Kawasaki Wins Baja 500

Robby Bell-led team ends 15 years of dominance by Honda.

THR Motorsports Monster Energy team: Robby Bell

THR Motorsports Monster Energy team: Robby Bell

For 15 years, Honda has dominated the Class 22 Pro Motorcycle division in SCORE competition on the Baja peninsula. But that streak finally came to an end when the Kawasaki KX450F-mounted THR Motorsports Monster Energy team of Robby Bell, David Pearson and Steve Hengeveld crossed the finish line in the Tecate SCORE Baja 500 two minutes and 28 seconds ahead of the JCR Honda team of Colton Udall, David Kamo and Tim Weigand. Finishing third was the KTM-mounted FMF Bonanza Plumbing Team of Kurt Caselli, Mike Brown, Ivan Ramirez and Spanish Dakar legend Marc Coma. The Iron Man award has to go to Kendall Norman, who soloed the race to a fourth-place finish. Cycle World's own Ryan Dudek teamed up with Guatemala's Francisco Arredondo and Matt Karlsen aboard a Honda CRF450X to card a sixth, just 53 minutes behind the winning team.

Bell’s Kawasaki team finished with a winning time of 9:10:03 at an average speed of 49.09 mph. Crashes by Udall on the 1x JCR Honda and Ramirez on the KTM cost both teams time that couldn’t be regained.

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Bell and company, either. “I kept stopping by locals at the side of the track, trying to get some gas. Finally, I found two that had some and who were more than happy to give me enough to get to pit two,” said Bell. “I would really like to thank them. It is pretty awesome that out in the middle of nowhere, two guys had some gas and gave it to me. They kept us in the race, though we lost about four or five minutes from that. I didn't actually run out , but I was getting really low around mile 57 or 58. It wouldn't have been much longer until I ran out.

“My teammates, Steve and David , rode so well. I'm so happy with how the day went. It is great for the sport and for the brand. I'm stoked to get Kawasaki down here because I know Honda has a huge history in Baja, but so does Kawasaki. It feels good.”

As for Dudek, he called in with this report: "I started the race, taking our Chris Haines-supported Honda CRF450X to mile 100 before handing the bike off to Matt Karlson, who did 'The Summit' section. This was my second time starting in Ensenada, as I had also competed in the Baja 1000 last year, so I had the course dialed. It is still a little nerve-wracking going down dirt roads at 80-plus mph with people lining the sides of the road. The dust can get bad, too, because of all the silt kicked up by trophy trucks. In some places, there is no way to see at all, and it didn't help that we were the seventh bike to take the start. Motorcycles start 30 seconds apart, but the dust seems to hang around forever in the still morning air.

“I managed to get up to fourth a few minutes behind the leaders, despite dodging a few cars on course. Karlson had the roughest section of the race—The Summit section, which is 113 miles of nasty terrain. His arms got tight, causing him to crash a couple times and losing us a couple spots. Thankfully, he and the bike survived with very little damage, which is usually not the case when a rider goes down up there.

“I got back on the bike at mile 213 to ride across a rather large section of whoops and over a transfer road to the coast. At mile 213 (just about halfway of the 450-mile race), everyone is spread out. This section was lonely, making it hard to keep up a fast race pace and stay focused. Mile 300 was the end of my race; Arredondo and Karlson rode the rest of the way.

“We had a pretty solid result, finishing sixth in class and seventh overall. I’m happy just finishing any Baja race. They’re quite challenging and a bit dangerous due to the high speeds, severe roughness and unpredictable spectators.”

Robby Bell of THR Motorsports Monster Energy team

THR Motorsports Monster Energy team of Robby Bell (pictured), David Pearson and Steve Hengeveld crossed the finish line first

Robby Bell of THR Motorsports Monster Energy team

Robby Bell of THR Motorsports Monster Energy team

Colton Udall of JCR Honda team

JCR Honda team of Colton Udall (pictured), David Kamo and Tim Weigand finished second

David Kamo of JCR Honda team

David Kamo of JCR Honda team

Ivan Ramirez of FMF Bonanza Plumbing Team

FMF Bonanza Plumbing Team of Kurt Caselli, Mike Brown, Ivan Ramirez (pictured) and Marc Coma finished third

Mike Brown of FMF Bonanza Plumbing Team

Mike Brown of FMF Bonanza Plumbing Team

Spanish Dakar legend Marc Coma of the FMF Bonanza Plumbing Team

Spanish Dakar legend Marc Coma of the FMF Bonanza Plumbing Team

Cycle World?s own Ryan Dudek

Cycle World?s own Ryan Dudek (pictured) teamed up with Guatemala?s Francisco Arredondo and Matt Karlsen to finish sixth

Ryan Dudek aboard a Honda CRF450X

Off-Road Editor Ryan Dudek aboard a Honda CRF450X

Iron Man Kendall Norman soloed the race to a fourth-place finish

The Iron Man award has to go to Kendall Norman, who soloed the race to a fourth-place finish

THR Motorsports Monster Energy team of Robby Bell, David Pearson and Steve Hengeveld

THR Motorsports Monster Energy team of Robby Bell, David Pearson and Steve Hengeveld

Kawasaki Wins Baja 500

Kawasaki Wins Baja 500

Kawasaki Wins Baja 500

Kawasaki Wins Baja 500

Kawasaki Wins Baja 500

Kawasaki Wins Baja 500