We have heard it mentioned, but never experienced it ourselves – When the plan goes as planned, “there’s no story to tell”! No big adventure this time or all night bike & rider rescue, just the execution of a well organized plan by a more knowledable and maturing race team.
A different venue – 175 lbs additional weight – a new rider on the team – finishing in the top 38% of our class – making history.
What a difference one race can make – going from the disappointment of not finishing the Baja 1000 last November to being across the finish line again well ahead of our anticipated class standing. We were able to test new tools & capabilities – 110 wt VHF radio & 50 foot omnidirectional antennae, adding a mobile F-150 Pre-runner to the chase team and having the new Husaberg chase the Diesel bike for the first 120 and last 40 miles of the course. We had continuous communication between race bike and chase bike.
The biggest improvement was having continuous pit communication coverage from Pete’s Camp (Base station) to the North at RM 55 & 68 to the West at RM 88, 93 & 120 and the South at RM 165 & 217.
All and all a beautiful spring day in Baja with a great group of friends and family and a great result!
Larry Herrmann (Chase 3 team captain) got Bryon & the 257x bike from Pete’s Camp to the starting line – ready for the green flag. Bryon made radio contact with the team’s chase bike at RM 12 and they completed their intercept at RM 30. It was very difficult to join-up in the tall Sage, Ocotillo & Mesquite bushes and multiple open lines between Zoo Road and the narrows at RM 30. Once they joined up, the 257x bike took the lead. As the 2 bikes maneuvered around the mountain and turned west toward the Borrego Pit area, the top quads from the class starting behind us were rapidly approaching and looking for a way to get around the 425 lb motorcycle. Bryon held them off going up the hill at RM 46. This section of the course is very “green” and mostly single track and certainly a bottle neck for vehicles attempting to breach the crest of the rise down into the North end of Diablo Lake. Several lead changes occurred between the 257x bike and a top quad from the Sportsman class and Bryon was determined to stay ahead as the dust from the ATV created an impenetrable visual obstacle making the race bike ride totally blind for what seemed like hundreds of yards at a time. There was a point where the chase bike rider observed the 257x bike and the quad side by side going through several “S” turns in the course with the vehicle on the inside lane nosing out the other coming out of the corner. As they approached the power lines heading down the West side of the grade, the quad pulled away as the 257x bike slowed to transit the silt bed and mondo section of gargantuan woops.
Approaching RM 55 the chase bike radioed Merritt Townsend (Chase 2 team captain) to ready them for refueling the Husaberg. The Diesel bike continued solo to check point one and made the sharp left hand turn now heading into the morning sun and transiting southeast. The chase bike refueled and took Villa Del Sol road from RM 55 to RM 68, followed by Chase truck 2. Both the chase bike and the chase truck were in contact with Chase 4 (Justin & Heather Herrmann) who were transiting from RM 6 @ Zoo Road to RM 88. Passing RM 68, the 257x bike joined up with the chase bike and followed the course south along the East edge of Diablo Dry Lake hitting speeds in excess of 80 Mph on a bike that is big on torque & endurance and is short on suspension and brakes. It was impressive to watch from a few hundred feet behind – once witnessing the classic “flying W” as Bryon hit the concrete abutment of a water crossing and yelled out over the radio “big bump” – I almost fell off the chase bike for the second time laughing so hard – the first time being the battle with the quad in the single track area up North.
The chase bike took on another gallon of fuel at RM 88 – serviced by Chase team 4 as the 257x bike continued south, making the left hand turn and climbing the long grade toward Morelia Junction. The chase bike caught up and fell back into a trail position at RM 93 as both bikes turned right and rolled the throttles back to increase their speed on the good graded road down to RM 109. The next 15 miles were all natural “Baja” terrain complete with narrow trails lined by prickly branches and eager reaching cactus which Bryon made solid contact with at RM 118 as he was dodging in and out of a nasty section of deep sand and woops, which combined, put a good woopin’ on him – complete with a bloody polka-dotted riding jersey. Two long and very deep silt beds proved to be the next obstacle waiting for the race bike. From the rear trailing position it looked like an Mk82 500lbs high explosive bomb had detonated as the bike and rider hit the silt at some 25 mph. The silty dust climbed at least 100 feet into the air and made a great signaling indicator for the Chase team (1) waiting to conduct the rider change at RM 122.
Fatigue, dehydration and thick vegetation made it difficult to find the one & only pit location the team planned for the 257x race bike. It seemed easy to locate while pre-running, but my how things can look different on race day with added chase vehicles and numerous spectators parked randomly along the race course in the middle of the bottom section of Diablo Dry Lake. Finally eyeballing the frantic chase crew (seeing and hearing us but recognizing we did not see them), the diesel bike found itself parked backward on the pit carpet that was laid out for the refueling, air cleaner change, tire, oil & bolt check and rider change. Prior to Kirk mounting his steed, Bryon motioned to Kate Warren to read off the check-list to ensure nothing was overlooked. With a thumbs-up from Mike Warren, (Chase 1 team captain) Kirk dropped the bike into 1st gear and spun a 180, roosting everyone within grenade range. Jae Kenney got a radio check with Kirk at RM 124 – he was doing this next 70 miles on his own.
