Sunday, January 22, 2006

HONDA announces changes

American Honda Announces Major Changes to its Off-Road Racing Program

American Honda has made major changes to its off-road racing program for 2006, following a highly successful 2005 season. Faced with some of its toughest opposition in years, the 2005 Honda Off-Road Team responded as champions always do, rising to new heights in the face of stiffer challenges. Veterans Johnny Campbell and Steve Hengeveld once again won the biggest races en route to defending both their Best in the Desert (BITD) and SCORE Series championships. Their biggest threats turned out to be Honda "B" team rookies Robby Bell and Kendall Norman, who improved steadily throughout the year and performed beyond expectations, coming tantalizingly close to stealing victory from Campbell and Hengeveld on several occasions.
That bodes well for 2006 as multi-time champ Johnny Campbell will move to a team coordinator role in all but the Baja 1000, where he will be multi-tasking as both racer and team coordinator. Johnny will be racing to keep his amazing streak of consecutive Baja 1000 victories—currently at nine in a row—alive. He will also serve as back-up racer in multi-rider team events. Hengeveld, Bell, Norman and Mike Childress will return to carry the Red Rider banner in desert competition. Hengeveld will focus on the SCORE and AMA National Hare and Hound series, as will Norman. Bell will focus on the SCORE series and WORCS (World Off Road Championship Series) and Childress will be the fourth man in events when two 2-man teams are competing. The Honda Off-road team will also compete in the grueling 24-hour race at Glen Helen raceway. All will rely on Honda's race-proven CRF and XR motorcycles. Depending on the type of event the team is racing they can choose from the XR™650R, CRF450X, CRF450R or the CRF250R. No matter which Honda the team chooses a support team that's second to none will back them.
The Riders
Johnny Campbell, rider and Team CoordinatorThough he's most famous for his success in Baja, Johnny Campbell enjoyed most of his victories last year on this side of the border in BITD Silver State Series. He and partner Steve Hengeveld kicked off the season by winning round one, the Golden West Cycles Parker 250, got fifth at round two and reeled off three consecutive triumphs before the series finale.
But it's not just his riding that sets Campbell apart—it's his entire approach to racing. That comes from his knowledge of the bike and how to prepare it, his practice and training regimens, the support he receives from his family and team, plus an unexpectedly calm, patient demeanor that he attributes to his Christian beliefs. One of the top desert racers for more than a decade, Campbell has been a Honda rider for practically his entire career. As he assumes team coordination duties from multi-time Baja champion Bruce Ogilvie, these qualities will serve him extremely well.
Steve HengeveldStepping up to become the partner of one of the best desert racers ever in 2000, Steve Hengeveld knew he had to up his game. One of the early motocrossers who turned to off-road racing, he made a name for himself at the beginning of his desert career as an outstanding rider in the 250cc class. As many have discovered, of course, success in the smaller classes doesn't always carry over into the 100-plus mph world of the big-bore premier class.
But that wasn't the case with Hengeveld, who'd won a few races with Jonah Street on their XR650R. Shorter and lighter than Johnny Campbell, Hengeveld's most difficult challenge was adapting his style to Campbell's bike and suspension setup. Once he cleared that hurdle, Hengeveld proved that he indeed had what it took to run at the front, and he proved the perfect complement to Campbell as they began to rack up the wins. In particular, Hengeveld is a superb night rider and often tackles the longest night stints in the Baja 1000. In addition, Hengeveld also competes closer to home in AMA District 37 events plus select AMA/FMF Racing National Hare & Hound Series races.
Robby BellFaced with a steep learning curve as an unproven rookie in 2005, Robby Bell responded by soaking up all the information he could from guys like Johnny Campbell and Steve Hengeveld. As a result, he improved tremendously as the season progressed until he and partner Kendall Norman were often the only ones likely to provide competition for the "A" team.
Obviously, Bell has the ability to win—as a motocrosser, he has a California State MX Championship on his resume—and it is only a matter of time before he earns his first major off-road victory.
Kendall NormanA second-generation off-road racer, Kendall Norman remembers going out to the desert with his father when he was little and following him around. The elder Norman (Morris) taught him how to read terrain, gave him riding tips and got him started racing, though Norman mostly did motocross at first. After graduating from high school, he started racing more in the desert.
But it wasn't until he joined Honda that he began spending much time on anything other than 125s. Still, despite getting used to the power and speed potential of the XR650R, as well as a season full of new venues, Norman quickly assimilated it all and, with partner Robby Bell, exceeded all expectations.
Mike ChildressTwenty-two year old Mike Childress won his first-ever SCORE race with teammate "Mouse" McCoy in the 2005 Baja 500 on a Honda XR650R, but he has been racing since the age of 13. The Wrightwood, California native was competing in District 37 (D37) races and just two years later, after a season-long effort in the 1999 BITD series, he captured the amateur's championship in the four-stroke, 450cc-and-over class. His budding career was in full motion and in 2002 he collected the D37 four-stroke championship and was named the number one rider —a feat he repeated in 2003.
2005 was a notable year for Childress. He dominated D37 with 17 overall wins. Following his Baja 500 win, he joined veterans Campbell and Hengeveld to capture the SCORE Baja 1000, demonstrating to all that he has become one of the top young desert racers. In 2006 Mike will compete in the BITD series and AMA district-37 desert racing.
Bruce Ogilvie, Team ManagerIt's impossible to think of Bruce Ogilvie and not think of Honda's success in Baja racing. The two are tightly intertwined and have been since Ogilvie's days as a top racer himself. In fact, he's the only motorcycle racer to have won in Baja in four decades, starting in the 1970s and running right up to his stint for the winning Baja 1000 team in 2003. In addition, Ogilvie earned medals three times as a member of the U.S. team in the International Six Days Enduro (ISDE).
All of this has given him unique insight into what it takes to run all aspects of a winning off-road motorcycle racing team, and he does it all. His responsibilities run the gamut, from deciding on optimum pit-stop locations and planning air-filter changes to inventorying pit supplies and making hotel reservations for the team and its support personnel. (And that's not to mention his full-time responsibility at Honda as a product planner, which finds him in the saddle developing and testing every dirt-oriented motorcycle or ATV, followed by meetings to discuss his findings most days of the work week.)


