Mark Samuels and the 4X Ox Motorsports Honda lead the motorcycle and ATV competitors off the line at the Bud Light SCORE Baja 500.
The early morning still of Baja California was shattered by the sound of high-performance motorcycles and ATVs as Ox Motorsports Honda rider Mark Samuels led a parade of motorcycle and ATV starters off the line in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, at 5:30 a.m. PDT to start the 47th Bud Light SCORE Baja 500.
Samuels, 24, who is teamed with Justin Jones and Ray Dal Soglio on the 5X entry, is expected to do battle with the Monster Energy/Precision Concepts/THR Motorsports Kawasaki team of Max Eddy, Jr., Justin Morgan and Ian Young for the overall motorycle win in today’s race, and if all goes according to plan, the two machines will effectively engage in a sprint from about race mile 425 in Santo Tomas to decide the winner of the 510.58-mile epic race.
“We’re ready, Samuels said, “I got a good night’s sleep, and our team has prepared the bike awesome, and we’re ready to rock.”
Samuels said that he plans to ride the first 58 miles of the race before handing the bike off to Justin Jones, who will ride the northern part of the course through La Rumarosa and south past Laguna Salada before handing the bike back to Samuels, who ride back across the peninsula from east to west and then hand off to Dal Soglio, who will run the Pacific Coast section at the southwest end of the course. Samuels will once again climb aboard at Santo Tomas and ride to the finish. Samuels said that he expects the winning team to be back around 3 p.m. PDT today.
Eddy Jr. said that the Monster Energy/Precision Concepts/THR Motorsports 1X team plans to make fewer rider changes, although its final rider change will also take place at Santo Tomas. Eddy, Jr. will hand the bike off to Morgan in La Rumarosa. Morgan will then ride for 200 miles before passing the bike to Young, who will ride the section that runs along the Pacific Coast. Eddy, Jr. will then get back aboard in Santo Tomas for the final run to the finish line back in Ensenada
“We’re all good,” Eddy, Jr. said. “The bike is ready to go, and our team is awesome. We’ve been down here, pre-running for two weeks, and everyone has got their sections dialed. We’re just going to go out and ride a nice, smooth race. Hopefully it will be a good race and we will have a good battle going.”
The overall battle notwithstanding, there are some interesting story lines for today’s race, including a father/son team that is making its debut at the Baja 500–well, at least as far as the son is concerned. Baja veteran and former AMA National motocross racer Scott Myers will be teaming with his 19-year-old son Damon, the younger Myers making his Baja racing debut aboard the Hansen McCoy investments Honda. Scott Myers, 46, normally runs in Class 30 (for 30+ year-old-riders).
“It seems the older I get, the more I keep coming back to Class 22 [Open Pro],” Scott Myers said. “But we kind of had to because Damon is only 19. I have all the confidence in the world in him. He has never raced here before, but he has been down here pre-running with us since he was little, and he knows all the dangers.”
The buzz of a lone two-stroke entry drew a reaction from the crowd assembled at the starting line this morning. The 100X team of Fernando Beltran, Emmanuel Verdugo, Fernando Tavarez and Carlos Miranda are racing in the Limited Motorcycle class (440cc or less) aboard a pristine Yamaha YZ250 prepped for Baja racing.
And if Baja 500 fans were looking for a real character to root for, they’ve got it in the form of J.D. Kello. The 52-year-old Texan is making his Baja debut in the Ironman class aboard the oldest machine in the motorcycle field, a 1987 Honda XR600R.
“I’ve wanted to do this since I was 10 years old,” Kellough said. “My mom and my teachers always told me that if I worked hard I could do anything I wanted, and now I am here at the Baja today. My bike is old, but that doesn’t mean it is worn out.”
And Kellough says neither is he.
“I’m 52 years old, and I plan on riding this motorcycle 15 to 18 hours today,” he said. “Look for me at the finish line.”