Race-Dezert.com was filming the rider change and conducted a brief interview with Bryon regarding his experience on the 1st half of the course on the big diesel bike. He also asked questions about the bike itself, who and where it is made and what our purpose was with racing the military bike in Baja. Bryon responded that first and foremost, this race adds continued credibility to the durability and functionality of the vehicle. Additionally, it adds public awareness to HDT USA’s eventual plan to offer the bike to the public after the military contract has been satisfied. Moreover, troops reading Military publications such as Navy Times, Marine Corps Times, and Stars & Stripes who are deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and ride this bike in combat, will love to see that it not only competes on the battle field but also in Baja – a lesser battlefield of a different sort – more against mother-nature than the Taliban or Alkeida.
Following the interview, Chase team 1 broke down their pit and moved east to RM 193 to wait for the bike to complete the lower section of the course and have one final look before completing the last 40 miles of the race. Kirk maneuvered through Matomi wash, over the sand dune on the east side of the mountains and stopped briefly at RM 167 for a quick inspection from Chase team 3. Having given the bike a quick once-over, Larry Herrmann gave Kirk a thumbs-up and off he went into the next section of the course known as Azufre wash. Kirk had section a trio of times prior to race day and felt comfortable enough to open it up and pass several riders in our class. He managed his preplanned speed of 40mph throughout his entire 110 miles – most of which was all natural terrain with few hard packed roads to rest or recover on.
Kirk made it back to RM 193 and, according to an audible call by the chase crew, took on one gallon of diesel fuel just for good measure and forged ahead to complete the last leg of the race. Bryon and Jeff had gone ahead through Huatamote wash and waited for Kirk near check point 5 for all three of them to ride in together. Chase team 4 was also in place at RM 217 and did a quick visual as the bikes passed by. The entire team was now converging on the finish line. Chase 3 & 4 maneuvered to Old Puertecitos Rd and on to park at the arches, meeting Chase team 2 who stopped at Pete’s Camp to pick up Marie & Luke who had spent the day dutifully monitoring radio traffic and keeping the team connected and informed of the race bike’s location and status. The team celebrated at the finish line shaking Sal’s hand and answering a plethora of additional questions from the media, spectators and race enthusiasts wondering how we managed to race the 425 lb diesel bike into the top 38% of our class. Someone, please hand me a beer – it’s time to celebrate and eat some fish!
Hayes Diversified Technologies (HDT) USA, the maker of the world’s only purpose built diesel motorcycle engine, competed in the 2009 SCORE International San Felipe 250 on March 14th. The Marine Corps chose the KLR650 as the frame for the Diesel engine because it is a robust, utility motorcycle designed to transport a Marine with all of his armor, weapon, first aid, etc. as well as the possibility of a passenger. The world renowned off-road race was chosen as a proving ground due to the extreme conditions and harsh environment. HDTUSA is constantly striving to improve their motorcycle to give the US Military the very best product available.
Longtime motorcycle enthusiast Bryon Schmidt was the team’s rider of record. Bryon (42), from Hesperia, California, serves as a chief diesel motorcycle maintenance consultant and senior testing specialist for HDT USA which is under contract with the Department of Defense for the production of the military version of the diesel motorcycle. Kirk Russell (46), from Bend, Oregon, rode the second half of the 232 mile race, starting at race mile 122. Kirk was a member of the 2008 SRD race team that made its first appearance on the podium in the Baja 500. Jeff Smith (46), from Oceanside, California, served as the team’s mobile backup rider as he chased the 257x race bike from RM 6 to RM 120 and again from RM 193 to the finish line. Jeff also developed the training plan to support the riders in their preparation for the race, wrote the rider’s “Smart Pack” and chase team’s logistical “Chase Plan”. The team got to experience a rare “everything went as planned” event as they seamlessly and flawlessly executed their individual tasks and responsibilities.
Justin & Heather Herrmann (24 & 23), from Vista California provide the “logistical support” to HDT USA / Team SRD. Strategic Racing Designs (SRD), winners of the “Most Extreme Vehicle” award at the 2007 Del Mar Off-road show, tested the team’s new F-150 pre-runner by serving as a mobile chase vehicle and observing the 257x race bike at RM 6, 88, 217 & the finish line.
With SCORE International’s promotion of the use of alternative fuels and “greener” race vehicles, HDT USA / Team SRD is both proud & excited to continue the introduction of the capabilities, performance & endurance of the diesel motorcycle to the off-road world as they anticipate competing in future Baja Series off-road races.