RTR Motorsports rolled into Laughlin, Nevada, this past weekend with two vehicles entered in the SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge. Entered in the Trophy-Truck class was the RTR Motorsports, Kroyer Racing Engines-powered Chevrolet/Porter Trophy-Truck. Also entered in the Sportsman Division was the RTR Sidewinder three-seat, Chevrolet LS1-powered prerunner. Driving both entries for this event was SCORE veteran Kory Scheeler. The original plan to have RTR's other veteran driver, Larry Job, co-drive in Class 1 had been scrapped due to time constraints, and the RTR Class 1 entry was withdrawn prior to the race.

Saturday Report:
Early Saturday morning Kory raced the Sportsman race, bringing along two RTR pit crew volunteers for four exciting laps, the first racing experience for the passengers.

Late Saturday afternoon, more than 30 Trophy-Trucks lined up for some exciting and treacherous racing on a new shorter racecourse, with overcast skies and slight winds. Kory lined up in the 8th starting position, alongside the beautiful new Jimco Trophy-Truck driven by Mike Julson.

Kory pulled the holeshot on the Jimco truck and pulled away out of the infield, and proceeded to make his way to the front of the pack in the first two laps, with only Scott Steinberger remaining, who was running first on the course. After running a quick 8:48 third lap, Kory was knocking on Scott's back door. Kory was unable to break through the dust to make the pass on Scott in the three remaining laps, which allowed the Renezeder, Herbst, and Baldwin entries to close the gap. Kory reluctantly settled for a 4th place finish, one second out of 3rd place, 29 seconds out of 2nd place, and 46 seconds out of 1st place.

Kory's comments after Saturday's Trophy-Truck race:
Wow, what an intense race!! I did not know what to expect from Mike Julson in his new Trophy-Truck, so we were very focused on trying to beat him out of the infield. Mike is a very serious competitor and is very fast, but driving a Trophy-Truck is a whole different driving style than a buggy, and I would not have wanted Laughlin to be my maiden voyage into the Trophy-Truck class. I had Mike Costello, my co-driver for Saturday, glued to the rear view mirror off of the starting line. After we beat Mike Julson out of the infield we never saw him again until he was parked alongside the course a couple laps later. I am sure Mike will be back and ready for battle at San Felipe. There was a lot of dust the first couple of laps, and after we had gotten by most of the trucks that started in front of us, we pushed hard on lap 3 to catch up to Scott Steinberger, who was physically first on the road. Scott seemed to be running a little off his usual fast pace to me, but I just could not get close enough to break through his dust and safely make a pass, so unfortunately we watched the rest of the pack close the gap on us the last three laps, as we could see them through the infield each lap. We were right on Scott's bumper coming into the finish, and if we would have had another lap, I am sure we could have gotten by Scott in the infield and then had some dust-free running for ourselves. I talked to Scott at the finish, and he said he had lost 2nd gear in his transmission. After looking at the lap times, it looks like we probably cost ourselves 15-30 seconds on each of those last three laps by not getting by Scott. Our power steering seemed to have a lot of feedback in the steering wheel on the last lap, so I wanted to get the truck back to the pits as soon as possible after the race to check it out. I did not wait around at the finish for the results, as I presumed we were likely in the top five. We could not find any visual problems with the steering system, so we did not change anything after Saturday's race.'

