It’s been a busy late summer/fall season for the Honda Off-Road Factory Racing team, as the rescheduling of races has jam-packed the past three months with races, testing, and refining set-ups for each race – which has paid off with podiums for both the Ridgeline and Talons. Now, it’s time to take on the pinnacle event in off-road racing – the 53rd running of the SCORE Baja 1000.
Leading the charge is Jeff Proctor, Team Principal and driver of the No. 709 Honda Ridgeline. Jeff, along with his navigator Evan Weller and co-driver Patrick Dailey, are ready to back up the recent success at the Baja 500 and deliver results as they are in contention for a Score Class Championship.
Proctor sums up his team’s focus, “The Baja 1000 is always rough. It requires a lot of mental toughness. It’s a long race day of minimizing mistakes and executing a calculated race strategy to finish on the podium. The Ridgeline has proven itself tough enough to perform in Baja, it really does come down to our mental preparedness. After a year like 2020, we’re ready for just about anything.”
The Baja 1000 is also the culmination of a successful first race season for the Honda Talons. Proctor shares, “As with any new program, the first season is marked by highs and lows. We’ve seen them all, but what I’m most proud of, is how our team and drivers have reacted to the challenges – with determination and hard work. We’ve been able to adapt quickly and that puts us in a great spot heading into the 1000.”
For this edition of the SCORE Baja 1000, Eliott Watson will be the lead driver in the No. 1893, with Bud Ward sharing driving duties over the nearly 900 mile loop course, in the Pro UTV Unlimited Class.
Watson is in a great place to take on the 1000, “After the pandemic hit, it was uncertain how the rest of our schedule was going to pan out for this year, but thankfully we were still able to hit all of our major events with the Talon. For me, the last couple of months have been nonstop with school, racing short course races, and also competing with the Honda Talon team. We just finished up our short course season with eight wins in the Pro Buggy division, and walked away with the Driver of the Year award.”
He continues, “I’m taking that momentum with me into the 1000. We’ve done lots of homework and keep improving these cars every time they hit the dirt. To be in the hunt for a Score World championship in our first year with this platform just shows how capable these cars are of running in the lead pack of UTVs. We have a solid driver line up, it is going to be a long, but fun weekend.”
The second Talon, No. 1884, introduces lead driver Brett Sourapas to the Honda Off-Road team for the Baja 1000. Sourapas, for all his youth, comes with impressive off-road racing experience – 14 years of racing off-road, including many podium finishes across multiple classes in short-course and desert races, even an Unlimited Trophy Truck win at the 2019 Best in the Desert Parker 425.
“I’m very excited! It’s a huge honor to be apart of the Talon program at the infamous Baja 1000. I’m thankful to Jeff Proctor for this incredible opportunity and for believing in me,” says Sourapas. “There is a strong and positive team dynamic, which I believe is a recipe for success.”
Sourapas continues, “I hope to integrate my years of racing experience into the Talon program. I have five years of racing experience down in Mexico and I feel that is a huge asset to the team. Baja itself is the biggest challenge for us. The terrain is very unforgiving and it only takes one small mistake to knock you out of the race. It humbles you. Just finishing the Baja 1,000 is an accomplishment.”
“I’m very confident that the Honda Talon won’t only finish, but can win. This car has made tremendous strides throughout the year to prepare for this race. The Talon is resilient, it gives you a sense of comfort knowing you can push the limit, and the car absorbs it. This alone, gives me tremendous confidence that the Talons are not only here to participate, but to take over.”
Proctor adds, “We’re happy to welcome Brett to the team for the 1000 – he’ll be an asset for us with all of his experience. Overall, we have a strong driver line-up in the two Talon program. We’ve worked hard all year to develop this platform to give them the best equipment, to not just cross the finish line, but have a real chance for a podium. We are in a great place and I’m excited to see how these racers perform.”
The team will soon be in Baja testing and pre-running for the Baja 1000, with the race starting in Ensenada, Baja, Mexico on November 20th.
For additional info on the Honda Ridgeline Off-road team go to: http://www.hondaoff-road.com/ or HondaOffRoadRacing on Facebook, Instagram: @HondaOffRoadRacing or Jeff Proctor on Personal Instagram: @proctor_race.
Photography By: Bink Designs