Team Honda’s Steve Hengeveld, Johnny Campbell and Mike Childress won this year’s running of the Tecate Baja 1000 over the weekend. It was their fifth straight victory, while Campbell earned his ninth consecutive overall motorcycle victory. Averaging 49.42 mph, they finished in 14 hours, 20 minutes and 30 seconds, over 13 mph slower than their record pace in the 2002 version.
“It was a great race and we had a good time out there,” Hengeveld said. “Baja is Baja and you never know how it’s going to be out there. It was pretty good; we were about 30 minutes off what I thought we would finish. The course was great, probably one of the toughest Bajas yet that I’ve raced in 10 years. That was one of my goals, to extend the Honda streak. We pretty much prepare all year long for this race. The bike ran flawless, it’s very reliable and we had no problems with it all day. I was probably on it for about a total of six or seven hours. I did the start to Nuevo Junction, a run in the middle, and Trinidad to the finish.”
Childress ran from San Felipe to San Matias, about 140 miles, then did a stretch right before dark that was unfamiliar territory for him, completing half of Mike’s Loop.
“They gave me a map and said, ‘go here and get on the bike and ride it to us.’ It was kinda weird because I got on the bike and it was getting dark quickly. I didn’t know any of the corners, I didn’t know where to go, I just took it easy and didn’t make any mistakes; I just got the bike to Steve. Coming into the pit, I didn’t see a cow and hit it and thought it was over right there. The bike was flawless, the pits were perfect, all the chase crews were in the right place.”
Robby Bell, Kendall Norman and Quinn Cody placed second in Class 22, coming in over 17 and a half minutes behind the team they traded places with most of the day.
“We had the physical lead, but when it got dark they pulled away,” Norman said. “I rode from about mile 200 to 390, it was pretty physically demanding, but I knew what I was getting myself into. I got passed almost at the end of my section. Robby hit a booby trap in the morning, it crushed our tailpipe. We didn’t end up changing it until around mile 390.”
Travis Pastrana, Andy Grider, Ricky Johnson and Gregg Godfrey unofficially finished third in the class, before they were disqualified when post race inspection revealed that they did not use the required SCORE Black Box GPS rally logger.
“I got one-and-a-half days to practice,” said Grider, who won the Tecate SCORE San Felipe 250 with Chris Blais. “The SCORE Baja 1000 is a good race, and this was the toughest in many years. Travis got to mile 70 with very little problems, only four minutes down. Gregg [Godfrey] ended up having a flat for about 20 miles. We made up some time in the rough stuff, but in the flat stuff the [Honda] 650s just pulled away from us. But the bike never went down the whole day, so we’re stoked about that. We’re just happy to be on the podium with a rookie team.”
Co-rider Ricky Johnson, who last rode a bike in the 1998 Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 said, “To finish third is perfect, we knew we had nothing for the Honda guys.”
In Class 21, Tim Morton took the checkered flag in a bit of a daze, his nose still bloody from a fall near the end of the race, but his win completed the sweep for him in Class 21 this season. Morton collected the season point championship for the third time in his career, also winning in 1994 and 1995.
“I am amazed. I can’t remember a whole lot before Highway 1 at San Vicente. I have no idea. I really don’t remember where I crashed, but I think I might have crashed next to this Class-40 guy, I don’t know if I passed him or…I don’t really remember so good for the last 15 miles.”
In Class 30, Brian Pinard and Scott Myers won the class, as the sixth motorcycle and ninth overall finisher to cross the line.
“I started the race today,” Myers said. “It was really rough this year, one of the roughest I can ever remember. In Class 40, Jim O’Neal, who recorded his first win in this race last year, again shared the duties with several others, including Jeff Kaplan. Kaplan won the 1979 edition of the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 (with Rick Finger) in Class 21. This race, they had the dubious distinction of becoming the first incident for SCORE’s Medical Team, as Luis Franco started the race but hit a booby trap three miles from Highway 3.
“We just kept chipping away once we got the bike going,” Kaplan said. “We had bent the front brake really bad. Other than that, though, it was pretty uneventful. The only other person I saw was Tim (Morton).
Co-rider Randy Morales contributed to the win, which extends O’Neal’s streak to six SCORE wins in as many starts since the beginning of the 2004 season.
Chris Haines, Scott Forward and Jim Castillo won Class 50 as the ninth fastest time of all motorcycles.
The win gave Haines his seventh consecutive Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 title, and 12th since 1987. Only three other people have won more SCORE Baja 1000 titles in their careers (Rod Hall, Jimmy Johnson and Larry Roeseler).
The winner of the Sportsman class, which with 28 starters was tied for the second most of any class, was an individual who rode solo. Robert Laughlin had the eighth-fastest time of any motorcycle, at 19 hours and 12 seconds.
“I didn’t fall once, but then almost fell two miles from here coming down a hill,” Laughlin said at about 2 a.m. at the finish line.