La Paz, Baja California Sur
The 2023 edition of the SCORE Baja 1000 went down in history as the second longest race course with 1310.94-miles, and for the first time, running from La Paz to Ensenada, up the Baja California peninsula. Racing through the varied and rugged terrain and its many weather systems, subjected the Honda Off-Road Factory Racing Team to a number of challenges – proving a difficult race that the Honda Ridgeline managed to finish but the Honda Talon team had to make the unenviable decision to call-it at RM 950. A similar decision was made by about 47% of the 335 entries.
The No. 9 Honda Ridgeline entered the Baja 1000 for the first time in the SCORE Trophy Truck class. It’s only the second race for the latest edition of the Honda Ridgeline Baja Race Truck – built to compete against unlimited Trophy Trucks while adhering to its Honda Ridgeline inspired design and engineering. The Ridgeline was led by driver of record Ethan Ebert who split the driving duties with Richard Glasczak, Chip Prescott, and Bobby Smith.
The Ridgeline’s race started strong and on pace with the class leaders with Glasczak behind the wheel. Prescott encountered some mechanicals which slowed the pace to get the Ridgeline to the next pit for some repairs. The pit crew made the necessary repairs and successfully kept the Ridgeline on course.
“We’re still in the development process with the new Ridgeline,” said Jeff Proctor, Team Principal, “So, all considered, I’m very happy with the progress and performance. There’s so much untapped potential. It just takes time. We collected a ton of feedback from this race to continue our upward growth.”
Ebert said, “The race went really well for us that’s for sure. It was the first Baja 1000 I’ve done that was 1300 miles and it was definitely not easy on the team or the truck. I am super grateful for my co drivers and crew that helped get the truck all the way to the finish. It was definitely fun getting up super early and tracking the truck every five minutes and saying, ‘Mom look they’re still moving!’
“I know that this Honda program has the potential to overall a race, no doubt in my mind about that, it’s just a matter of time before we have the perfect day and get it done. We are going to work super hard on getting there and won’t stop until we achieve our goal and continue to push for those overall wins we know we can get. I can’t thank Proctor enough for this opportunity to drive such an amazing race truck and drive for a huge brand like Honda. We’re going to head into the next race and keep trying to get our perfect day!”
Ebert brought the Honda Ridgeline across the finish with a time of 28:54:11.489. 11th in the SCORE Trophy Truck class and 31st overall.
Zach Sizelove, in the No. 1925 Honda Talon, set out to run the over 1300-mile race as the solo driver alongside two navigators Wayne Lambert and Greg Savage in the Pro UTV NA class. That goal took a turn when at only RM 66 the Honda Talon was clipped by a competitor from another class and sustained damage from the unavoidable contact that would ultimately end the race early for the Talon team. Sizelove and the team’s pit crews managed to keep the Talon going with “bandaid” style fixes until about RM 950 when the course become rough and remote, making recovery dangerous and lengthy, if needed.
Proctor said, “Zach and the team put up a valiant effort to cross the finish line. But after a long day of managing fixes and battling back, Zach and I made the strategic decision to not continue the race. We didn’t want to subject anyone to undue risk. It’s never easy after all the heart and preparation everyone on this team invests.”
Sizelove said, “It was really unfortunate. After the unavoidable contact, my pit crew was able to make a temporary repair at race mile 250 to continue. At this point I was already way down on time and was just focusing on the challenge of completing all the miles and getting to the finish with no other major delays.
The race course was extremely rough and the previous damage got worse, the lower suspension pivots ripped off the chassis. Luckily, my crew was again able to repair the Talon, but it took roughly three hours to do. Even though we were down even more time and the wind taken out of our sails, I still had the goal of completing all 1,300 miles solo and didn't want to give up. Finally, it was in a crazy rain storm that the front suspension broke one last time and we had to call the end of the race at that point. Just bad Baja luck. The team and Talon did everything right.”
Preparations for 2024 are already in full swing for the Honda Off-Road Factory Team’s next stop in Johnson Valley for another historically brutal test of man and machinery – King of the Hammers.