THE BELL REPORT: SAN FELIPE 250- HAIRBALL IN BAJA
By Robby Bell
SCORE San Felipe 250
San Felipe, BC, Mexico
March 10, 2012
San Felipe is the epitome of a brutal race course. Ask most people who race this grueling two hundred fifty mile event and they’ll tell you it’s not very high up on the list of areas to go play ride. The terrain gets used so often by motorcycle, car and truck races that there’s no time for the course to recover; every year I think the whoops can’t get any deeper, but every year I get proven wrong. It’s getting so rough down there that rumor of Trophy Truck racers getting money together to blade the first twenty miles was swirling around all week leading up to the race; one day that might happen, but it wouldn’t be this year. It was going to be the same nasty and unforgiving San Felipe 250.
Prerunning went well for me, I got all my lines figured out and felt confident in my speed. The whole week leading up to the race I knew it was just going to take a smooth run to win this event as there were so many fast teams that some were bound to make mistakes. My teammates Destry Abbott and David Pearson also had a smooth week of prerunning and everything seemed to be coming together really well for the race. I had the utmost confidence in their speed and experience that we could pull off the race win and finally get Kawasaki back on top in Baja.
It’s usually difficult to split this race up logistically between the riders because of the limited highways and access to pit areas, but I felt the team came up with a really good strategy: I would ride the first thirty miles of whoops to our pit one then Destry would get on and ride the next forty two miles of sketchy sand wash and whooped out power line road to pit two. From there David would get on and ride the next ninety eight miles of whooped out terrain, through Matome wash to pit four where I’d remount and ride the final eighty miles to the finish.
Usually leading up to a Baja event I start to get a little nervous energy the night before. It’s not like a race up here in the states with predictability and an underlying feeling of safety; it’s the wild frontier. Between being in another country, a looser set of rules (both on and off the race course) and the speeds we travel down there, racing in Baja can be a scary proposition. However it’s all those same facts that make racing in Baja such a rush and it’s why we keep going back down there year after year. It’s a feeling of freedom, of tackling the roughest terrain, isolated and alone, and when you cross the finish line the sense of accomplishment is intoxicating. Some people may ride climb Everest, others may jump out of a plane; we chose to hit four foot truck whoops at seventy mile an hour.
Race morning had arrived and it was finally time, after all the anticipation, to see who would be left standing at the finish line. I would be the third bike off the line with Mike Brown starting first and Kurt Caselli starting second, each of us being released at thirty second intervals. The clock hit six am, the green flag waved and the race had begun. The dust was hanging a little bit down the first, smooth two-mile dirt road, but once we turned onto the whooped out power line road a slight breeze was carrying the dust off to the side. I could see Kurt’s dust up ahead of me, but I had no idea if I was catching the leaders and I really wasn’t too worried about that. My main goal was to get through the first miles of vicious terrain smooth and safe and let the race begin at mile thirty. I was nearing the famous “Zoo Road” crossing feeling smooth and controlled until about a hundred meters from the junction. Because of the 6AM start time there’s always long shadows laying across the race course, blending the terrain together and hiding rocks in your path and unfortunately I was about to become a victim of the shadows. I definitely never saw the rock, but I sure felt it when the rear wheel hit as instantly the bike kicked me straight up in to the air into a wicked flying-W. I was in fourth gear, so probably traveling between fifty and sixty mph, and for a split second I thought I could save it but that proved to be wishful thinking as the ground went away and I kept flying further over the bars. I remember accepting the fact that I was going to crash and telling myself to relax and go limp to better absorb the impact. I was in the air for a while and when I finally hit I remember tumbling two or three times and wondering when I was going to stop. I finally stopped tumbling and my first instinct was to get back on the bike and get it to Destry, but as I tried to get up I noticed my right arm was dead and wouldn’t move because of the impact. Luckily Mikey Childress was at Zoo road as a backup rider for our team, along with Steve Hengeveld, and they were able to get on the bike and continue the race for me. Meanwhile I was loaded onto a backboard and driven by ambulance to a local clinic. From there I was put on a life-flight plane and taken to UCSD medical center in San Diego for further care and observation. It was a really scary crash and definitely the worst of my career because of the speed I was going, but I’m thankful to everyone who came to my aid. From the first locals on the scene who helped me calm down and sort myself out to the first medics who transported me to the local clinic. I want to give a special thanks to Steve Achey for helping me at the local clinic, keeping me calm and informed. Thanks to Russ, my in-flight attendant, and Lowell, my nurse at UCSD for putting up with my grumpiness and stubbornness and the whole medical staff for caring for me. Thanks you to my family and my girlfriend’s family for coming to the hospital to keep me company. And another special thanks to my girlfriend Katie for staying overnight at the hospital and getting about an hour of sleep in that uncomfortable office chair.
As I said this was one scary crash and I feel so blessed to be able to say that all I’m suffering from is a sore and stiff neck; it could have been a heck of a lot worse. After looking at my Fox helmet post crash, the visor was gone and all of the paint was missing where the visor would have been, so I surely landed not only head first, but also straight onto the top of my head. I can say that I didn’t get knocked out, didn’t suffer concussion and remember everything that happened, proving to me that the Fox V3 helmet is the best helmet on the market, keeping me safe in such a wicked crash.
I feel so bad for my team, THR Motorsports, Monster Energy, Precision Concepts Kawasaki. They worked their butts off getting ready for this race and I felt we had everything we needed to win. Also for my teammates David Pearson and Destry Abbott who, after all the time and effort down there, didn’t really even get a chance race. And to my sponsors Fox and Asterisk who’ve been so great to me, I really wanted to get them this win, but I’m just so thankful for their quality product keeping me safe. It definitely wasn’t the way I wanted to start the effort for the SCORE championship, but I’m thankful to my team and teammates for getting the bike across the finish line to keep us in with a shot at it. All I can say is I’m going to heal up from this and come back stronger and smarter. Thank you to all my fans and supporters for the well wishes and encouragement, it keeps me motivated to get back on the bike and click it up to fifth again!
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