of our Dakar Rally team and this new GS1200 twin-cylinder motor that is clearly a prototype and while its weight will make it slower in the rough terrain, no one will be faster on the fast sections. We have received considerable assistance for this program from BMW-Germany as well as BMW-Mexico.”

The only person in race history who has competed on a motorcycle in this race all previous 36 years, Ron Bishop, 61, of Escondido, Calif., is entered this year with a veteran team led by Gene Dempsey in Class 50 (riders over 50) on a Honda XR650R. Bishop is a four-time class champion in this race.

Pre-race festivities on Wednesday, Nov. 17, for the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000, including tech and contingency and the SCORE Manufacturer’s Midway will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. across from the San Nicolas Hotel. The pre-race mandatory driver/rider briefing will be held Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Riviera CC. Racer registration will be held at the Riviera CC from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 16 and from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 17.

The popular event will feature the $40,000 Terrible’s Baja Bonus purse, which includes a $20,000 bonus to the first overall 4-wheel vehicle, provided by Herbst Gaming of Las Vegas. The first overall motorcycle will also receive $2,000 and the first overall ATV will earn an added $1,000 from the Terrible’s Baja Bonus.

The race will also culminate the chase for both the $10,000 Kartek Off-Road bonus and the $12,000 Toyota True-Grit and Toyota Milestone Awards. The Kartek Off-Road bonus goes to the 2004 SCORE Overall point champion. This is the 18th year of the Toyota awards.

Celebrating its 31st anniversary this year as the World’s Foremost Desert Racing Series, the SCORE Desert Series is returning to Mexico for the last of three races held annually in Baja California.

The race will be televised as a one-hour NBC Sports special in December on the NBC Television Network. The show, produced by Aura360 in association with NBC Sports, will air on Saturday, Dec. 11 at 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time). The NBC anchor for the show will be veteran Emmy-Award winning sportscaster Al Trautwig. A special pre-running preview segment with Terrible Herbst Motorsports and NASCAR’s Robby Gordon will air on the Jeep World of Adventure Sports, also produced by Aura360, on Saturday, Dec. 4.

CNBC’s ‘Bullseye’ show, with host Dylan Ratigan, will also produce special-angle segments scheduled to air Nov. 30, Dec. 1 and Dec. 2 during the daily show at 3 p.m. (EST).

Additionally, The Learning Channel’s Rides weekly program (Tuesday’s at 10 p.m. EST/PST), will produce a Terrible Herbst Motorsports profile show to air early in 2005.

SCORE official sponsors for 2004 are: BFGoodrich Tires-official tire, Southern California Ford Dealers-official vehicle and C.L. Bryant-VP Racing Fuels-official fuel supplier. Associate sponsors are: Tecate Beer, Coca-Cola of Mexico, Instant Mexico Auto Insurance, Herbst Gaming, Kartek Off-Road, Fram, Autolite, Prestone, Bilstein, Signpros, P.C.I. Race Radios, McKenzie’s Performance Products, and Advanced Color Graphics.

Additional sponsors of this year’s Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 are: Cotuco, Fideicomiso Publico para la Promocion Turistica de Ensenada and Centrix Financial of Denver.

For more information, contact SCORE at its Los Angeles headquarters 818.225.8402 or visit the official website of the 2004 SCORE Desert Series at

Tecate SCORE Baja 1000

SCORE Class 22 and All-Time Overall Motorcycle Winners

1967-J.N. Roberts/Malcolm Smith

1968-Gary Preston/Larry Berquist

1969-J.N. Roberts/Gunar Nilsson

1970-Phil Bowers/Mike Patrick

1971-Malcolm Smith/Gunnar Nilsson

1972-Gunnar Nilsson/Rolf Tibblin

1973-Mitch Mayes/A.C. Bakken

1974-No Race

1975-Al Baker/Gene Cannady

1976-Larry Roeseler/Mitch Mayes

1977-Brent Wallingsford/Scot Harden

1978-Larry Roeseler/Jack Johnson

1979-Jack Johnson/Larry Roeseler

1980-Larry Roeseler/Jack Johnson

1981-Scot Harden/Brent Wallingsford

1982-Al Baker/Jack Johnson

1983-Dan Ashcraft/Dan Smith

1984-Chuck Miller/Randy Morales

1985-Randy Morales/Derrick Paiement

1986-Chuck Miller/Bruce Ogilvie

1987-Larry Roeseler/Ted Hunicutt Jr.

1988-Paul Krause/Larry Roeseler/Danny LaPorte

1989-Larry Roeseler/Danny LaPorte/Ted Hunnicutt Jr.

1990-Larry Roeseler/Ted Hunnicutt Jr./Danny LaPorte

1991-Larry Roeseler/Ted Hunnicutt Jr./Marty Smith

1992-Danny Hamel/Garth Sweetland/Paul Ostbo

1993-Danny Hamel/Larry Roeseler/Ty Davis

1994-Danny Hamel/Larry Roeseler/Ty Davis

1995-Paul Krause/Ty Davis/Ted Hunnicutt Jr.

1996-Paul Krause/Ty Davis/Greg Zitterkopf

1997-Johnny Campbell/Tim Staab/Greg Brinkle

1998-Johnny Campbell/Jimmy Lewis

1999-Johnny Campbell/Tim Staab

2000-Johnny Campbell/Tim Staab/Craig Smith/Steve Hengeveld

2001-Johnny Campbell/Tim Staab

2002-Steve Hengeveld/Johnny Campbell

2003-Steve Hengeveld/Johnny Campbell

2004 SCORE Desert Series

Pro Motorcycle Point Leaders

(With Class, Rider of Record, hometown, vehicle, wins, points)

CLASS 22 (Over 250cc, 11 Total Racers, Wins)

1. Steve Hengeveld, Oak Hills, Calif., Honda XR650R (2), 129

2. Chuck Dempsey, Van Nuys, Calif., Honda XR650R, 113

CLASS 21 (Under 250cc, 7 Total Racers, Wins)

1. Joe Desrosiers, San Marcos, Calif., Yamaha YZ250 (1), 121

2. Alfredo Contreras, Tijuana, Mexico, Yamaha YZ250 (1), 72

CLASS 30 (Riders over 30 years old, 15 Total Racers, Wins)

1. Gerardo Rojas, VicenteGuerrero,Mex., Honda XR650(2), 135

2. James Bartnick, Carlsbad, Calif., Honda XR650R, 112

2. Jim O’Neal, Chatsworth, Calif., Honda XR650R, 112

CLASS 40 (Riders over 40, 4 Total Racers, Wins)

1. Jim O’Neal, Chatsworth, Calif., Honda XR650R (2), 126

2. Jim Ferguson, San Francisco, Honda XR650R, 106

CLASS 50 (Riders over 50, 2 Total Racers, Wins)

1. David Flores, Reseda, Calif., Honda XR650R (1), 119

2. Richard Jackson, Acton, Calif., Honda XR650R (1), 70

Kit Palmer | Off-Road EditorKit Palmer started his career at Cycle News in 1984 and he’s been testing dirt and streetbikes every since – plus covering any event that uses some form of a knobby tire. He’s also our resident motorcycle mileage man with a commute of 120 miles a day.