1998 TECATE-SCORE BAJA 1000

Nov. 01, 1998 By Rick Sieman
Quads made a good showing, with Dennis Cox and Co. (not pictured) taking 8th overall!









What? ROSELER WON??? Nope, it didn't suprise us either. With Larry driving to victory in the "old" truck so often, you can probably imagine whats gonna' happen when the new coilover truck debuts in SCORE's 99 series. Can there really be only one?









With the new Super duty F-250 still under construction, Greg Foutz teamed with Mike Land in the 7 ranks. Bad bearings and deep silt cost them a higher finish.









Mike Dondell worked his majic with the former "Outlaw" car, winning both the season championship and the 1000!









Sofa Dude couldn't overcome serious engine problems, dispite Checker intervention. The 97 champ will be back in force in 99 to avenge a dismal 98 season.









Ben Schlimme navigates the dust from Class 10 winner John Phillips sr.









With son Johnny stuck in the states, Dad carried the NGM baner to it's familiar place atop the competitive class.









Neil Manninen took 3 rd in the 40 and over class, in just over 33 hts. Who says "with age you get a cage"?









Another win for the Red Bull Protruck. Steve Barlow has been rackin'em up in the Protruck ranks. Despite some growing pains, the class has really come into it's own, attracting new and old competitors alike.
Over the past few years, the dung has royally hit the fan when we ran a banner headline that yells something like:

"RAGLAND WINS BAJA!" Our modems emit columns of smoke, as irritated bikers fire off enraged email messages to us, proclaiming the fact that a dirt bike, not a stupid truck, was the overall winner of the event with the fastest time. Some of these email messages are "not polite" and tell us just where we can place large objects in body orifices, because we did not give credit where credit was due. So this year, the Off-Road.Com staff sat around and mulled this eternal problem over. If a bike won, we would most certainly pass this information on to the off-road world, loud and clear. However, for a bike to win the overall this year would prove difficult. You see, every fourth year or so, SCORE runs the race all the way to near the end of the peninsula, ending it in La Paz. For 1998, the race would cover a staggering 1047.4 miles! Normally, the Baja 1000 starts in (or near) Ensenada, does a big convoluted loop, and ends up back in Ensenada, some 20 or so hours after the start for the fast guys. For slower racers (or those who had problems), the race would extend well into the better part of two solid days. This would mean 40 or more hours of trying to finish this brutal event. Holding a point to point race is not only extremely difficult in logistics, it kicks the actual cost of racing sky-high. A privateer team could enter a Baja 1000 loop race and perhaps complete the event for a few thousand dollars- on a tight budget. By forcing the racers to go the length of the Baja peninsula more than doubles the cost. WHAT IT TAKES TO WIN In order to win an event of this magnitude, you cannot even think of racing flat out. Even if you have several drivers/riders on your team, you have to think about the machine. When you consider that most off-road racing machines are in need of a rebuild after a 250 mile race, just imagine what a pounding they take for over one thousand miles of truly bad road! It also takes a physical toll. Which makes what Ivan Ironman Stewart does quite remarkable. He straps himself in a truck at the start, almost a full day later, finally loosens the belts and crawls out of the cab. But think about the motorcycle riders. They don’t sit down during the race very much, except for those few smooth sections. And they have to pay attention every inch of the way. Tag a grapefruit-sized rock with a 21 inch front wheel at speed, and God knows what will happen. At best, there’s a horrible jolt through the forks and the bars, the wrists absorb heavy abuse and the bike lurches around like a safe falling down a flight of stairs. At worst, the tire flattens, the wheel gets caved-in and the bike cartwheels through the air, tossing the rider off, to land like a sack of sand. And when this happens at night, the injured rider may not even be able to find his damaged bike for some time. When a truck tags a small rock, those huge tires merely grunt and soak up the hit. Even when a truck nails a huge rock, normally the result is a simple flat, which can be replaced quickly. Bikes don’t carry spare wheels. When a dirt bike racer gets a flat, he simply rides the lame bike to the pits with the flat tire, fighting it most of the way. And if the biker runs those "flat-proof" tires, the bike doesn’t handle quite like it should. So what does it take to win the overall in the Baja 1000 on a dirt bike? Basically, it takes a strong, simple bike, with proven, tested components. And it takes a savvy support crew, plenty of well-placed pits, excellent radio contact and lots of pre-running before the race. But more than anything else, it takes durable riders who know Baja well. Riders who are smart enough to go just as fast as they need to go to win, but not so fast that they destroy the bike, or start breaking things. Which brings us to Johnny Campbell and Jimmy Lewis. Riding a Honda factory-sponsored XR-600, they won the overall and beat Ivan Stewart. Please note that they did not ride one of the hand-grenade 628 cc missiles beloved by so many, but instead chose a fairly stock – but well-prepped – garden-variety XR-600. Modifications included a big quick-fill gas tank, factory forks, a special shock, stout wheels, big-assed lights, a bit of bullet-proofing here and there and gearing that would let the bike purr along comfortably a one hundred miles per hour, with something left in reserve. It’s sad that Johnny and Jimmy did not have a chance to go head-up against other factories, as Kawasaki has pulled out of SCORE racing, Yamaha had only a handful of privateers entered, and apparently, Suzuki has never even heard of the event. In fact, the various bike classes looked more like a Honda parade, than a cross-section of what’s being ridden out there in the real world. Still, nothing can detract from the fact that team J & J did beat every other vehicle on that course, on that day. American Honda was proud of the win, and immediately fired off this press release, which was promptly ignored by almost the entire media:


