Ride-Net Baja 500 update

SCORE Baja 500 Prequel

Apr. 01, 2001 By Mike Hobbs
Honda's XR650R is now the official Baja 500 Ride-Net race bike for 2001.  We're not using the term "Race Bike" loosely either, we used it because we meant it!  With the help of off road racing professionals, the mild mannered stock Honda will be transformed before your eyes into a true race bike.   

To appease WR fans out there, let me explain why we choose the Honda XR650R over the Yamaha WR426 for the Baja 500.

The DH 1 skid plate is an absolute must for the terrain of Baja.

While the WR426 is a fine machine, it just wasn't up to snuff in a few areas.  First of all, it's only 26 more cc's then last years WR.  Sure the added displacement will help the bike down low where it needs it, and it will give it a bit more top end humph, this still isn't enough.  Even with a gearing change when you get the WR426 close to triple digit speeds, the motor is extremely busy.  Zinging it for 500 miles in the 9,000-RPM range might just be too much for the small power plant.  Also giving away 224 cc's in an open class race just doesn't make sense.  Think of it this way; if we raced the WR426 we would be handing our competition almost a one full bike advantage.  By that I mean 224 cc's is like having a spare MX bike in reserve.  Of course things don't translate that simple, but you get the idea.  Then there's stability, the WR's seem to get twitchy at high speed.  Of course the GPR stabilizer would help calm its erratic behavior, but why start with a disadvantage to begin with?  

"Mike Young from Big Gun Exhaust asked us where we'd be testing the XR before the Baja 500. After telling him that we would be trainning and testing in the desert of Southern California he sent us a Race Series Pipe and Quiet Series Pipe. Big Gun wants to keep riding areas open and strongly suggested that we use the Race Pipe only when riding closed course tracks."

Our main reason for lollygagging about selecting the XR in the first place was its perceived excess weight.  Even though the bike weighs more then the WR426 (by about 9 pounds), it sure doesn't feel like it.  Reasons for feeling lighter might be because of a lower center of gravity.  From looking at the XR, the engine is compact but that's probably only part of the reason.  It could have something to do with the coolant reservoir being mounted down by the skid plate. Maybe the aluminum frame has something to do with it!  Don't know for sure, but I can tell you this, after putting some miles in on the bike, it really feels much like my Yamaha WR 400 weight wise.  Heck, even XR650R owners call them BRP or "Big Red Pig" for the not so politically correct.  After we get more time on the bike and if it turns out to be a pig we'll let you know.  As of right now it seems to be all hype. 

New Rider added

My vision while putting our Baja 500 team together was to make it a truly Ride-Net staff team.  Kevin and myself were originally going to run the 500 miles ourselves.  But, after some thought, we decided to bring in one more rider.  We almost brought in a wringer just to insure that we'd place well.  After milling it over it was decided this just wasn't right.  If we're going to call it a Ride-Net staff team, then by god that's what it has to be.  Pat Chicas (ORC CEO) and Fidel "don't ask me to wrench on it" Gonzales also ride and work for ORC.  Pat is a co-driver in a race truck for the 500 and Fidel is the official ORC photographer.  Pat's saying, "with age get a cage" held true and he declined to get out of the truck and on the bike.  As luck would have it, Fidel couldn't resist the temptation of racing the Baja 500.  He'll still get pictures of the 500, but if they seem blurry you'll know why.  Who knows, maybe he'll mount a camera on his helmet or something.

Incredible amounts of usable torque and power, Big-Gun has it down.

Sponsors Added

In addition to Big Gun Exhaust and DH Racing, we've picked up IMS, the popular fuel tank manufacturer.  Along with the fuel cell we'll run their graphics and foot pegs.  Some interesting facts that most folks don't know about IMS is that they work closely with Honda designing products.  In fact, Honda's Johnny Campbell designed IMS's foot pegs for the XR650R.  IMS has also told us that their new graphics won't bubble up and off like others do.  Using an exclusive 3M adhesive that is unavailable to others is the reason for this.  Also added, is Twin Air "air filters".  We'd like to welcome our new sponsors and thank them for there support.  As we go along we'll comment on the durability of products with the ultimate test, 500 miles of barren Baja abuse!

Factory Support!

" The DH1 chain guide and skid plate are simple bolt on protection items. Baja offers a wide range of terrain that will destroy OEM parts. From the looks of the stock skid plate and chain guide, they'd be the first things to break."

Honda America off road boss man, Bruce Ogilvie has, agreed to give us a hand in setting up and pitting our '01 Honda XR650R.  Bruce is also the man that for the most part, designed the XR and he also took 2nd place in the Baja 2000, with the only vehicle ahead of him being that of Johnny Campbell, his prot?g?.  If you're going to race Baja, especially on a Honda, there's no one else you'd want in your corner besides Bruce.  Because we are racing as sportsmen, we'll clue you in on the hot set up for the XR.  Although we reserve the right to hold things back at times, just in case our competitors read this, all is fair in racing!

Lines Up, Shoots...and No SCORE!

We've contacted SCORE regarding information about the 2001 Baja 500.  At the time of this writing SCORE could not provide us with info.  Hopefully, one of our spy's out there will shoot me an email with course info.  As you can tell, this isn't just a 500-mile play ride in Baja to us.  Do we have a chance to win?  It's doubtful, but we are sure going to try and place in the top ten!

Until next month, Mike Hobbs, wrenching on the XR.

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