SCORE Journal

SCORE Journal - April 2018

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

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Page 84 of 102

Gus Vildosola Jr. Achieving The SCORE BaJa 500 Victory By Stephen Romero By Dan Sanchez Photography by Get Some Photo There’s no doubt that the SCORE Baja 500 is one of the most iconic of all off-road races in the world. Many have made their mark in the off-road motorsports history books from winning this race multiple times. Drivers such as Larry Roeseler, Ivan Stewart, Larry Ragland are just some of the few that have become associated with the race and have themselves earned a legendary status from it. This is one of the many reasons why SCORE Trophy Truck racers like Gus Vildosola Jr., known among SCORE fans and racers as “Tavo” Vildosola, wanted more than anything to win the SCORE Baja 500. For him, winning that race became a reality in 2016, but the journey to that point was long, difficult, and frustrating. The Beginning Of A Successful Career Vildosola began his racing at a very young age, following in the footsteps of his dad Gus Vildosola Sr. “I was three-years-old when I began learning how to ride a motorcycle,” said Tavo Vildosola. “Being around my dad, who was already an experienced racer, helped me learn about the connection with the vehicle, how it moves, weight shifting, and reading the terrain.” By age 11, Vildosola was driving around town in a VW Beetle, and by 16, he was racing a 1600 buggy. “Driving the 1600, I learned that momentum was everything,” said Vildosola. “With only 80 horsepower, getting that vehicle up to speed seemed like it took a day and a half! I ultimately learned how to utilize different elements of the desert, such as using hard spots for gaining speed and running over bushes for traction. Racers who start off in higher level classes, those elements are lost.” After racing in the 1600 buggy, Vildosola moved into a ProTruck where he learned how to drive fast and developed his skills. He had already won the Baja 1000 in the SCORE Lites class in 2003, then in 2006 won the SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge and the San Felipe 250 in a ProTruck. “The ProTruck was fun to learn how to drive,” said Vildosola. “Competing in ProTruck events and my experience in 1600, all combined into how I ended up driving my first trophy truck in 2007 during the SCORE Baja 250.” Vildosola finished sixth in that race in a little more than four minutes behind the winner Mark Post, but ahead of Andy McMillin and veteran racer Larry Ragland. Vildosola has continued to race in the SCORE Trophy Truck division and went on to compete and win numerous Baja races. The SCORE Baja 500, however, eluded him and it was the one race that he wanted to win more than any other. This included winning the SCORE Baja 1000 when in 2010 he won it with his dad. “That race was great, but it was my dad’s race,” said Vildosola. “It was more of his dream to win the SCORE Baja 1000, and in my mind, I was happy for him. He started racing at 16 and it was his dream to win that race and be the first Mexican national to do it. He had raced it with Rob MacCachren in 2003 and finished third. When my dad and I finally were able to team-up together and race the 40th SCORE Baja 1000 in 2007, we finished in second. When we won it together in 2010 I was more proud of him for winning the race, and because he had won it with his own team. I was 27 and it was also the 100 anniversary of the Mexican Revolution and the Mexican Independence, so it meant a lot.” Vildosola continued to excel in the short course races and continued to do well at the SCORE San Felipe 250 races, even being able to win that race three times in a row in 2013, 2014, and 2015. But it was the SCORE Baja 500, that was his real dream to take an overall win. The 2016 SCORE Baja 500 2016 was Tavo Vildosola’s year. He had just “three-peated” the SCORE San Felipe 250 the year before, and was ready to take on the SCORE Baja 500. The race was one of the hottest in its history, and many racers bowed out from the relentless heat. Vildosola started the race in 13th place and had been chasing Apdaly Lopez and Rob MacCachren through most of it. Ultimately, Vildosola finished first overall, making it his most prized accomplishments in his on-going racing career. “That SCORE Baja 500 win reaffirmed to me the driver that I was,” said Vildosola. “I had always done well at the SCORE San Felipe 250, winning three overalls there. But that’s a sprint race and I knew I was good at it. We also knew how to race the long races like the SCORE Baja 1000. We’ve had four top five’s and two wins there. I’ve been racing intermediate length courses since 2007 and it just never happened for me. It was