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262x 2017 Baja 500 Race Report and Code Red Update

nickybobby333

Well-Known Member
#1
I just want to start by saying sorry this is so long. I will be uploading some pictures a little later today.

Forward:
This was our 3rd Baja 500 and 4th Mexico race after doing San Felipe earlier this year. When we originally made the decision to race in Baja it was really “let’s do the 500 and we will be good with that.” Well everybody knows that wasn’t going to happen and here we are in our third season of racing down south. Our first 500 went by with minor flaws. We had a clutch issue that set us down about a half an hour, but other than that we ended up finishing 5th in class in about 14 hours. Last year’s 500 was a different story. With the heat in the desert and brutal Baja terrain, we got to RM 320 down about 6 hours, and after the rear wheel spacer was destroyed and we couldn’t get the axel off the swing arm, we had to call it a day. Moving on to 2017, we made the decision we were going to try and race for the points this year and compete in the 50th running of the 1000 in November. San Felipe was first on the list, and the first time we were racing in this awesome but severely rough paradise. Unfortunately this race ended similarly to how the 500 ended the previous year, with a rear flat shredded off the rim and my middle brother being stuck in the middle of the desert for hours. The only difference is that at San Felipe, Tyler did not want to be stuck in the desert again and continued to ride on bare rim to make it to the pit where I would get on about 20 miles later, but eventually snapped a master link in the chain and our day was done. We as a team made a decision going into San Felipe that we needed mousse bibs to prevent flats but when this decision was made, we didn’t have much time to ride and test on bibs (with none of us having ever ridden on them before) so we decided that we would just get a front mousse bib and tube the rear, which was our demise in San Felipe. After this race, we were really down on ourselves, and came to the conclusion that we as a team financially, support wise, and experience wise were not ready to race the 1000, especially going all the way to La Paz. We decided that we will finish strong and race the 2017 Baja 500 and then walk away from Mexico for a while. I made it my mission to plan logistics more than I have for any other race for both myself and for my brothers and father that were my teammates. I knew we would be on a skeleton crew support wise, and I wanted to make sure we had plan A, B, and C for any potential issue or problems that we may occur. WE WERE GOING TO FINISH THIS ONE AND WALK AWAY FROM BAJA ON TOP….This was my mission.

Prerunning:
The race was going to be broken down with myself starting (the first time since we have been racing. This is usually Tyler’s job, but since he started SF and our day ended before the bike got to anybody else, he thought it would be a good time to switch it up for a change) and going to RM 90 in Santo Tomas where Brandon would get on and take the bike to RM 155. I would then get back on and go across the peninsula to RM 240, Tyler would get on and go to 350. I would get on for the last time and do a sprint section from RM 350- 410 where it comes back into Valle T. Tyler would take it 35 miles to the road crossing and then our dad would take it from about RM 445 to the finish in Ensenada. We got down to Santo Tomas where Brandon and I would start his beach section before meeting up with our chase, which included Tyler, my cousin Dakota, and our Grandpa (who is a Baja legend in his own right). Brandon and I took off, him ahead of me since it was his section. About RM 115 before going into Erendira, I came up a little too quickly on a slight S turn to the right with a massive rain rut on the left hand side. I was going too fast to try and make the turn and didn’t see anything that I could of avoided to the left, so right at the start of the rut I throttled it to get my front tire up to try and make it over. The rut had other ideas and swallowed my rear tire, stopping the bike in its tracks, and throwing me feet first over the handlebars. I landed about 20 feet down the road with the bike kart wheeling behind me and eventually coming to a stop in the rut, which was so deep the edge of the rut came to about the bottom of the gas tank. I immediately got up as if it didn’t happened, checked all of my extremities, nothing was broken but the knuckles on my left hand were in extreme pain. I had movement and some grip so I knew they would be fine, and started collecting myself. Brandon back tracked to help me get my bike out of the rut, and to help fasten my clutch lever to my handlebars which was the origin of the pain in my hand. I thanked God multiple times that nothing was broken and that our race wasn’t jeopardized by my stupid mistake on day one. After I realized we were ok, we continued on at a very conservative pace for the sake of my soreness and trying to save our equipment for the rest of the prerun (we had only gone about 25 miles). About RM 140ish there is a long hill climb that comes off the beach that is really silty with a lot of loose rocks. Brandon takes the hill first and I follow shortly after. I hear on the radio, “I’m good, just keep going”, and then as I am going up the hill I see his bike laid over and him picking it up. After I get to the top he gets me on the radio again saying, “I need you to come down and help, I have gas leaking everywhere.” I cruise down and he had ripped the fuel line off of our massive 6.6 gallon tank and has his finger stuffed in it to prevent it from leaking. After some F bombs, we move the bike off the course and lay it on its side. Luckily, because this tank is so big, there are fuel lines on both sides of the tank, so we had it laid over so that all of the fuel is on the side that wasn’t ripped off. After some clever thinking, and luck that we even had it, we rip off an ear bud from our radio head ear buds, put some electrical tape over the top of it, stuff it in the whole, re-bolt the fuel line onto the tank, and excessively tape the area. We had about 6 miles to go to get to our chase, and luckily it held. We met up around RM 147, fueled up and continued to RM 155. On top of the fuel line being ripped off, the radiator ended up cracking so we were down to one bike to prerun and then called it a day. After we, especially me, took a beating from Baja, we decided to head straight to SF where we would be staying Saturday night. Instead of going all of the way back to Ensenada and then down to SF, we took a dirt road that goes from San Vicente to Valle T called the Cross over trail. This was probably the most fun of the whole trip, as we all just had a good time bonding and telling stories for 3 hours in route to fish tacos. Went immediately to the Malecon for dinner after securing our room, then to bed to hopefully have a better day tomorrow. Sunday was trouble free and we were able to go from Morelia to the road crossing at RM 445 with just my bike and no issues. We would finish the rest of our prerun on Thursday and Friday before the race so we headed back to the states to regroup, and get to working on the prerun bikes and getting everything dialed for the race.

