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OFF ROAD: Honda XR650 goes 1-2 at Baja 1000 - Campbell is desert series Champ

8 November 1999

On a tough, technical and incredibly dusty two-loop course, Honda's all-new
XR650Rs performed flawlessly, bringing their riders home 1-2 for the overall win
at the 32nd running of the oldest, most prestigious off-road race in the world,
the Baja 1000.

Johnny Campbell and Tim Staab took the overall ahead of the 250 motorcycle and
four-wheel competitors, the third Baja 1000 win in a row for Campbell, and
Honda's 10th win in the Mexican race. The second team of Jonah Street, Torsten
Bostrom and Greg Bringle came home second motorcycle on their XR650R some 11
minutes back, and just 14 seconds behind the first Trophy Truck of Larry
Ragland. In fact, Honda riders made it 1-2-3-4 in the motorcycle class.
Campbell's win meant he also won the six-race Laughlin/SCORE International
Desert Series.

The course was atypical for a Baja 1000, creating a tough challenge for the
entrants. Basically it was two 350-mile loops of the Baja 500 course. Because
the route hadn't recovered from the 500 event, and because of a lot of
pre-running by competitors, the course was diabolically rough and dry, making
visibility almost zero at night. Moreover, there were no ultra-high-speed dry
lake bed sections, with the course instead winding through Baja's pine forests.

"This was a more technical Baja race," said winner Campbell, "a lot of turning,
twisting through the trees. We only averaged 47.1 miles an hour." On top of
that, a two-loop course meant there would be lots of traffic for the leaders to
contend with at night. When Campbell took the checkered flag, there were still
competitors heading out for their second lap.

Riders were waved off at the start in 30-second intervals, and Campbell started
second behind Honda rider Ricardo Malo.

"I had a decent start position," Campbell said, "and only had to pass one guy
and got by him around the 25-mile mark. I just tried to ride consistently. My
arms were pumping a little bit because it was a little bit shadowy and hard to
see in the morning. And cold, because the first 15 miles were pretty wide-open,
and the wind chill goes up when you're going 90 mph. After that, I just tried to
be smooth and consistent and get the bike to Tim."

Jonah Street started sixth and quickly worked his way up into second, turning it
into a duel between the two XR650R teams. Even so, the Campbell/Staab duo was
never headed, although the Street/Bostrom/Bringle team did get to within 6.5
minutes at the halfway point. Campbell's and Staab's winning time was 14 hours
15 minutes and 42 seconds.

Although it was essentially a wire-to-wire win, the teams did have to overcome
some unexpected challenges. During Staab's daytime stint on the bike (Staab rode
the daytime sections, and Campbell started and rode the night sections) he fell
at low-speed in some rocks and stalled the bike.

"The air filter was plugged up and the bike was really rich and it wouldn't
start," Staab said. "It was probably only 3 or 4 minutes, but it felt like an
hour to me." Campbell also fell as he was heading to victory during his last
leg, getting crossed up on a rain rut and going down, but he and the bike were

The second-place team also suffered a crash, when Jonah Street was on his first
lap through the pine forests. "I was chasing a slower rider, and I came up on
him in the dust thinking that I could just swoop right around him," Street said.
"And when I got on him, I found that I was looking straight at the tailgate of a
truck doing 5 miles an hour. I just yarded it off into the weeds, there was
nothing else I could do. But I'm OK and so's the bike. It was really hard to go
fast after that for a couple of miles, but I shook it off."

"The bike worked flawlessly," Campbell said at the finish. "The toughest part
was dicing with cars in the last section before the finish, coming back into
Ojos Negros. At one point a car held me up for about 10 miles. It was a little
hairy because I could barely see my front fender. It was like driving in the
fog. But we got through clean, clean enough to win the thing"

It was a sweet victory for the team, and no doubt the first of many for Honda's
XR650R. Campbell himself was suitably enthusiastic that, after bringing the bike
home to the checkered flag, said, "Want to do another loop?"

SCORE / Tecate Baja 1000 top-five motorcycles (Unofficial results)
1. Johnny Campbell/Tim Staab - Honda XR650R; 14:15:42 (Overall event winner)
2. Jonah Street/Torsten Bostrom/Greg Bringle - Honda XR650R; 14:26:50
3. Tex Mitchell/Ron Wilson/Scott Meyers - Honda XR628R; 14:57:23
4. Mike Dellar/Eric Brown/Harry Nevil/Mark Varner - Honda XR600R; 16:17:32
5. Jose/Ruvalcaba/Leonel Ruvalcaba - Yamaha YZ250; 16:19:36