San Felipe, Baja California Mexico
Patience paid off for the Team Honda Racing Off-Road team in the long awaited 2020 SCORE Baja 500 held on September 26, with two podiums – Class 7 win/13th overall for the Honda Ridgeline and P2 in the Pro UTV Unlimited Class for Eliott Watson piloting the No. 1893 Honda Talon. The 496 mile race course started outside San Felipe and was a fast, fun combination of the infamous grueling San Felipe whoops, rocks, and dry lake beds.
The No. 7209 Honda Ridgeline had a good day in Baja despite a challenging race start. Jeff Proctor, with Evan Weller navigating, had to drive through numerous classes, in blinding dust, methodically working their way through the field, finally getting a breather around RM 80. Weller recounts, “We had a fast truck and started behind a lot of slower vehicles. We put our heads down and did the work to get around them. We came into our first scheduled pit stop at RM 160 with an 80 mile lead over P2 in class. We cleared the pack around RM 190 and Jeff got in his Baja happy place and attacked the fun, fast course taking us to the driver change at RM 360. We saw only one other truck on the course in that stretch.”
“It was another great Baja 500 for us.” says Team Principal and Ridgeline starting driver, Jeff Proctor, “We’ve had a challenging year to date, chasing little mechanicals, including vapor lock problems at Vegas to Reno. We learned a lot coming out of that high heat race and made adjustments for this one. And it paid off. The Honda Rigdeline felt great all day – through the relentless whoops and the high speed sections – I was able to open it up and let it dance across the desert.”
Proctor continues, “Evan and I got the truck to Patrick Dailey at RM 360 with a huge gap in the action – he just needed to set the cruise control and execute flawlessly – which he did, as always.”
With an official time of 10:19:24, the Honda Ridgeline team earned P1 in class 7 and 13th overall, over two hours ahead of P2. It’s their highest overall finish in Baja.
Like Vegas to Reno, it was a tale of two Talons for the No. 1893, piloted by Eliott Watson and the No. 1894, driven by Christopher Polvoorde, but the roles were reversed. This time out Polvoorde was out early with a mechanical, while Watson finished the race in P2 in the Pro UTV Unlimited Class with a time of 15:04:12.
Proctor shares his thoughts on the Talon program, “The Talons were well prepared and dialed-in, and we felt great coming into this race - even in a development year. It was the Talons first Baja race, to have a finish is an accomplishment, but to have Eliott bring a home podium, is something to celebrate. He ran a perfectly executed race – consistent, minimized downtime, and had zero mechanicals. I’m really happy for the Honda Powersports program – they had a great day with Mark Samuels earning the overall on two-wheels and Eliott 2nd in class.”
Eliott Watson recaps his race, “Overall I’m very happy with how our day went. We came in with the mentality to run conservative, to make it to the finish, and our strategy paid off. My navigator, Quintin Tucker, and I got into a good rhythm early, and handed the car off to Bud Ward and Brian Weatherly at RM 240. They kept the pace that we started and gave Quintin and I an awesome car at mile 360. From there, we kept moving forward into the night to bring the Talon it’s first finish in Baja with a 2nd place.”
Proctor continues, “Overall, we’ve learned a lot from the past two races that will apply nicely as we get ready for the 1000. It’s coming together quickly and we’re ready for another Baja race.
Watson finishes, “To top the day off, we were able to take lots of notes during the race on things we can work on to be prepared for the Baja 1000. We really want to get both Honda Talons up on the box, and I think we are in a very good spot to do so.”
With just a week in the shop turnaround, up next for the Talons are the UTV World Championships, October 8 – 10, in Lake Havasu, AZ. Then all three teams head to Baja for testing, pre-running, and racing the Baja 1000, starting in Ensenada, Baja, Mexico on November 20th.
For additional info on the Honda Ridgeline Off-road team go to: http://www.hondaoff-road.com/ or HondaOffRoadRacing on Facebook, Instagram: @HondaOffRoadRacing or Jeff Proctor on Personal Instagram: @proctor_race.
Photography By: Bink Designs