Colton Udall gets 1X back after Baja 1000 win

Colton Udall makes the final corner to bring the 5X Ox Motorsports Honda into the finish first, both in the race and in the championship after more than 16 grueling hours of racing, splitting time with teammates Justin Jones and Mark Samuels.Photo by Mark Kariya

After compiling 243 points via two wins, a second and a ninth in the four rounds leading up to the 48th Bud Light SCORE Baja 1000--the fifth and final round of the SCORE World Desert Championship--Colton Udall simply had to finish respectably in order to retake the coveted 1X plate signifying the fastest motorcycle team in SCORE. Even better for him, teammate Mark Samuels held second in points on the second Ox entry, 243-206, so either way, Ox Motorsports Honda had the championship essentially locked up.

Defending champion Ricky Brabec and the Bonanza Plumbing/THR Motorsports/Precision Concepts Kawasaki crew had suffered through a rough season trying to defend the 1X with lots of bad luck keeping them to 195 points via a 4-3-1-5 record. And with Brabec now contracted to Honda and being in Europe for Dakar Rally obligations until a couple days before the 1000, he was legally unable to ride the team’s KX450F so the three others had to carry on without him. Those three were Max Eddy, Jr., Justin Morgan and David Pearson, whom THR had lured out of retirement just for this, the granddaddy of desert races.

Interestingly, the two squads took different approaches and not just in the brands of machines. THR relied on more conservative race pace, reasoning, as Morgan said, “The whole thing was, we really wanted to be solid because we haven’t really been solid this year besides at the 500 (their sole win this season). We just really did a lot of homework and put a lot of emphasis on hitting the VCPs (Virtual Checkpoints; missing one incurred a 10-minute penalty), not speeding and just keeping it really clean.”

Justin Morgan gets the THR KX450F pointed south for a run along the Pacific about 160 miles into the race. He and teammates Max Eddy, Jr. and David Pearson ended up second after a conservative race.Photo by Mark Kariya

Conversely, Udall and company went all out for the win. Samuels declared, “We definitely wanted to win the 1000. Out of all of them, that’s the one you want to win. Obviously you want to have the championship and the 1X plate for next year, but we wanted to be the first ones across the line here.”

Despite missing two VCPs, Udall, Samuels and Justin Jones took the lead almost 200 miles into the 821-mile race after being the ninth bike off the start. Jones was on the bike--having taken it from Udall at mile 130--and dicing with always-fast 41-year-old Shane Esposito when “Espo” (who’d only been able to pre-run once) hit a slick spot where silt had been the week before and got pitched off the Bremen Racing CRF450X he was sharing with Francisco Arredondo, Ryan Penhall and Roberto Villalobos.

Shane Esposito got the eventual third-place team off to a fast start and led for nearly 200 miles. Due to extenuating circumstances, he’d only been able to pre-run once and got pitched on his head, which mostly affected his second stint aboard the bike he shared with Francisco Arredondo, Ryan Penhall and Roberto Villalobos.Photo by Mark Kariya

“I wasn’t going fast--literally, third gear, slowing down for a corner, but I just went straight onto my head and side so I just sat there until everything cleared up,” Esposito said. “Luckily I only had to ride five miles before getting off, but then I rode 350 to 480, I think, and, man, I just couldn’t focus! I was just missing turns so finally I backed down and cruised.” They ended up a commendable third in an adjusted 17 hours, eight minutes and 18 seconds.

Up front, the Jones/Samuels/Udall entry controlled the race despite a few minor issues that got handled efficiently in the pits. Oh yes, the pits--both Ox Motorsports CRF450Xs made fewer pit stops because they used the bigger 4.0-gallon IMS tank instead of the usual 3.2-gallon cell.

“With the big tank and our chassis structure, it’s okay to run the big tank; our bike handles it well,” Udall pointed out. “We stretched our pits out to 70 to 99 miles.”

However, he conceded, “Now, it’s a little more strenuous on the rider because we don’t get to fuel our body and get hydrated every 45 miles, which is what I like. But the big tank [makes it so] everyone’s pitting and you’re just making time up every time, as long as you’re smart in the pit.”

Fewer pit stops also means fewer support personnel required so the benefits outweighed the handicaps, they felt.

Udall also had the rough final stretch at night from San Felipe and clocked into the finish with an adjusted time of 16:29:08 to seal the championship and win the 1000 for the third time. (It also marked Honda’s 25th Baja 1000 triumph, and was the second for Samuels and the first for Jones.)

Ox Motorsports celebrates not only the race win but an unofficial 1-2 in final series points. Left to right: Ray Dal Soglio, Brian Adams, Mark Samuels and Daymon Stokie of the fourth-place 3X bike with Justin Jones and Colton Udall of the winning 1X team. (Samuels logged a lot of miles on race day, doing stints aboard both bikes.)Photo by Mark Kariya

Afterwards, Jones commented on the challenge of coming back from his dislocated hip after a head-on with a spectator’s vehicle at the Baja 500: “Excruciatingly apprehensive. It means a lot to be safe and sound.”

Asked to compare winning the 1000 to winning the FIM Junior World Trophy at last year’s ISDE, he replied, “They’re very similar [emotions]. I’ve made career goals for myself: win an ISDE gold medal which, technically, I’ve won two of them; the Baja 1000; a WORCS championship; and also qualifying for an AMA National [motocross]. The last thing on that list is a WORCS championship.”

The THR trio came in second in a flawless 16:54:28 with Pearson noting, “Going into it, we knew that Colton was going to hop on the bike and yoke it like he always does. Our game plan was almost to be a little conservative and not crash the bike and just get to the finish. We didn’t tip the bike over all day long.

“We kind of stuck to our game plan; we didn’t let it get to us when Colton passed us.

“We came up a little short, but we had fun.”

By finishing fourth in 18:34:49, the second Ox Motorsports team of Brian Adams/Ray Dal Soglio/Mark Samuels/Daymon Stokie unofficially claimed second in final series points, giving the whole team more reason to celebrate. Unofficially, THR finishes the series in third.

Other class winners included: Alan Cameron/Tim Fitzpatrick/Travis Flateau/Grant Stately/Chad Thornton/Mark Weirich in Limited (449cc and under) Pro Motorcycle (21:01:22); Chuck Dempsey/Kevin Murphy/Jim O’Neal/Jason Trubey/Aaron Tuck/Mark Winkelman in Class 30 (21:08:55); Louie Franco/David Glass/Steve Herstad/Robert Lightfeldt/Jason Miller/Colie Potter/Sterlyn Rigsby/Lendon Smith in Class 40 (21:22:22); Kris Goolsby/Bob Johnson/Mike Johnson/Eric McKenna/Marc Prince/Doug Smith/Steve Williams in Class 50 (22:02:00); Mark Force/Greg Hawks/Richard Jackson/Robert Koch/Jim Libby/Bill Nichols/Bob Wadlow in Class 60 (26:32:27); Boe Huckins in SCORE Ironman (27:29:23); and father/son duo Lawrence Janesky/Tanner Janesky in Sportsman Motorcycle (25:39:28).

Grant Stately (shown) and teammates Alan Cameron, Tim Fitzpatrick, Travis Flateau, Chad Thornton and Mark Weirich won Limited (449cc and under) Pro Motorcycle, making them the first non-Open Pro and eighth bike overall on their 350 XC-FW.Photo by Mark Kariya