The perfect race.
Las Vegas, Nevada ~ "It's Unbelievable!!!" says Race Director Casey Folks! "This race could not have been executed any better, it's exactly how I planned it! For a first race, for a first time promoting a race in Baja, it could not have gone any better. We had NO injuries, we had NO lost racers, we had NO major incidences, it was a perfect race! About 8 hours in to the race I was listening to my staff on the radio and I just thought in awe how lucky I am to be surrounded by such a great group of individuals, they are all professionals in their particular fields, and I couldn't have done it without them. I have a great staff and we executed the perfect race! I guess that's why we are called Best In The Desert, we put on one of the safest and most organized races in the desert. I think we proved with the Baja Mex "300" that you can put on a safe, controlled and well marked race in Baja. No one got hurt, that's the most important thing, and the racers and the support crews had a great time!"
The Baja Mex "300" started on September 7th with 14 days of open pre-running. There were a great many racers who took advantage of the open pre-running and got the word out fast that it was a great course with a lot of new sections; the feedback also gave Casey time to make any last minute adjustments he needed to make on the course.
Gerardo Novelo, owner of the Estero Beach Resort, handled all of the environmental concerns on the course and the contingency arrangements in the downtown area. He has a great working relationship with the government officials and helped to introduce Best In The Desert to the people of Baja. There were many small concerns that came up in permitting the Baja Mex "300" and Gerardo was there every step of the way to address and handle every concern presented.
Registration, Contingency and Technical Inspection were held in downtown Ensenada under the Big Mexican Flag with a beautiful view of the Bay of Ensenada. It was definitely a "happening" in the downtown area with t-shirt vendors, food vendors and live radio remotes going all day. The people of Ensenada are huge off-road racing fans and were so excited to have Best In The Desert in Baja! They were very excited about the Baja Mex "300" and were very welcoming to all of the racers and their support crews. Racers commented at the finish line what great fans the people of Baja are. First time Baja racers have never experienced that many fans before and thought it was the coolest thing in the world to see the thousands of fans cheering them on along the way.
The Drivers/Riders meeting was held at the University of California Baja on Friday night. Casey Folks and Gerardo Novelo welcomed a packed auditorium of racers. The enthusiasm for the Baja Mex "300" was overwhelming and the crowd went wild when Casey introduced Indy legend Jimmy Vasser; Vasser commented on how much he was looking forward to racing his first desert race.
At 5 am on Saturday morning the Best In The Desert Staff experienced something they've never experienced before in the Nevada desert; fog! The start/finish was held at the Estero Beach Race Track, about 50 yards from the ocean, and Casey held the start for about 15 minutes waiting for the fog to lift. It was an unusual atmosphere for the first time desert/ocean riders! The green light lit up and Danny Cooper, riding for American Honda, was the first off the line; the packed bleachers of race fans went wild and the excitement continued all day long. The activities included Gary Wells, the famous Motorcycle Jumper who entertained the crowd by jumping over twelve cars, right in front of the grand stands!
The first Motorcycle Team to cross the finish line was Andy Grider and Mike Childress, riding for American Honda. The Grider/Childress team finished in 5 hours, 59 minutes and 27 seconds! This was a first "Overall" win for Grider and a first time ride with Honda for Childress. They couldn't have been happier and were elated in the Honda Pits calling themselves the 1st Baja Mex "300" World Champions!
In a heartbreaking 41 seconds behind 1st Place was Steve Hengeveld and Johnny Campbell, also riding for American Honda, finishing in 6:00:52. Johnny has dominated desert racing for the past ten years and doesn't blame just one thing on his second place. The motorcycle slipped just off the start line, which jammed the shifter and it took him about a minute to get the bike started. He also got a rear flat tire at mile 70 and rode in to Pit 2 and lost time to the Cooper/Blais team. All three American Honda teams were about 1 minute apart throughout the entire race until right after Pit 6 when Danny Cooper's motorcycle seized up and he was out of the race. The Hengeveld/Campbell team came in first to the finish line but took second after corrected time. Finishing 1st in the Over-30 Pro Class and 3rd Overall was Tom Willis and David Warren, riding a Honda, in 6:54:58; this was their first Baja race and they had a great time!
There were a great deal of seasoned Baja racers racing the Baja Mex "300". Finishing 4th Overall and 2nd in the Over-30 Pro Class was Ricardo Malo and Sergio Vega, riding a Honda, and finishing in 6:59:49. At the finish line Ricardo commented that the race was excellent! Malo said, "This was the best race ever in Baja! I didn't feel insecure at any time, even through the ranches. I liked the course and no highway racing was really nice. All of the markings were excellent, it was hard to get lost out there even if you tried."
Beto Verber, a seasoned Baja racer finished 2nd in the 4-Stroke Expert Class, also riding a Honda, finished in 7:21:48. Verber commented, "The course was well marked, I felt like it had a lot of security and I liked that. I felt safer and I could ride with a little more tap!"
The first Quad to finish was Shaun Moore, Nicholas Granlund and Brian Butler, in the Quad Expert Class, riding a Cannondale, in 7:40:58. This is the team's first "Overall" win and they were ecstatic at the finish line. The first Quad Pro team to finish was Ruben Martin Gerardo and Arnold Rameriz, riding a Honda, in 7:41:14, just 16 seconds behind the Moore team. Out of the 44 Motorcycles and Quads that started 40 finished, that's a great finishing rate!
Ed Stewart and Scott Sellers, driving a Jimco in the 1500 Unlimited Car Class placed 1st in 7 hours, 9 minutes and 34 seconds! In a very exciting Car/Truck finish Stewart and John Swift raced in to the finish together. The last mile of the racecourse was over a 1-mile short course track built at Estero Beach. It was easy to see the last mile of the course and watching Stewart and Swift race in to the finish was incredible. There was a jump placed directly at the checkered flag, which made for an exciting finish; watching the Buggy and the Ford Explorer jump together and screech in to the finish was thrilling! John Swift placed 1st in the Trick Truck Class and 2nd Overall in 7:10:06, 32 seconds behind Stewart.
Promoting an event in Baja was an "unknown" for Best In The Desert, but with the Baja Mex "300" being such a huge success, Best In The Desert is already making plans for the 2003 Baja Mex "300"! "We've proven that we can go down to Mexico and put on a good clean, safe race. I put my money where my mouth was and we did it; nobody got hurt, it was a good race and everybody had a good time. I think we earned a lot of credibility this past weekend. There were a lot of people that were excited about Best In The Desert promoting a race in Baja and I am a very happy that the event was so successful!" says Folks. The 2003 Baja Mex "300" is scheduled for August 22, 23, 24, 2003, start making you plans today, it's going to be bigger and better next year!
The next event in the 2002 ~ "Silver State Series" is the Las Vegas "200" December 5, 6, 7, 2002. There are still a good number of championships on the line and the Las Vegas "200" is either going to make or break it for a lot of people. Remember, it's never over `til it's over!