While most of those involved in the sport are brave, there are very few like this year’s Baja 1000 PRO MOTO IRONMAN winner, Jeff Benrud. This Team Multicam member and retired Sergeant Major with army Special Operations has completed 13 tours overseas and 700 combat missions, but his first love has always been dirt bikes.
“Even as a 3-year-old little boy I would see dirt bikes and be enamored by them,” said Benrud. “Luckily, my father owned a real-estate company that was right beside a bike shop where I would often spend much of my time, and eventually he agreed to give me my own bike at the age of 5 years old.”
Video courtesy of Team MultiCam
Although the born-to-be thrill seeker didn’t compete in his first motocross race until the age of 16 years old, it wasn’t long before Benrud knew he had a real passion for competing in the dirt. After joining the army at the age of 18, Benrud continued to follow the career of motocross and supercross legend Ricky Johnson. Before long, Johnson’s biggest fan would have a chance to not only meet his favorite driver, but find himself both riding and eventually working with the man who would lead him back to a childhood dream.
“Johnson was hired to assist with an Army related project and I not only had an opportunity to meet him, but ride a dirt bike alongside him hours after,” said Benrud. “Before you know it, he was introducing me to the Baja 1000.”
After a storied Special Forces career, Benrud returned to his first love, dirt bike racing, in the longest off-road endurance race in North America.
“In 2013, my mentor-turned-friend assisted me in participating in my first Baja 1000,” said Benrud. “While I competed with a team the first couple of times, it wasn’t long before I decided that I wanted to use my dirt bike skills and military training to go it alone in the PRO MOTO IRONMAN class.”
Benrud’s courageous decision to go it alone actually paid off during all three years that he went solo in a race that involves riding through almost 1000 miles of relentless terrain, comprised of jagged rocks, loose sand, powdery silt beds, technical hill climbs and even more technical descents as well as livestock roaming freely.
“I actually crossed the finish line first both in 2015 and 2016, but was penalized both years and was rewarded a second-place finish,” said Benrud. “Luckily, the third time competing was obviously the charm.”
So, how did a 47-year-old military hero become a Baja champion? According to this Benrud, it wasn’t just his bravery that helped him achieve a lifelong dream.
“I started riding with Johnson in Mexico and fell in love with both the terrain as well as the adrenaline rush. Before long, I knew what the next challenge in my life was,” he said. “My military training made the suffering that you often incur during this grueling race – including riding and staying awake for more than 30 hours – doable. The 2012 Honda CRF450X dirt bike rider, which was tricked out by bike builder Brian Pinard, of Temecula, CA, also made this year’s win possible.”
Now that he has accomplished yet another staggering achievement, what is next for the newest Iron Man?
“Along with assuring the continued success of my and Ricky Johnson’s business American Offroad Driving Company, I would love to someday compete in the Dakar Rally race in South America, or possibly put a team of older guys in their 40’s and 50’s together to not only run but win races like this,” said Benrud. “It sure would prove to a few young hotshots that it takes more than youth and stamina to compete.”