Colton Udall went through a range of emotions and decisions in one week’s time in Baja that most people won’t face in a lifetime.

Originally, the reigning champ in the SCORE World Desert Championship planned to race the fourth and final round of the series—the 49th SCORE Baja 1000—by himself in an attempt to realize his goal of becoming the first man to win the 1000 by himself.

But after several days of pre-running the 854.5-mile loop around the northern Baja California peninsula, he realized that the course was simply too rough and physically demanding for one man to maintain the pace necessary to win for close to 18 straight hours.

2016 SCORE Baja 1000
The first 300 miles included lots of riding along the Pacific Coast, though racers couldn’t afford to take in the view very long before hitting a rock or some other Baja obstacle that littered the 854.5-mile course.Photo by Mark Kariya

Naturally a bit disappointed, he made the announcement early in the week that he’d rely on Justin Jones and Mark Samuels (who’d originally been penciled in as backup only) to join him in the quest to make it a perfect four-for-four season and, thus, win the championship again.

But even that concession wasn’t enough for fate.

“I crashed down in Borrego around race mile 610-ish [while pre-running Tuesday night],” Udall shared. “As soon as I landed, I knew that I broke my collarbone. It was pretty painful. I went through pain getting home. Fortunately, I have a really good doctor and I had surgery and got it plated. I went into surgery around 3:00 the next [afternoon].”

That development, of course, dictated another change of plans.

Since SCORE rules stipulate that the Rider or Driver of Record must start or finish the race in order to be eligible for points, Udall knew he needed to get back to Ensenada and, like so many injured Riders of Record before him, at least ride the bike off the start line a few yards.

Udall shared, “It’s been nine years since I started racing in Mexico and I’ve never missed a Baja 1000. My first year I won the championship, I had a broken hand and raced through that. The only thing that works for me is that I’m there and I’m supporting my team and I have to take on different duties as a manager position. It’s time for the team to step up and the riders are ready, they’re excited.”

But with Udall unable to fulfill his previously planned riding duties, the Ox Motorsports Honda team had to do some juggling.

First, it pulled Australian Daymon Stokie off the 3X machine and onto Udall’s 1X squad, though that still left 3X with Rider of Record Ray Dal Soglio, Nic Garvin, Austin Meyers, Ryan Penhall and Ian Young (Udall’s younger brother, whom he recruited while laying on the couch at home Wednesday morning before surgery).

That left 1X with Justin Jones, Samuels and Stokie, all three healthy but a fourth would make things better.

How about a two-time Baja 1000 winner? Like former JCR Honda rider David Kamo?

“It just kind of fell into place,” Udall explained. “Mark went to breakfast [on Wednesday] and Rhiannon and David were at breakfast, [too]. He was like, ‘Hey, if you want to ride,’ and we were trying to piece some sections together [with a different rider lineup]. He said he wanted to ride and he took on 80 miles so it’s super-cool! I’m sure he’ll do a great job; he’s a two-time champ. He’ll have no issues.”

So, after borrowing a complete set of riding gear from Udall (right down to socks and underwear), Kamo (as well as Young) did what little pre-running they could on Wednesday afternoon, the race start on Friday morning fast approaching.

In the end, things went almost perfectly for the Ox Motorsports Honda crew. The 1X team spent most of the daylight hours fending off repeated charges from the 45X Bremen Racing/Chris Haines Motorcycle Adventure Company/Precision Concepts CRF450X ridden by Francisco Arredondo (the Rider of Record), Max Eddy, Jr., Shane Esposito, Justin Morgan, Dalton Shirey and Roberto Villalobos.

