Beta Motorcycle wins the Baja 500 (photos)

When the dust settled on the 41st annual SCORE International Baja 500, a Beta Motorcycles dealer-sponsored team won the series’ premier Open Pro Motorcycle class on a Beta 450 RR.

In Baja’s extreme terrain and weather conditions, where the temperature reached more than 100 degrees, Threat Racing’s near-stock 450 RR ran flawlessly. In 432 grueling miles, the bike needed just an air filter and a rear tire throughout nine hours and 33 minutes of punishment.

With this victory, the ultra-versatile Beta 450 RR has now gained international acclaim from the Baja Peninsula to the woods of Finland, where Mirko Gritti recently rode to a podium finish in the FIM World Enduro Championship series.

The Threat Racing team consisted of Baja veteran Craig Smith, 35, and teenage brothers Cameron, 18, and Kyle Corfman, who is just 16 years old. Kyle was flabbergasted with the trio’s results. "At first," he said, "I didn’t believe that we won. Then, a billion text messages came in and my phone started ringing."

Smith, who started racing long before either of his teammates was born, also won the Baja 500 in 1995. His latest south-of-the-border adventure went according to plan. "Other than staring down a cow in the middle of a fireroad at 50 mph, things went real smooth," said the alfalfa farmer from Brawley, Calif.

American Beta’s 2008 Dealer of the Year, Threat Racing is a family-owned shop doing business for more than a decade in the desert community of El Centro, Calif., just 10 miles from the Mexican border. Shop owner Chip Corfman took on Beta last year as the dealership’s first motorcycle franchise. His rationale was simple: "We used to compete on other bikes, but I didn’t like it when we’d race on Sunday, do well and prospective customers would go buy a bike somewhere else on Monday."

Tim Pilg, American Beta’s founder, stressed that it was Beta dealers’ personalized, old-school service that sets the company apart from other brands: "My experience in motorcycle dealerships taught me that American distributors focused on how many units they could sell instead of ways to improve customer service. While we also concentrate on sales, we are ultimately focused on giving our customers the personalized attention that keeps them coming back.

"We’re proud of Threat Racing’s Baja 500 performance and look forward to more success in competition and on the showroom floor."