Friday, December 07, 2007

Sean Hoernke Finishes the 2007 Baja 1000

At this years Baja 1000 Sean finished 6th in his class





If you asked 10 people to describe the Baja 1000 in one word I think you would get 10 different answers. Words like Challenging, Scary, Crazy, Fast, Dusty, Exciting, Beautiful I’ve heard used to describe the race. I think the one word for me is Unbelievable. It really kind of is when you look at it. All the logistics, technology, and determination that is put into this race by each and every team is simply unbelievable to someone who has never witnessed it in person.
Racing the Baja 1000 has been around our family since I was eight years old. My father raced the Baja multiple times in the 1980’s & 1990’s so it was only natural that it was in my blood also. Last year when I read that this year’s 1000 was going to be the second longest race in the history of the event I had to do it.

Our team consisted of five great guys. Morgan Spradling from Gunnison, Colorado, Jeff Davis from Gunnison, Colorado, Kane Cook from Hesperia, California, Frank Prince from Chicago, Illinois, and myself. These guys rode their hearts out and did everything so well on and off the bike during and before the race to make this thing a success. Morgan owns Highland Cycles in Montrose, Colorado. He was in charge of building the bike and he did an awesome job of building a rocket ship. The bike was a dream during the race.

We arrived in Ensenada on November 2 to pre- run portions of my section of the course. My responsibility was the Start to mile 205 near the Santo Domingo wash. My second section would be mile 368 to 487. That would be a night section through Coco’s Corner into Bay of LA. Pre-run went well and I was really looking forward to the race. The day before the race is tech inspection where you roll your bike through and they give it the once over and stamp the frame and motor to ensure that those are the pieces that make it over the finish line several days later. Then they look at the bike guys and snicker and say good luck? Tech is crazy with people everywhere coming to see all the bikes, trucks, and buggies. It is a madhouse.

Race day comes and it’s up early like a bass tournament day. The first bike rolls off the line at 6:30 am so you have to get up early. It’s kind of crazy because the city is like a ghost town the morning of the race until you get to the starting line then you realize where everybody in town went. There were people everywhere. We were 13th off the line in the Open Sportsman class so at 7:13:30 am our race had begun. The race starts in downtown Ensenada and winds through the streets into the famous Ensenada Wash that leads you out of town. There were people everywhere. Yelling, screaming, running across the track in front you. It is crazy. For the first hour you are so concerned about the people on the side of the course and what they are doing you really don’t focus on what is in front of you. After a little while you finally just blur it out and focus on what is coming and just hope no one does anything crazy. The best way I can describe it is it looks like one of those crazy mountain stages in the Tour De France where Lance Armstrong is going up the mountain and it just looks totally crazy with beveraged up people that have been sitting on a mountainside for 3 days waiting for the race to show up.

I finally settle down and start riding my pace and picking some guys off one by one. At around the 30 mile marker I was second physically in our class and ended up having a shifter problem. I rode about 20 miles in first gear till I made it to the next pit where we were able to get it fixed and back to racing. We dropped several positions during the shifter ordeal so I had a ways to make up, we lost about 15 minutes time. Everything went well after that with no major problems or crashes. Luckily it had rained the night before and the dust was not bad so it made passing a lot quicker and easier since you could see. I made it into the first rider exchange at Santo Domingo at about 11:45 am. When I turned the bike over we were in second place about 3 minutes down on first. So we were happy to be in good position after the first part of the race.
Jeff Davis took over the next section, he did a great job of getting the bike down the line. He took a bad spill when he came around the corner and the road had washed out from the previous day’s rain and he took a bad trip over the bars. The bad news was when it became dark our main beam light did not come on so he had to ride a good ways with minimal light and that is no fun. He turned the bike back over to me in 7th place. We worked on the light for a little while in the pit but our planning mistake was not expecting a light issue that early in the race so our closest spare was at the end of my section at the next rider exchange. So I rode the 120 mile section with the broken light also. It was a slow go but I would ride along someone else’s light as long as I could then fade back and catch another ride with someone else. I finally made it through that section and turned the bike over in 5th place so we made up some ground on a few guys but we lost a good chunk of time on the leaders in our class.

We did a complete light exchange and rewiring at the pit. We had a set of spare Fuego HID’s that we put on for the remainder of the race. We should have had another set of spares at the previous pit but we never expected a light issue right at dark so we didn’t plan for it and that was our fault and it cost us. We should have known better. Morgan took over at the Bay of LA highway crossing and he was a mad man on a tear. He made up some good time during his section to La Purisma and turned over the bike at around 3a.m. in 2nd place.

Kane jumped on the bike and things were looking good at around 7 am the next morning. We were an hour plus down from first and about 45 minutes ahead of third. So things were looking good for second. With about 160 miles left in the race his riding jacket fell out of his backpack and wrapped up in the rear sprocket that eventually ended up turning him into superman and flying over a fence and into the cactus. He had a pit guy put the jacket in the backpack for him and I guess it didn’t get zipped all the way up before he took off from the pit. After a long ordeal of cutting the jacket out of the rear wheel he was back on his way. The bike took a good lick and it ended up damaging the radiator and throttle assembly. We lost about an hour and a half in the pits replacing throttle cables and repairing the radiator. He had to ride the bike with a pair of needle nose pliers attached to the throttle cable to give it gas. I’m sure that wasn’t fun in the sand.

Frank took over the bike with 150 miles to go in sixth place. He had a great ride and kept it on two wheels till the finish. After 1300 miles and 33 hours 57 minutes and 39 seconds of racing a little after dark Frank pulled into the finish line 6th in class and it was all over. Since I was 8 years old I dreamed of one day competing in the Baja 1000 and making it to the finish, we did it! It really was one of those days that I never will forget.

Baja Racing