After some dicing with the Red Bull KTM team in the early miles, Team Honda's Robby Bell and Kendall Norman took control and sped away to win the Tecate SCORE Baja 250 on Saturday, March 10. In doing so, the pair started the defense of their SCORE Desert Series championship by beating the largest field in event history (the venue changed to an Ensenada-to-Santo Tomas run only the week before when last-minute reluctance by landowners prevented the traditional San Felipe 250 from taking place) with 423 total entries. (Of that number, 393 actually started with 108 of them being motorcycles; 288 of the starters made it to the finish line 216 miles away.)
"It couldn't have gone any better; it was so clean," Bell said of his stint from the start to Valle de Trinidad on their Precision Concepts/Dunlop/Pro Circuit CRF450X.
The third rider to start, Bell quickly moved into second place behind Red Bull KTM's Chris Blais, who rode a Michelin/Motion Pro/GPR 610 XC that he would hand off to David Pearson. In the fog just before they left the dirt and got onto Highway 3 for their first speed-limited transport section, Bell snuck up on Blais and dove underneath to take the lead for the first time, but he couldn't shake the KTM.
"Chris came right back at me," Bell acknowledged. "They have that 610, and that thing's fast!
"Right when we got back onto the dirt, he totally set me up. We got onto the dirt and all of a sudden he blows by me. I was in fifth gear and I was rolling it on to get onto the dirt. He had obviously set it up to where he was going to slingshot past me."
The two traded the lead a few times, Bell saying, "We were going back and forth, but we were so close we could look ahead of each other so the dust wasn't bad. As soon as I got him and got a little gap on him, he fell into my dust and had to slow down.
"From there, it was totally clean."
Well, for the eventual winners it was. The rest of the field seemed to have various problems to deal with. The KTM broke not long afterward, and it took several hours to effect repairs; they would make it to the finish just under the nine-hour time limit in eight hours, 44 minutes and 32 seconds.
Privateer Mike Childress came from his 14th-place start to second overall on the Honda of North Hollywood/Precision Concepts/GPR-backed CRF450X and had the factory duo looking over their shoulders. Norman said, "We were physically in first place when I got it, but I was told we were about two minutes behind on time because Mike Childress was really turning it up."
Norman's run from Trinidad west to the Pacific Ocean then north to the finish at the Santo Tomas baseball field was quicker than that turned in by Childress' ailing partner, Andy Grider. "I got sick yesterday; went to bed around 5:00 last night," Grider said. "I sweated all day and got up at 4:00 this morning to get to Valle de Trinidad still not feeling good. I felt a little better when Mike gave me the bike, but I could tell I'm still sick and not there. A head nut came off; I had to stop and get that fixed, but other than that it was just me”I didn't feel good today."
He would get the checkered flag in a time of 3:56:50, just over four minutes slower than Norman's winning 3:52:31 which worked out to a 55.80-mph average. (Both of them beat the first four-wheeled vehicle, a Ford Trophy truck driven by Mark Post and Rob MacCachren who clocked 4:03:21.)
Marc Burnett and Shawn Highland teamed up for third overall bike and third in Class 22 (Open Pro) on their Freestylemx.com/Pacific Collision Centers/Rockstar Energy Drink-sponsored RM-Z450 in 4:21:58.
Scott Garnet, Scott Myers and Jim O'Neal teamed up for fourth overall a few seconds behind in 4:22:10 though that earned them the Class 30 (riders over 30 years old) win on their Temecula Motorsports/Precision Concepts/FMF CRF450X. Class 22's Joe Desrosiers and Westley Garrett rounded out the top five motorcycles in 4:26:35 on their DP Racing/Motoworld of El Cajon/Michelin XR650R.
Other class winners included Carlos Casas and Noe Ibarra in Class 21 (250cc Pro) on their CRF450X (4:39:02); Chad Black, Conner Penhall and Ryan Penhall in Class 20 (125cc Pro) on their CRF250X (4:38:38); Brett Helm, Jeff Kaplan, Jon Ortner and Greg Zitterkopf in Class 40 on their CRF450X (4:43:42); Craig Adams, Bob Johnson, Doug Smith and Tim Withers in Class 50 on their CRF450X (4:39:54); and Gene Dempsey, Sam Dempsey, Mike Harper and Don Lewis in Class 60 on their XR650R (5:50:46).