Mark Samuels and Colton Udall Score Come-From-Behind Baja 500 Win 2016

Unfortunately the day was filled with tragedy

Suspension fade is not the exclusive province of pro motocross. It’s inevitable in a long race, especially a long, rough race like the 48th SCORE Baja 500, round two of the SCORE World Desert Championship.

This year, though, a two-day temperature spike on race weekend over the Baja California peninsula saw highs over 120 degrees during the middle portions of what’s always a grueling event, presenting even more challenges.

As eventual winners Mark Samuels and Colton Udall discovered, their Ox Motorsports Honda CRF450X simply wasn’t working as it normally would and they laid the blame on the extreme heat as much as the torturous course itself.

“Our bike actually didn’t handle that great this race; we had some suspension issues, which is unfortunate,” Udall confided.

Mark Samuels, SCORE Baja 500, Colton Udall
Mark Samuels (shown here in second place at about mile 200) and Colton Udall started last in Pro Moto Unlimited but were chasing only one team by about mile 50. They passed into the physical lead shortly after this and went on to win a very tough Baja 500, Samuels for the first time and only the second for Udall.Photo Courtesy of SCORE Baja 500

But rather than ignore it while trying to catch the Bremen Racing CRF450X of Francisco Arredondo, Shane Esposito, Justin Morgan, Kendall Norman, Ryan Penhall, and Roberto Villalobos that was first off the line, the reigning SCORE Pro Moto Unlimited (450cc and over) champs addressed the issue.

“We made some suspension adjustments and it ended up working better at the end, but our bikes have worked a heck of a lot better before,” Udall said. “I think the biggest thing about it was the heat—it just broke down the suspension fluids. The rebound was fast, the compression was blowing through, we were turning in the high-speed, turning in the rebound—we were trying to get the bike to handle and it was difficult because the shock’s probably running at 200-plus degrees.”

Paying attention to things like that and tire wear (they switched to a more aggressive Michelin for the San Felipe loop, then went back to the rally-style model for the last couple hundred miles) helped them run down their rivals who had two big crashes. One put Penhall out of action while the other sent Villalobos to the hospital with a broken leg after colliding with a horse (coincidentally in the same area where Kurt Caselli died in the 2013 Baja 1000).

Scott Myers, SCORE Baja 500
It’s been years since Scott Myers (shown) has raced anything smaller than a 450, but he and teammates Max Eddy, Jr., Austin Miller, Jim O’Neal, Grant Statley, and Mark Winkelman easily topped Pro Moto Limited on their “little” Husky FC 350, besting the class runner-up by 50 minutes and finishing sixth bike overall. (O’Neal and Winkleman also rode on the winning Pro Moto 50 team that also used a Husky 350).Photo Courtesy of SCORE Baja 500

Udall cruised to the finish in much cooler (since it’s on the Pacific coast) Ensenada in nine hours, 18 minutes and 11 seconds, with the SRT Husqvarna squad of Jordan Brandt, Morgan Crawford, Cory Graffunder, and Kevin Murphy the next to arrive some time later.

However, after the post-race review of tracking data, SCORE assessed enough penalties to drop the SRT team to third in 11:04:36 with the Bremen Racing Honda group earning second in 10:13:20.

The second Ox Motorsports Honda (Ray Dal Soglio, Nic Garvin, and Ian Young) recovered from a Dal Soglio crash to finish fourth in 11:08:42 with Pro Moto 40 (riders 40 and over) winners Stefano Caputo, Jano Montoya, Gerardo Rojas, Kirk Russell, and Francisco Septien the fifth bike officially in 11:20:29.

Carlin Dunne, SCORE Baja 500
As if the Summit, San Felipe’s unrelenting whoops and hidden rocks everywhere weren’t enough, add temperatures over 120 degrees in places and this was a brutal year to solo the 500. However, Carlin Dunne did just that and survived to win the Pro Moto Ironman division.Photo Courtesy of SCORE Baja 500

Other class winners included Max Eddy, Jr., Austin Miller, Scott Myers, Jim O’Neal, Grant Statley, and Mark Winkelman in Pro Moto Limited (449cc or less; 11:27:54), Brian Campbell, Louie Franco, Jeff Kaplan, Jim O’Neal, and Mark Winkelman in Pro Moto 50 (riders 50 and over; 12:02:49), Dennis Greene, Mark Hawley, Andy Kirker, Dennis McLaughlin, and John Marshall in Pro Moto 60 (riders 60 and over; 18:27:41), Carlin Dunne in Pro Moto Ironman (12:28:10) and Fernando Barbosa and Fernando Serreya in Sportsman Moto (13:47:12). Neither of the two Pro Moto 30 starters finished, and only 137 of the 236 total starters (58 percent) finished within the 21-hour time limit.

Unfortunately, three fatalities marred the weekend starting with an eight-year-old boy from San Clemente, California, who was spectating with his family and struck by a Trophy truck whose driver lost control while dropping into the Ensenada wash less than a mile off the start. In addition, motorcycle racers Noah Evermann and Travis Livingston perished in separate accidents later in the day. A GoFundMe account has been set up to assist the Livingston family; support arrangements for the other two victims were not known at press time.