Ox Motorsports 1X & 3X at 2016 SCORE Baja 1000
It was a great day for the Ox Motorsports Honda team, its two bikes going 1-2 to keep its perfect win record for the season intact and repeat as SCORE champs. From left: Ryan Penhall, Austin Meyers, Nic Garvin, Ray Dal Soglio and Ian Young of the runner-up 3X squad and Colton Udall, Mark Samuels, Daymon Stokie, David Kamo and Justin Jones from 1X.Photo by Mark Kariya

Unfortunately for 45X, the stator reportedly went south just after the sun went down, leaving Esposito without lights as he tried to make his way over the mountains from the Pacific side, past Mike’s Sky Rancho and over to the interior loop. This was after they’d passed 1X for the lead, too, the 1X pitting for a full service as well as hanging lights.

Both 1X and 3X ended up passing the darkened bike, possibly unaware of who it was. Even Samuels didn’t realize what he was seeing when he first rode up to Esposito, saying, “I had to get [over] to the other side [of the peninsula for my next stint] to the finish. After 1X, 3X and 45X all went through, I got on my [own pre-run] bike and started riding probably 20 minutes after them. I was just cruising along and I see a bike with just a little [light from his] headlight and then I saw it was ‘Espo.’ I thought he was literally riding across [the crossover road] too to be on that [other] side, then I realized he was with his race bike!

“I [stopped and] was talking to him and he was like, ‘Can I ride with you?’ I was like, ‘Yeah!’

“So I rode with him for about 20, 25 miles I think it was to get him back to Valley T.”

The Bremen crew jumped to work, but it’d take them more than an hour to diagnose and correct the problem; that’s in addition to the time Esposito lost slowing down while he lost light then sitting by the side of the dark trail unable to find his way until Samuels showed up.

In the meantime, that left 1X and 3X to sail away basically unchallenged to the finish with Samuels taking 1X across the finish line in a total time of 18 hours, 16 minutes and 42 seconds to keep the team’s win streak unblemished and earn the right to display 1X again next season.

The 3X team made it an Ox 1-2 by being next bike to the finish in 18:52:20 while Morgan and Esposito made up time in their remaining sections to hold onto third bike overall in 19:36:10.

Max Eddy, Jr. at 2016 SCORE Baja 1000
Max Eddy, Jr., and the rest of the 45X team fought hard all day for the win, leading at several points, but after the sun went down, a bad stator left them helplessly blind in the dark and relegated them to an eventual third-place finish.Photo by Mark Kariya
Shinji & Shinosuke “Shaun” Kazama at 2016 SCORE Baja 1000
The father/son duo of Shinji (left) and Shinosuke “Shaun” Kazama teamed up in Sportsman Motorcycle and were the final official bike finishers, taking 11th in class out of 15 starters. Their time of 35:29:50 kept them on the legal side of the 36-hour time limit.Photo by Mark Kariya

Pro Moto 40 winners (riders 40 and older) Jano Montoya (Rider of Record), Gerardo Rojas Zuniga, Kirk Russell and Francisco Septien finished in 20:44:12 for fourth bike overall on their KTM 450 XC-F after a pitched race-long battle with two other class rivals. Pro Moto Unlimited (449cc and under) winners Mark Bradford, Ricky de la Pena, Austin Miller, Jim O’Neal, Schuyler Shoonmaker, Grant Statley and Rider of Record Mark Winkelman took fifth bike overall in 20:55:34 on their Husky FE 350.

Other class winners were Reid Edwards/Kyle James/Benjamin Petter in Pro Moto 30 (riders 30 and older) in what they said was their first-ever off-road race, Bryan Campbell/Louie Franco/Jeff Kaplan/Andy Kirker/Flipper Manchester/Jim O’Neal/Mark Winkelman (Rider of Record) in Pro Moto 50, Dennis Greene/Mark Hawley (Rider of Record)/Robert Hanson/Robert Koch/Dennis McLaughlin/John Marshall in Pro Moto 60 (riders 60 and older), Tony Gera in Pro Moto Ironman and Fernando Barbosa/Fernando Ferreyra/Alejandro Holguin/Alberto Ruiz in Sportsman Motorcycle.