Race Week:
Us as a group, went down to Ensenada on Wednesday after Tyler and I picked up my wife and his girlfriend from the airport, and ended up getting there around dinner time. We went to a local taco shop and all sat down for a family dinner ready to go over plans for the rest of the week. After going to bed at a decent time, my wife and I were woken up by my mom telling us that my grandpa thinks he is having a heart attack. My wife speaks Spanish (and is a nurse) so she hopped up and went with my mom to take him to the hospital right down the road from where we were staying. THANKFULLY, he was not having a heart attack, but his Gall bladder was severely blocked up or giving him issues, which was causing immense indigestion or insane heart burn. Luckily the doctor was awesome and super helpful at 3 am and able to get him some prescription Zantac I believe and sent him on his way. They got to the hotel around 5 am for everybody to get some rest. Moral of this story, if you have heart burn problems, do not have Adobada tacos before bed :eek:.

Race Day:
I woke up Saturday morning around 3:45 am. We originally thought the start time for the bikes would be 6:30 but found out at the riders meeting that 5:30am the first bike would be off the line. I was ok with this since that put about a 4 hour gap between the last bike and the trucks. Tyler would be starting the race since he was the Driver of record at SF and going about a quarter mile to where our hotel was right before the drop into the wash. We were about 7th or 8th bike off the line in our class, Tyler showed up, and I was off. My goal was to get out of town to RM 33 where I would make my first fuel stop at a pretty good pace, and when the sun was out of my eyes to get faster and faster. Once I got to a decent elevation, the fog layer was really heavy and my goggles started getting some heavy precipitation. I didn’t want to take them off because I was still in dust and the sunlight was going in and out based on the mountains around me. I got through just by wiping with my gloves or jersey, and made it to the road. Once I hit the road it was about 10 miles of 37 mph speed limit, which is really hard to maintain on a motorcycle, but it was a breather. Once I was off the highway, I made it to my dad and wife and fueled up before taking off again. The next 50 miles were pretty technical, climbing out of town and up through the hills on the way to Santo Tomas. These silt beds had gotten a lot worse from when we preran on Thursday, and I tried my best to stay out of the deep tire rut silt beds that I felt had no bottom. There were a couple spots that I caught myself being a little slower than I wanted, but I kept remembering what the mission was and a finish is the goal. I got to about RM 75 coming down the hills into Uropan, and I see the GPS that is mounted to our handlebars go flying off. This is pretty crucial equipment, especially since there was a section that I would be racing that I was not able to prerun, so I circled back and was able to find it. A few miles later it happened again right after I caught a quad that I had been chasing down for some time. I again stopped and looked for a few minutes. After not finding it, I said eff it and hopped on to continue the race. When I kicked the bike, I see it lying right at my feet. I grab it and throw it in my jersey sleeve, and when I get to the road, throw it back on the mount we have for it to be zip tied when I get to the pit. Once I got to RM 80, I had about 5 miles of pavement before meeting Brandon, my mom, and grandpa at the pit set up at the local Pemex gas station in Santo Tomas. I pulled in, assess the bike, switch over the SAT phone from my pack to Brandon’s, zip tie the GPS and he is off. I tried to give him a little advice before he took off, as this was his first Mexico race, and just told him to be calm and consistent, and have fun. He took off, and I started re-hydrating and packing up to head to where I was going to get on later.
After we left we were able to get a call from our chase on the east side of the peninsula confirming I got off and Brandon has started his section. This was a sigh of relief because this was the first time using SAT phones and we had to endure previous Mexico races with limited communication with everybody. We then got another call back from them about 25 minutes later saying we will have to head back to Santo Tomas and run a new chain out to RM 100 where it comes to the beach, as Brandon is stopped with a snapped chain. This was frustrating but at the same time, we were all happy we could communicate that he was stopped and we knew exactly where he was. By the time we got on the race course in Santo Tomas, we had estimated that we had about an hour and a half until the trucks were getting to us so we high tailed out to Brandon. Once we found him he went to work quickly and put a new chain on, broke a few links to shorten it, and he was on his way. My grandpa, mom and I decided that we would continue on the course about 20 miles into Erendira where we would take the paved road out to the highway instead of going backwards on the course while trophy trucks were on their way to us. About 20 minutes later we get another call on the SAT phone that Brandon had wadded up at about RM 115 and he had smacked his head pretty good. Luckily we were already in route by continuing on the path we were on and pulled up on him in about 15 minutes from hearing the news.
When we pulled up, there was a bunch of people camped and parked on the beach side of the course, and a big group of people huddled around him. From what the locals were saying, it sounds like he was going at a pretty good speed and may have clipped a small rock with the front wheel and it completely washed out the front end sending him head first into the ground. They were able to get him in a chair off the course as well as the bike, and his helmet off. He was visibly in a lot of pain, but knew who he was, where he was, and what had happened (more that he just wadded up, not precisely what caused the crash). We took his boots off and cut his jersey off and he was feeling nauseous, and had some pain in his left eye. This is the part where I feel super guilty and am still holding a heavy conscious. My communication with him at that time, seeing his responses, and outlook was that he is pretty banged up and in a lot of pain but nothing of urgent response. He didn’t have a bone sticking out of his body; he wasn’t knocked out cold, or the biggest fear for dirt bike racers of paralyses. While we are checking out Brandon, there are a few spectators that are working on the bike. Putting a new grip on the clutch side, getting the clutch lever back to normal, making sure the wheel or axel wasn’t bent. At this point, some of our off road Baja family from Method Race wheels, offered to take him in their truck to Erendira where an ambulance was waiting. At that point I knew he was going to be fine, and will be getting medical attention pretty quickly, and most likely sent to a hospital in Ensenada. With the trucks about 45 minutes out, I decided I will get on the bike and continue Brandon’s section and then onto my section where I will hand the bike off to Tyler at Mike’s turn off. It was a quick decision with the trucks on their way, because after the first one passes you on a bike, there will be another 200 four wheel vehicles coming as well. At the time it was a no brainer as I was trying to accomplish our goal of getting this done. In hindsight, this was incredibly irresponsible of me to just abandon my brother, grandpa, and mom and possibly put myself in danger as well with the remaining 130 miles until I get to Tyler with not really knowing if Brandon is truly ok. Essentially, our race was done here.
