The 54th SCORE International Baja 1000 was a success for Honda riders and drivers, with several scoring victories in the grueling, 1,236-mile off-road event, which this year followed the traditional “peninsula run” from Ensenada to La Paz, Mexico. Elite classes conquered by Honda teams include Pro Moto Unlimited (SLR Honda), Pro UTV Naturally Aspirated (Honda Talon Factory Racing) and Class 7 (Honda Racing Factory Off-Road Team).
For SLR Honda, the Pro Moto Unlimited win was its fourth consecutive triumph in the prestigious race as well as the record 15th for Honda’s CRF450X. It was also the 31st overall motorcycle win for Honda, including the last seven straight and 24 of the last 25. The first motorcycle started at 2 a.m. on Thursday, and SLR rider Justin Morgan was the fifth bike off the line. He raced until route mile 444, where team owner Mark Samuels took over and raced to mile 816. Kendall Norman then took the bike to mile 999, where he handed it off to Mexican native Brandon Prieto for the final stint. The team took less than a day to complete the race, turning in a winning time of 23 hours, 7 minutes, 18 seconds. It was the sixth win for Samuels, the fourth for Morgan and the seventh for Baja veteran Norman, whose previous victory had come back in 2011.
“I think this year was a really good racecourse, because it had a lot of good flow,” Samuels told SCORE at the finish. “It was cool to get back down to the southern part of Baja and race that, because it’s been a while since we got to. I actually really enjoy all the racing down here; it’s not as rough, and it’s pretty fun and flowy. Winning a peninsula run is awesome. I’ve been very close to doing it, and this one feels really good to get here first to the line. It’s a big one to win.”
Also impressive was the private, two-man Honda-mounted Champion Adventures team, with Colton Udall and Derek Ausserbauer battling hard with SLR for the first half of the race before eventually taking their CRF450X to a strong runner-up finish, 1 hour and 15 minutes back. The duo also earned the 1X plate for the season.
While Honda motorcyclists more or less invented the Baja 1000, the event is newer for Honda side-by-sides, but that didn’t stop Honda Talon Factory Racing driver Elias Hanna from topping the Pro UTV Normally Aspirated division. An Ensenada native and a Baja-racing veteran, Hanna enlisted co-driving support from Erick Kozin and Bobby Smith as well as navigational support from Drew Stanton and Isaac Chapluk. Together, they took the Talon 1000R to the finish line in 29 hours, 18 minutes, 38 seconds. This was the second Baja 1000 win for the team’s Talon, which last year topped the Pro UTV Unlimited category. As if that weren’t enough, team owner Jeff Proctor also drove the Honda Racing Factory Off-Road Ridgeline truck to this year’s finish with a Class 7-winning time of 27 hours, 10 minutes.
“Today is a big day for Honda!” Proctor said. “To bring this Honda Talon to the finish line in the ultra-competitive Pro NA class at the Baja 1000 is surreal! I’m so proud of the efforts this entire team put in to get us here. Elias drove a very smart race and I’m so pleased for him!”
A number of additional, private Honda entries experienced success in the race as well, including a Pro Moto 60-winning team led by Craig Wear, a Pro Moto Limited-winning team led by Christopher Gil, a Pro Quad-winning team led by Oskar Espinoza, a Sportsman Quad-winning team led by David Ortega and a Pro Quad Ironman-winning effort by Miguel Lopez.