In the Baja world, Johnny Campbell is a legend. And he is no slouch at Rally racing either, with a Nevada Rally win to his credit and a top-ten in his first and only Dakar attempt back on the Dark Continent in 2001. Now having transitioned over to a team owner operator of JCR Honda and actually sending one of his riders Quinn Cody over to compete in the bikes, Campbell was offered the co-pilot, or navigator seat in Robby Gordon’s Speed Energy Hummer. While out in the Nevada desert tuning up on his navigation skills we pinned Campbell down for just a minute.
DR: How did the deal with Robby Gordon come about?JC: It was a cold call the first of December where Robby asked me if I’d like to Navigate for him.DR: Bit of a last minute deal eh?JC: For sure, I had no plans to go and now I’m telling the guy how to win from the passenger seat. It wasn’t even on my radar and I had even opted out of going to support Quinn but times are tight and so is money for racing like this. Kellon Welch, his regular driver got a new job and was not able to go.DR: Have you ever navigated in a car before?JC: Negative. And the first time I’ll do it is off the starting line of the 2012 Dakar but I’m confident in my skills.DR: How is it going to be different from being on the bike?JC: The biggest thing is that I won’t have to operate the machine and somehow make my navigational thoughts vocal. I also have to work as team as opposed to an individual rider.DR: Do you really think you can sit next to that guy? I mean bike riders are a bit of control freaks and we all know what Gordon is like?
JC: If anybody can do it, I can do it, we may be like water and oil but I really think it will be a good balance. There is no doubt about his driving skills with the results to back it up, he is always being in the hunt. I’m not concerned about his driving because he is experienced in going fast and he has five years of experience in the Dakar.DR: JCR also has Quinn Cody racing this year, what do you expect out of him?JC: Our goal was to improve the Honda CRF450X in all areas as a rally bike. We really worked on suspension and chassis for the additional weight and we improved the handling feel of the bike from our Baja bikes. We worked with Bones at Pro Circuit to really get it tightened up. Handling was improved by lowering a lot of the navigation equipment, so it is a way better bike this year. This year this there is a rule about changing motors and there is a time penalty for switching so running a 450 like that it will be interesting to see the strategies. We gave our bike more power but we also feel it will be tough to go the whole rally on a single motor. Overall the bike will give him a better fighting chance to try and get on the podium.DR: Are you going to be driving a car in the Dakar in the future?JC: I hope so. Pulling the trigger and doing this will hopefully open some doors and I think the exposure is going to be great. The experience is going to be great.DR: How do you expect to do?JC: Robby expects to win and I’m giving it 100% to make sure we are at least on the podium.