Sunday Report:
Kory ran the Sportsman race again on Sunday morning, with two other RTR pit crew volunteers as passengers, and they had a blast in the three laps that were completed, as the RTR entry pulled off the course early so as not to interfere with the Sportsman race outcome.

More than 30 Trophy-Trucks lined up for the finale on Sunday afternoon, and the RTR Trophy-Truck had drawn the Number 1 starting slot alongside the BJ Baldwin entry.

Ed Herbst and Carl Renezeder had also drawn spots in the next two rows, which guaranteed an exciting race to the finish. Kory pulled the holeshot on BJ Baldwin, however BJ was able to take a better line through the infield section and had the physical lead when they exited the infield. They remained in this order until lap number five, when Kory hit a ledge with the left front wheel of the truck, and damaged the left front suspension beyond repair. This ended any hope of a podium finish for the team.

Kory's comments after Sunday's Trophy-Truck race:
We were extremely excited drawing the number one slot for Sunday's race, and up until start time there was virtually no wind at all, so I knew we had to be the first truck out of the infield if we wanted to win this thing. When I pulled up to the starting line, the SCORE official lined me up on the outside, and even after pleading with the official that I had drawn the number 1 slot, he still placed me on the outside.

We got the holeshot again, but BJ took a very wide line exiting a corner about halfway through the infield and was able to get inside of me going into the next corner. I thought if I could get inside of him on the last corner of the infield I would be able to outrun him up the main straightaway, but my truck got a little loose in the last corner and almost spun out, so I had to get out of the throttle. When we got out on the course I was amazed at how deteriorated the course was, I could barely hold onto the steering wheel in the rough sections, especially coming into the corners. We probably should have changed out the power steering pump and rack and stiffened up the suspension after Saturdays race.?

We held our own the first 3 laps, battling with Carl Renezeder until he had his flat tire, and on lap 4 the wind was (strangely) blowing hard so we picked up the pace. We were finally out of the dust and I wanted to stay close to BJ so that if he had any problems we would be right there to capitalize on him. I really put my foot in it on lap 5, and near the end of that lap, when we came down the sand wash towards the infield the truck bicycled on a large hole that was developing. I was able to stay on the throttle and pull it out of that situation, but we were then heading to the left and staring straight at a three-foot ledge, which tore off the left front suspension when we hit it, bringing the truck to an immediate halt. Jim Wischmeyer, who was my co-driver on Sunday, reached over and put the truck in reverse and said, Gas it. My response was , We are done, the left front wheel is hanging outside the fender?. As a crowd gathered around our truck, everybody ran for cover as Bob Shepard hit the same hole in the sand wash, and then barrel rolled his truck several times, stopping just a few feet away from us. We are lucky that neither my co-driver or myself, or Bob Shepard and his co-driver were injured. What an intense race!!
I want to congratulate BJ Baldwin and the Collins Motorsports crew for taking the win, in a brand new truck no less. We will see everyone in San Felipe!?

RTR Motorsports, LLC, is sponsored by Las Vegas-based RealTech Realty, Inc.. The following manufacturers and suppliers are used for both the Trophy-Truck and Class 1 entries.

Trophy-Truck: Class 1:
Kroyer Racing Engines & Powertrain Wiks Racing Engines
Gearworks Fortin Racing Transaxles
King Racing Shocks King Racing Shocks
BFGoodrich Tires BFGoodrich Tires
Walker Evans Racing Wheels BTR Racing Wheels
Porter Race Cars Jimco Race Cars
McKenzie?s Performance Products McKenzie?s Performance Products
F & L Racing Fuel F & L Racing Fuel
PCI Race Radios PCI Race Radios
Lee Mfg. Co. Lee Mfg. Co.
Howe Performance Howe Performance