SCORE Journal


SCORE Journal - The Official Publication of SCORE Off-Road Racing

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 45 of 122

THE SCORE BAJA 400 RETURNS The Race Reveals A New Level Of Racers And Machines   By Dan Sanchez, Dominic Clark, Paul Hanson, and Jose Vazquez Photos by Get Some Photo   At 400-miles in length, the 2nd SCORE Baja 400 Presented by VP Racing Fuels had racers saying the course seemed like it was double the mileage. With tight turns and technical sections, it took the top ten finishers approximately nine hours to complete it. While it was tough going for everyone, the SCORE Baja 400 was not meant to be any easier than the other three races of the SCORE World Desert Championship. The race began in 2019 as a fourth race added to the SCORE series, one that takes place in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, but was designed from the start to be very different from the SCORE Baja 500. After a one-year hiatus due to COVID restrictions, the 2nd SCORE Baja 400 was brought back this year and was the starting qualifier for the 54th BFGoodrich Tires SCORE Baja 1000 Presented by 4 Wheel Parts.   WHO GOES FIRST?  The start of the SCORE Baja 400 race week began with a Qualifying session for SCORE Trophy Trucks, TT Spec, and Class 1 racers. Racers wanting a good starting position battled on a 5.37-mile course held on a closed section of Baja desert, east of the city of Ensenada, Mexico. According to racers, the qualifying course was very tight with sharp turns, causing many of the racers to balance going all-out for the best position while preserving the vehicle for the actual race.  The results would speak volumes as to what the actual SCORE Baja 400 race would be, as Bryce Menzies and Luke McMillin came within .51 hundredths of a second to get the first starting position. “It was honestly the gnarliest qualifying course I’ve ever done,” said Menzies. “I thought it was awesome. On a qualifying course like this, if you make one mistake, you are either crashing or getting a flat. So, we played it smart and tried not to make any. In the end, I tried to jump a corner at the finish and clipped a rock and got a flat. That was wild, but I had a good time.”  With McMillin starting second, Robby Gordon finished third while Jonathan Brenthel and Rob MacCachren would start fourth and fifth in class. “It went well and I’m super excited,” said McMillin. “Qualifying is nerve-wracking. We didn’t do anything crazy, but we are out here pushing the limits in these trucks. This is my second time racing this truck (Mason AWD), and the first time qualifying it. It was a driver’s course, which I like. You had to think, you had to drive, you had to read the terrain, and that was fun. We have our eyes on the prize – the SCORE Baja 1000.” Within Class 1 qualifying, 2020 Class Champion Cody Parkhouse had the fastest time, with Mario Fuentes starting second and Brendan Gaughan starting in third place. After SCORE Trophy Truck Spec racers finished their qualifying session, Christopher Polvoorde had the fastest time to start first in his class, followed by Jason McNeil in second, and Jeff Bader in the third position. COVID AND THE COURSE  The race featured a course designed, plotted, and marked by SCORE President/Race Director Jose A. Grijalva, consisting of 400 miles of rugged Baja California terrain. It was designed to run in a clockwise direction. Due to the country’s COVID protocols, the start and finish were located on the SCORE compound on the Northeast side of Ensenada, away from spectators. All the typical race festivities were restricted and access was granted only to race workers, officials, and teams while remaining closed to the public. From the starting line, the course headed west to Ojos Negro then turned south to Tres Hermanos, east to Highway 3, south through El Alam and Leyes De Reforma, before it headed through Valle de Trinidad. From there, the course found its way back towards the Pacific Ocean, going over the hill at Mike’s Sky Rancho, and then through a new crossover section to Checkpoint 2 until it turned south to make a loop just north of Colonet. The course then paralleled close to the Pacific Ocean going through San Vicente, Santo Tomas, and Uruapan before heading back northeast up to Tres Hermanos, Ojos Negros, and back to the finish line.  To avoid any penalties, racers had to pass by two physical checkpoints. The first was located at race mile 94.2 at Independencia, and the second at race mile 228.82 at the end of the crossover road at Llano Colorado. There were also 138 virtual checkpoints, two narrow virtual checkpoints, as well as 13-speed zones that totaled 64.08 miles.    A HELICOPTER FOR PRO MOTO RACERS Andy Kirker, a veteran racer who has raced with legendary motorcycle racers such as Larry Roeseler and Jim O’Neal, worked with SCORE to secure a helicopter for the safety of the moto racers during the SCORE Baja 400. “The helicopter provided by SCORE allowed us to keep an eye on the lead motorcycles and clear the course of crazy spectators, livestock, and whatever else Baja unexpectedly threw at them,” said Kirker. “It’s an extremely important safety tool, as spectators on the course don’t know motorcycle racers are coming and the helicopter lets them know ahead of time.”  Kirker was part of the team in the helicopter, along with a level-3 paramedic on hand for any emergency. “The motorcycle community has brought their concerns to the table and we were happy to see that SCORE is reacting positively,” said Kirker. “It felt great to contribute to the safety of the race and it was well-received by the moto community.”  Contingency Day Showcases Racers After qualifying day, racers lined up to be interviewed by SCORE announcers Rat Sult and Dave Arnold for a single day of Contingency. Although it was without fans due to COVID restrictions, many teams were showcased on the SCORE live streaming and talked about their expectations for the course, team sponsors, and their chances of winning the race.

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of SCORE Journal - SCORE-Journal-October-2021