extremely frustrating and it always bugged me. When I actually won it with my team in 2016, we thought we grabbed the bull by the horns and we can win this race and put together a good game plan.” Mexico’s Hero Another upside to winning the 2016 SCORE Baja 500 was that Tavo Vildosola became one of SCORE’s Triple Crown winners, having won overall in each of SCORE’s major races including the SCORE Baja 1000, SCORE Baja 500 and the SCORE San Felipe 250. He also became the first Mexican national to win the race. “It was an amazing feat but there are two sides to this story. One is that it gave me a great sense of pride. For American racers they, for the most part, represent themselves. For me, I was representing my country. It was like going to the Olympics,” said Vildosola. “On the flip side, it seemed like everyone in Mexico is expecting you to do well. The expectation is that you need to go out and win EVERY race. “That’s something huge to carry, and I made reference to it in 2010 at the SCORE Baja 1000. At that race, it was a huge weight taken off our shoulders. While it’s not easy to win against everyone else, it’s also a relief and joy to represent my country.” Other Mexican racers such as current SCORE Trophy Truck Champion Apdaly Lopez, and RPM Off-Road racer Lalo Laguna, are also proud to represent Mexico. Vildosola is good friends with these racers and supports them at every opportunity, but he points out they race for an American team. “I’m a competitive guy,” says Vildosola. “I see Apdaly and Lalo win and I root for them. I also idolize guys like MacCachren, but in the end, I want to win. In reality, the Vildosola team is currently the only Mexican Trophy Truck team that’s been successful and has won major SCORE races. I don’t know if we inspire others to do the same but I hope so. More than anything, my focus has been on the kids of Baja. I want to be a good role model for them as a good father and family man, not just a Trophy Truck driver. Racing is just a platform for me.” 2017 Not A Good Year For Tavo During the 2017 SCORE World Desert Championship, Vildosola had a series of problems that began at the SCORE San Felipe 250 and plagued him the rest of the season. “2017 was extremely frustrating,” said Vildosola. “Since 2012 we’ve had at least a five-year winning streak of winning at least one SCORE race. The team was really on the rise and a lot of good positive things were happening, with the highlight of my career winning the SCORE Baja 500 in 2016. In 2017 we teamed up with Chris Miller for the SCORE San Felipe 250 and it didn’t go as planned. We were leading, and the truck being was 21 years old, started showing signs of its age. We had issues with the power steering and other problems that knocked us out of the race. At the SCORE Baja 500, we stared in 14th place and were leading on corrected times. Andy McMillin was 10 to 15 seconds behind us. Through the San Felipe loop, we had a flat. It put us in second. We pushed north through the whoops sections and we had an issue with the power steering as well as a coil spring break in the front suspension. Getting the parts was going to take so long that there was no point in continuing.” Troubles seemed to continue plaguing Vildosola last year, all the way up to the SCORE Baja 1000. “We teamed up with Andy McMillin and we did an amazing job,” said Vildosola. “At race mile 550, he was first on the road in front of Rob MacCachren and Apdaly Lopez. Then the motor gave up and it hurt us. It was a bad luck year.” Making His Comeback This year, Tavo Vildosola is busy building a new truck. He’s currently testing it and plans on debuting it at the SCORE Baja 1000. “We want a truck that’s beyond everyone else,” said Vildosola. “We want to beat everyone, and while we’re working on this truck, we also realize that the sport is going in the direction of all-wheel drive. I believe that within the next two years, we’re going to have to build an all-wheel-drive Trophy Truck. Everyone has been watching Justin Matney. In 2017 we followed him into the washes and I was in his dust. After 15-minutes I couldn’t see him anymore and that’s when I decided we needed to look into AWD more.” Until then, Vildosola plans to be present supporting his dad and there’s a strong possibility he’ll show up for the 2018 SCORE Baja 500. “I’m going to be there for my dad for the San Felipe 250,” said Vildosola. “At the SCORE Baja 500, we’re going to race my old truck if we think it’s up to the task. After the “500” we’re going to retire it, however, and move into the new truck. I’m excited as it’s a traditional Trophy Truck, but there will have new advanced technology added to it. It will be completely different.” SJ

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