When I got on, I knew I needed to A) not wad up and bring more trouble to us than we already have; B) Be aware of the trucks and stay out of there way; C)Figure out the new pit strategy since I will not have support at RM 155 where I was supposed to get back on. Before I took off, I ask the spectators that were helping out with the bike to call Weatherman to let him broadcast I am continuing and will be using emergency Mag7 pits for the remainder of the race until we got to the east. I took off knowing I had about 40 miles maybe 50 miles before the trucks would get to me. My mind raced with so many things. Is everything ok with Brandon? Where the trucks are at? Are we really in this situation again? Are we going to be able to finish? Question after question, but after about 20 miles I was able to get loosened up, clear my mind, and just do what I love doing…riding my dirt bike. Being the one of the last bikes on the course was an eerie feeling, but kind of rejuvenating. I was able to hold the trucks off from RM 115 up until RM 152ish. The whole section on the beach, anytime I could check my 6 or get to a rise where I could have a good visual, I could see dust in the distance and just kept thinking I will turn my head and they will be right there. It is kind of like a nightmare, you know the monster is coming, you just do not know when. Once I saw the lead helicopter circling around I knew I had been caught, and at that point found a cool spot to spectate. I pulled over and watched BJ, Bryce, and Andy roll through and wave, which is pretty cool that they even acknowledge a small bike guy pulling over to give them the race course. From then on, I knew that I am racing in between trucks and I am riding to find clear spots to safely pull over. I continued on and pulled into the Mag7 pit at RM 162 and they were absolutely, completely awesome! I told them there was an emergency, and I wasn’t supposed to get fuel here, but I needed to stop since our pit was gone, and they told me that I am scheduled to get fuel here. “No, I wasn’t supposed to get fuel until Mikes at RM 220”, and their response was, “we are aware of what happened, and you now are scheduled to get fuel here.” I can’t explain enough how much weight was lifted off my shoulders when hearing this from them, and I hopped off the bike and they went to work. They gave me a banana and a Gatorade, and we all watched trophy trucks go by like 5 year old kids for 20 minutes. After finding a gap between trucks, I thanked them and continued on. I didn’t get to prerun this section, but I knew from hearing other racers talk about it, that it is going to be rough! I kept chugging along up through RM 180, and about RM 185 I believe was the grade up to Coyote ranch. My dad and I raced this section in a 12 car back in the late 2000s and on a bike it was much, much worse. It seemed to go on forever with loose rocks and silt everywhere, especially since the first 15 trophy trucks had already raced through this area before me. My energy gas tank was standing strong, and with my shoulders starting to get sore, but my legs and hands were doing great. The hard work I put into training for this is really paying off. I got up to RM 213ish and there is the gnarliest hill climb I have ever been a part of that goes up to the back side of Mike’s. I was warned about this prior to the race but it was much worse than I ever anticipated. There were loose basketball sized rocks, rocks in the ground, step up rocks, switchbacks, and steep climbs; basically like an enduro or king of the hammers type course. At this point I knew the last 20 miles of this section was going to be basically a highway in comparison to this and I just need to get through it. With a lot of energy and a lot of work, I was able to make it to the top and drop into Mikes Sky ranch where I stopped at a Mag7 pit again. This time, my friend Geoff Hill with Mag7, who I had been communicating with for the past couple weeks was there, and again they were completely on it. They gassed me up, and gave me some motivating words to get this bike out of the mountains and to the next pit. I took off and just as I predicted, the last 20 miles was essentially a dirt highway. The last 50 miles of crap had paid off and I will be getting to my pit shortly! I was finally able to open her up and slide around the slick turns having a blast and remembering I am doing this for fun. About two miles from highway 3, I was on the radio to try and get Tyler or my dad and tell them I am on the way, and I get nothing. I get to the road, and cruise down about 2-3 miles, and see the big blue Yukon, with a pop up. This whole time I had been on the bike, I had been planning on how we will finish the race. What needs to be done to the bike to continue on, and what sections need to be changed? I pulled in a yelled out, “we need to figure out what needs to be fixed before Tyler takes off.” Pulling in and saying this, I didn’t even realize that Tyler is not even dressed, and at that point my dad comes up and tells me that Brandon had been airlifted to San Diego and we need to pack up and head for the border.
Everything that I had put off and gone through for the past 6 hours all came to me at once, and I basically just completely broke down. How could I have continued on if Brandon needed to be life flighted? Is he going to be ok? How could I have just spent the last 6 hours dicing with trucks over the past 130 miles and now we are done? How does Baja beat us again? Everything we just worked for, for the past 2 months is over and my brother could be seriously injured. How selfish of me is that? I put myself at risk again, and just made my family wait in the scorching desert for the past 7 hours. I just sat on the side of highway 3 and cried with my helmet on until I was able to collect myself, while everybody else started packing up. We got in the truck and started heading back to our hotel in Ensenada to get our stuff and head to the border. The radio was off, and I don’t think anything was said until we were coming into the valley near Ojos. We got back to the hotel, which was a nightmare since it is right on the course and everybody wanted to get to the edge of the road to watch the lead trophy truck finish. We packed up, and I showered and headed straight to TJ to get in line at the border. None of us had eaten really anything all day except for snacks, and we didn’t want to stop on the way. We got in line about 10:30pm and got into the states about 2:30am. We all decided that it would be better to see Brandon on Sunday morning after we had gotten some sleep and were able to gather ourselves.
We are truly blessed that Brandon wasn’t injured any more than he was. He suffered a severe concussion, broken lower eye socket, and some pretty bad road rash. He was still pretty forgetful, not really sure what happened, and still thinking we were in Mexico, but when Tyler and I showed up he perked up for sure. We were able to throw some inside brother jokes out and get some chuckles from him which all made us feel much better. He was able to go home late Monday and still pretty banged up, but like I said we are all very lucky. He is a trooper and I know he will fully recover from this and not let this be the end of his dirt bike career. I can’t say enough how proud I am of how he handled the broken chain, and the prerunning situation and just his overall outlook going into the race.

