Final Baja 2000 report part two

At Checkpoint 9 (575 miles), the Honda team led by Campbell continued its blistering pace with a 31-minute lead over Ogilvie. Mitchell had the lead in Class 30 and Haines was the leader in the Class 40 action. Gary Lee White and his team held...

At Checkpoint 9 (575 miles), the Honda team led by Campbell continued its blistering pace with a 31-minute lead over Ogilvie. Mitchell had the lead in Class 30 and Haines was the leader in the Class 40 action. Gary Lee White and his team held the lead in the ATV Class 25. Motorcycle pro leaders after 575 miles included Juan David Ruvalcaba in Class 21; Enrique Felix in Class 24 ATV; Carmen Cafro in Class 25 ATV. In Sportsman classes, Miitsuaki Kanazawa in motorcycles (250 cc or more) and Glen Walvaren in ATV.

Stewart and Roeseler held nearly an hour lead overall in the four-wheel category in the middle of the night near San Ignacio (910 miles). Ragland lost a lot of time when his Chevy had transmission problem. But shortly after the BFG pit No. 7 (approximately 2 a.m.), the once-dominant Toyota Tundra Trophy Truck #11 was seen being towed to the PPI pit area.

Past Baja 1000 motorcycle champion D. Smith and his co-driver Ashley, the former SCORE Trophy Truck series champion, was setting the pace in their Duralast Ford F-150 at BFG pit No. 8 at La Purisima (1043 miles). The Riverside, Calif., duo passed through the La Purisima at 4:46.55 Monday morning with a 23-minute overall lead on the Troy Herbst and Jimmy Smith piloted Jimco buggy. Ragland and Brian Stewart were 13 minutes behind the Herbst buggy at that point.

After Checkpoint 12 (1077 miles) at 8 a.m. Monday, the class leaders were D. Smith in Trophy Truck; Troy Herbs in Class 1; Harris in Protruck/SS/Truck; Ruvalcaba in Class 21 motorcycle; Mitchell in Class 30 motorcycle; Haines in Class 40 motorcycle; R. Jackson in Class 50 motorcycle and Sanborn in Sportsman motorcycle (250cc or more). The three overall four-wheel vehicles -- D. Smith, Troy Herbst and Ragland -- were starting their battle in the lower portion of Baja California. At 1416 miles (BFG pit No. 11), it was Smith by 13 minutes over Herbst with Ragland just four minutes behind in third.

The Honda team of Campbell (Class 22) passed through Checkpoint 22 (1660 miles) with a 1 hour, 20 minute lead overall on Ogilvie after 19 hours, 24 minutes.

At 12:54 p.m. (PST) Monday, the Honda team of Johnny Campbell (age 29) of San Clemente, Calif., Tim Staab (22) of San Diego, Craig Smith (25) of Brawley, Calif., and Steve Hengeveld (26) of Oak Hills, Calif., crossed the finished line in Cabo San Lucas for the first vehicle to travel the entire 1726-mile distance. The official time for Campbell's team was 30 hours, 54 minutes and 12 seconds with average speed of 54.348 m.p.h. It was Campbell's fourth consecutive Baja 1000/2000 victory as the overall motorcycle winner. The factory Honda riders led the entire distance as Campbell was first off the line at 6:00 a.m. Sunday. Campbell quotes after the finish: "The bike was so durable. I feel like it could go run this thing again. The nerves were the thing. I didn't want to hit anything. All we had was one head pipe problem. We were in the pits for about 10 minutes. The weather was perfect, all the bad stuff was behind us. The hardest part was the start. It was freezing. I got wet and cold. This was the toughest SCORE race I've been in. Not just the length but the terrain. Sal (Fish) did a great job in finding all sorts of stuff for us to go through. I ran 80 per cent yesterday, just enough to stay in the lead. The night rides were quicker than planned. We planned on five riders but one (Jonah Street) broke his arm recently. We were going to ride longer stints but when we saw how rough it was (during pre-running) we decided to break it up more and tried to keep consistent." Campbell and Staab ran the bulk of the day riding, while Smith and Hengeveld rode mostly at night.

The Honda team of Ogilvie (age 47) of Fountain Valley, Calif.; Chuck Miller (41) of Fountain Valley; Bob Rutten (44) of Riverside, Calif., Gary Jones (48) of Yorba Linda, Calif., Paul Ostbo (43) of Cle Elum, Wash.; and Bob Johnson (42) of Temecula, Calif., crossed the Cabo San Lucas finish line in second place overall and second in Class 22. The Honda team recorded a time of 32 hours, 5 minutes and 3 seconds with 52.347 m.p.h. 46. Ogilvie was a veteran Baja competitor and multi-time winner in a variety of SCORE and Baja California events. Ogilivie was also the team manager for the American Honda off-road operation. Bruce Ogilvie's motorcycle team finished second overall, but quipped that a possible protest was looming: "The first place team cheated...they were all too young! We had no problems. A couple of surprises with cars going the wrong way and some cows on the road. We got to within four minutes (of winner Johnny Campbell) between Ojos Negros and Santa Thomas. This was the best bike I've ever ridden -- it's flawless. It instills so much confidence. We only had to change tires and air filters, and the brake pads once. We had six riders, and we split it pretty evenly, each rode about 300 miles. We went way faster than we expected."

