This year’s BAJA 1ooo Bike classes came down to some interesting races, not the least of which was THR’s Shane Esposito and his bid to dethrone the 1x HONDA of Knedall Norman. This battle came down to two bikes as the field scattered out among hundreds of scrappy miles of SCORE course. Colton Udall (0x) only needed to finish the race and happily traded-in a shot at the win for an overall season championship and the most coveted plate in off-road: the 1x.
Noted superheros and multi-time Baja 1000 Champions Kendall Norman and Quinn Cody nailed down Norman’s third straight Baja 1000 title for JCR HONDA. They did it in usual style, impressively stoping the THR-Bonanza Plumbing- Kawasaki of Esposito/Bell/Hengeveld.
“Baja kicked my ass today”, was the first thing out of Norman’s mouth as he removed his helmet on the famous victory mound in Ensenada around 9:00 PM Friday Night, “It’s a miracle we’re here right now.”
For Kendall Norman and Quinn Cody, 2011 started off poorly as the 1x bike suffered an unheard of DNF at the San Felipe 250. This put Norman and Cody at a substantial deficit for the points chase and forced them to try to hold off a determined Colton Udall in the Baja 500. Colton, as fans will recall, was on a mission to win the 500 for his fallen roommate and team mate Jeff “Ox” Kargola. After an impressive effort, Udall’s victory was overturned on a penalty and the victory went to Norman.
Even with that win, Norman and Cody’s points deficit was too much to make up going into North America’s most important off-road race, the BAJA 1000.
“Everytime I start a race it is to win, explained Norman, “There was no hoping for anything out there, we just went in to win this race.” Norman further explained that he had crashed at over 70MPH after Borrego and that he was amazed that the bike didn’t cart-wheel end over end repeatedly.
Kendall Norman has been called the greatest racer in Baja for the past few years and it is for good reason, he towed the line many times while on 1x and fended off challenges from some of his biggest rivals, Steve Hengeveld, Robby Bell, Mike Chilress and Shane Esposito, just to name a few. This Baja 1000 was only about adding another Baja 1000 title to his resume and Norman and Cody did it in their usual style. Last year Norman had three OA championships and Cody got to race the Dakar.
Cody is set to improve on his rookie Dakar performance (9th place) as he takes off from Buenos Aries on stage 1 of the famous rally on January 1, 2012.
It’s unclear at the moment what Norman’s plans are for 2012, but as one of the most marketable talents in off-road, he’ll have a lot of doors opened to him. One thing we know is that he will be delving into the world of being a Hollywood stuntman, not without help from Baja 1000 teammate and professional stuntman Logan Holoday.
For the more seasoned Baja professionals, we have the age based classes, notably classes 30 and 40, where there are a few dozen hired guns who regularly vie for positions on next years winning team. This year’s class 3o bid went to Mike Johnson who enlisted Scott Myers, Brian Pinard and Francisco Septien to easily nail down an other season championship for each guy on the roster, who collectively shore over a dozen or so such titles. These are the hired guns of the Baja.
A little bit further up the experience later are Louie Franco, Jeff Kaplan and Ron “SurfNRide” wilson, three one of a kind characters who towed the line to get Kaplan his first class 40 championship. Louie Franco went down early in the San Felipe 250, broke his back and 8 ribs (please don’t tell his wife) and was back on the set working as a Hollywood stuntman with in 6 weeks. Both, Franco and Kaplan were a big part of helping Mouse McCoy make it back into the finish in the film “Dust to Glory”.