The chaotic SCORE Baja journey continues this weekend with the Baja 500 in Ensenada. Factory KTM has invested a large portion of their off-road program into Baja to achieve the ultimate 1x plate following JCR's long time reign. Although Caselli and Cody are basically sitting this one out, to say the FMF/KTM off-road team and program has headed south in terms of quality and performance is unrealistic, especially considering Marc Coma and Homero Diaz have jumped on board as fill-in riders. JCR Honda is experiencing a strange, unfamiliar sense of defeat, and is no longer on top after KTM's win at San Felipe. Though surely it has fueled the riders to up their game and keep mindful of their competition. On the Kawasaki side, there is technically no Factory effort present, but the THR Motorports/Monster Energy/Precision Concepts team is challenging the largely supported field and has an equal opportunity at taking the win. To sum up this intro, Kendall Norman is on the roster and actually contesting this round. He's done the pre-running and is now left to put his words into action. The only kicker? He's doing this solo. For the first time ever. Maybe chaotic was an understatement.
Mike Brown- 2x
The Motocross turned off-road racer Mike Brown is heading up Team B for the Factory FMF/Bonanza Plumbing/KTM team in another attempt to add a win-notch to KTM's belt. Brown missed the latest WORCS race, falling out of the top 3 points lead, to spend time testing down in Baja. Although Quinn Cody was his teammate in the San Felipe 250, Homero Diaz will be filling in for Cody.
Quinn Cody- Ex-JCR Honda rider, Cody made the switch to Orange this season to put emphasis on Baja and Dakkar. But after his big crash at the San Felipe 250, Cody will be sitting this one out and the 5-time National Mexican Enduro Champion; Homero Diaz will be taking his place.
Homero Diaz- The one and only 5-time National Mexican Enduro Champion will be taking on the 500 along side Brown. He has an impressive background and is one of the fastest guys in the land. Other than Kendall Norman, Team B will be one of the least staffed team of the bunch.
Robby Bell- 4x
Bell has found his groove this season and the newly engaged THR Motorsports/Precision Concepts/Kawasaki rider is heading into Baja coming off his best WORCS finish yet. The few changes he's made in his program for 2012 have proved sufficient enough to carry him to the podium, and the 500 may be the next podium he sees.
Steve Hengeveld- In what was Destry Abbott's spot for the 250, Hengeveld is a bet-worthy rider who can help produce and deliver a win. He has an abundance of Baja knowledge and both he and Bell have experience racing together back in 2009.
David Pearson- Holding it down on the National Hare & Hound front, Pearson just took his first series win of the season. Pearson also teamed up with Bell for the 250 and the two (including Abbott and Childress) worked as a team for 6th in class, even after Bell's scary, yet incredibly lucky crash.
Kurt Caselli- 7x
Kurt took a hard hit at the Sageriders National Hare & Hound and is recovering, but he will be starting the race for the Factory FMF/Bonanza Plumbing/KTM team and then hand the bike off to Ivan Ramirez and Marc Coma to complete the race for the team. Caselli will be sitting as an emergency rider.
Ivan Ramirez- Another top-level rider from Mexico, Ramirez is on a steady flow of success and is heading into the 500 with confidence from both the 250 win and an abundance of WORCS podiums. Ramirez and Coma will have to work together to bring the Factory FMF/Bonanza Plumbing/KTM team another win.
Marc Coma- 3-Time Dakkar winner, Coma is a solid professional, long- distance, endurance rider. Coma knows what it takes to pace himself, but keep speed at a constant. Although he hasn't spent nearly as much time in Baja as the rest, Coma understands the logic and game of this type of race. Between him and Ramirez, they have the complete package. But will Caselli's mild-absence hurt them?
Kendall Norman- 9x
Talk of the season, Kendall Norman is riding the 500 solo for the first time ever. Norman was signed up to race the 250 but was a no-show for whatever reason. He's also had zero achievements in the 2012 season. He's knowledgeable and fast, but he has spent some time off, and is going into the 500 coming off a long time championship-reign. A lose could mentally upset Norman and lead to other disappointments, but can he do it on his own?
Mark Samuels- 5x
The rider of record Mark Samuels is teaming up with Matt and Max Eddy, and Ian Young to take on the 500. Samuels is another motocross-raised rider who has taken to off-road and done fairly well considering his experience. Currently he sits 3rd in the points and has a good chance at podium if the boys can keep it up and keep moving fast.
Colton Udall- 1x
The JCR Honda trio of Colton Udall, Timmy Weigand and David Kamo, are heading into the 500 in hopes to hold on to JCR's reputation. The 500 was a slap in the face as Caselli/Ramirez went on to take the win by minutes; their first defeat in years. A win is absolutely mandatory for these guys, but realistically their slightly outnumbered. This will be their time to show the industry, Mexico and their fans that they truly are the King's of Baja. Can they keep it mentally together?
Baja 500 Starting Positions:
Kurt Caselli- 68
Colton Udall- 62
Mark Samuels- 58
AJ Stewart- 55
Francisco Arredondo- 53
Robby Bell- 52
Adam Miller- 51
Mike Brown- 20