be_ixf;ym_202302 d_05; ct_100
CLOSE
Photo assets from Baja 1000. Kendall Norman raced with our SLR Honda team
NEWS

Interview With Baja 1000 Champion Mark Samuels

Dec 052022

It’s one thing to accept the challenge of the legendary SCORE-International Baja 1000 off-road race. And only a select few get to unbuckle from their five-point safety harness and hop atop their 3,500-pound Trophy Truck at the finish line to celebrate victory.

Maybe even more impressive, bordering on unbelievable, is to challenge North America’s premier off-road race on a 275-pound dirt bike, with nothing much more than a helmet for protection, and withstand all that Mother Nature (along with what the rowdy locals) can throw at you – and do it at a speed that puts you in the top ten overall fastest times – with the Trophy Trucks – and well over an hour ahead of the next fastest motorcycle.

Our man Mark Samuels just pulled this off. And we’re pumped to have him tell his story here.

Wow. 5th consecutive win at the Baja 1000 by your Monster Energy-backed SLR/Honda team, including Justin Morgan and Kendal Norman. You guys gotta be pumped with the effort.

 

Yeah, pretty amazing! Five-in-a-row is a big feat. Just to ever win the Baja 1000 is huge, and then to have a consistent win streak is an awesome feeling.

 

Talk about that second leg and putting your team in the lead, taking over from Morgan near Puertecitos, on the Gulf Coast.

 

Yeah, I got on the bike right at Road Marker 275, after Justin started and had to fight the night, along with the dust of 6 other bikes in front of us. Justin was able to pass in to the second bike on course, just before I got on, leaving me some clear air. Then I just had to put my head down and try to start making the time up on the overall leader of the bikes. About 65 miles into my section, the lead bike had an incident that allowed us to take over easily. From there I just navigated the rest of my section without having any issues and got the bike to Kendall.

 

You guys ended up winning by well over an hour ahead of the 2nd place team. Was there any question, at any point in the race, as to which team was going to win this?

 

At the beginning, the lead bike that was off the line first was going very fast. It was a lot of work for Justin to get through the pack with dust, and that allowed those guys to get a decent lead early on – which didn’t feel good (laughter). But the race is long, and you have to be patient. It’s not all about being the fastest all the time, it’s about having the best equipment to last as well. Luckily, we are fortunate enough to have both.

 

In NBA terms, you guys got the motorcycle industry’s off-road Big Three kind of like the Lakers – Lebron, Davis & Westbrook – only you’re winning championships (Hahaha). This was No. 7 for you, No. 8 for Norman and No. 6 for Morgan. And, to reiterate, the 5th consecutive championship for your SLR/Honda team. Would you say this team is the most successful race dynasty in Baja 1000 history?

 

Yeah, we have definitely built something pretty cool with our team and stats. I would say Honda, as a whole, absolutely. That’s now 32 Baja 1000 wins for Honda. But Factory Honda went on a huge win streak when they first came to Baja back in the day, by Johnny Campbell. SLR is just honored to be able to keep the legacy going.

 

Right on. So in glancing at the overall SCORE Pro Moto Unlimited class, and the Best In The Desert’s MC Open Pro class, and it looks like SLR/Honda was pretty much focused solely on the Baja 1000 this fall. Beyond that your team competed on the AMA National Grand Prix Championship series throughout 2022. Talk about your results in the NGPC and how that all worked into your team’s defense of the Baja 1000 title.

 

Yeah, the team has really taken on the NGPC series, and WORCS Series in the States full on. This is where the young up and comers will come from, and the talent pool is very deep. We like racing anything that involves dirt bikes and competition. These series fit the team the best for the year of racing, and then we get to top it off with the gnarliest ice of them all, the Baja 1000 at the end.

 

Beyond the NGPC Series, to what extent did SLR/Honda compete on the World Off-Road Championship Series (WORCS) this summer?

 

Yeah, the SLR/Honda team supports four Racers at the WORCS Series. We race all year at different locations around the West Coast, ten events in total, going for the overall championship. We have won the 250 Pro championship, along with the Pro-Am championship, but still shooting for that 450 championship. Cole Martinez has been winning races and putting in the effort to win a championship, and we are getting close, along with Talon LaFountaine, who’s coming from a 250 championship and looking to for that 450 championship as well in 2023.

 

Speaking of Cole Martinez, we were looking for ’22 Loretta’s champ’s name in the Baja 1000 motorcycle results. Didn’t find it. (Laughter) Cole said he was going to bug you to allow him to race Baja. That ain’t happening?

 

(Laughter) Yeah, we talked about it a little bit. He (Cole) does have some off-road experience nowadays. But there is nothing like Baja that’s for sure. It is a very dangerous place to go race and I have to take that into consideration when I let new racers race Baja. Cole was on the list this year of possibly racing, but sadly he hurt his wrist before, and it was important for him to get back healthy for the ‘23 season.

 

Back to the SLR/Honda team, what’s the story behind SLR – aka “Slam Life Racing?”

 

I started SLR Honda five years ago. Slam Life comes from my personal brand, it was a saying I would say as I was coming up, pretty much just meaning ‘No excuses. If you want something, go after it and get it done.’ That’s the mentality I took when starting a professional team. Not many can say they have started a successful team from nothing. It’s been an eight-year journey to get here, but it’s amazing to see it grow to where it is at. And to have the backing from American Honda and a Monster Energy? That’s stuff people dream of, to have sponsors give you a budget to go race.

 

And how’s that working with Honda? SLR definitely went right to the top when it comes to off-road bikes.

 

American Honda is awesome. Everyone knows, not just everyone gets a chance to be ‘in’ with Honda. And it’s an honor to be a part of the WING (Honda’s logo). They provide the best quality product out there, and that why the brand has been so successful in off-road, and particularly the Baja 1000. And to top to off with Monster’s M-claw, what more could I ask for?

 

Well, thanks again for taking time to talk, Mark. Everyone here at Monster’s super pumped for you guys and the Baja 1000 win. As we’re about to turn the page on 2022, what’s SLR/Honda’s plans for the 2023 competition season?

 

Thanks, and a big shout-out to everyone at the Corona (Calif.) headquarters. I truly appreciate it. Next year we will be doing all the same off-road races, NGPC, WORCS, and also taking on another discipline with supporting amateur motocross. So you will see the Monster Energy-backed SLR/Honda team at the Supercross Futures, and all the major amateur national events.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE:

RECOMMENDED

FOR YOU