The desert motorcycle racer you’ve never heard of

You may not recognize the name, but Keith Webster is a familiar face in Baja, the epicentre of desert racing

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A motorcycle rider in the Baja 500 race.

Keith Webster has raced the Baja 500 twice and the Baja 1000 once. — photo courtesy Keith Webster

When it comes to motorcycle racing, Keith Webster has just about tried it all—from motocross to cross-country and even drag racing.

But now it’s desert racing that’s got him hooked.

His interest in it actually began when he was a kid, following the famous Baja 500 and 1000 off-road races presented by Score International.

The now 50-year-old finally got to ride Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula for himself in 2007. He and his son, James, took one of Tim Morton’s Baja Bound Moto Adventures. Then, a year later, the father-son duo decided to give the Baja 500 a try.

Webster was hooked. He raced it again with a buddy in 2010.

The following year, he and his son tried the Norra Mexican 1000—which is a four-day on- and off-road vintage vehicle rally. It starts in Mexicali and ends near Los Cabos. Webster placed second in the motorcycle class and seventh overall. And his son wasn’t far behind.

Racing the Baja 1000

Visiting Baja to ride has become an annual excursion for Webster, even though his son doesn’t always accompany him. He’s been there 13 times in as many years.

A group of motorcycle riders looking down at the Baja landscape.

The scenery and culture of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula is what captured Keith Webster's heart the first time he went there in 2007. — Chip Morton photo

Two years ago, Webster got to race the big one, the Baja 1000, and he did it with well-known Chilean rally racers Felipe and Jaime Prohens, along with former pro motocrosser Chris Ridgway, who is now an amputee.

According to Webster, it was a spur of the moment kind of thing. 

A motorcycle rider going through a deep groove in a muddy bank.

Keith Webster spent five days motorcycling through the mountains of Costa Rica in August 2012. — photo courtesy Keith Webster

“I was riding down in Baja and met up with Felipe and Jaime Prohens and Chris Ridgway,” said Webster. “Because I was so familiar with the area, I ended up showing them around, and then ended up pitting for them. I was added to the roster as a spare rider, but I actually got to fill in for one of the guys for part of the race.”

Venturing farther afield

Baja isn’t the only faraway destination Webster has ridden. In August of 2012, he spent five days exploring Costa Rica. He said it was a memorable experience, seeing the lush forests, volcanoes and even a flash flood.

Back home in Edson, Alberta, Webster usually spends his riding time in the Sundance area west of town. The Cadomin area south of Hinton, Alberta, is another favourite.

A desert race car flying over a jump.

Keith Webster took his desert race car to Kamloops, B.C., to do some testing before he takes it to the BlueWater Desert Challenge in October. — photo courtesy Keith Webster

He also competes in a hare scramble series put on by the Rocky Motorcycle Club in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta. In 2012, Webster was the club’s Vet B series champion.

But for Webster, desert racing is where it’s at. Right now, he is fine-tuning a Class 12 desert race car for the BlueWater Desert Challenge. A Best in the Desert event, the BlueWater Desert Challenge is an off-road race for cars, trucks and UTVs that takes places every year in Parker, Arizona.

Webster is hoping to have his car ready in time for the next race, which is October 10 to 12, 2014.

When asked what he loves about riding and racing in the desert, Webster was hard-pressed to come up with an explanation, but he finally said, “I just like riding motorcycles.” 

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