HPD Blog

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Baja 1000 - Journal #4

A visit with a Honda motorcycle team, then final prep.

11.19.09 The next stop was to call in and see the Honda motorcycle paddock setup. Run by a longtime Honda campaigner, T.J., this was impressive. Operated as JCR, or Johnny Campbell Racing, and once an AHM Honda motorcycle offshoot under the supervision of the late Bruce Ogilvie, it had since relocated to San Clemente, Calif., but still bore the same enthusiasm and spirit of the original Honda race team. Nothing would indicate to you that this was a semi-factory- (if at all) supported affair. From the immaculate preparation of the bikes to the clean and tidy workshop environment, complete with Honda-embossed Eazy-Ups – they represented Honda well. In fact, one mechanic was a car guy (a Japanese associate) from Torrance that just had a love of dirt-bike racing and had been coming down for years. But a similar story followed to that we had heard earlier from the Ridgeline team; despite the low-key presence of anything remotely official from Honda, they were crying out for help. A quote from T.J. sticks in my mind: ‘We could race yellow bikes, or blue ones or green ones or orange ones, but we don’t want to, we want to race red ones’. He asked if we were at Baja of our own doing, or if this was an official visit. On hearing that, yes, it was official, but we were just gathering information, this brought some gratification that at least somewhere in Honda there was some interest. T.J. told a story of how for 12 years, they had held a room for a senior individual from AHM, and for 12 years, he had never come. It left you feeling a little helpless for their immediate future, but lit the fire inside to try to do something to help. Once again, the spirit of Baja was showing.

JCR Honda Pit and race bikes

By now, it was lunchtime, and the start of the "Tale of Tacos!" Tacos #1 – a somewhat fancy Mexican joint, was to be the first stop. Rating probably a 5 or 6.

Then followed the serious business of loading up the chase trucks and getting ready to head out in the morning. Somehow, we had to find room for the spares, the human essentials (food, water, toilet roll, etc.) and the people in the back of the Ridgeline. Believe it or not, we managed to make it fit; carrying two spare tires for our own truck, a race spare for the race truck, fuel for both trucks (race and normal varieties); plus tools, jacks, etc., etc. One word of advice given to us was to put anything that was not already in a sealed box into bin liners, as sand and dust just gets everywhere! Then, most importantly, we ‘stickered up’ our own trucks. We had a two of the large ‘Honda Racing/HPD’ stickers remaining and a bag full of the ‘giveaway’ ones. We did HPD proud, and I don’t think anyone was in any doubt of the origin of our truck!

I assume it will all fit.

A team meeting was scheduled for 5 p.m.; the first order of business was swapping mobile and sat phone numbers (as we would soon learn, good communication is crucial to a successful Baja). As Gavin (the driver) talked through the race route, he provided direction to each of the chase trucks (four in total) as to time and expected location of each. Creating overlap was key to the event, ensuring at all times that the race truck was covered, with help at least nearby. Our role to some extent was to be a "floating" truck, backing up everyone else. The team members understood that we were there to learn and to see as much of the event as possible, but we also let them know we were there for them, and that they should put us to work! In the end, our instructions were to head out prior to the race start and be in a position to rendezvous around Km35. As things transpired, we ended up being a very good "radio relay" between the other chase vehicles and the race truck.

to be continued. . .

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