SCORE International Baja 1000, Baja, Mexico, November 14. Everyone knows North America's toughest desert race is the Baja 1000, but this year maybe they should have renamed the event the Honda 1000. Honda riders Johnny Campbell and Jimmy Lewis easily won not only the premier Class 22 motorcycle division, but the overall race as well, beating the first truck (a factory-backed Toyota driven by Ivan Stewart) by almost ten minutes! Campbell and Lewis rode their Honda XR600R to victory in an 18-hour and 58-minute race. The next bike, also a Honda XR600R, was ridden by Craig Smith and Greg Bringle (19:57:39), while third motorcycle across the line was another XR600R, piloted by Joel Tarquin and Eric Brown (22:06:08). In fact, seven out of the top-ten motorcycles were Hondas. And in Class 23 ATV racing, the results were largely the same--a Honda sweep of the first three spots. The new Honda FourTrax 400EX, ridden by Dennis Cox and Denny Wolf, easily scored victory as the first all-terrain vehicle across the line (23:59:33), and in the overall motorcycle/ATV results ranked eighth. All-in-all, another stellar Honda weekend!
At least it made for good copy. But an interesting story happened right behind the race winning bike team, and very few people know about it. The "other" Honda team was only a few minutes behind J & J at the San Quintin/Santa Maria area (about one-fourth of the way into the race), and running hard. They dropped a few more minutes before Kilometer 100, and even a few more by Catavina. Before Punta Prieta, they were down around 23 minutes physically. Somewhere near, El Arco (over 500 miles into the race), the bike had a suspension linkage problem, which also wasted the shock and airbox. They had a 55 minute pit along Highway 1 to make repairs, and still finished second bike, an hour behind J & J. As soon as Honda heard that the other bike was in the pits, Campbell and Lewis got instructions to take it easy, and rode a smart race to win. An interesting note about the winning bike: since it was a basically stock XR 600 motor, with only a cam, minor head work, oil cooler, and standard FMF pipe, maybe that's the reason they got passed by some guy on a BMW R1100 GS on the highway above San lgnacio. The BMW riding spectator said he was cruising at about 115 miles per hour and blew by the first overall bike. UNSUNG BIKE HEROES Tony Tellier, our roving ORC ace, told us about two incidents that point out something about how tough mentally and physically dirt bike racers really are: "After a leisurely 5 day pre-run of the recent Baja 1000 with 11 of my closest friends, we made our way to a beautiful bay on the west side of the peninsula, where the race course passes just a few yards from the emerald waters of the subtropical pacific ocean. We picked out a location with a lovely view of the water and proceeded to do what we do. We set up a full service pit complete with all the stuff one would expect to find in a full service pit, but with one addition. The five Burmashave signs laid out in the mile or so preceding our two day home, invited any racer to stop in for Hot Coffee, Nuts & Bolts, Oil & water, welding, and last but not least, a huge banner declaring We Fix Stuff Free! I'll tell anyone who cares to listen that 700 miles into the Baja 1000, you see a lot men and equipment who have been put to the test and even more who are at the breaking point. We were scheduled to gas 19 bikes, 2 quads and a Class 7 truck, and for the most part, our scheduled charges went off without a hitch. We did, however, have two guests worthy of special note. At 3:25 AM Friday morning, a motorcycle rider stopped at the edge of our pit and asked how much for a cup of coffee? I had just woken up to start my shift and had two fresh pots brewing. I informed the rider that the coffee was free, but was not ready yet and he said that was OK, he'd wait. Odd, I thought, for a guy in a race to wait for a cup of coffee, but we helped him from his mount to a seat by the fire. The man was freezing and his gaze was fixed off in the distance. He looked terrible. I deduced by his race number that he was in his late 40s. His hands were cramped like an arthritic geriatric and his eyes were puffy like a guy on a four-day drunk. I asked him if he was OK? He replied in a scratchy monotone voice: " I'm tired." Before the coffee was done perking, he was dosing by the fire. One of the guys was just getting him some fresh java when a Class 8 stopped in with no brakes. We spotted a broken rear break line, and while we were fashioning a repair, our guest arose from his place by the fire and headed for his bike. As he was leaving, I shouted to him my standard question." What mile did you get on at?" He made a slow turn toward me and responded "mile 0". We all paused for a moment from our task to watch our super guest mount up and ride off into the night. Just before dawn, we began to get reports of a rider who had cartwheeled in the silt beds some 50 miles to the north of us. In no time, the radio rumor mill had the guy in the chopper on his way to San lgnacio. Word had it he was bleeding badly from a head injury, he supposedly had a couple of broken ribs, a possible broken leg and multiple minor injures. Two or three hours later, a bike pulls into our pit. It's one of our riders, and he comes to a stop and falls over with the bike on top