With the 46th running of the world-famous SCORE Baja 1000 quickly approaching on November 14-17, the stage is set for the JCR/Honda team to defend not only their Baja 1000 win streak, but the team’s overall SCORE championship for 2013 as well. The team is led by Johnny Campbell, 11-time winner of the Baja 1000, and owner of JCR Honda.
Earlier in the year, JCR/Honda teammates Timmy Weigand and Colton Udall took home the win at the 2013 San Felipe 250 aboard their Honda CRF450X—that marks 17 overall motorcycle victories for Honda in this event, including 15 of the last 17 years.
“At San Felipe we came out screaming really hard, and Colton and Timmy both rode a really good race and ended up winning,” said Campbell.
Next, at this year’s Baja 500 race, David Kamo joined Weigand and Udall, and the three riders executed the team’s strategy to near perfection in winning that event as well.
“From the first race we learned that we needed to have David Kamo on the team for the 500; he’s solid as a rock and we really needed to have him join us,” said Campbell. “Colton is our speeder so we put him out as the rabbit at the start and he takes over as lead bike. Timmy is super-solid, steady and he has the maturity to work on our team strategy. By about halfway through the race we had a 10-minute lead on the other bikes. This year’s Baja 500 was especially challenging because of the way they routed the Sportsman classes ahead of the Pro bikes, so Kamo had to battle through a lot of dust. But he handed the bike off to Timmy and by the end of the race he had stretched out a 20-minute lead. So in the Baja 500 we were pretty dominant. All that success helps put the team into a pretty good frame of mind coming into the 1000.”
Unfortunately, in pre-running for the Baja 1000, Kamo suffered a shoulder injury that makes him questionable for the race. He will still be present as a back-up rider, but Mark Samuels will ride his scheduled stint in his place. “Mark is a great guy, a strong, young rider,” said Campbell. “He’s been running his own Baja efforts aboard a Honda for the past couple years, and in fact he led a portion of the 2012 Baja 1000, so obviously he’s got the speed and ability. We’ve worked together before and we know each other well, so he’s a great fit to step into our race plans for the 1000.”
Currently, Honda holds a win streak in the Baja 1000 of 16 consecutive victories and 23 overall motorcycle wins. So a win for JCR/Honda would add another “17” to this year’s tally. With such a rugged and unforgiving racing environment as Baja poses, however, nothing is ever a certain thing until the checkers finally fall. However, as the old adage goes, success breeds success.
“In winning the first two races this year we did learn a few things,” said Campbell. “We always have little issues we need to clean up in the pit stops, so we’ve been practicing and getting quicker on our pit times with wheel changes, air filters and other things. So we’re really looking forward to being well-organized at the 1000.
“The Baja 1000 is an amazing event. It’s really long and we set up pit support every 50 to 60 miles. So at this year’s Baja 1000 we’ll have 18 different pit crews plus chase and support vehicles. All together, that adds up to more than 100 volunteer support people. To get all that to work together, we post radio relays on mountain tops and strategically place our pits to be within radio communication, also taking into account fuel mileages and accessibility. During the race we have gas stops plus planned maintenance stops where we have to change tires, air filters and check the engine oil. There’s one pre-determined stop where we hang lights on the bike for the night sections of the race.
“The essential things that are present at every pit stop start with awesome volunteers, smiles and excitement. Then we have refueling cans of course, for quick fuel service, air filters, a parts box full of parts for the bike, oils and chemicals and radio communication.”
Winning any long-distance race in Baja also requires world-class machinery, and that’s exactly what the JCR/Honda team has on hand. Campbell said, “Our base bike is the Honda CRF450X, and it’s an amazing bike. To prepare it specifically for desert racing we do things like put heavy-duty inner tubes and tires on the bike, and we change the final drive gearing so we can reach top speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour. We also adapt the bike with large headlights and a large-capacity fuel tank for quick refueling.”
Nowadays, the competition is tougher than ever, with multiple factory-linked race teams ratcheting up their effort to try and break Honda’s long win record. Regarding that challenge, Campbell said, “Competition breeds excellence. When the competition is coming on, it makes us step up our efforts a few notches to stay ahead of them. So yeah, now the pressure is on and we have a bulls-eye on our back all the time. But mentally we need to be focused, we need to be strong, and we need to sweat all the details. If we do that, there’s a good chance we’ll have a strong finish.”
Photo courtesy JCR Honda