There were 431 entries and only 231 finishers in the 2006 Tecate Score-International Baja 1000, but the BMW Motorrad off-road team was one of them, posting 14th overall in the motorcycle class. The team, consisting of riders Beau Hayden, Ron Bishop, Chuck Dempsey, Tony Megla and Peter Postel, tore the 105 horsepower HP2 Enduro through a treacherous 1047-mile course, racing for twenty-four hours straight to reach the finish line at La Paz.
In a race where just surviving is a victory in itself, the team’s 14th overall win was quite an accomplishment – even more so when you factor in that the 13 bikes that finished ahead of the 1200cc HP2 Enduro were all 650ccs or less.
The race began at 6am in Ensenada, with Beau Hayden tearing off the starting line into the coastal morning haze of dust and fog. Hayden did approximately 215 miles to checkpoint 3, just north of Puertocitos and had this to say about the race:
“I started the 22nd bike out of 26 open pro entries. There was no wind but very thick dust and the sun was in my eyes for the first 40 miles of the race. The dust rarely let up during my stint on the bike. My ride was fairly uneventful as I concentrated hard on not making mistakes or misjudgments in the dust. The bike worked flawlessly and I steadily moved forward through the pack. At one point we moved up to approximately 6th overall around Valle de Trinidad. My highlight of the day was crossing El Diablo dry lake bed where I could open up the bike and let it run.”
“It was a tight race up to this point where I would get passed in the very rough areas of the course where there were big whoops and ruts and I would blow back by them in the faster sections. We did a tyre change at pit 3 (mile 185) and three or four riders passed me there. A few riders also passed me during a whoop/rock section prior to checkpoint three and I handed the bike to Ron in 10th place overall.”
Averaging just above 42 mph, the team navigated hundreds of waist-deep water crossings, extremely rocky sections of boulder fields, pitch black night conditions, lava rocks, washouts, and tons of deep, deep silt, not to mention the numerous other surprises that the Baja throws at riders. From local traffic, roaming cattle, and hurricane-ravaged terrain, the hazards were ceaseless, but the team endured to capture a genuinely remarkable result. After Hayden’s first leg, Baja legend Ron Bishop-a veteran of every single Baja 1000 ever run-handled his section smoothly and then Chuck Dempsey took the helm. Chuck had this to say about his section:
“I rode as safely as possible in the whoops because they were pretty big and sandy. I wanted to save the bike for when I got to the fast roads. This was my 21st year racing in the Pro Class down in Baja and I’d have to say that the HP2 Enduro is the fastest bike I have ever ridden in my life. I started passing guys right off the bat which surprised me – when I got on the roads it was like taking candy from a baby.”
“The middle of my section was fast,” Dempsey continued, “but the last 20 miles were tight and rocky so I knew I had to get there as fast as possible before all the guys would pass me back, and then we headed into the night. I turned on the headlight and it lit up for about three seconds, and then turned off. That’s when I knew I was in trouble because Baja is pitch black when there’s no moon. I rode as fast as I could, even though I couldn’t see much in front of me. That was a handful on the HP2 Enduro when you can’t even see your own fender – and that’s when everybody started passing me back.”
"I tried riding next to other riders, but they were not happy with that since I had passed them earlier. So about seven miles from HWY 1 I saw a group of 30 or so Mexican locals standing and drinking beers watching the race, so I pulled up to them and grabbed a flashlight right out of their hands and took off. I guess I owe them a flashlight! I started to ride holding the flashlight with my clutch hand – it wasn’t much but it was better than nothing.”
“I was so happy to see my BMW team waiting for me at HWY 1. It seemed like I rode 50 miles that night with no light. From there we jumped on HWY 1 and I rode behind the chase truck to where Tony was waiting for us with new lights. We did another wheel change and the new race lights were installed on the bike, after which Tony took off to complete his section.”
Megla reports: “I was the rider from San Ignacio (mile 554) to Loreto, (mile 776) and from Insurgentes (mile 855) to checkpoint 9 (mile 943). In San Ignacio the bike showed up late because of a blown headlight fuse in the wiring harness. This was the pit where we had to change to the stock headlight with the Baja lights. I left San Ignacio about 6:45pm and tried to make up as much time as possible. We had dropped back to around 38th overall. The course from here was fast graded roads, sandy roads, and tidal flats with a few muddy spots on the Pacific coast before it turned inland to the town of La Purisma."
“From La Purisma it was a lot of old washed out rocky roads to the Gulf side of the coast. The last 60 miles into Loreto was the toughest part of my section. Some parts were brand new road freshly cut just for the race. It was twisty, tight, and technical with a lot of sand washes and rocks – first and second gear for long sections.”
“I passed about eight riders – three with broken bikes – and had a trouble-free ride. I arrived in Loreto at 11:45pm, then jumped into our chase truck and drove to Insurgentes for the next section. Peter Postel was scheduled to ride the HP2 Enduro from Loreto, but a slight change occurred.
“The original plan was for me to ride from Loreto to the finish,” said Postel, “however, Tony came in and said he was feeling great, so the decision was made for me to push hard through the next section to stay ahead of the Trophy trucks and then he would get back on the bike. We checked the bike when he pulled in, and the rear tyre was completely gone so we changed it there. The amount of spectators was unbelievable, even at 1am.”
“South of San Javier, there was a lot of water left over from the hurricanes." Postel went on to say, “I believe there were about 27 water crossings. Also the course was extremely rocky, riding over boulders for miles. I passed six other riders in this section. Then going out to the highway, there was lots of single lane silt. From there to the finish there were big silt beds to the ocean, some so deep the cylinder heads were dragging. This was an area to just get through and survive. “
Postel did just that, before handing off to Megla, who had this to report: “When Pete arrived he was completely soaked from all the water crossings. I got back on the bike at around 2:30 in the morning. In this last section I made a wrong turn when the locals took down the course markings and I went about five miles off course. Once I was back on course there were miles and miles of deep silt. The ruts in the road filled in with the silt and the road looked hard until the bike just drops out from underneath you and the ruts almost completely stop you. I arrived at mile 943 at about 4:30am and gave the bike back to Peter.”
Postel finished about 100 miles later in La Paz, bringing the BMW Motorrad off-road team to the 14th overall position in the motorcycle class, and sixth in class 22 (Pro/Motorcycles over 251 cc). This strong finish on a motorcycle as large as the HP2 Enduro in conditions as challenging as the Baja 1000 is nothing short of amazing.
“I very much enjoyed racing the BMW and truly appreciate the strong efforts put in by BMW, my teammates, and Baja Bound," said Hayden. “The HP2 Enduro certainly drew its share of attention at Tech/Contingency and at the start people were constantly surrounding the bike, asking many questions.”
“The HP2 Enduro is a blast to ride!” added Postel. “You just have to respect it and ride it accordingly. I can’t wait to ride it again. It was truly a unique experience.”