of his leg. The guys race over, lift the bike off of him and sit him up. It's the human canon ball; he is a Japanese guy, maybe 135 pounds soaking wet. He's covered in his own blood. One of his fingers is sticking out at 45 degrees to his hand. He's holding his ribs, it looks like he has a broken leg; he can barely stand. One of our guys is an EMT and he sets the guy’s finger and puts a splint on it. He takes a drink of water, and the crew tries to talk him into staying, but he speaks no English. He keeps pointing to a wristband that has the number 16 on it. We are the 14th pit in a chain of 20 pits set 50 miles apart. The rider's wristband indicates he is supposed to get off at number 16, 100 miles down course. He refuses to stay. One of his friends is there waiting for the bike. One of the guys starts his bike for him, but the rider can't swing his broken leg over the seat, so the guys get him a milk crate and he is the most grateful man in the world. He situates his twisted carcass atop the bike as the crew holds him up and off he goes into the post dawn dust. Two and a half hours later, we hear a radio relay say that the Japanese rider made his pit, got off the bike, sat down and passed out cold right there.
THE GLORY OF SECOND OVERALL! No matter that the bike turned the fastest overall time at the Baja Classic, nothing can take away from what Ivan Stewart accomplished. Driving solo, he finally got the one major victory that had been eluding him for two decades plus. The 25 year quest was realized for the "Ironman", as he crossed the finish line of the 1998 Baja 1000. While no stranger to the winner’s circle of Baja's 1000 wins, a win at the "point to point" La Paz run had somehow managed to elude him. This certainly took care of that little detail. Before the race, Ivan stared wistfully into a TV camera and said, "Just once, I’d like to win the traditional Baja 1000 to La Paz." After the race, The Ironman was all smiles, knowing the missing link was now in place. And what a record he has to show! Consider: this was the 61st major race win in his 27 year career. In addition to winning three overall Baja 100 races, he has also nailed down 13 Baja 500 events! With his PPI-prepped Toyota Trophy Truck tuned to perfection, Ivan left the starting line in Santo Thomas at the crack of 9 am - the first truck off the line – sounding more like a Pro-stock drag racer, than an off-road racer. With a dust free course and clear skies in front of him – Ivan drew the number one starting position - the stage was set for the "old man" of desert racing to bring home the most coveted trophy the sport has to offer. Two positions back, sat "Lightning" Larry Ragland, in the White Lightning Chevy. For the last three years, Ragland has dominated the 1000, and was all too ready to repeat the experience at Stewart's expense. Multiple pre-runs had left Ragland with a keen familiarity with the long course, leaving many to conclude (and rightly so) that the final battle would come down to a Stewart/Ragland showdown. As the race developed, Stewart set a fast pace, pulling over five minutes on Ragland, who had difficulties getting around Dave Ashley in the Duralast/Ford Trophy Truck. By pit 1, Stewart radioed in asking for time splits between the trucks and commented: "It's running great! I can hold this pace all day". By mile 300, however, fortunes changed, and Ragland was quickly gaining ground, as Ivan reported a coolant temperature rise, a potentially race ending problem, if not resolved. With a close eye on the gauge, Stewart carried on, and Ragland continued to close the gap. By "Splash 2" (a quick pit for fuel and light installation), the problem had seemingly cured itself, and with minimal time lost in the pits, Stewart was quickly on his way. Quite often, perfectly sound vehicles will start running hot when they’re in a "trailing wind" situation, that is, with a stiff breeze behind them, which slows the flow of air down through the radiator. Once pointed into a normal breeze, everything returns to normal. Moments later, Ragland flashed by the pits in hot pursuit of the Ironman, who was now sporting his rack of night lights. Darkness quickly was approaching and the terrain began to turn hostile. At night, racers charge through a tunnel created by their lights, and veering off the marked and beaten course, even by a few feet, can spell disaster. Within 100 miles, Stewart wasted a tire, sidelining the Toyota for a semi-quick tire change. Being a solo driver, Stewart worked alone to repair the limping truck, and could only watch as Ragland closed the gap and built a lead of his own. Once ahead, Ragland cranked up the throttle to put as much lead as possible on Stewart, during his downtime. Unfortunately the move backfired, as Larry lost control of his big Chevy on a corner and took up the environmentally correct practice of "Tree Hugging." The tree won, and Larry came in a distant second in that skirmish. Larry’s truck was beat up and ugly from the encounter, but structurally sound. Ivan, now re-tired, regained the lead and then some as Ragland and company extracted the big Chevy from it's leafy bondage With darkness over the peninsula, and Hella HID's lighting the way, Stewart continued putting distance on Ragland and the increasingly smaller field.

Continued

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