On 14 Nov 2017 at 0800 am, the Warrior Built Foundation combat veterans embarked on a mission to Ensenada, MX to attempt the hardest off-road race in the world, the 50th Anniversary Baja 1000.
The race began just shortly past midnight for dirt bikes on 16 Nov 2017 which would make it even more challenging. It was nearing 0115 am when Jason Hamm (USMC combat vet) was slowly walking the bike up the ramp to leave his team and stand in front of the large 50 foot screen. He was to wait for his turn to leave the start line after the previous riders ahead. You could tell he was fired up to begin the race as this would be his first time starting. After rolling down to the official line, he stood up and counted down the seconds. The green flags waved and he was off riding a wheelie into the famous first left corner… the team was officially enroute to mile 1134.0 La Paz, MX.
As the Warrior Built team watched the Lead Nav tracker anxiously, Jason was busy navigating the tough terrain into the unknown on dark roads. Walking by the vehicle we heard Nick Hamm’s Son, Nick Jr, mention “He is flying” as we approached our rider exchange point just 10 miles away. We then sat in the dark watching other crazy dirt bike fanatics swing by mile 70 where we staged. Jason then blasted around the corner and found our chase trucks surrounded by other members of the team.
It was now 0345 am and the bike looked nothing like it was before. The 2006 Honda 450x was covered in dirt, a broken GPR stabilizer leaked fluids, and the rear brake…well that was missing half of the original components due to a bad crash. No biggie, the boys were upbeat and ready for the second rider after a few fixed pieces were set in place. Nick slid on his helmet and gathered himself for the next 70 miles into the darkness of Baja to RM 140. Despite the headlight being out of adjustment due to the previous crash and Nick not wanting to waste more time… Off he went, leaving us in the dust smiling as we were still in the fight! We were moving forward and that’s all that mattered.
As the sun came up, Nick moved closer to our location by the minute. The bike was traveling at 55 to 70 mph at some points giving us a rough estimate of his current location. He met us on the side of the road for a rider change and an update on the performance of the bike. “It’s running really good” he said, a positive thing to hear and a morale booster to us all.
Richard Valencia was next, and he was no stranger to Baja. He had previously ridden last year for his first time and we gave him the nickname “Crazy Uncle Richard”. He smiled then slammed the bike into first gear launching himself back onto the race course at RM 140 for another 90 miles on his own. It wouldn't be until the sound of the satellite phone going off before we would hear from him again.
Around RM 226 he crashed in the deep and gnarly San Felipe famous whoops! The chain was derailed after the crash and thankfully fellow combat veteran on 781x Chris Colmenero (Iron Man racer) stopped to help Richard get the chain back on the race bike. It worked out well because the next rider, Devin Faulkner was set to switch out near that location and take on 112 miles of Baja’s best terrain. Devin was geared up and ready to go! The team cheered him on as he shouted, “See you at mile 340 boys” as he rode past numerous chase vehicles that were waiting for their riders to pit. He gave it his all through the whoops, rock alleys, and sand washes.
The internal live tracker Warrior Built used from Lead Nav, shared his location as he approached RM 340. The next rider up was Giovanni Perez, a wounded Army combat veteran, (single arm amputee) who lives for the dirt bike adrenaline. He slowly put on his gear ensuring everything was just right… while anxiously waiting for his turn to rip through the desert. Once Devin arrived, he pumped himself up and attached his unique prosthetic to the left handlebar. This allowed him to clip in instantly and keep the bike balanced as he rode the terrain.
He cracked the throttle wide open and started his 180 mile section to RM 520 where the team would head for his arrival. Shortly after, Gio would be racing at speeds between 70 to 80 miles an hour attempting to gain positions on other riders in the 200x Sportsman class. A quick left turn near RM 390 would change his life forever. Slamming on the brakes Gio would launch past the turn onto a huge rock that caused catastrophic damage to the engine case. This would become a low moment for everyone once the call was made that the engine was not fixable, but the team was thankful Giovanni was ok with minor injuries…that is what matters most. Baja is beautiful but can be unforgiving when you least expect it.
Overall, we are very happy for the team and we know without a doubt they gave it their all. The barrel chested freedom fighters known as Warrior Built will be back next year to take on both the Baja 500 & 1000. Until next time, Baja.