Once a year the sleepy beach town of San Felipe is awoken by the sounds of chase crews, pre-runner vehicles and race machines tearing around the streets and nearby desert in preparation for the season opener of the SCORE Baja series. The town may be a destination for those seeking relaxation and an escape from the hustle and bustle of the American way of life, but the race itself offers nothing of the sort. The terrain is brutal. The course features more whoops than most racers would care to hit in a lifetime and embedded rocks blending in so well with the dirt that it makes racing feel a bit like a game of Russian roulette. Maintaining focus over such unreadable terrain is of the utmost importance as the slightest mistake could end your race. Couple the mental test with the physicality of the course and the speeds required to compete and it can be argued that the San Felipe 250 is one of the toughest off road races in the world.
With the “end of the world” prophecy coming up short and the earth still spinning on its proper axis, we have another year of racing to look forward to and I decided to start it off by teaming with David Pearson at the Best In The Desert Parker 250. The three-loop, 240 mile race has become a classic way to kick off the new year as the terrain offers a mix of smooth, fifth gear roads and technical, slow-speed rocks, challenging two seemingly opposite ends of the off road spectrum. Adding yet another variable to the race this year was the “Canadian Cold Front”, which somehow found its way down to the deserts of Arizona and would offer below freezing temperatures for all involved; time to put on the parka and go racing.
The main entries in the Open Pro class were the two Purvines Racing Beta teams, lead by Nick Burson and T.J. Hannafin, and the solo-entry of Ricky Brabec, who’s been in inspired form lately. With David and myself drawing fourth place start pick behind all three of these teams, we were going to have our work cut out for us to ring in the new year with a win.
The THR / Monster Energy / Precision Concepts Kawasaki KX450F team of Robby Bell, (rider of record), Steve Hengeveld and David Pearson outperformed the factory KTM, a slew of hard chargers and broke factory Honda’s 15 year winning streak to take the victory at the SCORE, Baja 500 in Ensenada Mexico. Steady riding and quick pit stops kept them in front of the 1x Honda team for most of the day. The 4x team overcame every obstacle in their path to put themselves in commanding control in the late stages of the race. When the 1x team pitted for tires late in the race, THR matched their move putting on fresh Dunlop’s while maintaining the gap. THR Motorsports boss Scott Jacobson said before the race that “our time has come” and couldn’t have been more right. We cannot thank Monster Energy, Precision Concepts, Kawasaki and all our other sponsors enough for standing behind us.
The win did not come easy however; Robby Bell got out front right off the start but due to some miscommunication did not see his first pit at race mile 48. He soon realized something was wrong so he scavenged for a splash of gas. The team’s Precision Concepts built Kawasaki motors are a lot closer to what comes directly from the factory than most people think. They are meticulously prepared but far from exotic so they can run on Pemex if necessary. After a few attempts he got some fuel from a fan and set out to reclaim the precious minutes that were lost.