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LIVING LIFE LOUD “Pistol” Pete Sohren named Honorary Grand Marshal for the 34th annual SCORE San Felipe 250 By Stuart Bourdon Photography: Sohren family, Chad Bunch, and GetSome Photo San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico, has for decades hosted the inaugural event in the world’s most prestigious desert racing series. This year is no different as it again is home to the 2020 SCORE International World Desert Championship season-opener on May 6-10th, 2020. This is a favorite race among many competitors. It’s short and easy to support, the town is friendly, the beaches are close and warm, and the desert is both wild and beautiful in the spring. It’s also a good event to pull out all the stops and give a car or truck its first real race trial of the year. Few loved San Felipe and the spring-time race more than Pete Sohren. It’s because of that special connection to the San Felipe area that SCORE International has named “Pistol” Pete Sohren the Honorary Grand Marshall of the 34th annual SCORE San Felipe 250. According to friends and family, the SCORE San Felipe 250 was his favorite race. He scored three class wins there; first in 1997 while racing Class 5, then again in 2001 in Class 5, and 2016 driving Class 7. However, it was more than just the racing, it was a family thing. San Felipe was also his favorite place. He had been coming there and engaging in off-road activities of all sorts ever since he was a kid. “My grandpa had been taking my dad there since he was very young,” said Sohren’s oldest daughter Paige. “For years they would go on family vacations to Pete’s Camp (on the beach north of San Felipe Bay). My dad loved San Felipe. When we were kids, we started going to Victor’s RV Park there. Our whole family would come down for both spring break and the SCORE race.” Cami Sohren, Pete’s wife, spoke of her husband’s passion for the sport of off-road racing, especially in Baja. “He loved Baja, loved the people, and loved the off-road community,” she said. “He would often talk about class rules and regulations he didn’t agree with, even for classes he didn’t race in. He wanted off-road racing to be easily available to everyone, as well as having the ability to experience the magic of racing in Baja, including what he always called the backyard racers. That’s what Pete was when he started. He worked on his own car. Pete’s desire to provide the Baja racing experience, if only for one time, was the reason he started the race truck rental business. He was always proud of the fact that he took a lot of people on that experience.” Although racing was a big part of Pete Sohren’s life, his family says he gave even more of himself to them. All four of his children, Paige, Blair, Farrah, and Van have been involved in the family’s off-road activities and lifestyle from a very early age. Paige and Blair talked of inheriting their dad’s love of racing, and how Pete stepped right up to make that a reality for them, while also supporting each of their own passions in life, no matter what it was. Farrah told us that when she wanted to try her hand at acting, Pete made it happen, pushing hard to get a TV deal put together to boost her career. His son Van said he enjoyed fixing up old cars, learning the craft from his dad, and reflected with us on their time spent wrenching together. SCORE Racing Career Pete Sohren was a multiple class winner in SCORE races, including SCORE Trophy Truck, and was a media personality on radio and television. His accomplishments in SCORE include winning a SCORE Class 5 season point championship, and in 2014 when racing in Class 7, Pete won three races (SCORE Baja 500, the SCORE Desert Challenge, and the SCORE Baja 1000). That same year, he finished second by just four points in the SCORE season point championship for his class. In the SCORE Trophy Truck class, Pete’s best finish was fourth place at the 40th SCORE Baja 1000 in 2007, making the run from Ensenada to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, that year. He also had a top 10 finish in the 2011 SCORE San Felipe Challenge of Champions. The win he most enjoyed, however, was in the 2015 SCORE Imperial Valley 250, where Pete won Class 7 and his daughter Paige won Class 3000. Racers Remember Outspoken and sometimes controversial, Pete was nonetheless well respected in the off-road community. Andy McMillin, 2019 SCORE International Trophy Truck Class Champion talked about Pete as a competitor. “He was an almost larger than life figure with his long curly mullet and his famous yellow truck,” said McMillin. “Everything about him and everything he did was somewhat loud. I guess that’s a word you could use to describe him. We had our fair share of arguments and differences of opinion over the years, but at the end of the day he was just a good guy who wanted to go racing.” “Pete raced in the Trophy Truck class with a fairly small budget compared to many other teams,” added McMillin. “He was a wheelman and always laid down pretty good times until some little issue or an engine problem would slow him down or knock him out of the race. Regardless, he always put up a good fight and he was a good racer. What I liked about Pete is that he wasn’t afraid