JCR: It’s How You Spell Domination.
You probably know Johnny Campbell as the King of Baja, an off-road motorcycle racer whose string of victories south of the border is second to none. Immortalized in the film Dust to Glory, Campbell can glide over terrain where most of us would be flopping like fish or crashing our brains out, all at speeds that make those million-dollar trophy trucks look like lumbering cement mixers.
After a career like his, challenges are nothing new to Johnny. So it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that he’s now stepped up and is running his own race team: JCR, Johnny Campbell Racing.
This is way more than just another former racer setting up shop, though. It’s American Honda’s official off-road team. And once you know a little about how Johnny and Honda do things, you can see that it’s a perfect marriage.
For decades, American Honda had run its off-road race shop out of Honda’s American headquarters, first in Gardena and then in Torrance (both in southern California). The head honcho was another Baja racing legend, Bruce Ogilvie. When Ogilvie was getting ready to retire from racing and devote more time to developing Honda’s off-road products, Johnny Campbell came on as his protégé, and, well, everyone knows how that worked out.
A couple of years ago, Honda decided they wanted to outsource the off-road race shop. Honda’s done that in the past with other race teams, with excellent results—just think of Erion Racing’s success with the Honda CBR600 series, or Troy Lee and Factory Connection’s successes with what are now the Supercross and Motocross Lites classes.
At the very same time, Campbell was looking at what he was going to do as his riding career drew to a close. “I’d been racing 15 years with American Honda, from 1992 to 2007,” says Campbell. “The commute up to Torrance all the time was rough. The level of training I had to maintain was rough. I wanted to spend more time with my family in San Clemente. So for me, this came at a perfect time.”
So Campbell approached Honda with the idea of taking over the team, running the official American Honda entries out of a new shop: Johnny Campbell Racing, or JCR.
“It’s a natural transition, and Johnny was the perfect candidate,” observes Chuck Miller, a Baja legend himself and Honda’s race-team manager at the time of the handoff. “We want him to succeed, and he’s a perfect fit for our brand, too.”
The official changeover happened in January of 2008. JCR is under contract to race the three premier SCORE desert races (the San Felipe 250, the Baja 500, and the Baja 1000), along with the WORCS series. In addition he now runs Honda’s “Pay For Pit” Baja support program. He’ll be doing all of this with four racers: Robbie Bell and Kendall Norman, Caleb Gosselar and Tim Weigand. They’re also using a couple of bikes (both Hondas, of course). The CRF450X has proven both bombproof and unbeatable in Baja, so naturally that’s what the team runs there. Johnny’s raced it to victory, and Robbie Bell won his first Baja 500 racing for JCR on the CRF450X too. In the WORCS races, the team uses Honda CRF450Rs for most of the events, and occasionally when the course is really tight, they’ll choose a race-prepped CRF250R. Bell and Norman are riding the famous 1x bike in Baja, while Caleb Gosselar and Tim Weigand are the young guns on the second machine.
JCR runs out of a 2900-square-foot shop in San Clemente, and Johnny clearly admits that the biggest challenge is the shift to the business side of things—when we’re there, the phone never stops ringing. Still, that doesn’t mean the Baja legend has quit riding: quite the contrary. While Bell and Norman were racing to victory in this year’s Baja 500 last May, Gosselar crashed, breaking his collar bone. This meant Weigand rode much of the race alone—until Johnny could suit up, meet him down the road, and ride the bike in himself. Despite losing 90 minutes while Gosselar was down, the team still finished seventh in their class. Meanwhile, the JCR 1x team won both their class and the race overall.
Just what you’d expect from Johnny Campbell and JCR.