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Page 109 of 117

BEATING BAJA  Four-Wheel Class Racers Overcome The Tough BaJa 400 Course    By Dan Sanchez, Guilherme Torres, Paul Hanson, Isaac Flores, and Cindy Clark Photos by Get Some Photo One of the great opportunities in the SCORE World Desert Challenge is that it provides classes for a variety of vehicles. For some racers, the variety offers the chance for families to continue racing legacies that have lasted for several generations. For others, the four-wheel classes offer affordable options to conquer Baja and enjoy the efforts of winning. There was a lot of this spirit during the 3rd SCORE Baja 400 Presented by VP Racing Fuels, where many participants in a variety of classes showed up to take on one of the toughest courses this season.   Jeremy Davis of the Green Army team has raced in Class 1, SCORE TT Spec, and Class 10, winning numerous races in his career. At the SCORE Baja 400, he entered his custom buggy into Class 2 with no other competition. Although it may seem like an easy win, the tough SCORE Baja 400 course led many racers to a DNF, but Davis’ experience allowed him to finish the course and take the class win with co-driver Tyler Peterson. This was Davis’s first win and first entry this season, and he was also able to help some stuck racers on the course– an act that he and the Green Army team are known for.    Reigning Class 7 Champion Dan Chamlee continued his consistency of winning and finishing races in the top three to grasp his second win this season. “The shocks were working so well– the course didn’t seem that bad,” said Chamlee. “But [the course] was nasty. It is supposed to be nasty. We had zero failures.” In the No. 700 Ford Ranger, the 17-time Class 7 Champion is once again poised to take another championship if he can finish the 55th BFGoodrich Tires SCORE Baja 1000 Presented by 4 Wheel Parts. Miguel Cortez in his No. 1205 car had a tough time competing in SCORE Lites. He teamed up with Jessy Lopez and Cesar Quirate to co-drive, but the team got stuck in the mud. “We had a few issues and got stuck,” said Quirate. “The Green Army made our day. We got our rope out and they pulled us right out. Thank you to everyone that came out to help– all our support crew, everyone.” With the win, Cortez and the team now lead the class in points, but not far behind is the No. 1211 team of Oscar R. Alvarez who finished in third place behind second-place finisher Doug Satterfield in the No. 1257 car. In the very competitive Class ½-1600, Eli Yee took his second win of the season after a DNF at the SCORE San Felipe 250. In the No. 1616 car, Yee and co-driver Angel Barajas were scheduled to make additional driver changes, but their decision not to do so aided their winning efforts. “I started and handed it off to my co-driver and I was going to get back in with 50 miles to go, but the second-place car was only two minutes behind us so we made the decision not to stop for a driver change,” said Yee. “We had no problems and no flats thanks to our Yokohama tires. There was a lot of mud and the course was difficult. We are second in points, so we are going to try to win the SCORE Baja 1000 and another Championship.” In their way is Martin Rangel in the No. 1626 car. Along with co-drivers Cesar Fiscal and Daniel Pacheco, they were challenged by the course, and although they had no flats or issues, they managed to finish second in class. Behind them finishing third was the No. 1606 car of Matt Willert with co-drivers Freddie Willert and Daniel Goodrich. Ramon Fernandez in his No. 507 Unlimited Baja Bug once again drove to a class win. This is his second win of the season added to a second-place finish at the SCORE San Felipe 250. Along with his co-drivers Greg Sullivan, Jesus Marquez, Miguel Pabloff, and Pedro Pabloff, the team’sconsistency this season has propelled Fernandez to the point of a class championship, should he be able to finish at the SCORE Baja 1000 in November. “We had a clean race,” said co-driver Sullivan. “Ramon is the man. He is so solid– he makes it easy. He is smooth, smart, and the reason we are here. The team that puts it together does an awesome job.”  At times, SCORE Fans are treated to seeing a production based 4x4 SUV compete in a race. At the SCORE Baja 400, Cesar Gutierrez from Tijuana, Mexico entered the class with his Jeep Grand Cherokee which had local fans cheering him on. With co-drivers Jesus Canizales, Ernesto Gutierrez, Jesus Terrazas, and Israel Delgado, the team finished the race to win the class with a time of 18:47:39. While their time made them the “official last vehicle” to cross the finish before the 20-hour time limit, Gutierrez and the team celebrated their tremendous accomplishment. The Baja Challenge team of SCORE’s Ed Muncey and Roger Norman continued their winning streak this season in the class. After also winning the SCORE Baja 500 and second place at the SCORE San Felipe 250, Muncey in the No. BC4 car is poised for a class championship should he finish the SCORE Baja 1000 in November. In past races, Muncey has had family members co-drive and compete in the races, including Fran Muncey, a multiple National Championship hydroplane boat team owner and American Motorsports Hall of Fame Inductee. Baja California Senator and racer Gerardo Novelo continues to race in Class 7F in his No. 702F Nissan. At this year’s SCORE Baja 400, Novelo with co-drivers James Murphy, Jose Castro, and Jesus Castro, teamed up to take the lead and finish the race first in class. Three other competitors in the class could not continue on the course, leaving Novelo and the team with a slight lead over Brandon Walsh in the No. 701F Toyota for the class championship. This sets up a great final race at the SCORE Baja 1000 in which Walsh and Novelo will battle for the season class championship. With only five points separating the two, they will have to be fast, but also careful, to ensure they can finish the race and take the championship.  In Class 11, Hector Sarabia took his first win of the season after finishing second at the SCORE San Felipe 250 and the SCORE Baja 500. His consistency to finish in the top two has greatly widened the gap in season points towards a Class 11 Championship. Sarabia, with co-drivers Esteban Ruiz, Ricardo Rodriquez, and Victor Basto was the only team out of three others who finished the race. Their final time was 13:58:51, which had them finishing 114th overall among the 129 competitors that finished the race.  For now, the stage is set for the toughest race yet to come– the 55th BFGoodrich Tires SCORE Baja 1000 Presented by 4 Wheel Parts. Racers will need to be the first across the finish line in their class, but be cautious enough to not push their vehicles to the limit and break down on the course. Whatever the outcome, there will be many triumphant finishes and disappointing losses in November, which will be sure to add to the many stories these racers will be able to tell. SJ

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