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A ROCKY ROAD TO VICTORY Racers Face Treacherous Terrain At The 2022 SCORE BaJa 500  By Stuart Bourdon, Paul Hanson, and Guilherme Torres Photos by Jack Wright Nmedia3 The 2022 BFGoodrich Tires 54th SCORE Baja 500 Presented by 4 Wheel Parts was round two of the four-race 2022 SCORE World Desert Championship season. The SCORE Baja 500 is often overshadowed by the infamous SCORE Baja 1000, but the 500 is no less a challenge. It has a reputation as an extremely rough and punishing racecourse and continues to take its annual toll on teams and their race machines.       This race holds a place of respect for racers who have learned how treacherous the Baja can be– and this year was no different. The allure of the SCORE Baja 500 brought out the big teams, budget racers, and sportsmen alike. All were set on testing themselves and their race machines against the intense challenges of the rugged 463-mile racecourse. Nearly 260 started the race, but only 174 finished.  Class 7 At the end of the day, Dan Chamlee stood on top of the Class 7 podium at the 2022 SCORE Baja 500. Having driven the No. 700 Ford to yet another class win for the long-time racer, Dan told us about his topsy turvy day, stating “It was a good race nice and smooth and comfortable (laughing), but…I did lay it on the side on a steep hill and land on another rolled car. We winched it back up and got going again. It was perfect.” Gaspar Espindola (No. 716) had some difficulties on the course and finished about three hours behind Chamlee for the second-place finish in class. Scott Brady (No. 703), who charged hard to get a Class 7 win at the 2022 SCORE San Felipe 250, had more than just some minor difficulties in this race. Brady crossed the finish line nearly six hours after Chamlee.  SCORE LITES The team of Oliver Flemante (No. 1203) was the first among the SCORE LITES class to cross the finish line. Antonio Rodriguez took the car off the start line and drove it to race mile 430. That’s where Flemante jumped into the driver’s seat. “This was Antonio’s first SCORE Lite race,” said Flemante. “He did an excellent job from the start and pretty much won it for us. I just had to take it to the finish line. I would like to thank SCORE for putting on the race. It’s great for us as locals to have won it.” Second in class was Oscar R. Alvarez (No. 1211), who drove for the first 160 miles of the race. Alverez then handed the car to Adrian Guerrero, who ran it to race mile 360 where Alvarez took the wheel again and drove to the finish. “We were fighting for the win until about race mile 350, but we had some technical issues and had to stop,” said Alvarez. “Some of the hill climbs were incredibly tough, but we’re happy to have made it to the finish line.” Class 1/2 -1600 Six out of 10 Class 1/2 -1600 starters were all that made it to the finish line of the 2022 SCORE Baja 500. Eli Yee (No. 1616) from Tijuana, Mexico, crossed the finish line first with a time of 13:30:18. “My part of the race was clean. I didn’t have to leave the car for anything,” said Yee. “We were the last car to start the race in our class, and when I handed it to Angel, we were in first. He did a great job and was able to keep us up front until the end. We’re very happy that everything went so well for us.” Ruben Osuna Gallardo (No. 1699) was second in class. Gallardo started the car, then Omar Iniguez took it from race mile 75 to 200. Fernando Flores drove from there to race mile 360, where Ruben drove it to the finish. Gallardo remarked, “We feel happy that we have several top-five finishes. The car was very good. We had no flats. It was a heck of a race.”  Class 8 Once known as the “Thunder Trucks” of off-road racing, Class 8 pickups pre-dated the advent of SCORE Trophy Trucks. Many off-road racing fans still cheer for the Class 8 drivers and remember the days when these trucks were “kings” of the desert racing world. In this year’s SCORE Baja 500, Jessalyn Sells and co-driver Steve Sells (No. 818) drove the single starter and ultimate Class 8 winner. The Sells duo piloted their Geiser-built Chevy Silverado from green to checkered flag in just under 15 hours. You could tell by the look on their faces that they were happy to have “beat the Baja.” Class 5 The Class 5 win at the BFGoodrich Tires 54th SCORE Baja 500 went to driver of record Ramon Fernandez (No. 507). A large Ensenada local team, Fernandez’s crew included Jesus Marquez, Fabian Aros, Miguel Pabloff, and Pedro Pabloff. It was a clean run, but they averaged just 31 miles per hour over the rough and tumble racecourse for more than 14 hours. It was a great team effort that got this win. Finishing second was the family and friends team headed up by Martin Anguiano (No. 525). Martin thanked his crew, stating “After a long day of racing, bottlenecks, and many other incidents, we were able to finish the race. Thanks to Colin Cline for all the work he did to prep the car and keep it moving through the day, to Isaac (Anguiano) for all the help and welding, and to Andy Sanchez for his help getting things ready and chasing.” Class 5-1600 The Class 5-1600 Baja bugs are less powerful than many of the other four-wheeled vehicles that typically run in the SCORE World Desert Championship series, but they are a big favorite and always get lots of applause wherever they encounter fans along the racecourse. Luis Herrera (No. 558) and his team worked hard getting ready for their first-place finish in Class 5-1600. Michael Murray was co-driver for Herrera over the “summit” and told us, “This was as clean a race as we could have wished for. We stopped in our first pit long enough to adjust some suspension components. After that our pit and driving strategy with teammates Jim Yourdon and Cristian Ortiz was on point, so we never had any downtime.” Baja Challenge The Baja Challenge class is unique, in that the cars are basically “spec” race cars with Subaru engines that can be rented from Wide Open Baja for a race, or as many races as you care to run in a year. Wide Open Baja offers its Arrive & Drive Racing package that supplies you with a pre-prepped race-ready car. You supply the talent. That’s exactly what 2021 Class Champion Edward Muncey (No. BC4) and his crew did. After a grueling 15 hours and 8 minutes of pounding through what many were calling the roughest SCORE Baja 500 race course they had seen in years, Muncey and his son Dominic, finished first in the Baja Challenge class. They were more than two hours ahead of the second-place finisher Jake Walker and his crew in the BC1 car. Class 7SX The Class 7SX team of Armando Duron (No. 740) came into the 2022 SCORE World Desert Championship series with a winning record. They were the SCORE 2021 Class 7XS Champions and are still running the trusty Ford Ranger they had been racing for about 10 years. This is a family-based race team, and the race truck was built in their home garage.  After placing second in Class 7SX behind Dario Serrano by just 11 minutes in the 2022 King Shocks SCORE San Felipe 250, Armando and the rest of the Duron crew were itching for a win. They battled through rough terrain and a few minor mechanical issues in that old Ford Ranger to take their place at the top of the podium. Class 11 Despite their less than blazing average speeds during races, the Class 11 Bugs remain among the most popular cars competing in SCORE Baja off-road races. Their low-tech look often hides some pretty trick work underneath the body panels. Alex Gonzales (No. 1100) and his team took first place in Class 11 after a very long day totaling 18 hours and 13 minutes to reach the finish line. Tim Sletten adds car prep and engine man to his co-driving duties for Alex’s team. “We never really had any big problems with the car, although the last stretch back into Ensenada through the mountains was nothing but rocks,” said Sletten. “We blew one tire and had to take care of a loose electrical system wire, but neither of those took long to fix. We were Class 11 champs last year but didn’t finish the first race (2022 San Felipe 250) of this year. That hurt. This win felt good and put us back in the points chase. We’re going for the Class 11 title again.”SJ

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