Monday, February 15, 2010

BMW HP2 conquers Baja

In what was described as the roughest and toughest Baja 500 course ever, Jimmy Lewis, Dave Donatoni and Beau Haden took the BMW Motorrad Team Enduro HP2 to its best Baja finish to date. The trio completed the 424-mile long course in Baja California, Mexico, in 10:38:07, averaging just under 40 mph over the duration of the race. The milestone for the bike was physically finishing in sixth position and eighth overall on adjusted time.

BMW HP2 conquers Baja

Everything went really smoothly," Lewis commented after the race. "The bike is continually getting better and better with the little improvements we are making and our team - from the riders to the support effort - is getting more solid each time we race. In fact, the support effort played a large part in helping us run so much faster today."

The race started off in thick fog with Lewis riding the first 40 miles. "In the fast stuff there is no way other bikes can come close to passing us, but in the really tight and rocky sections, some of the smaller bikes with fast riders will come through. I was passed by the eventual second place team - the 1X of Mike Childress - but that was it. I passed three or four guys and gave the bike to Beau."

Haden took the bike through the next 100 miles of course referred to as the "Pine Forest" section. He passed all but three of the Open Pro bikes and was only overtaken by a few of the faster class 30 (for riders over 30) teams in the tight and twisty northern section of the course. "It went really good, I was just fighting the dust the whole time and trying to be careful because the washouts and ditches were so bad and they could get you if you weren´t careful."

After nearly three hours on the bike Haden handed it back over to Lewis to ride the Mike´s Sky Rancho section. Physically in 12th position, Lewis was on a mission to bring the bike around in a higher position.

"That is the roughest and most beat I´ve seen the course, but since it was over 100 degrees outside I knew it would wear down the other riders. Even though everyone thinks the HP2 is a beast to ride in sections like that, it is really smooth and I just snuck up on guys and blew by them. They jumped out of the way like a helicopter was going to land on them - that´s the way a flat-twin sounds when it gets right up on you!"

Through the section Lewis (above) managed to pass six other teams and hand the bike to Donatoni in Valle de Trinidad for a dust-free run to the coast. Still with zero down-time and only ´gas-and-go´ stops, Donatoni kept the hot pace all the way along the Pacific Coast and back to Santo Tomas before it was time to put on a new rear wheel. "The tyre was completely smoked, there wasn´t a knob left across the center of the tyre because I was letting that HP2 eat. It was still moving forward but I could count the seconds I was losing because of the spinning, so I decided to get a new wheel."

The support team did a magical 48-second wheel change and Donatoni was off, heading back inland for the final rider change in Ojos Negros. "This was the first time that Beau and I´ve had an HP2 to practice and pre-run the course on and it made a huge difference on learning how fast I could go during the race. It really helped come race day, plus it´s a whole lot of fun to ride one down here!"

Away from the coast and into the desert again the scorching temperatures soared above the 100-degree mark. Lewis hopped back on the bike for the final stretch to the finish. "It was a bit sketchy since the course was the same as the way out and there were still some stragglers coming head on at us. You´d think SCORE would be more concerned about this as we have enough dangers dealing with local traffic, but with race cars coming at you it is a whole different matter, and there were six guys ahead of me, and a couple right behind, who had the same situation. But I´m glad we finished strong and without even one little mishap. The riders would like to thank all the support from Baja Bound and Mag 7 for great pits and all of our chase truck drivers and helpers who were ready for everything but didn´t have to do much in the end!"

This finish marks the first time the HP2 has finished physically in front of the four-wheeled vehicles and is the highest placing overall finish for a BMW in SCORE Baja racing. Lewis commented: "The bike is getting better each time and there is really a strong following of guys looking at what we are doing with such a big bike. There are places in this race where I´m sure we were the fastest vehicle on this course. There is nothing like that feeling and it sure is fun."

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