The team headed down south to Ensenada early Sat morning, well everyone but Greg was able to come down. Greg had to find a replacement driver to chase him as his father(Gary) fell off a ladder on Thursday and fractured his hip and back. Hopefully Gary heals fully and is back shortly to help us continue to the chase the repeat. So the first stop we made was at Splash to meet up with Geoff Hill from BajaBound Insurance for a quick lunch where we picked up satellite phones and discuss race day logistics. After leaving Splash we headed south to our home base in a town near La Bufadora where we rented a house for the week. First order was to put the Race Bike in the house to make sure it was protected and handle some last-minute prepping. The biggest thing about Baja is planning in my opinion. Understanding what you want to get done and how to do it is the key. The best part is rerunning! No pressure, no real worries and you get to see what Baja is really all about.
Sunday May 27th
With all of the riders present, we headed off to our perspective sections to start our homework. Greg was able to secure a driver(His Son Burke) and make his way down to Valley T which was a 10hr drive. We based our sections on past races, and who would suit each section best. Ryan would start the race as he has done in the past, Andy would ride the same loop he just did for the Baja 250, Greg would ride Mikes Sky Loop, and I would handle the coast and finish. We thought this would give us the best chance to win. Sunday was a breeze! Everyone got out to see their sections for the first time and logged some decent miles. Seeing how we had to handle both sides of the Rugged Baja Peninsula we decided to stay a couple of nights in the sections we were responsible for. With the help of Baja Nikki, we were able to secure a couple of rooms in Valley T and I stayed down south at Pirates Cove.
Monday May 28th
Probably the longest day for most of us. While Andy and Nic Garvin were able to run the Borrego loop a couple of times, Greg rode Mike’s loop and Crossover trail. I started down south and rode to Ojos to meet up with Ryan and Brandon (THE 0935). While I had a great day on the bike and made good time up the coast, we ran into a problem on the way home. We decided to stop for some food at the Famous Los Carbones in south Ensenada where we got to see a couple of friends to wish them luck and eat a delicious El Pastor Potato. As we walked out to the truck, which was literally out front, we noticed someone had broken into the back window of Ryan’s truck. Unfortunately, they stole Ryan’s gear bag, THE 0935’s bag and my Ogio Flight Vest. Losing several items that we needed for race day, is a huge bummer. We reported the incident to the cops but we figured the stuff was long gone. The worst part about it was that Ryan had his knee braces in his bag and THE 0935 had his Passport in his bag. With some quick thinking and a few calls, we had a decent plan in place. Eric Yorba (one of the best all-around guys) hooked us up with Vey’s Powersports in El Cajon. I called Bell Helmets and PCI radios directly and they immediately jumped into action to get us what we needed for race day(THANK YOU). Ryan would then drive back to the US and get a new rear window and other supplies. Since THE 0935 lost everything he had with him, they had to make a stop at Walmart to restock his goods!
Tuesday May 29th
The Boy’s headed back out to their sections while Ryan and THE 0935 went to the states. Thankfully is was early in the week and we were able replace everything that was stolen. I strapped on my backup camelback and headed back to a small section to do a couple of times. Then we all regathered again at the house to figure out our game plan for the following day. Nic Garvin who had helped Andy for the last couple days, said he would like to come down to help me out in my section. Since I had basically preran all week by myself, I thought it would be a good idea and a fun time. We loaded everything back up and headed down south again. Staying at Pirates again, we enjoyed a great dinner and even better bacon wrapped Shrimp. After dinner, some bench racing and making fun of ourselves, we hit the sack.
Wednesday May 30th
Nic and I got up early and put our gear on since the plan was to ride straight from the hotel. My dad got the van ready and took off to the first spot where he would give us gas. We waited a few minutes and started up the coast. It was cold and misty that morning so luckily, we had our sweet FXR riding vest to keep us warm. The 1st 30 miles was super-fast and fun. Not much you can do but pound down the course so it was pretty easy to make it to our Gas refill. As we pulled up to Nic’s van, I noticed a couple of buddies that I have either raced with or against sitting there relaxing. What’s funny is they left about 30-45 mins prior, but I guess with the moist air, they didn’t want us to see some possible lines there were thinking about. After a couple minutes of playing the game, Nic and I decided to take off. A couple miles into the hills we notice them coming up the trail and turning their bikes off. Guess we are about to play cat and mouse. While I could care less if they saw what I was looking at or thinking about as possible race day advantages, they were very coy. They would get back in front then pull off and hide as we would continue on the trail. This lasted about 40 miles and was actually quite funny. Then we reached the Erendira Sand wash, which anyone that knows Baja, can be a little stretchy as locals sometimes put boobie traps in the wash to make things a little more exciting. As we stopped to look around, Nic noticed the bead on the rear wheel had let go. Somehow a small little 3” piece of the tire had come off the bead and wouldn’t go back on. After a few calls, Ryan and the rest of the team came down to meet us at Coyote Cals to swap my rear wheel. After getting it swapped, Greg/Burke/Andy unloaded their bikes for a little fun ride down the coast. Nic and I took off first and stopped for lunch at Acambaro. After lunch, Nic and I took off again for the last section through the Urapaun. Riding the Hwy back to the house was fun but cold as we got closer to town. Once we got home, we had an awesome team dinner. We talked about getting through Tech the next day early and back out to see the start/finish section.
