American Honda Announces Major Changes To Its Off-Road Racing Program
Date: March 10, 2006 21:44
Honda press release
TORRANCE, Calif. 03/10/2006 --
Torrance, CA-American Honda has made major changes to its off-road racing program for 2006, following a highly successful 2005 season. Faced with some of its toughest opposition in years, the 2005 Honda Off-Road Team responded as champions always do, rising to new heights in the face of stiffer challenges. Veterans Johnny Campbell and Steve Hengeveld once again won the biggest races en route to defending both their Best in the Desert (BITD) and SCORE Series championships. Their biggest threats turned out to be Honda "B" team rookies Robby Bell and Kendall Norman, who improved steadily throughout the year and performed beyond expectations, coming tantalizingly close to stealing victory from Campbell and Hengeveld on several occasions.
That bodes well for 2006 as multi-time champ Johnny Campbell will move to a team coordinator role in all but the Baja 1000, where he will be multi-tasking as both racer and team coordinator. Johnny will be racing to keep his amazing streak of consecutive Baja 1000 victories-currently at nine in a row-alive. He will also serve as back-up racer in multi-rider team events. Hengeveld, Bell, Norman and Mike Childress will return to carry the Red Rider banner in desert competition. Hengeveld will focus on the SCORE and AMA National Hare and Hound series, as will Norman. Bell will focus on the SCORE series and WORCS (World Off Road Championship Series) and Childress will be the fourth man in events when two 2-man teams are competing. The Honda Off-road team will also compete in the grueling 24-hour race at Glen Helen raceway. All will rely on Honda's race-proven CRF and XR motorcycles. Depending on the type of event the team is racing they can choose from the XR™650R, CRF450X, CRF450R or the CRF250R. No matter which Honda the team chooses a support team that's second to none will back them.
Johnny Campbell, rider and Team Coordinator
Though he's most famous for his success in Baja, Johnny Campbell enjoyed most of his victories last year on this side of the border in BITD Silver State Series. He and partner Steve Hengeveld kicked off the season by winning round one, the Golden West Cycles Parker 250, got fifth at round two and reeled off three consecutive triumphs before the series finale.
But it's not just his riding that sets Campbell apart-it's his entire approach to racing. That comes from his knowledge of the bike and how to prepare it, his practice and training regimens, the support he receives from his family and team, plus an unexpectedly calm, patient demeanor that he attributes to his Christian beliefs. One of the top desert racers for more than a decade, Campbell has been a Honda rider for practically his entire career. As he assumes team coordination duties from multi-time Baja champion Bruce Ogilvie, these qualities will serve him extremely well.
Stepping up to become the partner of one of the best desert racers ever in 2000, Steve Hengeveld knew he had to up his game. One of the early motocrossers who turned to off-road racing, he made a name for himself at the beginning of his desert career as an outstanding rider in the 250cc class. As many have discovered, of course, success in the smaller classes doesn't always carry over into the 100-plus mph world of the big-bore premier class.
But that wasn't the case with Hengeveld, who'd won a few races with Jonah Street on their XR650R. Shorter and lighter than Johnny Campbell, Hengeveld's most difficult challenge was adapting his style to Campbell's bike and suspension setup. Once he cleared that hurdle, Hengeveld proved that he indeed had what it took to run at the front, and he proved the perfect complement to Campbell as they began to rack up the wins. In particular, Hengeveld is a superb night rider and often tackles the longest night stints in the Baja 1000. In addition, Hengeveld also competes closer to home in AMA District 37 events plus select AMA/FMF Racing National Hare & Hound Series races.
Faced with a steep learning curve as an unproven rookie in 2005, Robby Bell responded by soaking up all the information he could from guys like Johnny Campbell and Steve Hengeveld. As a result, he improved tremendously as the season progressed until he and partner Kendall Norman were often the only ones likely to provide competition for the "A" team.
Obviously, Bell has the ability to win-as a motocrosser, he has a California State MX Championship on his resume-and it is only a matter of time before he earns his first major off-road victory.
A second-generation off-road racer, Kendall Norman remembers going out to the desert with his father when he was little and following him around. The elder Norman (Morris) taught him how to read terrain, gave him riding tips and got him started racing, though Norman mostly did motocross at first. After graduating from high school, he started racing more in the desert.
But it wasn't until he joined Honda that he began spending much time on anything other than 125s. Still, despite getting used to the power and speed potential of the XR650R, as well as a season full of new venues, Norman quickly assimilated it all and, with partner Robby Bell, exceeded all expectations.
Twenty-two year old Mike Childress won his first-ever SCORE race with teammate "Mouse" McCoy in the 2005 Baja 500 on a Honda XR650R, but he has been racing since the age of 13. The Wrightwood, California native was competing in District 37 (D37) races and just two years later, after a season-long effort in the 1999 BITD series, he captured the amateur's championship in the four-stroke, 450cc-and-over class. His budding career was in full motion and in 2002 he collected the D37 four-stroke championship and was named the number one rider -a feat he repeated in 2003.
2005 was a notable year for Childress. He dominated D37 with 17 overall wins. Following his Baja 500 win, he joined veterans Campbell and Hengeveld to capture the SCORE Baja 1000, demonstrating to all that he has become one of the top young desert racers. In 2006 Mike will compete in the BITD series and AMA district-37 desert racing.
Bruce Ogilvie, Team Manager
It's impossible to think of Bruce Ogilvie and not think of Honda's success in Baja racing. The two are tightly intertwined and have been since Ogilvie's days as a top racer himself. In fact, he's the only motorcycle racer to have won in Baja in four decades, starting in the 1970s and running right up to his stint for the winning Baja 1000 team in 2003. In addition, Ogilvie earned medals three times as a member of the U.S. team in the International Six Days Enduro (ISDE).
All of this has given him unique insight into what it takes to run all aspects of a winning off-road motorcycle racing team, and he does it all. His responsibilities run the gamut, from deciding on optimum pit-stop locations and planning air-filter changes to inventorying pit supplies and making hotel reservations for the team and its support personnel. (And that's not to mention his full-time responsibility at Honda as a product planner, which finds him in the saddle developing and testing every dirt-oriented motorcycle or ATV, followed by meetings to discuss his findings most days of the work week.)