Mark Hellwig takes Hellwig Motorsports to Baja 500
Packed in the Hellwig Motorsports Toyhauler were the bikes secured with Hellwig’s FastRack, the pit crew, his riding partner and some family members. Toyhaulers are awesome!
The Gang was camped out in Ensanada at the Campo de Playa. Every camper was there to attend or race in the Baja 500 and Toyhaulers outnumbered all other campers. All levels of racers were represented in camp, from Pro Honda riders, to weekend warriors, to the McMillan Homes Race Team.
I would highly recommend this campground. The camp host, Ricardo, was knowledgeable, friendly and available. Campo de Playa is also a short walk to Score headquarters and the center of the Baja 500 race activity.
In the morning the camp would start to come alive at 7am. Trophy trucks, bikes, quads, and buggies would all begin the morning pre-run ritual. At the end of each day the riders would make their way back to camp dirty, tired, and some broken. Riders and drivers would walk around and share their war stories from the day. And Hellwig Motorsports certainly earned its share of battle scars.
Pre-running is a big part of any successful racing plan. Mark Hellwig and his riding partner Justin White had a chance to ride the marked course over a four day time period. They rode anywhere from 80 to 170 miles a day depending on the terrain, traffic, on the course and how many wrong turns the riders took. Some of the most beautiful country in Baja was experienced during those four days. Everything from pine forests to desert to sandy and sometimes rocky beaches to boulder strewn trails was ridden on and through. What a privilege.
Even after months of physical training and riding the pre-running was tough. Daily preparation included a study of the map to determine chase truck drop off and rendezvous points. The Hellwig FastRack truck was used as the chase vehicle for towing a trailer with extra bikes and supplies. The first days pre-run was the easiest ride of all days. Leaving the town of San Vicente heading west toward the coast. Then up the coast to a road inland to the town of Santo Tomas. A short ride north up the paved highway to the town of Uruarpan then east to the junction of Tres Hermanos and north again to Ojos Negros. In all 157 miles for day one.
Day two had the chase truck dropping riders off at the beginning of the Pine Forest section. This trail put them at about 4000’ elevation with nice scenery and lots of river crossings. A long loop brings the riders back to the El Rayo junction. A short day of riding due to flat tires, lost riders and helping other riders on the course.
Day three staring from El Rayo heading south toward Valle de Trinidad and down onto the flats of the desert and back into the heat. Meeting the chase truck at the highway crossing makes a good stop for lunch, fuel, and lots of water. About 95 degrees out there in the desert. A visit by the Baldwin Race team’s helicopter made for some interesting conversation with the pilots about their mission and responsibilities during the race. From Valle de Trinidad heading west towards Mike’s Sky Ranch and a very tough loop around Mike’s and through the El Coyote Ranch. From there riding through the Simpson Ranch and a series of technical up and down hills. All the time watching for cattle and horses and other equipment the riders head back north towards Valle de Trinidad and the FastRack Chase truck, water and food. 171 miles in all. A rough day to be sure. Camp and a hot shower were most inviting.
Day four has the riders leaving downtown Ensenada at the actual in town race start point. Riding through the famous wash and over the locally made jumps in the wash, then out of town to the east and intercepting the highway. A short ride up the highway puts the riders back on the dirt course heading down through the mountains and out toward Ojos Negros. From there the bikes are loaded on to the trailer and back down to Valle de Trinidad for the final leg of the course which passes over the mountains heading west toward the town of San Vicente. In all a nice ride for the day with lots of interesting things to see.
Every day Mark and Justin would say, “Tomorrow should be an easier day.” Yet inevitably, the next day would be just as challenging. Mark went through pre-running Baja without a ding to his bike, but Justin seemed to break everything. While riding the Pine Forest section of the course, Justin broke his clutch and nearly ran out of gas. Just in time, he and Mark stumbled on another rider and chase truck, they offered to fix his Husqavarna with a Honda clutch and sell him gas. The rider who helped with the field fix was none other than Kendall Norman. He and his dad were out on the course testing his bike and pre-running Kendall’s section of the race. Really nice guys. Kendall and his partner Robbie Bell had won the San Felipe 250 earlier in the year and ended up actually winning the Baja 500 as well. Big time riders!
The week was full of hard riding, star encounters, and tons of fun. The excitement in the city of Ensanada is contagious and the locals are so welcoming. If you attend Baja 500 next year, bring your Toyhauler and join the Hellwig Motorsports team.
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