Honda Sets Records at Tecate SCORE Baja 1000The Honda Off-Road Team rose to the challenge of the stiffest competition it had faced in many years by setting records at the 37th annual Tecate SCORE Baja 1000. For lead rider Johnny Campbell, it marked his eighth consecutive Baja 1000 overall win, extending the streak he holds over legendary Larry Roeseler’s four in a row from 1988-1991. (L.R. does, however, get credit for 13 overalls–10 on a bike and his latest one this year in the Class 1 car he shared with Troy Herbst.) For Steve Hengeveld, it marked his fourth overall victory (third consecutive), in addition to a Class 21 (250cc) win in 1996. For new recruit Kendall Norman, it marked a victorious Baja 1000 debut. In addition, the Campbell/Hengeveld duo now have won 10 SCORE races in a row, Honda has 15 overall victories in the 1000 (Husqvarna is second with 11), and this ended up being the fastest Baja 1000 ever, with the winning trio averaging 63.51 miles per hour in the 1013.6-mile dash from Ensenada to La Paz that took them 15 hours, 57 minutes and 37 seconds.Having drawn the first starting position, Campbell got the team off to a quick lead, only to find Mike Childress passing him about 30 miles into the race, coming from a minute back in the number three starting slot. Campbell tucked in behind, content to let fellow XR650R racer Childress blaze the way. However, Childress fell in San Matias Wash, with Campbell quick to take advantage and scoot past into the lead temporarily with Childress storming by once again. After Childress slid off the road some 250 miles into the race, Campbell put the number 1X Honda back into the lead for good.After Campbell’s 381-mile lead-off stint, 19-year-old Norman held his own for 206 miles before handing off to Hengeveld, who saw day turn into night in his 427-mile section.”I was more nervous today,” Campbell admitted. “Maybe it was [from] starting first. We’ve had big successes. I’ve been doing it for so many years I’m just wondering when I’ll get beat.”Hengeveld said, “It was a great race, very fast,” then went on to add, “We thought we’d be slower, actually.”The factory-backed KTM team ended up second overall in 16:22:12 in its return to Baja. This time, veteran Scot Harden and his three co-riders—Christopher Blais, Andy Grider and Kellon Walch, all of whom are part of the Red Bull KTM Dakar team—chose to go head to head with the dominant Honda effort, though with a twist. Instead of the 950 twin they’d raced last year simply as prep for Dakar, the KTM team employed the works LC4 Dakar 700cc single engine configuration. The team also ditched the Dakar fuel tank in favor of a smaller 5.8-gallon set-up, including a small sub-tank mounted below the airbox (with its quick-change K&Ns). That gave them about 25 miles more range between pits than the Red Riders, a strategy that potentially cut several valuable minutes from their overall time since they’d need to pit fewer times.After starting eighth, Grider quickly got the big orange bike into third overall, but the only other team they’d be able to bag was the Childress/Chuck Dempsey/Mouse McCoy trio. Still, they seemed fairly satisfied with runner-up in their first full-on Baja effort, with finisher Blais saying, “We got a bad batch of fuel on the last pit, and I barely made it [to La Paz]. I slowed up the last 60 miles to make sure I made it. If it would’ve been five more miles I don’t think I would’ve finished.”We did try to win. We needed a little bit of luck, and we didn’t get it, but we came in second and that’s not bad. I’m going to win this race someday,” he promised. And with only one other vehicle beating them, that’s certainly a possibility.A team of formidable 40-year-olds ended up taking third overall motorcycle (and first in Class 40) with Louie Franco, Jeff Kaplan, Jim O’Neal and Tim Withers covering the distance in 17:33:13 on their XR650R. That just edged Class 30 winners Gerardo Rojas, Manuel Santana and Sergio Vega who finished in 17:35:23 on their XR. Class 40 entrants Lukas Lundin and P.G. Lundmark rounded out the top five on their XR in 18:22:11.Other class winners included Joe Desrosiers/Julian Guerra/Jess Sharpe in Class 21 on their YZ250 in 23:25:00 and the Class 50 “dream team” of Chris Haines/Jack Johnson/Malcolm Smith in 20:14:04 on their XR. It marked the 10th consecutive class win at the 1000 for Haines and his 11th since 1987. It was also the 10th class win (including four overall victories, all on bikes) for Johnson. Smith, 63, has eight Baja 1000 class wins including three overalls on a bike and four overalls in a buggy. He quipped, “I was thinking, `What’s an old man like me doing out here?’ After a few turns, I said, `Oh yeah, now I remember.’ “Robert Barnum won the inaugural SCORE/Malcolm Smith IronRider award for motorcycle and ATV riders who choose to solo the 1000. Eleven attempted it, and seven finished, with Barnum posting a time of 23:00:14 on his XR650R, good enough for fifth in Class 22 (Open) out of 12 starters (including one other IronRider competitor).In all, a record 198 teams finished this edition of the world’s most famous desert race; 284 started, coming from 31 U.S. states and 11 countries. Only the 1992 field of 307 was larger. It was the 25th anniversary of SCORE’s first peninsula run and the 16th time the race has finished in La Paz.