EXCLUSIVE RDC COVERAGE OF THE UNLIMITED PRO MOTORCYCLES
Photos: By Justin Mank, GONZOFOTO and George Lanning
Three brands have been vying to stand atop the BAJA podium and hold the 1x plate in in 2013.
After a dramatic battle in the desert to end a 15 year drought in BAJA’s SCORE series, KAWASAKI returned to the top of the podium with a win in the 2012 BAJA 500 with former BAJA champions Robby Bell and Steve Hengeveld gaining an early lead and holding it all the way back to Ensenada. Teammate David Pearson has won many desert races but this is his first in Baja CA, Mexico. For THR KAWASAKI, it is a much a victory as it is a defeat of rival JCR HONDA.
Both Steve Hengeveld and Robby Bell once won championships for AMERICAN HONDA with and for Johnny Campbell’s and JCR HONDA and this victory has been long sought after. Hengeveld left HONDA early in 2008 when Campbell formed JCR HONDA outside of the American HONDA complex in Torrance CA. Robby Bell stayed on board with Campbell and continued to win races and, eventually, another 1x BAJA championship before leaving JCR and taking the 1x plate with him. A year later, Bell and Hengeveld teamed with KAWI and PENHALL MOTORSPORTS to try and unseat HONDA in the 2009 Baja 1000
Today’s race was almost an exact repeat of that fateful battle when JCR’s former star Kendall Norman literally stalked Steve Hengeveld for over 150 miles in the night and crossed the finish line only moments after Henge, thus crashing KAWI’s party on the famous “mound” in Ensenada. However, in today’s battle, Hengeveld and Bell capitalized on current BAJA 1x champion Colton Udall’s misfortune to stave off an all-day attack and pull away in the final 80 miles. When Bell crossed the finish line today, handlers from both KAWI and HONDA started their stop watches to time the 60 second time gap need for Bell, Henge and Pearson to claim the win. Then the celebration started.
It was the first time since Paul Krause and Ty Davis won the BAJA 500 for Team Green since any KAWASAKI has won this prestigious desert race.
In the months and weeks leading up to this battle, series points leader Kurt Caselli and Factory KTM, were dealt numerous blows to their hopes of dominating the points lead through the BAJA 500 and leading into the BAJA 1000. Teammate Quinn Cody crashed hard in San Felipe; Caselli crashed in Idaho and both stars would be on the KTM’s injured reserve list. With 2 of KTM’s top guns out, the big wigs brought in some back ups. First, DAKAR legend and FIM Rally World Championship points leader Marc Coma from Spain was brought over to train in his first BAJA race. Then Mexcian off road icon Homero Diaz was summoned from Central Mexico to fill in with BAJA native Gerardo “Niño” Rojas on the “B” team but was sidelined only days before the race with an ankle injury. Although the Spaniard Coma adapted quickly to Baja’s terrain, food and culture, his impressive run for over 100 miles was not enough to quell the damage caused by a crash by Ramirez and mechanical glitches. The 7x Bike of Ramirez, Brown and Coma finished the race 3rd but still leaves Kurt Caselli with a tiny points lead over JCR HONDA’s Colton Udall.
Here’s why this is so important and shaping up to be an incredible battle in the upcoming BAJA 1000 “Peninsula Run” this November.
Because the BAJA points race between the 3 top manufacturers is so tight, whichever brand wins the BAJA 1000, will also stake claim to the prized 1x plate for 2013. Even though BAJA sometimes gets a bad wrap for “narco-violence” in border towns and central Mexico, the BAJA series is North America’s most prestigious off road battle zone and whichever color bike wins the BAJA and that’s a “pretty big deal.” RDC will be there to bring you the fastest and most in-depth coverage
ROBBY BELL CROSSES THE FINISH