to speak his mind.” Race vehicle builder Rick Geiser of Geiser Brothers, told us of the first time he met Pete. “I was 16 years old. We were set up next to each other at a swap meet, both of us selling junk. We became friends that day,” said Geiser. “Little did we know that a few years later, we would be racing and building trucks together. Pete and I were on the same page as far as our outlook on racing. We got along well and had a lot of fun.” “Pete put all of his heart and mind into racing,” added Geiser. “He didn’t have a lot of money, but he did what he could and competed at the top level against guys with millions of dollars. And…he was doing it in a three-seat truck that was built out of a handful of used parts. When the big teams would get new engines, he would buy the used ones. We built the Trophy Truck in 2004 and he and I raced it for a few years. He continued to race it for many years after that. Then he came out with his Baja Lite truck, and he turned that into a business, so he was making money rather than just spending money.” Geiser remembers Pete as being very authentic, as he related an encounter Pete had with a fellow racer. “I don’t remember who it was, but Pete walked up to a guy and said, ‘I was watching your truck and either you suck or your truck sucks.’ He then proceeded to tell the guy ‘you need to get somebody to work on those shocks.’ He was straight-up and would just tell it like it was,” said Geiser. “He knew what he was talking about too because he had been a champion and been around long enough to know when something was working right and when it was not.” Cameron Steele grew up with Pete in off-road racing and remembers him for his generosity. “Pete had the heart of a lion. He was a family man but treated everybody like family,” said Steele. “We spent a ton of time pre-running races together and had great times. We would jab at each other and give each other a hard time, almost like a brotherly situation. We both have brothers, so we instantly picked up on how to treat each other like one.” “He was super passionate about his racing, but his love for Baja went much deeper. He worked incredibly hard to raise funds for the orphanage at Rancho Santa Marta (San Vicente, Baja California), and for years was always bringing supplies, clothes, and things like toys there for the kids,” said Steele. “One of the times we went there, he gave a kid the shirt off his back, literally. That pretty much tells the story of Pete’s passion and commitment to the people of Baja and especially the children.” Off-road racer and long-time friend, Chad Bunch, recalls his earliest memory of Pete is when he was five years old, riding his ATC 70 in circles at the dunes. “Pete was a teenager racing up the biggest hill on his three-wheeler that he had stuck a street bike motor in,” Chad recalled. “We all knew each other. Our parents were friends, and my dad's business partner in the 80s was Bob Austin who had an off-road car that Pete worked on. Bob gave Pete his first shot at driving a racecar. Years later when I was in high school, I had a jet ski and Pete had a jet ski shop. We started hanging out more and racing just about anything with a motor­–jet skis, boats, off-road cars, snowmobiles, whatever.” “Pete loved racing, especially Baja. He took me to my first race, his favorite place/race, San Felipe,” said Bunch. “While we’re going through Mexicali, disco came on the radio, and Pete began telling me how he was the king of disco while dancing in the car seat and swerving about. Next thing I know the glow of red and blue was shining on the RV (aka ‘tent on wheels’). Between the mullet and his brutal honesty, Pete was soon walking back and forth on a line in the headlights. When it was over, and we’re leaving the south end of the first Mexican city I had ever been to, I was feeling relieved until Pete suddenly swerved around a tire and a coffee can with fire in it. Pete said, ‘that was close’ just as I began to yell ‘NO BRIDGE, NO BRIDGE!’ He locked the brakes up with a Class 5 car in tow, and we stopped near the edge. The RVs’ headlights were just bright enough for us to see rebar sticking out of the other side of a 15-foot gap. Life was never boring with Pete.” A Genuine Person At 6-foot-3 and sporting his trademark curly mullet, Pete was always easy to spot in a crowd, which often was surrounding him. His bright yellow race truck was fast, always driven on the edge, pedal-to-the-metal, and his driving style was well-known by those who ended up in front of Pete on a single-track section of the racecourse. He gained a reputation for telling it like it was with no sugar coating. At times, some might have even called him irascible. According to his family and friends, however, he was quite often the life of the party. Even his most ardent competitors respected him. He was a hard-charging competitor, a fun-loving friend to many, and a solid family man. “The most important thing I want people to know about him was that my dad was a genuine person who also genuinely looked after people,” said Paige Sohren. “He was totally honest and reliable, and cared about what the right thing to do was all the time. That’s the character we all lost.” SJ

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