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BAJA’S TWO-WHEEL HEROES SCORE’s Greatest Motorcycle Racers Of All Time Part II Johnny Campbell By SCORE Journal Staff Photos by Stephen Romero, Mark Kariya, and courtesy JCR/Honda  If winning eleven SCORE Baja 1000 and five SCORE Baja 500 races isn’t enough to make you a “legendary” Baja moto racer, then how about spawning many championship riders throughout your career? That’s exactly what Johnny Campbell has accomplished during his long career as one of Baja’s greatest moto riders of all time. Campbell is the example of a rider with championship form, and his experience and knowledge of desert racing proved to be a recipe for many other riders to follow. Campbell proved his focus and riding style many times on some of the most difficult terrains and proved himself especially by winning more SCORE Baja 1000 races than anyone. “For me personally, racing the SCORE Baja 1000 is about mind over matter,” says Campbell. “I was never the guy in the best physical shape, but mentally I had the edge on the competition because I knew the Baja 1000 well and everything it entailed from the planning to the pre-running.”  Campbell began riding motorcycles at age nine and soon began winning races. “My dad loved to ride and that inspired me,” said Campbell. “Every kid’s dream was to become a pro back then. I really thought I’d be working for my dad’s construction business.” Sadly, when Campbell’s dad, John, passed away in the mid-1980s, Campbell’s outlook on his future in racing suddenly shifted. Fortunately, he tagged along with motorcyclist Craig Adams at first, slowly getting up to speed on the desert and pre-running Baja events with Adams by his side. It was Adam that initially inspired Campbell to pursue a long-term career in desert racing and who introduced Campbell to desert races like the SCORE Baja 500. “I didn’t know guys made a living racing off-road that’s for sure. Craig got me up to speed on desert racing and pre-running Baja events, as well as to pursue off-road racing as a career,” said Campbell. As he matured as a racer and came up through the ranks, Campbell met the late Bruce Ogilvie, a champion Baja racer for the Honda Racing Team. “Bruce and I got together in 1991, and that was the start of racing Baja,” said Campbell. “It started as pit support and he saw some raw talent in me– a guy who was young and hungry to win with some desire. In 1992 Bruce asked me to ride his Honda XR600 and we finished second overall that year at the SCORE Baja 1000.” What began as a small Honda team effort became a formidable force in off-road racing. Campbell hung on to racing while working a 40-hour job as an auto mechanic, while at night working side-by-side with Ogilvie for several years. At that time, Campbell said he was running a two-stroke motorcycle. On Ogilvie’s advice, he would eventually move to the heavier Honda four-stroke, especially for endurance races like the SCORE Baja 1000. As Ogilvie began dealing with health issues, Campbell knew he had to step up and show what he could really do. “I started to think about my future after Bruce got sick,” said Campbell. “I could see my own racing career starting to slow down”. In 2008, Campbell decided to launch Team JCR/Honda with the blessing of Ogilvie and Honda. “He [Ogilvie] wasn’t going to hand the torch off to me lightly,” said Campbell. After getting permission to organize the team, Campbell recruited the most talented off-road riders, and together they crushed the competition. The team included young riders such as Robby Bell, Kendal Norman, Steve Hengeveld, Colton Udall, and many others who have won SCORE Baja Championships with JCR/Honda and on their own. Through the years, Team JCR/Honda compiled a whopping 17 Baja 1000 championships, another feat that will undoubtedly be in the record books for some time, although Campbell said, “All records can be broken.”  While Campbell stepped away from racing Baja on a motorcycle a few years ago, he continues to oversee Team JCR/Honda, bringing a new generation of riders to other venues of motorcycle racing across North America and in Dakar. Today, moto racers look at Campbell’s accomplishments and wonder how he was able to win so many races and championships. Campbell acknowledges that being in good overall condition was only a small part of the Baja process. He thought that making wise decisions was critical to taking the win, and those decisions had to happen months prior to the actual start of the race. “The SCORE Baja 1000 started for me when the last one ended,” said Campbell. “The last 120 days leading up to the race are very focused. Anything that takes away from that focus sacrifices the entire program.” Safety during a race was also a big part of Campbell’s overall focus. “In my career, we always beat the SCORE Trophy Trucks to the finish, but now, the SCORE Trophy Trucks are so fast and powerful, they catch up to most of the field,” he said. “If you make a mistake on the course it can be deadly, as these trucks are 6,000 pounds, 800 horsepower, bone crushers.”  Perseverance and the ability to work on your bike while on the course is also important for winning, according to Campbell. “We carried the basics in a tool pack during a race like the SCORE Baja 1000, and we had to learn to ride the race, even on a flat tire. On a motorcycle, you have to think smart and think about the big picture, because you must finish. In a long race, anything can happen. I’ve bounced off hoods of cars and collided with livestock on the course. You never know what you are going to get in that race. You constantly must be aware of where you are at all times.” One of Johnny’s favorite spots in Baja is by the Pacific Ocean, and his most memorable race was the SCORE Baja 2000. “Instead of running a traditional Baja 1000, SCORE called it the Baja 2000 and it was about 1,700 miles long. It was the longest continuous off-road race ever where I rode six different stints of that one, and we completed it in under 32 hours as a team.” Campbell has become synonymous with everything that is good and great about off-road desert racing south of the border, and not even his retirement from SCORE racing will ever reduce his contributions to SCORE’s premier event. At least not in the eyes of those young, upcoming stars that see Campbell as the hero of a sport filled with danger and suspense. SJ

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