Thursday May 31st
We planned to have a couple of people ride the start/finish so we loaded 3 bikes up and headed to town for Tech. Things were a little different this year as they told us to tech bikes on Thursday. It was both nice and weird at the same time. There weren’t a ton of normally packed fans there as it was just for Bikes/Quads/UTV’s. It was nice because it was much easier to get through but weird because it wasn’t the normal circus that we are used too. Anyway, we got through tech and then hit the last spot for bike inspection. The guy going over the list is very pleased with everything until he notices that we didn’t wire tie the spokes. Luckily TBT racing had his van literally 50ft away and we were able to be johnny on the spot and wire then. It was actually was a huge laugh since these weren’t even the tires/wheels were we planning to use on race day. We had put these wheels on so we didn’t ruin our race tires getting the race bike out of the town. We tied the wheels up anyway and got out of there with ease. Ryan/Nic and I geared up and rode out of town. We got the bikes out to Urapuan again were we planned to test the race bike and make sure our last minute adjustments were solid. Having TBT racing as part of our team is a huge asset! Tuner was on hand and able to go over everything to make sure all of us were good on the bike. After about an hour or so we were all dialed in and ready to go.
Friday June 1st
After Nic and Ryan got the race bike all cleaned up and ready for action, Greg and Andy went to see their sections one last time. This was a rest day for me, so I lazily got things packed up to head back south. I decided to stay down south to avoid the construction traffic on Hwy 1 so I didn’t risk being late for Ryan’s 3:30 start time on Saturday. Once everything was packed and everyone was back to their respective spots, I hugged everyone on our team and took off back to Pirates! Ryan got some sleep, Greg and Andy/ Tuner went East to Valley T. and Nic and Rachel/ Phonso went out to Ojos.
Sat June 2nd Race Day
Ryan and THE 0935 headed to the start line around 2:45am. With the scheduled start to be at 3:30am we knew being the 20th or so bike off the line we would be leaving around 3:50am. Ryan started 2nd off the line in the 30+ pro moto class behind the 360x team, which beat us at the Baja 250 7 weeks ago. There were around 9 other bikes in our class that started behind Ryan. Knowing a couple of fast ones were near the end, Ryan had to maintain the gap and try to close down on Kevin Murphy on the 360x bike. Ryan did a great job and ran smooth! Our 1st visual Nic in Ojos reported Ryan in 2nd and had a good gap to 3rd. same at Race mile 70 where Brandon (THE 0935) would gas for our 1st pit. Ryan briefly had the lead as the 360x bike stopped 1st for gas but once back on the course and in dust, the 360x took a chance and got around us again. Ryan rode smart knowing who he was giving the bike to and just decided to bring the bike to Andy at Pit 2 safe and in one piece. After a quick pit to take off the Baja Designs Dual Pro’s and put the Squadron back on, Andy took off about 4 mins down from the lead bike (12th bike overall after Ryan crushed his section). There’s a reason they call him Fast Andy! All he did in his section was pick guys off and put time on our closest competitors. Somewhere around 40 miles into Andy’s section he was able to make his way around the 360x and then start to pull away. Fast Andy rode his butt off and bought the bike around Borrego in 1st with a 9 min gap and now up to 9th overall. Ryan then hoped back on for 30 miles of the famous Borrego/San Mathias whoops. These huge whoops can take the best of them out but Ryan rode solid and brought the bike back to the main pit for a full service. TBT and Nic Garvin were ready and swapped out our GOLDENTYRE GT333 rear and gas in under a min. Did a quick inspection and Greg hopped on and was off. Greg knows the Mikes section better than most but what he didn’t know was the 360x bike was putting their best rider on for the same section so he was going to have his hands full. Greg did what Greg does and held it wide open on the fast roads around mikes. He is really good in this stuff so he knew he just had to keep it the rubber side down in the most technical section and bring the bike to me in the lead. The bummer part for Greg was that he had to pass some Sportsman Bikes and Quads that were given a short cut 40 miles prior to his section. That meant there were about 15 people that got infront of us that shouldn’t be there. Nonetheless, Greg did a great job and got the bike in unharmed to me at RM374. As I got on the bike, I couldn’t tell what the gap was but knew we had the lead and just needed to ride my race. I knew my section really good. I had ridden it at least 5 times and felt that I would be hard to catch on the coast. So I took off like a bat out of hell and was screaming down the coast. Hitting all the lines I got to the 1st visual which was Geoff (BajaBound Insurance) near Colonet. It’s funny because you come down a sand wash were I was going about 75 mph, and all of a sudden I see someone in a spot where no one should be so I backed off the throttle (Because in Mexico- if you see something or someone around the course that shouldn’t be there, if could be a boobie trap) and then realized it was Geoff and then blew past him and the pit where the 360x team was pitting. Their rider was standing on the course expecting me to be their