1st Place Pro 40 Class
7th overall Bike to finish
Click on the link below to see the article from Cycle News!
The result is what we wanted, but the way to get there was like anything in Baja, not easy. Like any race in Mexico the planning starts months in advance and the prep for the bike begin the week after we won the Baja 1000 in November of 2021. Ryan Liebelt and Ted Bergen torn the bike done and refreshed most of the parts and dressed the race bike back up and got it ready for the brutal and toughest part of Baja; San Felipe!!!! With the big 400x on the bike going into 2022, we knew we were going to have a large target on our back and would need to be on top of our game. Our plan was crafted and we headed down early last week to start prerunning, Ryan and I took one of the guys riding the 300x bike out early and showed him his section, which ended up being a blessing in hindsight. Our week continued without to many problems prerunning, each day we would get up early and out on course (Snack on Baja Jerky) to try and beat the trophy trucks and traffic from them, it seems these days with the additional of the Spec Class and large UTV turnout, there are more and more people out there tearing up the course and we knew we needed to know which was the best way to go. It’s sometimes a bit scary, as these guys with big budgets and cars go backwards on the course often to try and see a different wash or line. I know I personally saw it happen again about 3 times, and I only saw about 25 people the entire week my sections. So we know it’s best to be out there early and be done early. But being done early has it’s advantages as well; it allowed us to get by Registration early and tech most of the stuff we need to, so we don’t have to stand all day in line at Contingency. Another thing I wish they would change is allowing the bikes to push past most of the cars and trucks.
Contingency day was actually pretty easy this year however for us, with Brandon Wright (750X- Ironmanning) our teammate from past years staying in town, his Chase driver was able to get up around 5:30am and put his bike in line to hold our spot. So we rolled up just before it opened and only waited about 45 mins to get onto stage and say hi to the guys/gals doing interviews. After we completed this task we had brunch and went about our day either relaxing, or like I did headed out to check my section one last time. It seems the last day is the best day to see what lines are created and what has changed the most. I am glad I did head out as I ended up riding the start/finish area a couple of times to see which way would be the best after it was torn up. once I saw that, I headed out to Zoo Road (Famous area for spectating and Chasing for teams) and started my section out there. I made it a couple miles up the wash and found two gentleman walking backwards on the course. As I stopped I noticed they had a RZR just up the road, so I figured something was wrong and stopped. After a couple of minutes of discussion and finding out they have broken something on their RZR, they told me to continue on and they would be fine getting it back to the road. I got the guys wife number and told them I would contact them on the backside of the mountain range I had to go through, so make sure they knew to come back and get them. Well about 1.5miles later in a rocky section, I hit a rock that wasn’t in that place all week and put a hold in my clutch cover. With oil now leaking out, I decided it was best to head back to the road. I stayed off the course and rode backwards to the guys and told them I would tell people at the road to come out and help if they could. Must have been there lucky day.
After calling Ryan and waiting for about 40 mins at the road, I was able to get out safely and get back to the house for some relaxation. We had a team dinner and a quick Pit meeting with our 300x,400x and 750x teams and off to bed.
Race day always comes early, and with us scheduled to start at 6am, we know we need to get out of bed before the sun comes up. 4am wake call it was! Ryan and I both got our sweet FXR gear on and we met up with Greg Bardonnex (300x) and Andy who was riding first for them. We dropped Ryan (who was starting 4th off the line in our class and around 21st overall bike) off at the start and headed back to Zoo road where we would visual the bikes and then proceed to around RM110 to wait for them to come around. Ryan got off to a great start and actually stopped for some to swap out his Flow Vision Goggles and was sitting in 3nd place already by RM12. And knowing he would need to now ride the first 109 miles, he knew he needed to just ride smart and pace himself. Ryan did great and brought the bike to me in 2nd about 1 min off the lead. I hopped on and took off pounding course as the first part was the added section to my part that I had only seen once. Feeling out the race bike a bit, and just trying to be consistent I picked up the pace quickly to get around the bike in 1st place, a couple miles in and I saw the dust and knew I could pounce, after a quick pass I knew I needed to just push hard for a bit and try to open up a gap, the next 50 miles clicked and I rode great and brought the bike to our 3rd guy Jason Trubey around Rm170. We had planned a little different strategy than most and tried to utilize our IMS tanks advantage, so we needed to pit ourselves here and Jason and Geoff (Baja Bound Insurance) we going to meet on the corner. but like anything in Baja, sometimes things don’t always go your way. I stopped for a quick pit at Geoff’s and while they were fueling; I had a quick panic attack as I didn’t see Jason, and asked where he was. I guess they didn’t see each other since there was a lot of people on the corner. So I took off looking for Jason or figured I was just going to pound some extra miles. But about 100 ft later I saw Jason and popped back off course and swapped out. Trubey (as we call him) hopped on and does what he does crushed his section and brought the bike around the lower loop through the infamous Matomi wash while opening the gap up a bit more. With it now sitting at around 35 mins we need all I needed to do was bring it home. The last 40 miles of gnarly sand I knew I just needed to take it easy. But tell you the truth, with the awesome TBT suspension it was actually easier to jump, and hop through the sand than it was to just simply ride. So I tried to ride the fine line and get the Yamaha WR450F to the finish line in one piece.
We crossed the line as the 1st unofficial 40 Pro Bike and 7th overall (and about 4th on corrected time). And got her on stage to talk about the race, after pushing it over the other side we started the watch to see when our other bikes would come in. Well 750x also did it, Brandon brought home the win in the Ironman Pro class, and followed right behind him was our 300x finishing 2nd in that class. So all in all not a bad day. We celebrated a bit with friends in town and some dinner. (with maybe a few Margi’s and shots) and proceeded to head back to clean things up and pack to head back to the states.
A long week, a lot of miles, and a lot of FUN>>>>> Thank you to everyone that makes this happen, now on the Baja 500 in June!!!!!!