The third finisher in the motorcycles was Mitchell (age 30) of San Marcos, Calif., with a time of 33 hours, 38 minutes, 46 seconds with an average of speed of 49.917 m.p.h. on a XR650 Honda. Mitchell was the winner in Class 30 (riders over 30 years old) along with Ron Mitchell (35), Darrol Brown (43), Kevin Brown (35) and Larry Wright (42)

Fourth went to Zeiger of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., with a time of 33 hours, 43 minutes and 35 seconds and a speed of 49.798 m.p.h. The Honda team finishes third in Class 22 with the squad of Zeiger, Taber Murphy and Chuck Dempsey on a XR650 Honda. Taber Murphy, one of the riders on Phillip Zeiger's fourth-place motorcycle (3x), was the third motorcycle to actually cross the finish line. "I woke up about 5 am two days ago," he said. "I was on twice, riding for about 550 miles total. We had a couple of guys who had never raced Baja, and they did real well. Phillip had a flat, and we lost some time there."

The first four-wheel vehicle crossed the Cabo San Lucas finish line with the Duralast Ford F-150 Trophy Truck of Dan Smith and David Ashley of Riverside, Calif. In a heated duel with Ragland and B. Stewart in the Vortex Chevy Trailblazer, Smith and Ashley finished the 1700-mile trek in 32 hour, 15 minutes and 39 seconds and an average speed of 52.061 m.p.h. 51. Smith: "I drove the first 450 miles and, about mile 265, the truck started to have a heating problem. The head gasket was leaking a little. I stopped and I stole a bunch of water from some Mexicans and made it to our pit. It was close for awhile. We added some sealant and prayed for the rest of the race. We kept a consistent pace. We didn't want to go as fast as some of the crazies in front. We wanted to run about 70 per cent in the early portion. But we couldn't because of the leaders going so fast. Our goal was to stay with 15 to 30 minutes of the leaders until the halfway point. We had to push our truck a little more than we wanted to stay with the leaders. But we made it. It was a great thing to win this historic event. It was a first and only distance and it was a great feeling. When I passed the truck on to Dave, I was able to jump in a transport van and get some sleep and some food. That was a big help." Ashley comments: "Dan and I have raced together for nine or ten years now. Ever since he came off of the motorcycles and we have won the Baja 1000 overall in 1994 -- the Mexicali to Mexicali. We have won our class down here but this was very big. To win this frst-time race was a great achievement. Especially for Enduro Racing and Dick Landfield and Ford and BFG. In fact, we ran two sets of tires on the front and had just one flat. With the head gasket trouble, we were fighting the truck for the last 1500 miles. We couldn't go as fast as we wanted but we wanted to stay in front of Ragland. We knew he had started one minute in front of us. So we just wanted to stay ahead of him. Finally, he pushed too hard. It was emotional at the finish for me. I have raced for Dick for some 15 years. This was very exciting to win this type of race. I didn't get much sleep in between driving stints. I was pretty excited for the race. Dan and I really love this truck. It's two years old and we are going to make it better for next year. We had 24 guys in our pit crew and many of them are going to relax now. Maybe fishing and wait for Thursday's awards presentation. It should be fun."

Ragland, who trailed Ashley by 1 minute, 37 seconds at the last BFG pit in Todos Santos (1636 miles), rolled his Chevy truck in his effort to close the gap on the Duralast pickup. The Vortec Chevy was uprighted by the driver and co-driver continued. But the truck rolled a second time closer to the finish line in Cabo San Lucas. Again, the truck was put back on four wheels and Ragland took the checkered flag at the finish line. Ragland and co-driver B. Stewart completed the distance in 32:59:24 (50.910 m.p.h.), third overall in the four-wheel vehicles. Ragland offered these remarks following his second-place showing: "I'm disappointed -- we were fast but we just couldn't get ahead. We got too far behind. We had too many problems, one bad break after another. We lost an alternator, then a transmission. The police held us up a couple of times, costing us some minutes. I didn't want to finish second -- I was going for the win. I told my co-driver 'hang on.'"

Finishing just in front of Ragland was Troy Herbst in his Ford-power Smithbuilt buggy with a time of 32:50.59 and a speed of 51.127 m.p.h. The Class 1 win for Herbst clinched his fourth straight class title and second overall SCORE championship in the last three years. Herbst drove the 1700-mile trek with J. Smith, current owner of NASCAR Winston Cup stock cars and Craftsman Truck Series pickups. J. Smith drove the final leg of the course. "Troy brought it to me in good shape," Smith said. "We just had a great day. The course was long, hard and tough. This was the granddaddy of them all." In winning his fourth straight unlimited Class 1 SCORE season point championship, Troy Herbst thoroughly enjoyed his Class 1 victory at the Tecate SCORE Baja 2000 and his second place overall finish among four-wheel vehicles. "Our Terrible Herbst Motorsport Ford-powered Smithbuilt ran like it had been in Baja before." Troy said. The course was the most challenging, most beautifully laid out one we have ever run on. SCORE did a wonderful job putting this event together. We have an awesome team and our car was superb this entire race. Having a guy like Jimmy Smith drive with you was a honor and gives you an extra edge. Mr. Smith knows Baja, knows racing and knows how to take care of equipment. I couldn't have done it without him.

Tim and Ed Herbst, the brother team from Las Vegas, finished 12th overall and fourth in Trophy Truck to clinch their second consecutive Trophy Truck class championship with a time of 38:32:15 and speed of 43.581 m.p.h. The season title for the Herbsts marks the first time the Trophy Truck champion had won two titles since the category's inception in 1994. Tim and Ed Herbst, whose repeat season point championship in the SCORE Trophy-Truck division marks the first time a team had won the featured SCORE division title twice since it was introduced in 1994, were basically pleased with the results of this race. "We lost our transmission and that put us down for just over two hours in the top half of the race course and we also had several flat tires and all of that put us back too far to be really in the hunt," said Tim at the finish line waiting for his brother to finish late Monday night. "We won the championship again and that's great, and then to finish after all of the problems we had was still awesome because this was the greatest race our sport had ever seen."

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