Author: Jim Ober Photos: Trackside Photo
Backstory: In 1994 the Kawasaki factory team was at the top of its game. The team had won the previous Baja 1000 and was on its way to winning another with Larry Roeseler (shown above) already leading at Race Mile 100. Rocket-fast teammates Danny Hamel and Ty Davis were farther down the peninsula waiting for their turn aboard the KX 500. The victory would be Roeseler’s 10th overall at the fabled race, and no one else would even be close to his record at the time. He also had a bunch of Baja 500 wins under his belt.
At the end-of-season Baja 1000, however, Roeseler announced he was quitting motorcycle racing. He had been competing for almost 25 years and as he explained, “That’s enough, its time to step down and let the younger guys do it.” Besides getting that “feeling” when it’s time to quit, he also confided that racing in Baja was like Russian Roulette with all the dangers involved in being one of the first vehicles flying down the racecourse. SCORE has always started the motorcycles first at the crack of dawn on race day, and the chances of having to dodge an oncoming vehicle on the course were not remote.
For the very next Baja 500 six months later, Roeseler was in a team chase truck supporting the Kawasaki effort when ex-teammate Danny Hamel collided with a Mexican police car in Ensenada soon after the start and was killed. He could not shake the thought that it easily could have been him.
Larry didn’t let that slow him down. He quickly transitioned to four-wheeled vehicles, driving a truck for Walker Evans for the 1995 season. He then spent four years on the MacPherson Chevy Trophy-Truck team, racking up a couple of wins at Vegas to Reno and the Primm 300 in 1999. He also took a third overall at the Baja 1000 that season as well. In 2000 LR shared driving duties on the Toyota Factory team with Ivan Stewart. The following year he teamed up with the Herbst family, driving their famous high-tech Ford Truggy. The combination won the Baja 1000 overall in 2004 and 2005, and then Larry teamed up with Roger Norman in 2008 for another Baja 1000 win, giving him a staggering total of 13 overall Baja 1000 victories.
Roeseler’s record puts him at the top of SCORE Baja winners list, but not without a personal cost. “I figure I have broken 25 bones in my body,” he points out. “You are bound to make mistakes out there, and on a motorcycle, a mistake can cost you your life. You must be very precise and very technical.” Comparing the two types of driving Larry related, “You can be a little ‘sloppier’ driving a truck as compared to a motorcycle. You don’t have to be as precise. But it’s the ability to read the terrain, as you must do in motorcycle racing, that gives you the edge”.
Epilogue: Larry stays in shape these days by raising his five-year-old daughter, Lexee. “Just keeping up with her keeps me in fit. She loves the races, and bikes,” says LR. He is back with the Herbst Team for the major events in the coming season, driving the #19 Trophy-Truck.
In between his racing and personal appearances, he is involved with his buddy, Bruce Anderson, and his GoBajaRiding.com tours in Baja. “I go with him and the riders when I can, riding, chasing and helping out.”
Vaya Con Dios from the staff of Dirt Sports.