50th Annual SCORE Baja 500: Weekend Preview

by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via B.J. Baldwin (1); Bryce Menzies (2)

It’s one of the most important off-road races in the world, and it’s celebrating its Golden Jubilee this year.

With over 300 entries, including 35 Trophy Trucks, currently on the start list, the 50th annual Baja 500 is one of the crown jewels of the sport. Marking the second of four rounds on this year’s SCORE World Desert Championship schedule, off-road racing’s biggest names and most exciting builds will descend upon Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico to compete on this year’s record-length 542.12-mile route.

Founded in 1969 and a part of the SCORE schedule since 1974, the event will start in Ensenada for the 45th time and finish in the city for the 41st. Pre-race festivities began in the city on Tuesday and will continue throughout the week, while pre-running will continue through Friday. Motorcycles and quads will kick off at 3:30AM PT on Saturday, while cars, trucks, and UTVs will begin their race at 8AM PT.

86 racers with 251 combined class victories in previous editions of the event are among those who will compete in this weekend’s event. The full entry list features drivers from 14 different countries and 32 different states, and includes 16 past overall winners in either 4-wheel or 2-wheel action; that illustrious group has combined for 43 victories so far.

The marquee class will of course feature many of the biggest names, with Robby Gordon, Rob MacCachren, BJ Baldwin, and Apdaly Lopez just four of the household names serving as Trophy Truck drivers of record. MacCachren currently leads the championship after winning April’s San Felipe 250 with a time of 5:20:17, a 3:33 advantage over runner-up Cameron Steele. Defending race winner Andy McMillin, who finished just behind cousin Luke for the final Trophy Truck podium spot in San Felipe, will also return for this weekend’s event.

But the big story in Trophy Truck may be Cyril Despres, as he fills in for the injured Bryce Menzies. Despres raced this event on a motorcycle over a decade ago, but the Dakar Rally legend has never tackled it in a truck. Since switching from two wheels to four, Despres has become a regular threat to win Dakar with Peugeot, and has also won the Silk Way Rally in each of the past two years.

Elsewhere, Justin Morgan won the Pro Moto Unlimited class at San Felipe and will look to make it two in a row at Baja. Morgan was part of a four-rider team led by Francisco Arredondo that won this event last season. He’ll be challenged by Santiago Creel, who will repeat his San Felipe efforts as rider of record on four separate motorcycles, and will even add a section of Trophy Truck Spec competition to his to-do list. Creel’s bikes took second and third in Pro Moto Unlimited, first in Pro Moto Limited, and first in Pro Moto 30.

With so many classes preparing to take to the desert, the entry list is incredibly deep beyond just the marquee names. Pro UTV Forced Induction will be lead among them, with all-around racing legend Rhys Millen and TV personality Jesse Combs joining a stacked entry list that also includes Wayne Matlock, Brandon Schueler, Marc Burnett, Justin Lambert, Craig Scanlon, Branden Sims, and Phil Blurton, among many others. And Sara Price will take part in Trophy Truck Spec for RPM Offroad, driving the entire race distance alongside navigator Erica Sacks.

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