So, we got it together and finished the Baja 500. Tim, John, Scott, and I arrived in Baja Tuesday of last week and began our Baja adventure with a bit of prerunning. Our plan worked out as follows. I would get on the bike first and run the start, John would be on the bike second and run the summit to Laguna Salada, Tim was the third person on the bike and would ride the bike to the west coast, and Scott would be the anchor man and bring the bike through Santo Thomas back to the finish in Ensenada. Each of us would end up riding about 100 miles each.
A small tidbit of information – neither Scott nor I had ever raced a dirt bike. We were going for it-racing the 500 as our first race.
The first day Tim, Scott, and I preran my section from Ojos Negros to RM 100. My section was pretty fun and had quite a bit of variety…high speed rollers out of Ojos, a sand wash, a bit of silt, several rocky hill climbs, woops, rocky downhills, tons of corners, a super twisty sand wash, a pavement section, more sand wash, more woops, etc. I was unable to prerun the start as that would not be open for prerunning until Thursday. The first day of prerunning was full of wrong turns, a couple of crashes, and quite a few minor mistakes. I ran out of gas about 2 miles from the gas station…oops. I made a mental note, “tomorrow I’ll bring extra fuel in a water bottle and stick it in my camel back.” Luckily, I was riding with Scott and Tim. Scott brought back fuel so that I could make it back to the Pemex station.
Wednesday, John and I ended up prerunning my section together as he was beat up after prerunning the summit on Tuesday. Tim and Scott preran Tim’s section and part of Scott’s before bailing out at Santo Thomas due to fatigue. Thursday was a rest day…although Scott ended up riding the last portion of his pre-runable section back to highway 3. Scott was completely spent after that run… On Friday, I knew I needed to prerun the start out of Ensenada. Our friend Brian had arrived Thursday night and, he was willing to prerun the start with me. So, Thursday afternoon Brian and I rode to the wash and preran the start. Wow, what a technical twisty turny slippery section…I ended up blowing one of the corners and almost drove straight into a barbed wire fence. I made a mental note to myself…”make sure to slow down for all the corners.”
The day of the race finally arrived. I woke up early, 4:30am and put on my gear. I needed to be at the start by 5:30 as my start time was at 6:18am. So many thoughts went through my mind as I made coffee, fed my dogs, and put on my gear. I said good-bye to my dogs and told them that I loved them. Secretly, I wondered if this would be the last time that I would be able to see my dogs. The Baja 500 is a serious race…as serious as it gets…people die in this race. People build booby traps, drive the wrong way on the race couse, and mistakes happen…plus this would be my first race on a dirt bike, I really didn’t know what to expect. At 5:20am I got on the race bike, started it, and drove to the start.
At the start, I saw all the heavies. I wondered if they were having the same thoughts as I. I was pretty nervous, my first race, the Baja 500, would I choke, would I crash (uh yeah), would I be able to pull it together and deliver the bike to John in working order? So many questions ran through my mind. I was directed into my starting position by a SCORE official. No turning back now…I’ll be shaking Sal’s hand in a couple of minutes. I just don’t want to stall the bike. I’m next…I ride up to Sal…”Have a good race,” he says, “and be safe.” “Thanks Sal,” I say. The rider ahead of me takes off, I ride down the ramp, 30 seconds now…the starter waves the flag…GO!
Oh wow, I’m shredding down the Malicon in Ensenada to the first corner, clicking gears, don’t forget to slow down. Whew…I made the first corner…no worries. I’m hauling ass now towards the second corner…too fast. Oh crap, I’m going to blow the second corner on the street…I’m going too fast…SLOW DOWN! Ah shit I’m skidding now! The front tire just lost traction…I just laid the bike down on the second corner. I haven’t even made it to the wash. I’m completely retarded. I look around. Not too many spectators…it’s early. Hopefully, no one was shooting photos or video (I’m sure my move would make a Baja 500 highlights real). I pick up the bike…It still looks good…no damage. I get back on and head to the wash. Ah, I’m finally on the dirt. This feels familiar, this feels good, I pin it and I’m on my way through the Red Bull jump.
At the end of the day our team John Zuber, Tim Abshire, Scott Clemens, and I finished the race. In fact we finished the race ahead of the Trophy Trucks, which for a first time team with first time racers is unheard of. No one was seriously hurt and we had the time of our lives. Each of us experienced a lifetime of mistakes, highlights, and narrow misses that day on the bike. We came away with a lifetime of stories and a common bond that we will have for the rest of our lives…we raced and finished the Baja 500. Here’s a link to the Tecate SCORE Baja 500 race results.