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Living Life Full Throttle Bruce Ogilvie remembered by those that knew him best By Larry Saavedra Photography Courtesy of Peter Postel and Marcia Ogilvie To his fans across four decades of professional racing, AMA Hall of Famer and multiple SCORE champion, Bruce Ogilvie, ruled Baja with calculated determination. First as a racer, then as the fiercely competitive race manager of Team Honda, where he mentored SCORE Baja motorcycle champions like Johnny Campbell, Robby Bell and Colton Udall. His first win as a rider at Baja came in 1975 during the SCORE Baja 500, followed by an Overall win at the SCORE Baja 1000 that same year. It would be the beginning of many triumphant podium finishes and new-found successes on- and off-the-seat of a bike. After many from his generation had retired from professional racing, Ogilvie was still an active rider. At the age of 51 he won the 2003 SCORE Baja 1000 on a motorcycle. Sadly though, after a long-term illness Ogilvie passed away in 2009 leaving his Honda teammates and the world of motorcycle racing with a huge void to fill. His Father’s Influence While Ogilvie would go onto teach others the secret to winning during his lengthy career, he relied on his father, Don, for personal guidance. During the early ‘70s they raced the SCORE Baja 1000 among many events, always as a team. Some hint that this strong father-son bond was the chemistry to his winning against all-odds attitude that would play out in later years. It wasn’t until the mid-‘80s that Ogilvie’s commitment to professional racing drew the attention of American Honda. He was tapped to take over as the motorcycle race manager for off-road competition. Although working as the factory team manager was only part of his job. His key role was to report back to Honda R&D on the technical prowess of the bikes being raced under extreme conditions and to one-up Kawasaki and Yamaha at every turn. Embracing Technology Ogilvie’s first goal, as some suggested was to improve Honda’s four-stroke off-road bikes by any means necessary. In ’85 Honda released the air-cooled XR600R under the watchful eye of Ogilvie, who was now in complete command of the factory off-road racing team. He saw its weaknesses immediately and ultimately re-introduced the XR600R in ‘88, 20 pounds lighter by losing the dual carburetors and redesigning the entire chassis for racing. While Ogilvie and the team would win big with the newly improved XR600R, it wasn’t ideal for Baja’s brutal climate. Then at the end of the ‘90s Ogilvie got his big break when Honda R&D took his advice and introduced the XR650R. Unlike the XR600R, this new liquid-cooled bike was built specifically for racing Baja to the dismay of Kawasaki’s Team Green. It was the start of Team Honda’s big winning streak at Baja. Eventually Kawasaki pulled out of desert racing in Mexico altogether. A Proven Partnership One guy who knew Ogilvie perhaps better than most had to be 11-time SCORE Baja champion Johnny Campbell. He spent 17 years racing for Ogilvie with Team Honda, eventually winning more SCORE championships that any other off-road desert motorcyclist. Campbell won his first SCORE Baja 500 with Ogilvie in 1997. “When Bruce grabbed a hold of me, I didn’t know how to put my raw talent into a good race program,” Campbell said. “He took me under his wing in ’92 and held my hand in off-road racing. He never had a big race team glamorous side, but it was all about winning. Bruce built those organizational skills into me and brought me to where I am now. He had such a solid plan of attack on the course. If he had been in the military he would have been a general.” While Ogilvie’s demeanor took some getting used to, he was a race tactician on the course. “He was a sharp guy on the bike, too,” Campbell said. “Some people didn’t get his demeanor because he was always thinking in-depth, and so if you saw no expression on his face, it was because he was thinking of ways to respond with a good strategy. “Some people see similarities between him and myself. He was my mentor and I picked these things up from him. He would never go and seek gratification for himself. He was selfless for the amount of work he did for others. His confidence came from his experience and thought process. He was very self-blessed.” Ogilvie loved to win and whenever defeat reared its ugly head in Baja, instead of getting angry, he leaned on his perseverance, according to Campbell. “He was running pit crews of more than a hundred, and the people that were in his posse respected him a lot,” Campbell said. Robby Bell Reflects Former teammate and SCORE Baja champion racer, Robby Bell, echoes Campbell’s sentiments about Ogilvie, and emphasized that it was Bruce that gave him the opportunity to have a career in desert racing with Honda. “He had a lot of patience with me,” Bell said. “It was his quiet, understated confidence that I remember the most. When he said something he believed it and often lived it. That’s what I admired about Bruce. It was always matter-of-fact. He would always tell us we had the best riders and bikes and we tried to live up to his expectations. He always said to plan for the best, but prepare for the worse.” A Legacy Remembered Throughout his long motorsports career Ogilvie lived life to the fullest. He raised a family, traveled extensively and became in the eyes of those that knew him a champion that left the sport richer for it. That legacy will continue on in the annals of off-road motorsports history. SJ

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