In a dramatic SCORE International Off-Road Racing 2019 finale that saw the Baja 1000 postponed by a day due to a racecourse affected by inclement weather, the SLR Honda team notched a start-to-finish victory aboard the No. 1X CRF450X. The win in the legendary event’s 52nd edition capped off the squad’s second-straight undefeated season in the series and stretched the Honda CRF450X’s unmatched Baja 1000 win total to 13; the model’s current platform remains undefeated in SCORE racing. Honda-mounted teams have earned a record 29 victories in the race, including 22 of the last 23 years.
In Saturday’s pre-dawn hours, SLR Honda was the first team to leave the start line in Ensenada, Mexico, and although the wet conditions meant that the following teams didn’t have to cope with dust, SLR teammates Justin Morgan, Max Eddy Jr., David Kamo and Shane Esposito immediately began to stretch their advantage. They were never headed during the counterclockwise loop around the northern end of the Mexican peninsula, finishing back in Ensenada over 800 miles later with a winning time of 17 hours, 34 minutes, 28 seconds, which was over two hours ahead of the runner-up Pro Moto Unlimited squad. Honda teams also won the Pro Moto 30, Pro Moto Ironman, Pro Moto 50, Pro Quads, Sportsman Quads and Sportsman Moto classes.
Despite the smooth race day, things hadn’t looked promising for the squad just over seven weeks earlier, when SLR team owner and rider Mark Samuels broke both of his femurs in a training crash. (Samuels has been a rider on four winning Baja 1000 teams.) “After I got hurt, I had to go back to the drawing board and figure out what to do,” Samuels said. “I was pretty stressed, but I was fortunate to line up some riders with a ton of experience in Baja, and they all rode flawlessly. The only real issue we had all day was a short in our lighting system right off the start, so we swapped it out at a pit. Apart from that, everything went great for us, while the other top teams had some issues. It was kind of different being on the sidelines for this one, but it was also pretty special to sit back and be the manager and watch our guys perform.”
First officially run in 1967, the Baja 1000—“the world’s longest non-stop off-road race”—was inspired by Dave Ekins and Bill Robertson Jr.’s 1962 run from Tijuana to La Paz aboard a pair of Honda CL72 Scramblers. Honda-mounted Larry Berquist and Gary Preston won the motorcycle class in 1968, and the list of winning Honda riders since then includes famous names like Johnny Campbell, Kendall Norman, Chuck Miller, Bruce Ogilvie, Al Baker and others.