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THE RETURN TO LA PAZ The 2021 Peninsula Run Challenges The Best Off-Road Racers By Dan Sanchez Photos by Get Some Photo More than any other race, off-road competitors dream of having a SCORE Baja 1000 peninsula-run win listed in their career stats. Of all the off-road races in the world, racing in Mexico from Ensenada to La Paz is a dream that not many have been able to accomplish, let alone win. While SCORE International’s peninsula races are scheduled to happen every three years, COVID put a hold on several SCORE races in 2020, forcing the next peninsula race to be postponed to November of 2021. The last time racers had faced this challenge was in 2017 during the 50th Anniversary of the Baja 1000, so many were anxious to participate and take on the Baja desert the way it was originally intended. Knowing that the 54th BFGoodrich Tires SCORE Baja 1000 Presented by 4 Wheel Parts was going on as scheduled, many teams began preparing early. But it was more than just a challenge for some. Those that ran the entire 2021 season, and did well, had a class championship on the line. For others, it was an opportunity for redemption after a loss that cost them a win. Yet, others were simply anxious to challenge Baja in the traditional manner and now had an opportunity to win it. In total, 302 racers were officially entered and came to Ensenada, Mexico to pre-run the 1,226.35-mile course, weeks in advance of the race. SUPER TEAMS GATHER To increase their chances of winning, some teams joined forces creating what fans call “super teams,” to their delight. Of these, the No. 11 team of Rob MacCachren and Luke McMillin stood out because of the sportsmanship, opportunity, and talent it brought together. McMillin selflessly offered his AWD SCORE Trophy Truck to MacCachren who was only two season points behind Larry Roeseler and had the opportunity for winning a season championship. For McMillin, a win would prove he and his team were at the top of their game, and create a back-to-back SCORE Baja 1000 win. Bryce Menzies and Andy McMillin had teamed up together, and after McMillin crashed his No. 31 Truck at the SCORE Baja 400, it was a logical match-up. Menzies won the SCORE San Felipe 250 and the SCORE Baja 400 and was also up for a championship, while McMillin would benefit by adding a sixth SCORE Baja 1000 win to his career. Also making waves as a super-team was Alan Ampudia in the No. 10 Papas And Beer Truck. Ampudia teamed up with the young, upcoming racer Jax Redline, and Hoonigan rally champion Ken Block. Other “super-teams” included Robby Gordon in the No. 77 truck who teamed up with Indy Car racer Casey Mears, and Cameron Steele in the No. 16 truck teaming up with Ryan Arciero. In the SCORE Trophy Truck Legends class, Mark Post returned to SCORE racing in the No. 3L truck and teamed up with Curt LeDuc and Ed Herbst. The most amazing announcement pre-SCORE Baja 1000, was when 14-time SCORE Baja 1000 winner Larry Roeseler announced he would “ironman” the peninsula race himself. Some thought the 1,226+ miles was too much of a challenge, but others knew he was a contender to finish first and take the 2021 season SCORE Trophy Truck championship all in one swoop. THE LONG-DISTANCE COURSE  SCORE President/Race Director Jose A. Grijalva, had the task of creating the 1226.35-mile course within the rugged Baja California terrain. The route would include high-speed dirt trails, sandy, rocky and silty natural terrain, beautiful Baja washes and canyons, stretching along the ocean and the seashore with elevations from sea level to over 3,000 feet. The course started east from Ensenada to Ojos Negros, south to Valle de Trinidad, back southwest to Colonet, and south to San Quintin. The course then headed inland to Catavina, then south to Coco’s Corner to Bahia de Los Angeles. From there it ran inland to San Ignacio and back to the Pacific Ocean at race mile 750. Around race mile 825 it headed east to the Sea of Cortez until race mile 880, it went down along the Sea of Cortez past Loreto. After Loreto, it runs southwest and back along the Pacific past Villa Insurgentes and Ciudad Constitucion until race mile 1,180 where it turns southeast and finally into the finish line in La Paz. The course was plotted with three physical checkpoints, 236 virtual checkpoints, including 23-speed zones (37 or 60 miles per hour) for a total of 196.18 miles. All Sportsman classes along with Pro classes 7SX, Baja Challenge, 11, and 9 were able to run a reduced course of 1214.01 miles. 2-DAY CONTINGENCY With the number of vehicles entered into the 54th BFGoodrich Tires SCORE Baja 1000 Presented by 4 Wheel Parts, Contingency had to take place over two days. In Ensenada, COVID safety protocols were still in place so SCORE fans were not allowed around the start and contingency areas, and teams had to adhere to all of the safety measures. SCORE announcers Rat Sult, Dave Arnold, Matt Moghaddam, and Morgan McBride spent time talking with many race teams who brought their vehicles up to the podium for an interview. Due to COVID protocols in Ensenada, Mexico, SCORE fans were not able to attend but were able to watch from SCORE’s Livestream on the SCORE Facebook Page, website, app, and on SCORE’s YouTube page. POLARIS RZR PRO R DEBUT During day two of Contingency, Polaris debuted their new 2022 RZR Pro R with Wayne Matlock, who was competing in the SCORE Pro UTV Open class during the race. Along with Matlock, members of the Polaris RZR Pro R team were touting the new UTV’s design, specifications, and capabilities. These included Reid Wilson VP of Polaris RZR, Brett Carpenter Race Manager, Andy Ives Pro R Lead Development Technician, and Steve Hughes Pro R Senior Systems Driveline Technician. SJ

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