Matlock Racing Report: Score Baja 500
Race morning started off really well with confident riders feeling good about their sections. The Matlock Racing/Team Honda quad was the third quad to leave the start line. Wayne Matlock was off to a good start on the first 21 miles that is infamous for being full of booby traps and extreme dust and this year would be no exception. At one point, Matlock commented how surprised he was at how close he was to the quad in front of him without knowing it because the dust was too thick to see until he was right on the other quads rear bumper. At race mile 21, all the quads were coming through in the same order as they started.
Matlock handed the Honda off to new team member Dofo Arellano. The rider change was very quick and it was a good thing because with the thick dust the quads were stacked up pretty tight. With Arellano off and running, Matlock jumped in the chase truck and head down to the Ojos Negros road crossing at race mile 39 to see Arellano come through. It did not take long for the lead quad team, to come through. Hot on their heels was the Can-Am team, followed by the Yamaha team. At that point, Arellano was missing and the team suspected that something must be wrong. After waiting for awhile a few more quads passed by and finally Arellano pulled in. He had come into an off-camber turn a little too fast, went off the road, and flipped the quad pinning himself under it. He first yelled for help from the nearby spectators then he realized that they could not hear him nor see him. He managed to get out from under the quad. Once it was right side up he was able to get it fired up after about 20 kicks. The quad was flooded from being upside down. Now with the quad running and back on course he had some time to make up. He had fallen back to sixth place. Arellano rode smooth and fast for the rest of his ride to race mile 100 and managed to push through the dust to fourth overall quad. He handed the quad off to Josh Caster at Honda pit 2 a little over eight minutes down from the Can-Am team.
Caster would push hard up and over the rocky summit and down into the desert floor where the course would become very rough and the heat was over 100 degrees. Caster pushed hard to catch the leaders through Honda pits four and five and had managed to make up time on them and had passed the Can-Am due to a broken radiator. Somewhere after Honda pit four the extremes of Baja slowly started to eat away at Caster and he ended up with heat stroke. He started to get dizzy, stalled the quad in some rocks and while trying to restart it he started vomiting in his helmet. Unable to start the quad while vomiting, he decided to take his helmet off and tried to cool down and get some strength back. After sitting there for a little while, the quad pulled up to see if he was ok. Josh asked him to please help start the quad for him so he could continue on to make the switch with Matlock. Once the gracious racer had restarted the quad for him, Josh was off with a steady pace and came into race mile 200, 24 minutes and 22 seconds off the lead quad and sixth overall Quad.
Now it was Matlock’s turn to take over for his second ride of the day. He knew that he had a lot of time to make up, so he put his head down and took off with that in mind. He rode through the large sand whoops of the desert floor and up San Matias pass. At the top of San Matias he made the pass for third place, and headed up the mountain to the pine forest of the Mike’s Sky Ranch loop. Over the Mike’s loop he knew that he could make up some time as he has been riding this section annually since he was 12 years old on family trips to Baja. His ride was going flawless all the way until the last few miles. About four miles from the end of Matlock’s ride he came around a corner to find an SUV going backwards on the course. He dodged that one and got hard on the throttle just in time to see another truck coming at him head on. With nowhere to go, he hit the front of the truck and crashed taking a tumble off the side of the quad. He was quick to hop back up, more frustrated than hurt. He jumped back on the quad and tried to get it fired back up. Amazingly, Matlock only slightly injured his wrist and the quad was not hurt at all. Back on the road he tried to push hard but was a little timid to push too hard around blind turns. He came into race mile 258 now only 15 minutes and 40 seconds off of the lead quad of the Yamaha team. At this pit the team serviced the quad by changing two rear tires and an air filter. The team also had to check out the whole quad after Matlock’s head on with the truck.
After a two minute and 10 second pit, Wes Miller took off with a gap of 17 minutes and 50 seconds with one thing in mind and that was to make up time. Fortunately, we don’t have much to tell about him other than he did his job perfectly and had a flawless ride and was able to make time on the leaders. Miller did have to deal with a malfunctioning GPS. The GPS is used as a speedometer for the highway sections. On Highway 1, just south of San Vicente, Miller had to pace the TRX450 by the seat of his pants and hope not to exceed 60 mph. At a visual pit in Erendira, Miller notified his support crew that he would need to be paced or given a new GPS in Santo Tomas. Once he cleared the beach section and pulled into Santo Tomas, they quickly changed the GPS and Miller was on his way down the highway to Urapan. At race mile 370, Wes handed the quad off to Arellano for his last ride of the day.
Arellano took off on the rough and twisty section ready to redeem himself from his earlier wrestling match with the quad. He did not disappoint, when he came in at race mile 428 he was 15 minutes and 54 seconds off of the lead quad of the Yamaha team. Now it was Matlock’s final ride into the finish, doing this section for the last 8 years he was pretty confident that he could make time on the leaders but he knew the gap he had was too great unless the leaders got lost or had a mechanical problem. Anything can happen in Baja, so he tried to lay it down. At the finish Matlock came in 14 minutes and 17 seconds behind the lead quad of the Yamaha team and 10 minutes and 23 seconds behind the team of Brandon Brown.