Ensenada, Baja California Mexico The 2021 running of the SCORE Baja 500 continued to set the bar high with another technical and challenging course. Over the 466 mile course, the Honda Off-Road Factory Racing Team took on the terrain – from silt beds and bottlenecks, to hill climbs and deep sand washes, with precision and preparation. It paid off with a 4th Baja 500 class win for the No. 709 Honda Ridgeline, driven by Jeff Proctor and Pat Dailey, and a 2nd place class finish for the No. 1925 Honda Talon, driven by Zach Sizelove.
“The story of our race was the pre-running and homework we did coming into race day. We spent lots of time finding the potential bottlenecks and had a game plan for each one. We were very strategic in our approach and it was huge part of why the Ridgeline finished three hours ahead of second place,” said Jeff Proctor, driver and Team Principal, “Combined with no mistakes, no flats, and great navigation, it was another great race for the team.”
Evan Weller, navigator, continues, “It’s still Baja and the course can change significantly on race day, so even though we did our homework, we were still very heads-up. We came into a sandy wash with spectators signaling a bottleneck. We had it on our list but what we found was more crazy than expected. Jeff found a safe spot to park and I jumped out to find a way through. In a matter of minutes, Jeff was driving behind me out of the wash and to the front of the bottleneck. There were a couple other bottlenecks and we got through those because of our pre-running notes.”
The Proctor and Weller duo in the Honda Ridgeline kept a great pace and by RM 250, they had 70 mile lead. Strategy changed from push to conservation to bring the Ridgeline to the finish line. At RM 310, Proctor turned the car over to driver Pat Dailey who maintained and added to the lead. They won Class 7 with a time of 12:11:11, nearly a 100 mile lead, and over 3 hours ahead of second place.
For the Talons on the Honda Off-Road Factory Racing Team, it was a mixed bag in the Pro UTV NA class. Zach Sizelove, in the No. 1925 Honda Talon had a nearly flawless day. The pre-running and team notes got them through the bottlenecks and helped push Zach through to the lead until around RM 300 when an upper rear wishbone failed. They lost twenty minutes in a tight race and fell to second. Despite a hard charge, they didn’t have enough race left to make it up and finished just two minutes behind the leader. Finish time for the No. 1925 Talon was 13.26.55.
Zach adds, “The Honda off-road team came in hot for this years’ Baja 500, looking to carry the speed and confidence we showed just a few weeks ago at the San Felipe 250. We started in fifth position and made our way to being physically first by just over two and a half minutes by RM 100. The Honda Talon performed flawlessly, it was seemingly effortless to gain time on the other racers and keep a good pace, eventually gaining a 20 mile lead on our nearest competitor. Then we lost the rear upper wishbone. I’m disappointed we didn’t get the win, but 2nd place in this highly competitive class, is its own kind of win. Once again, we set out to prove the Talon platform can perform, and it did. The way this team pre-runs and prepares for each race, it won’t be long until we get that win.”
Elias Hanna, in the No. 1920 Honda Talon, had a difficult day chasing gremlin-style mechanicals. But, Hanna persevered to the finish and spent over 18 hours in the Talon to get it there. Even with a choice for a back-up driver, he stayed in.
Up next, for the Honda Talons and Ridgeline, is the SCORE Baja 400, scheduled for September 14-19, 2021.
Photography By: Bink Designs