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THE MOTO MASTERS RETURN Mark Samuels Returned With The 1x Team To Win In BaJa By Dan Sanchez Photos by Get Some Photo The SCORE 2020 Pro Moto Unlimited champions had not participated in the first three races during the 2021 SCORE season but returned to make the peninsula run at the 54th BFGoodrich Tires SCORE Baja 1000 Presented by 4 Wheel Parts. Mark Samuels of the SLR Honda racing team, along with Justin Morgan, have dominated the SCORE Pro Moto Unlimited division since 2018 and were undefeated to win five class championships. After a short hiatus this year, Samuels and Morgan returned with the 1x Honda to take on the Baja Peninsula and demonstrate they were still the team to beat. “We have been busy this year with other races, and our sponsors didn’t have us scheduled for a SCORE race in 2021,” said Samuels. “I also had a baby this year and took time off to be a dad. Of all the races this year, however, Justin and I did want to focus on the SCORE Baja 1000.” The 1x team, with Morgan riding first, started in fifth with eight other competitors in the SCORE Pro Moto Unlimited class. “The terrain was really good and it was a good course,” said Samuels. “It’s cool to get back to running in the southern part of the peninsula. It was a great course­– not as rough as we thought it was going to be.” Helping the 1x team as co-riders was former SCORE Pro Moto Champion Kendal Norman, and Brandon Prieto. “Justin had a lot of dust to deal with at the start. He made some passes and put it into second place when he handed it to me,” said Samuels. “I had some dust to deal with over the whole Bay of LA. I sat in it for over one hundred miles. Then I was finally able to get a pass, made a little bit of ground, then handed it over and let the boys finish it off.” A long battle ensued between them and the 5x team of Derek Assuerbauer and Colton Udall. “I was finally able to get the pass on Derek and slowly stretch the lead,” said Samuels. The rest of the team also had no issues with their sections of the course and continued to increase their lead until they reached the finish line first. “Mark and Brendan and Kendall all did great and everybody did their job and we were really patient,” said Morgan. “I think that was a big part of it. We had an awesome bike built by San Diego Powerhouse.” For Prieto, it was his first SCORE Baja 1000 win, one in which he made extra special by being the one to cross the finish line for the team. At the end of a long race, Prieto proposed to his girlfriend and made it a moment he would never forget. “This is actually my first SCORE Baja win out of all of them,” said Prieto. “I’ve been wanting this for a while. I am super thankful for my team and SLR. They did an excellent job all day. They gave me the bike in a pretty good lead, so I just had to get it to the finish in one piece. And I just got engaged to my pretty girl. I’ve been wanting to do that for a while too.” The 1x team celebrated their victory and Prieto’s engagement, but for SCORE fans, they got to see these talented off-road racers who will undoubtedly become legendary for their abilities and talent. While these guys are still young and have many years of racing left, Samuels was hopeful that they could continue to compete in SCORE for the 2022 season, but it was unclear for the team at that moment. “Winning a peninsula run is awesome,” said Samuels. “We were very close to doing it last time and it feels good doing it now. It’s a big one to win and it’s good to have it on my resume.” SJ

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