The THR Motorsports/Monster Energy/Precision Concepts Kawasaki trio of Ricky Brabec, Max Eddy Jr., and David Pearson came out on top of a race-long duel with WFOx Motorsports Honda’s Mark Samuels, Colton Udall and Ian Young to win the hotly contested 46th Tecate SCORE Baja 500, round three of SCORE’s World Desert Championship.
It could have gone either way and, in the end, it came down once again, to who had fewer problems. Two unplanned rear-wheel swaps and an exhaust replacement for the Red I/Storm Racing/MSR-backed CRF450X undoubtedly put the eventual runners-up farther back than expected, and they finished the 448-mile course in nine hours, four minutes and 56 seconds, less than seven minutes behind the 8:58:27 clocked by the winners.
When the first green flag waved at 5:45 A.M. on Boulevard Costero, a main street in town, Brabec launched off the line on the Hoosier Precision Machining/FMF/Renthal KX450F with Udall starting 30 seconds after him.
As expected, the race quickly developed into a duel between those two front-running squads, though the Class 30 powerhouse squad of Francisco Arredondo, Ryan Dudek, Shane Esposito and Scott Myers latched on to make it a three-team fight up front. In fact, Myers pointed out that his squad ran second physically for a bit.
A mental lapse saw Pearson surrender the lead to Young as they streaked south along the Pacific Coast with Pearson admitting: “About halfway through my first section, we had a pretty good lead so I tried to back her down two or three percent, and I ended up backing it down quite a bit. Ian caught me and passed me for a little while so it was pretty intense for a little while. I wasn’t riding over my head or anything; I was just riding pace to transfer the bike and I was transferring a little slower than I should have, I guess.”
When Young pitted for both a wheel and exhaust system change near Vicente Guerrero, Pearson got back into the lead. The run up to Mike’s Sky Rancho and down to San Matias shredded the Honda’s rear tire so they had to swap it for fresh rubber in less than 100 miles. Samuels took the fast, warm loop to near the southern portion of Laguna Diablo dry lake, but the rear tire chunked, forcing another unexpected wheel swap. That’s on top of SCORE officials stopping them early in the race to replace a transponder that wasn’t working, costing some two minutes and 18 seconds. (SCORE adjusted the team’s final time to reflect that, but losing contact with the bike in front of you often makes it far more difficult to keep your previous pace.)
To read more of the 2014 Baja 500 race report in this week’s issue of Cycle News, click here