Photography and Interview by Devin Chatterjie

Each year down in Baja Mexico, the culture that creates the Annual Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 race enlists for a treacherous journey, willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice for their sport.


t is a cold November as the streets in Baja California fill with a culture of speed enthusiasts. The gladiators of this sport crave the feeling, the Baja feeling…ultimate freedom. The feeling that was once the American spirit in the Wild West before America made almost everything illegal. The Baja region is a land frozen in time with untouched natural beauty where we can put our latest innovations in the quest of speed to the test. In this arena, the sand, cacti, rocks, and harsh elements are your judges. During this race, every decision is life or death. Desert racing is where the fortitude of a man is measured not by cheering crowds, but by the tight-knit community of the few who can personally relate to the level of perseverance needed to survive this adventure. Baja is a place where this one off-road race is as big as the Super Bowl. This elite group of motocross athletes stands as unsung heroes of the USA and grow to larger than life action figures south of the border. This appreciation for the sport comes from the recognition that these teams will put everything on the line to live out their passions and dreams of self-fulfillment in reaching that finish. Nothing else matters.   Names like Ivan Stewart, Steve McQueen, Malcolm Smith, Larry Roeseler, Mickey Thompson, and Steve Hengeveld are just a few of the heroes that the peninsula has put to the test. Though racing a truck or any four-wheeled vehicle in this race and winning is a huge accomplishment, the ultimate victory and respect is reserved for the professional motorcycle class. One name every devout off-road/motocross racer or fan must know is Johnny Campbell. As a living legend with 11 overall Baja 1000 titles to his name and still going strong today, he has built a race team in a league of their own. He shares his knowledge with his painstakingly selected and groomed protégés to continue the JCR legacy. His comfort in Baja is obvious when you see his wife and kids among his entourage watching him live out his dreams of greatness. This confidence has come from years of experience and an ability to anticipate and overcome the gamut of challenges along the way.

The JCR team riders for the 2013 Baja 1000 consisted of Timmy Weigand, David Kamo, Mark Samuels, and Colton Udall. These men are at the top of their game and Baja racing is a way of life. Colton Udall is a young champion who has lived more in his short 27 years than many active people do in a lifetime. The JCR Honda team riders have earned the title as one of the best race teams in the world. This world-class team is owned and guided by Johnny Campbell. With 17 straight Baja 1000 Championships under their belt, their relentless training schedule is a necessity to ensure they maintain their dynasty.


The lifestyle of a Baja Racer has a level of commitment rarely seen in any other sport. There are great demands on their personal life with fitness, training, pre-running and the rest of the homework involved. Their families and teammates make great sacrifices to ensure they have the right resources, tools, and support they need. The risk involved is something that any successful motorsports competitor is familiar with whether they ride two wheels or four. Fear is a liability. The presence of fear of injury is not an option. Focus in its most divine form is the high that these riders are hopelessly addicted to. Being fully consumed and totally committed to that present moment is when a racer reaches their “flow state” and everything slows down.


Few have the skill set to be a part of this unique family. Intimate relationships with teammates and other competitors is more than just knowing and respecting your competition, it’s about survival. This brotherhood is one that is bonded in both glory and pain. The glory is sharing some of the most divine experiences and moments of self-fulfillment and freedom, and the pain of losing everything with the force of life being taken away from your friends or family.


Colton has endured the loss of one of his best friends, Jeff “Ox” Kargola, and his close friend, mentor and childhood hero, Kurt Caselli. Both men were extremely gifted and accomplished racers who gave their lives living their dream in the Baja Arena.


Baja forges lifelong bonds with the people they share these experiences with. No one else could understand without living that moment. The level of trust these riders have in their teammates is unique. They are their lifeline. The appreciation of the life lived in these moments together will make for memories that will never be forgotten.

“Leading a race is always an amazing feeling… a feeling of strength and power, a feeling of dominance over all other competitors.”

RIS: What do you think about in-between pits when you know your lead is super close?

CU: My thoughts while racing usually never go past what I am doing that moment, but when the lead is close, sometimes you can let yourself go. You can get caught up in the moment and allow yourself to ride way too fast. It’s usually a bad idea to loose control of immediate thoughts because of the high speeds and all the dangers. So I always focus on keeping the motorcycle 100% and getting through my race section, nailing my lines, holding the bike wide open, making sure I hand the bike off to my next racing partner.


RIS: What do you have to say to people that call Honda (your team) ‘Cheaters’ or don’t understand Score Racing and Line Choice?

CU: Those people are uneducated and lack knowledge of Baja. You need to understand the history of Baja Racing and how it all started. Racing began in the late 60’s in Mexico and the participants used a telegraph to check when they arrived to certain locations. The first man to La Paz, Mexico BC checked in and won the race! Over the years the racing has progressed, from check point to check point, to now. 


We are racing with Virtual Check Points (VCP’s) and live tracking. But we are still racing Baja, we are still able to pre run and learn the fastest ways through the race course. So that’s what the JCR team does, we are prepared on race day, we know where we can and can’t go, and we race our absolute best! People don’t like the same guys winning all the time. Honda is the proven winner for 17 years, but I have only won a couple times, so I am still fresh, I think.


RIS: What’s the longest section you’ve raced in Baja?

CU: In 2010 and 2012 I raced roughly 360 miles straight, I was on the bike for over 6 hours. It’s pretty gnarly on your body but the most important thing is to keep your mind focused. If you loose focus, really bad things happen, especially when you’re riding wide open 100 mph through the desert.


RIS: What’s your favorite part about racing?

CU: I race motorcycles for a bunch of reasons, its my life, my passion, and there is always a new challenge. You never know the outcome on race day, you can just do your best, so the challenge keeps me pushing forward. I think I was destined to do this, I set some huge goals at a young age and with some help, I am achieving them. With each achievement comes the next challenge, that’s why we live, to overcome challenges, achieve personal greatness and be happy. Racing makes me Happy!


RIS: What are the other teams missing?

CU: I believe most teams are lacking a great leader. A person to help with a strategy, preparation, advice and guidance. Everyone on the team must respect the leader, and bond with all other team members. Whether its the pit crews, chase truck drivers, mechanics, riders, and sponsors, everyone must have the same goal, and it’s to win.


RIS: What other sports or activities keep you balanced?

CU: I really love surfing; I could be a pro surfer in my after life (dreaming) After a day of riding and training, I always try to go for a surf. Nothing puts a bigger smile on my face! I also still do some work on my dirt bikes and keeps me appreciating what I have and the opportunities I have been given.


RIS: What would you do with 10 Million Dollars?

CU: Start with an epic surf trip with some of my buddies. Come home and learn real estate, invest in property, invest in LTD and RED i! Start a JCR trophy truck team and be the first person/team to win the pro motorcycle and trophy truck class in the same Baja 1000.


RIS: What would you do if you had to stop racing?

CU: I hate this question! I have no clue. Go back to being a mechanic and later pursue race promotions.


RIS: What does your future hold? What are your goals & what are your expectations?

CU: I am going to continue racing Baja and the SCORE series. I am not sure I will ever be 11-time Baja Champ like Johnny Campbell but I am going to try! On my road to some more championships I am going to practice some navigational training and try to race DAKAR. Dakar brings a whole new set of challenges, I’d love to win one day.