Thank you:
I know this race report is long enough as it is, but I do need to take the time to make sure we give all of the thank yous to everyone that helped out with this. First of all, thank you SCORE for making us racer’s safety their #1 priority. They have made leaps and bounds to protect us as best they can for these races and were completely on top of everything from start to finish. Thank you to the Weatherman for making sure that the medical attention was sent to the right place and so quickly. You have an extremely hard job trying to juggle 300+ racing teams throughout the Baja Peninsula, and you do an AMAZING job doing it! A MASSIVE thank you to the locals and spectators that were there on site to help Brandon and make sure he was taken care of right away. We as a family cannot thank you enough for being there to make sure he was ok and to pull him off of the course and get him sitting down until we were able to show up. Thank you to the guys in the truck from Method Wheels that took him and my mom to Erendira where the ambulance was, and eventually where the helicopter came to pick him up. You guys are so generous and so quick to offer your help, it truly means a lot. Huge thanks to Mag7 pits for being there for mechanical support as well as morale support. You guys are all top notch in my book, and I want to make it a goal to come out and volunteer with you guys when I can. Thank you to everybody that has reached out via social media and even to the guys in the border line that asked how Brandon was doing, it truly means a lot. The last thank you I want to give it to the locals and spectators on the course. I think that seeing your guy’s enthusiasm and excitement when you see a bike guy that is way back on time, and stuck with the trucks, really motivates us to keep moving. See you guys yell and cheer for us to keep moving is unexplainable to someone who has never been to Baja, so thank you for pushing me to get to RM 240.