guy but I wasn’t. It made me realize that maybe the gap was a lot closer that I wanted. With the next 30 miles being slower and more technical I knew I had to push. Heading up into the hills above Colonet and Erendira I felt good, until about RM412 when I hit something that kicked me and the bike into a tree. As I rushed back to the bike unharmed, I noticed that I had a branch stuck to the ride side. I quickly inspected the IMS wing tank and saw some minor scrapes but no serious damage. I hopped on the bike to realize that I wrapped the hand guard around the front brake and couldn’t go anywhere. Since I didn’t have my normal tool pack which was stolen on Monday, I tried feverishly to bend it off the front brake. Not being able to do so, I tried to push the bike off the course and get to a spot that I could quickly bend it back or brake it off. Just then, I see bike 100x followed by 360x. Damn there went our lead! At this point I was so mad at myself that I dropped the bike on the ground and began jumping on the front brake lever in hopes it would either brake or re-bend the hand guard. After several attempts and thoughts of losing the race because of my mistake, I jumped high enough to probably dunk a basketball and bam! The Hand guard broke free. I quickly ripped the plastic part off and pushed the rest of it down I could use the front brake again. Jumped on the bike, fired it up and off I went. I was so mad at myself that I started pushing like the finish line was 50 miles away. Then it clicked, everything started becoming easy to hit with the bike and I was feeling myself starting to get into one of those grooves that you know are good. By RM 420 I started seeing dust, so I continued to push forward. After about 2 mins, I was on the back wheel of the 360x bike and trying to find a safe spot to pass in the 2 track whoops with rocks in between them. I finally saw a spot and went for it jumping them past them and took off. About a mile later on a large turn I looked back and didn’t see dust. I knew then that I needed to ride smooth as I still had 150 miles to go. Settling back into a pace I felt was good I rode fast and smooth through Erendira and the Santo Tomas trails. Mag 7 was schedule to pit us around 444. They were a huge help to us this year as they have been in the past. I pulled into my pit and the poor gas guy was on the wrong side of it. While trying to run across the road to grab the can, all I see is a guy falling and sliding head first into home plate (He was safe). He quickly popped up grabbed the gas and dumped it. Off I went to Santo Tomas. Hoping he was OK, all I could do was laugh at how hard he was trying for us. Once I hit Acambaro I knew I had 40 more miles that would be tough. At this point, I was feeling good after getting some gas and energy gels at my last pit. From there, I pushed for 20 or so miles as I started seeing more dust. I was concerned with being caught from behind, knowing the 360x and now 333x where in 2nd and 3rd and probably had fresh guys for the last 40/70 miles. I knew my pace and speed would be good. We planned to put Ryan back on the bike for the last 30 miles if the race was close but as I passed several of the last remaining sportsman, I knew we had it won as long as I could keep it on 2 wheels. I rode the last section strong and came into the last pit ready to either get off or continue on. I pulled into the pit and Ryan was there ready. TBT filled the bike and we discussed who would finish. Ryan didn’t look all that excited so I said I got this and I’ll see you at the finish line. Off I went for the last 30 miles which were basically boring. I think about 10 miles of it was open to speed and the other 20 miles was Speed Zone so I knew we had it wrapped up. I just waved and gave thumbs up to all the great fans that lined the course. I actually felt bad for some as they were expecting to see everyone flying past them, but nope it was a 37 mph thumbs up. We ended up crossing the finish line in 13hrs and 58 mins 1st in Class and 7th overall Bike. It was like a dream come true! Being on my actual Birthday, it didn’t feel real! We had won the 50th Baja 1000 in November and here we were winning the 50th Baja 500 7 month later. Our 300xteam did everything right that June 2nd and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of this.
There are a ton of people to thank. Our Family and friends deserve a ton of credit for allowing/supporting us to do this, and to all the Sponsors that have stepped up to help us afford and capture this. To the friends that spent their own money to come down and hang with us, pit, and chase. THANK YOU! You guys/gals rock. Baja Bound Insurance ( Geoff Hill) for supporting us with everything you do. DD Racing for providing us some unbelievable Yamaha WR450F bikes from Simi Valley Cycles. BELL Helmets/FXR Moto/Flow Vision/Sidi Boots for making us look good and keeping us safe. IMS for the Tanks and Pegs. Goldentyre and Nitro Mousses for the wheels, FMF Racing, Dasa Racing for the power. TBT Racing for the Suspension. DT1/Mika Metals for the Drive Train and airflow. Rad Custom Graphics our Shirts/Hats. Baja Designs for the lights. GPR Stabilizer. Fasst Co. For the Bars. Guts for the Seats. 31thirtydesigns for the looks. BRP Moto for Chain Guides. Works Connection for the goodies, and Costa Rica Unlimited and White Knuckle Grips for the support.
Now on the TJ250 and Baja 1000. Bringing back the 30x and looking to repeat at Class 30+ Pro Champions.