Find a place with a thousand miles of sand, laden with dunes and rugged terrain, and scatter large rocks throughout and you’ll have a perfect location for one of the most difficult off road racing courses in the world.
For all those who have ever driven an all terrain vehicle, dune buggy or dirt bike Baja, Mexico becomes an off road racers playground and is considered by many to be the Mecca for the sport.
Pepeekeo resident, Tim Withers, recently returned from competing in one of the toughest off road races in the world, the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000, notching yet another Motorcycle Class Championship in his illustrious career.
Withers headed to Mexico several weeks ago and used a Honda 450 in the rugged and unforgiving desert terrain of the Baja Peninsula.
Prior to the November 20th race a Honda factory rider was badly injured while practicing on the San Felipe portion of the course and he needed to be transported out of the area by helicopter, according to Withers.
“The course gets more rugged with every race,” Withers said. The Baja 1000, which has been held annually since 1967, attracts a wide range of competitors in a variety of vehicle classes, and traverses over 1000 miles of grueling terrain.
Riders begin and end in Ensenada, Mexico and the race has been hosted by Short Course Off-Road Enterprises (SCORE) since 1975.
“The Honda 450 is our bike of choice,” Withers said. “Honda’s are reliable, works perfectly, turns good and is stable at speed. Most of the competition will use a Honda as it is proven in this type of terrain.”
Another incentive for Withers to use a Honda is that it is the only team that offers pit service to their elite riders every 50 miles.
Withers competed on a five man team in Class 50 that took turns riding the same 450 bike over the 1000 mile course. “I was given the San Felipe area to ride which is the roughest, hardest area in Baja,” he said.
The San Felipe area is a place that Withers knows well as he has competed in and won several off road races using that very course.
“It’s a very dangerous area with whoop de do’s, rocks and endless sand,” Withers said. Besides the terrain Withers also had to contend with using the same bike that his larger teammates were using which made it difficult on suspension.
“Some of the guys weigh close to 190 pounds and I’m 150,” he said. “I had to compensate for the weight difference, but it all turned out great as I had a dream ride.”
Withers rode on two separate occasions, first going 100 miles, starting at 11 in the morning. But the most difficult portion came in his second stint, with dusk approaching; Withers had a setting sun glowing in his eyes for 50 miles.
“On my second ride it became difficult to see as I had the glare from the setting sun for most of the way, before darkness fell,” he said
“An important part of this race came in planning logistics on where the hand offs would take place and who would ride what sections of the course,” he said.
Withers teamed consisted of Craig Adams, Eric McKenna, Andy Kirker and Jim O’Neal and the five riders finished with a time of 17 hours, three minutes, 37 seconds, nearly six hours ahead of the second place team in their class.
“All my teammates are renowned riders living in California and we’ve competed against some of the best riders in the world,” Withers said.
The overall time gave Withers team an average speed of 39.4 miles per hour and ranked them as the 22nd vehicle overall, out of more than 220 vehicles (many with four wheels) that started the race.
“We started in staggered increments and we were the 65th motorcycle out of the start,” Withers said. “By the end of the race we were the 10th motorcycle crossing the finish line.”
When he’s not racing Withers trains in both off road and motor cross and he will ride a regular, non-motorized, bike five times per week, logging upwards of 200 miles, for conditioning.
The owner of What’s Shakin, a juice and fruit stand in Pepeekeo, Withers also maintains a farm in the area which keeps this 52 year old busy.
With his latest victory Withers now has four titles in the Baja 1000 to go with four second place finishes in that race. Withers is also a six time winner of the Baja 500 and has won eight championships in a row for the San Felipe 250 mile race.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to ride in these world class events,” Withers said. “I’d like the young people to know that if they work hard and follow their dreams that they can achieve it as well. I’m living proof.”