Like I mentioned earlier, this is our last Baja race for a bit. I will not say it is forever, because I would be lying to myself but it is time to walk away for a bit and try other endeavors. Brandon and the rest of us will heal and get back to new, but the millions of stories we have will be with us forever.
 

Jessaca

Well-Known Member
#4
Don't beat yourself up. When we get in the zone , it's hard to see other things. I am glad your brother is ok.

Nice write up!


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osborne

Well-Known Member
#5
Glad to hear hes ok. I think most of us would have done the same thing in your shoes. You checked him out and from all you could see he was ok, just banged up. I know I would have been telling you to go on if I was him. Dont let anyone make you feel bad about it. We race, we take chances, but we are living life. Im glad it all worked out, that would be a tough deal. See ya in the dez
 

mrmatt

Well-Known Member
#6
Saw ur guys at rm 90. Then caught you coming through mile 120. Glad ur brother will be okay!

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#8
Glad to here your brother is recovering. I was listening on the radio as well as viewing the chopper fly overhead for your brother. I was spectating the race 1/4 mile north of the incident.
 

AZ7000'

Well-Known Member
#10
Listened to it play out on the radio, your dad had a unimaginable decision to be made and I felt for him...

Glad it all turned out well, thanks for sharing.
 

J Burleson

Well-Known Member
#11
So glad your brother is going to be ok. We were parked right behind your father on hwy 3. I went and talked with them after we parked and found out about what had happened. It was a very sinking feeling knowing that your father and the others there knew only that your brother had been life flighted out. i was very hard seeing your father telling you what had happened and your reaction. I can only imagine how you felt at that moment. We kept you and your family in our thoughts the rest of the race, as I'm sure everyone did that heard the code red. Baja is insanely beautiful, and outrageously gnarly. Hope to see you guys down there soon!
 
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