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BAJA’S TWO-WHEEL HEROES SCORE’s Greatest Motorcycle Racers Of All Time Part IV – Larry Roeseler By SCORE Journal Staff and Mike Ingalsbee Photos by Kris Pallesen Centerline Images Everyone in Baja knows Larry Roeseler. Not only because he has been racing in Baja since 1970, but because he has won more Baja races than any other man in off-road racing history. Roeseler’s prolific career has earned him a spot in the American Motorcycle Association and the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame. His career race win stats in SCORE alone include 12 season class point championships, and 14 SCORE Baja 1000 Overall race wins, ten of which were done on a motorcycle. In the SCORE Baja 500, Roeseler has 12 Overall wins (nine on motorcycles), and 18 career class wins in that race. At age 64, Roeseler is ready to rack up more wins in his long career, and his latest was winning the 2021 SCORE Baja 500 Overall. It might seem bold to predict more wins for Roeseler just because he’s still racing, but if you ask anyone, there’s a reason they still call him “Mr. Baja.” When it comes to his first love– riding motorcycles, he still rides all the time, but now prefers to race on four wheels. If he wanted, he could jump on his motorcycle tomorrow and make any bike field of competitors feel nervous. He lives 45 minutes away from some prime single-tracks and rides as often as he can. He takes every opportunity possible to get some of what he calls “helmet therapy.” You can’t talk about Roeseler’s latest career wins without going back into his motorcycle racing history– that alone is legendary. He was five when he got his first mini bike and started riding. His family lived in Bloomington, California, and would take regular trips to the desert to go racing or riding. In the early 1970s, he was racing a 100cc motorcycle in the desert, and steadily advancing through the ranks. He finished fourth overall in his local series, then second-place, and finally took the number one spot in the 100cc class. Around that time, his father raced the Baja 500, and Roeseler rode with him during the pre-run. “Back then, the course went 90 miles on pavement to Camalu before hitting the dirt, and there was no Catavina, and no CoCos corner yet,” said Roeseler. “It was much different back then.” Roeseler continued to get faster racing in the local desert events, and in 1972, he got his first win at the SCORE Baja 500 racing with Mitch Mayes. He rode the first half and then handed the bike to Mayes. But Roeseler was not just a competitor, he was a winner of the race, and still only in high school. In 1973 and ’74, he finished on the podium in 3rd place within the 125cc class. In 1975, he would take his second win riding a 250cc Harley Davidson with Bruce Ogilvie. According to Roeseler, the Harley’s were unique and ran Italian-made two-stroke engines that were supplied to the Harley Davidson team. Roeseler moved to the 250 class, and then into the open class. In 1976, he was right back on top winning the open class at the SCORE Baja 500, riding with A.C. Bakken. He also won the SCORE Baja 1000 with Mitch Mayes on a Husqvarna. In 1977, Roeseler got his third win in a row at the SCORE Baja 500, taking the open class win riding with Jack Johnson. Roeseler was riding with some of the best riders in the sport, but no matter whom he shared the bike with, he was consistently coming out on top. Roeseler’s SCORE Baja 500 success was equaled at the SCORE Baja 1000. He won both the 500 and 1000 in 1976. Starting in 1978, he won the SCORE Baja 1000 for the Husqvarna team, three years in a row. In 1981 and ‘82, Roeseler won back to back at the SCORE Baja 500 racing for yet another manufacturer– Yamaha. In 1987, Kawasaki had been very successful in racing motocross, so Roeseler went to them about racing in the desert too. He convinced them that Team Green needed to go off-road racing and partnered with Ted Hunnicutt Jr., and won the SCORE Baja 500 that year. He put Kawasaki on the map in Baja, winning the 500 again in 1990, ‘92, and ‘93. His SCORE Baja 1000 streak was even more impressive. Racing with Team Green, he won the B1K in 1988, 89, 90, 91, 93, and 94. The Kawasaki brand took nine straight wins at the SCORE Baja 1000 during that time from 88 to 96. After his win in 1994, Larry had amassed 10 overall wins at the SCORE Baja 1000. He told Team Green that ten was a nice round number, so he wanted to leave it there. Roeseler had been building a pre-runner and wanted to race trucks, and decided to sit out the 1995 season. During the SCORE Baja 500 that year, tragedy struck when his teammate and friend Danny Hamel was killed. A car traveling backward on the course caused the collision. Roeseler knew the risks better than anyone, but Hamel’s death hit him hard. It furthered his resolve to make the switch to four-wheeled racing. “I had a lot of great times racing bikes,” says Roeseler. “In the early days, we didn’t have the big factory teams like now. Your crew would be one or two guys with some gas cans, and tires in the back of a pick-up truck. We always had great battles with the Honda guys. They were known for taking ‘creative lines.’ Our guys in the helicopter would shake their fingers at them. We knew about the lines they were taking, but the bosses at Kawasaki forbid us from doing the same. They just told us to train harder, and ride faster. I never considered myself as having any special talent for riding. I was always just willing to work harder to go faster.” “We dug up some old pictures the other day, and found one of me pushing my bike through contingency in 1972,” said Roeseler. “I’ve covered a lot of miles since that first win at the SCORE Baja 500. One thing that stands out to me, is how the equipment has changed over the years. The sport itself has changed a lot too since this 15-year-old won his class at the 500 on a 100cc bike. My dad really had a lot of confidence in me to let me take on such a thing. It makes me giggle and smile when I think about it. When I started racing, I never thought it would be a career. I always thought I would be a dentist or an electrician. We were out riding or racing every weekend, and I was having fun. Once I started winning, I was making money at it. It’s been difficult at times, but so rewarding. It’s been my lifestyle, and I’m so blessed to have been surrounded by the best people, and great equipment.” Everywhere Roeseler has been, he’s left a huge mark on the landscape with countless wins along the way. His life gets hectic, but some precious time with his family, and a little Helmet Therapy, and he’s ready for the next challenge. Without a doubt, Roesler will always be a serious contender whenever he straps on a helmet, and the story of Larry Roeseler’s accomplishments will continue to be written. SJ

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