SLR Honda Wins Baja 500
Team SLR Honda captured the motorcycle (Pro Moto Unlimited) win at the 52nd running of the SCORE International Baja 500, September 26. The Honda CRF450X-mounted team, made up of Mark Samuels, Justin Morgan and Justin Jones, completed the 491-mile course in nine hours and 39 minutes with a 51.02 mph speed average. The trio had an approximately 20-minute lead over the next-best team.
“That was really brutal,” Samuels said. “The heat, how hard it is on your bike and everything connected to it, it was really, really tough.”
The race began at three a.m. in San Felipe. Samuels led off for the SLR team then handed off the bike to Morgan for the first long stint heading north. Averaging 50 mph and pulling a nine-minute lead, Morgan set the winning pace.
Morgan gave the bike back to Samuels, who battled the rising sun and temperatures through San Felipe. Nonetheless, he pulled away while headed south, reaching mile 397, where Jones was waiting. Jones took over and conquered the last two canyons and set out on the last stretch towards the finish line.
Jones eventually brought the bike just south of San Felipe where Samuels jumped back on for the ride to the finish line.
Santiago Creel, Eric Yorba and Brandon Prieto made up the second-place squad. Creel started for the KTM 450 EXC-F-mounted team, and then handed the bike off to Yorba at mile 40. Prieto rode from mile 280 to the finish in a total of nine hours and 59 minutes.
A little less than an hour later, the third-place team rolled across the finish line, but they got to celebrate the Pro Moto 30-class victory. Francisco Septien, Shane Esposito and Roberto Villalobos got the job done in 10 hours and 57 minutes despite a crash along the way.
“Francisco had a fall, the bike is a little damaged, but he’s fine,” Villalobos said.
Fourth overall and third in the Pro Moto Unlimited class was the Colton Udall team, made up of Udall, Nic Garvin and Derek Ausserbauer. The team, which rode a Honda CRF450L (dual sport), finished approximately 18 minutes behind the Septien team, completing the race in just over 11 hours and 15 minutes.
In the Pro Moto Limited class for motorcycles under 400cc, the win went to Fernando Beltran, David Zarate, Rodlfo Patron, Rigoberto Gomez, Adan Garcia and Michel Valenzuela aboard a Yamaha YZ250.
Vance Kennedy, Dennis Belingheri and Dave Mayer made up the winning Pro Moto 50 class, and Juan Carlos Salvatierra, of Bolivia, soloed the race in 16:00:44 (30.79 mph). He was the only entrant in the Ironman (solo) class.
“This is the toughest race I’ve ever been on my career,” Salvatierra said. “Not only for the course, but also for the weather and the physical demand that comes with it. I’m very grateful that during the entire race I didn’t have any falls or any issues with my motorcycle. I’m blessed to have finished it.”
- Mark Samuels, Justin Morgan, Justin Jones (Hon)
- Santiago Creel, Brandon Prieto, Eric Yorba (KTM)
- Francisco Septien, Shane Esposito, Robert Villalobos (Hon)
- Colton Udal, Nic Garvin, Derek Ausserbauer (Hon)
- Vance Kennedy, Dennis Belingheri, Dave Mayer (KTM)