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"Dirt Rider", March 1, 2013

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HONDA SURVIVES TO WIN BAJA 1000

Mike Brown (pictured) slides across some Mexican terra firma en route to a second overall.

Photo: Mark Kariya

The 45th running of the Tecate/SCORE Baja 1000 lived up to its promise of being the most hotly contested 1000 in 25 years, if not the entire history of this fabled race in Baja California, Mexico.

Coming into it, the Johnny Campbell Racing Honda trio of David Kamo, Colton Udall and Timmy Weigand had two runner-up finishes in the three-round SCORE Desert Series and desperately wanted to close out the year with a win.

But they faced two formidable opponents — factory-backed FMF/Bonanza Plumbing KTM (Mike Brown, Kurt Caselli, Quinn Cody, Ivan Ramirez) and THR Motorsports/Monster Energy/Precision Concepts Kawasaki (Destry Abbott, Robby Bell, Steve Hengeveld, David Pearson) — both with one triumph apiece.

That put the orange squad narrowly in the point lead over the privateer Kawasaki and Honda efforts, all three separated by only six points as they rolled up to the start line in Ensenada. The series championship and its coveted 1X plate would belong to the team that crossed the finish line in La Paz — 1,122 miles to the south — before the others, plain and simple.

As expected, the race quickly became a private battle among those three teams, with the KTM taking the lead in the first 100 miles, just ahead of the Kawasaki.

But Udall put the Honda in front by San Felipe after starting 10th, some 200 miles before. From there, the Red Riders managed to control the race as their competitors ran into various problems. The KTM dropped back first with a fueling issue, and Cody crashed at night, breaking his femur, leaving Kawasaki as the closest competitor. And it remained very close, with only a couple minutes separating the two teams as the race wore on and continued after the sun went down.

Finally, with just over 100 miles to go and only a couple minutes back physically, Hengeveld came to a stop, his KX450F unable to continue due to a suspected broken piston. That gave Weigand some breathing room — the most the Honda team enjoyed all day — and he continued to speed away to the finish line, reaching it in 20 hours, nine minutes and 30 seconds. The win extended Honda’s win streak at the 1000 to 16 straight.

After learning of Cody’s crash, Caselli grabbed a practice bike, rode back along the course and found the race bike as Cody was getting transported to the pit and eventual medical help in a local’s truck. Despite the downtime, Caselli got to the finish an hour and three minutes later for second bike overall and second in the championship.

Digital Dirt: For the best five minutes you’ve spent in a while, check out this video of the Red Bull Kluge. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0jmSsQ5ptw&feature=youtu.be

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