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BAJA’S TWO-WHEEL HEROES SCORE’s Greatest Motorcycle Racers Of All Time-Part VIII – Scot Harden By Larry Saavedra Photos courtesy Harden Off-Road With two SCORE Baja 1000 Overall victories, three SCORE Baja 500 Overall victories, and a career that spans more than 40-years in off-road racing, Scot Harden is well-known in the Baja motorcycle community, and was inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame in 2008. He has traveled the world racing motorcycles as a factory rider and team manager for KTM and Husqvarna. Yet, with all his travels, some of Harden’s best memories of racing happened less than 100 miles from his home in Southern California, where he began his career in the 1970s chasing the dream in Mexico. In his nearly 40 years of professional competition on a motorcycle, Harden has challenged the deserts of North and South America, Europe and Africa, and compiled an amazing list of victories and top ten finishes. But as Harden tells it, there’s something about the inherent beauty of Mexico and its cultures that tugs at another side of this champion. “I think that we are so caught up in the material things in our western civilization, that when we go down there (to places like Mexico) and see people that seem happier because the things that they place value on have more to do with the spirit of the heart,” said Harden. “Even though they might not have much they are prepared to share it with you. I have lots of respect for that.” While it would be a stretch between his first SCORE Baja 500 victory and his next, Harden pursued races around the world. He would come back to the SCORE Baja 500 with riders Kurt Pfeiffer and Garth Sweetland in 1985 and ‘86 to take the motorcycle overall wins again. Harden and Pfeiffer rode a Husqvarna 500xc in ‘85 and then he and Sweetland transitioned to the faster Husqvarna 430xc. “I think with Sweetland we set the fastest average speed at the ‘86 Baja 500, and that record wasn’t broken for many years,” said Harden. While the 1986 Baja 500 Overall would be his last major motorcycle overall win on record for SCORE, Harden continued to professionally compete at SCORE events until 2007, ranking in the top ten of his class at many races. “When I first raced the SCORE Baja 500 it was a two-man team with one machine,” said Harden. “You had to ride at least half the course and it was always great to be in Ensenada in June until you got down in the desert where the terrain and climate could be brutal. We had the best gear available for the time, but there was no helicopter support and it was a constant battle with traffic on the course. It got to a point where I finally got out of racing. Back then, if you got hurt while in Mexico, there was no life support to come and get you out. It was risky and dangerous until things began to change for the better.” It’s hard to imagine the risks that motorcyclists took while racing 500 or 1000 miles alone in Baja, especially without radio communication. According to Harden, that didn’t come into play until the 1990s, which made Harden’s pitting support better, but still precarious at best. “You really had to take care of yourself when you rode,” said Harden. “Every year there was some sort of close call on the bikes. I recall in 1978 when a Jeep drove the wrong way on the course, and I had to run the bike into these giant boulders to avoid it. I was able to wrestle the bike out of the rocks and fortunately, went on to win.” Harden’s two SCORE Baja 1000 Motorcycle Overall wins 1977 and ‘81 added to his successful stretch in Baja. Combined with hundreds of other regional and International event wins, he seemed nearly unstoppable. Then came an executive management side of Harden’s career, serving as race team manager for KTM and Husqvarna and helping champions such as Dan Smith, Dan Ashcraft, Danny Hamel and many others to the podium in places like Dakar and Pike’s Peak. Today, instead of competing, Harden follows his sons Brent and Brock with their racing careers as strategically as he crafted his own. Harden says that with any luck, his grandchildren will also carry on the family traditions. SJ

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