Competition – Motorcycle
A record 11 SCORE Baja 1000 titles and an incredible 17 Baja 1000 wins in a row are just two of a long list of impressive statistics that solidify Johnny Campbell’s rightful place in the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Johnny is the son of a hard working father, John Campbell Sr, who ran a grading business in San Clemente, California. John enjoyed racing on the weekends, and although he passed away when Johnny was still a teenager, his legacy of hard work and love for racing shaped the man and champion his son would become.
In 1989 Baja came calling. Johnny pre-ran the Baja 1000 with Craig Adams, on a borrowed XR350. The next year he entered his first race, the San Felipe 250. In 1991, Johnny teamed up with champion Baja racer and Honda factory rider Bruce Ogilvie. “It started as pit support and small conversations, and he saw some raw talent in me; a guy who was young and hungry to win with some desire. Bruce called me in 1992 and asked me to ride his Honda XR600 and we finished second overall that year at the SCORE Baja 1000.”
The relationship with Ogilvie and Honda shaped Johnny’s career for decades to come, leading to an impressive list of championships and major wins:
SCORE Desert Series Class 22 (Open Pro) – 1997-2000, 2002-08
Best in the Desert (Silver State Open Pro) – 1995, 2000, 2004-05
AMA District 37 Big 6 Grand Prix Series – 1995-96, 2000, 2003
AMA District 37 Best of the West Series – 1996
AMA District 37 Enduro Series (Four Stroke) – 1995
24-Hour Off-Road World Endurance – 1995, 1999, 2001
MAJOR WINS – 1ST OVERALL
Baja 1000 – 1997-2005, 2007-08
Baja 500 – 1997-98, 2002-04
San Felipe 250 – 1998-2000, 2002-04, 2008
Vegas to Reno – 2001, 2004-05, 2007
Terrible’s Town 250 – 2001-03, 2005
HYR 24 Hours of Glen Helen – 1999, 2006
In 2001, Johnny finished 8th overall (1st privateer) at the Paris-to-Dakar Rally. He has returned to Dakar as a navigator for Robby Gordon. The duo won three stages at Dakar in 2012.
Johnny is recognized as one of the industry’s top development riders. He played a significant role in the development of Honda’s XR600, XR650, CRF450X and CRF450RX. He also worked for HGA (Honda Japan) in the development of the CRF450 Rally machine. His mark is on many products, including apparel, soft and hard parts.
In 2008, Johnny launched Team JCR/Honda with the blessing of Bruce Ogilvie and Honda. Johnny recruited the most talented off-road riders, and together, they crushed the competition. Throughout the years, Team JCR/Honda has amassed a record setting 17 Baja 1000 championships, a feat that will undoubtedly be in the record books for some time. Johnny’s impact on Baja reaches far beyond his incredible race career, through his support of children and orphanages in many communities south of the border.
Humility and leadership on and off the bike add to Johnny’s reputation as a champion. He gladly shares his opinions on bike set up, race strategy and life. He is driven by more than championships; his fuel comes from the opportunity to make the next generation of racers faster, safer and smarter.
Building a dynasty like Johnny did for Honda is not a solo endeavor, and this humble champion is the first to give credit to his mentor, the late Bruce Ogilvie, as well as the many people who are lucky enough to call him a friend, teammate or boss.
Johnny Campbell is often referred to as THE True Champion because of the life he leads on and off the bike.
Contributor: Roger Norman, SCORE International