Ensenada – Baja, Mexico – Can a bike have too much power? “Never!” some would insist.
But for experienced champions like Johnny Campbell and Steve Hengeveld of the Honda Off-Road Team, it’s not so much the quantity but the quality of power that is the over-riding concern. And faced with what they saw as possibly the tightest, most technical Tecate SCORE Baja 500 in its 35-year history, the defending race and series champs opted for a relatively mild state of tune for their XR650R. The decision paid off with a big win for the desert’s most dominating duo.
“It’s basically a clone of what I race in [AMA] District 37—suspension, motor, everything is the same,” Hengeveld revealed. “Except the gearing. It’s a stock motor—no headwork, just a cam and the pipe.”
Though they drew the last starting position in Class 22 (Open Pro), the two Red Riders powered into the lead after some 100 of the 453 miles of the large loop course that started and finished in Ensenada. From there, they continued to open up a gap on the field largely made up of XR650Rs. (Not only did the big XRs sweep the top five motorcycle positions overall, they also accounted for all four of the class wins for which they’re eligible. The only class an XR650R didn’t win was Class 21, which is limited to bikes that are 250cc max.) When Hengeveld pulled up to the finish line, the team easily clocked the day’s fastest overall time of nine hours, 33 minutes and 48 seconds for an average speed of 47.36 miles per hour. That beat the first four-wheeled vehicle (as well as the second motorcycle, another XR650R ridden by the winning Class 30 trio of Greg Bringle, Ricardo Malo and Edward Tyynismaa) by more than 20 minutes.
“There were some sections on this course that were slower than a normal Baja race—definitely more technical and actually really fun for a bike,” Campbell said. “I took it easy on the dirt road back into Ojos Negros—there was a lot of spectator traffic and stuff—and just brought it in. I didn’t want to get run over or make any mistakes or stall the bike or do something dumb. Fortunately, with the cushion we had, I just brought it in.”
And in doing so, Campbell and Hengeveld gave Honda its seventh consecutive Baja 500 victory. It marked the fourth straight for Hengeveld (the first rider to achieve that honor) and it was also Campbell’s fourth 500 victory. In addition to being a perfect two-for-two (Campbell and Hengeveld also won the San Felipe race) so far in Baja this year and stretching their SCORE win streak to six consecutive races, Campbell and Hengeveld have also taken first-place points in the last three of the four Best in the Desert events so far this year.
Baja 500 overall results
1. Johnny Campbell/Steve Hengeveld – Honda XR650R – 9:33:48
2. Greg Bringle/Ricardo Malo/Edward Tyynismaa – Honda XR650R – 9:58:29
3. Christopher Blais/Chuck Dempsey/Beau Hayden – Honda XR650R – 9:58:58
4. Mike Barnhill/Fred Willert/Phillip Zeiger – Honda XR650R – 10:04:06
5. Gerardo Rojas/Sergio Vega – Honda XR650R – 10:15:04