Baja Race Report
Ride fast, don’t make mistakes, avoid flats and breakdowns. It’s a simple but good recipe for an endurance race and it’s the one Colton Udall and Jeff Kargola used to win the San Felipe 250.
Riding JCR-Honda Racing’s 3X bike, they produced a flawless performance to beat not only Robby Bell and Steve Hengeveld (2X, Kawasaki) but also their teammate, Kendall Norman (1X, Honda). Udall was ecstatic on crossing the finish line after riding the last 100 miles – “Awesome, awesome, awesome,” was all he could think of.
The more experienced rider, he rode the first 30 miles as well as the last long stretch, considered the tougher parts of the course, while Kargola brought the bike through the middle section, from race mile 30 to 146.
This first stretch of the race is the one least liked by the racers. It has extremely deep whoops of soft sand embedded with large rocks. Riders have to maintain a sufficiently high speed so that the bike skips from the top of each whoop to the next. There’s little room for error and hitting an unseen rock the wrong way can be catastrophic. Changing riders at the end of this punishing stretch is the norm, and at this point 1X, 2X, and 3X were still close in elapsed time.
It was in the middle section that a lot happened to shape the final outcome. Hengeveld got a flat on the dry lakebed, allowing Kargola to overtake him, while Kendall Norman tried to overtake his own team’s 3X bike just before the silt section. (In elapsed time, Norman was actually ahead of Kargola at this point).
In a sweeping right hand turn on a whooped-out section, he cartwheeled the bike but was unhurt himself. But the 28 minutes needed to replace the bent handlebars and broken subframe cost him the lead, one not to be regained. Norman rode the entire 248 miles himself as his teammate, Tim Weigand, was out for medical reasons.
Jeff Kargola credits his Honda CRF450X for a perfect ride. But there’s another critical factor. “Baja is all about experience, and we’re doing our best to get it,” he said. We’ll have to believe that winning the San Felipe 250 this year is an awfully good way to get experience.
All race results remain unofficial until the race committee meets Saturday evening, but at this time, rounding out the top five in the Pro Class are: 2nd place: 2X Bell/Hengeveld, Kawasaki; 3rd place, 5X Penhall/Penhall, Kawasaki; 4th place, 1X Norman, Honda; 5th place, 7X Evenson/Deuchars, KTM.
Action Photos by Torsten Jacobsen