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A TRUE BAJA RACING ADVENTURE Moto Racer Wouter-Jan Van DiJk Discovers What SCORE Racing Is All About By Dan Sanchez Photos By Get Some Photo He has been called naive, an unprepared racer, a miracle of Baja, and more, but after finishing the 56th SCORE Baja 1000 race in the Pro Moto Ironman division, it is undeniable that Wouter-jan Van Dijk is now a household name in the world of off-road racing. Van Dijk is a Dutch native and lives in Caboolture, Queensland. His story about how he and his friend Moss flew from Australia to Southern California and purchased a KTM 500 motorcycle from Craigslist to race the SCORE Baja 1000 was all over the news and social media. While this story sounds both amazing and a bit naive, Van Dijk is not the first to race unprepared and without any knowledge of what it takes to compete in the world’s toughest off-road race. Over SCORE’s history, numerous racers have said they “always wanted to race the Baja 1000” and came down unprepared to try it. Most came away with a DNF and would come back to try it again and again. Van Dijk, however, finished the race on his first try in one of the toughest classes and in a race that was the second longest in the SCORE’s history at 1301.95 miles, with the SCORE Baja 2000 being the longest. This accomplishment puts him in a unique category within SCORE history. Call it lucky or an act of perseverance, but it exemplifies what SCORE Baja racing is all about. “I didn’t have much expectations, really,” said Van Dijk. “I knew the way down would be fun and a mad trip. I just sort of wanted to know a bit of the different terrains before the race, and I just took the race experience as it came along.” His extensive Enduro racing experience was a big help with much of the terrain, but the logistics hit him in the gut. “Well, I didn’t know it was going to be the longest SCORE Baja 1000. I was aiming to ride about 1000 miles, and I knew some races were actually shorter in distance,” he said. “I only heard it was more than 1000 miles long a couple of months before, but I had already committed. I had no money invested and just had my mind set on doing it with my mate, and I couldn’t back off at that point.” Traveling from San Diego down to Baja, Van Dijk and Moss camped along the way. Everything they had for the trip was in backpacks and sacks straddled to their backs and the bike before they finally made it to La Paz. The weight of Van Dijk’s gear cracked the bike’s subframe, and his tires were bald. So, repairs had to be made before the race. Van Dijk said his plan was to figure out where he was along the course and stop at Mexican convenience stores for food. Once everything was set, he started the race at 1:00 am on November 16th and completed it in 48:28:03, finishing seventh place in class. To add some more perspective, there were a total of 27 competitors in the SCORE Pro Moto Ironman class, and only nine finished. “This was an easy race as in technical riding wise” said Van Dijk. “I normally focus on hard Enduro and this is easy compared to that. There were nice open roads, and of course, the speed is way faster than hard Enduro races, but I don’t mind to go as fast as you know you can, as long as you don’t crash because of hidden stuff or animals, etc.” His amazing story coming into the race provided Van Dijk with additional help from locals, other teams, and the BFG Pits. His biggest worry, however, was the distance and losing focus. “The most difficult section was around Catavina, before the BFGoodrich Tires Pit 7,” he said. “I was fatigued and there were loose rocks everywhere. I was riding like a zombie at this point, and busted my hand before that too, which didn’t help matters either. But that was the hardest section of the track and it went on for a fair bit.” No matter what the obstacles were, Van Dijk was not going to quit. He kept on a comfortable pace and was determined to finish. “There was no point in me thinking of quitting,” said Van Dijk. “You enter to finish, and at times, I would slow down, but I still kept riding. Eventually, you will arrive at the finish as long as you keep going. The pain can only get so bad (if you don’t crash), and then it’s just something you put up with.” After reaching the finish line and seeing people cheering for him, Van Dijk became a bit emotional, but it was a race and accomplishment he would never forget. After looking back at what he went through, Van Dijk reflected that he would definitely do things differently. “I would probably get some A60 rims, as they might be a bit more solid on the bike, and get my food from a better setup from the start,” he said. “At this race, I don’t think I ate enough in the first bit. I would also try to get the bike sorted a bit earlier than a few hours before the race. Other than that, I’d do it the same way I think. It’s important to just have a good time and give it your best. That’s all you can do right.” Now that Van Dijk has become a moto and off-road celebrity from his accomplishments, he plans to compete in different races to explore as much as he can. “This was a great trip, especially before the race, and I would do it again if I had the chance,” he said. Perhaps we’ll see more of Van Dijk in 2024 if it piques his interest and if it’s a fun enough adventure for the young moto racer. SJ

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