50th Annual SCORE Baja 500: Burning Questions

by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via Red Bull Content Pool (1); Wayne Matlock Racing (2)

Set those alarm clocks early for the most exciting day of action motorsport all year, because SCORE International won’t wait for any late risers. The Golden Jubilee edition of the Baja 500 kicks off at 8AM for trucks, cars, and UTVs, and nearly five hours earlier for those souls daring enough to contest it on a motorcycle or a quad. The racing will continue through the desert all day, starting and finishing in Ensenada, one of the most important cities in the history of off-road racing.

If only for the 50th anniversary of the event, it should be no surprise that there’s no shortage of storylines in this event. But with 86 previous class winners (including 16 former overall winners) on the entry list, which totaled 305 vehicles entering race week, this should be one of the most insanely competitive Baja 500s in recent memory. Don’t lose sight of these three storylines when following along with the live streaming of Saturday’s action:

How will Cyril Despres perform in his move to a Trophy Truck?

A legend of the Dakar Rally and other rally raid events the world over, French legend Despres will fill in for the injured Bryce Menzies in his first attempt at running Baja on four wheels (he did this event on a bike in 2007). If rally raid is a marathon, though, this is a sprint race, and he’ll be going up against everyone from Rob MacCachren to Robby Gordon in SCORE’s premier class. If anyone’s equipped to handle a challenge like that, it’s Despres, but talk about some tough competition to go up against!

Who takes the class victory in an absolutely stacked Pro UTV Forced Induction field?

Wayne Matlock’s Polaris RZR XP4 Turbo came home with the victory in the San Felipe 250, beating second place by over 10 minutes and third place finisher Rhys Millen by over half an hour. Justin Lambert and Phil Blurton were separated by under a minute at the Mint 400, while Blurton won the UTV World Championship and finished just 22 seconds off of a class win at the Silver State 300. All will compete this weekend, as will podium threats Brandon Schueler, Jesse Combs, and Marc Burnett.

How many podiums will Santiago Creel take with his five different entries?

With four bikes entered in his name and one stint in Mark Winkelman’s Trophy Truck Spec vehicle, 31-year-old Creel has a long day ahead of him on Saturday. Starting with the bike race at 3:30AM, he’ll take the lead on two Pro Moto Unlimited bikes, one Pro Moto Limited bike, and one Pro Moto 30 bike in the age-limited class. He’ll then fill in as an additional driver for Winkelman as the trucks get going. Ignoring the logistical challenges of running just one entry in this race, can you imagine taking podiums with five?

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