50th Annual SCORE Baja 500: Drivers to Watch

by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via Andy McMillin (1); Sara Price (2)

It’s a special breed of racer who can conquer the Mexican desert to take a victory at Baja.

Now celebrating its 50th year, the Baja 500 marks the second of four rounds on the 2018 SCORE International championship schedule. Many of its entrants have already taken on the San Felipe 250 in April, while others still have focused on other championships before diverting their attention and resources to the Golden Jubilee edition of the summer Baja race.

All of the sport’s big names are set to compete, with 16 former overall winners (combining for 43 overall titles) on the entry list. Casual fans will recognize names like BJ Baldwin, Rob MacCachren, Robby Gordon, and plenty of others in the premier Trophy Truck class, but don’t forget the dozens of other classes doing battle when the racing starts on Saturday morning. This six-pack of competitors should provide plenty of entertainment as we look to crown new champions:

Trophy Truck: Andy McMillin

Last year’s overall Baja 500 winner just missed the podium in the first SCORE round of the year, placing fourth behind cousin Luke in the San Felipe 250. He’ll be looking to make up for it with another Baja victory, after having beaten Justin Matney to the line by just over three minutes on last year’s 515-mile course. Will this year’s route—even longer at 542.14 miles—end up playing to his advantage?

Trophy Truck: Cyril Despres

Since making the switch from motorcycles to cars in rally raid competition just a few years ago, Despres has wasted no time in re-establishing his legend, going back-to-back at the Silk Way Rally and going for a sixth career Dakar Rally win to go with his first five on two wheels. Menzies Motorsports has tapped him to help replace Bryce Menzies in a Trophy Truck this weekend; how well will he adapt?

Trophy Truck Spec: Sara Price

Running the full SCORE season for the esteemed RPM Offroad squad, Price and navigator Erica Sacks will be one of countless ironman (well, ironwoman) teams that plan to tackle the entire course on Saturday. One of the most diverse racers on the grid, Price’s successes in everything from motocross to UTV racing to even Stadium Super Trucks have her set to contend for a class victory, or at least podium.

Pro Moto Unlimited: Justin Morgan

He wasn’t the rider of record last year, but Morgan was part of Francisco Arrendondo’s Pro Moto Unlimited and overall motorcycle-winning team from last year’s Baja 500. Morgan also kicked off the 2018 SCORE season the right way when he took a victory in the San Felipe 250 earlier this spring. With a hard-charging Santiago Creel nipping on his heels, can Morgan go back-to-back in Baja?

Pro UTV Forced Induction: Justin Lambert

Last year’s Baja 500 winner, and the 2016 Best in the Desert UTV Pro 1000 champion, added another iconic trophy to his mantle earlier this year with a hard-fought victory at the Mint 400. The gap between Lambert and runner-up Phil Blurton at that race was under a minute, showing just how closely matched the best of the best UTV racers in off-road are these days. Will that slight edge be enough at Baja?

Pro UTV Forced Induction: Phil Blurton

Blurton has been on an absolute tear in off-road competition lately, having won the Polaris RZR UTV World Championship and adding runner-up finishes this year in both the Mint 400 and Silver State 300. It’s just a continuation of his success from 2017, though, as he won the UTVWC last year as well, and even took the Best in the Desert UTV Pro Turbo title as a rookie. Can he dethrone Lambert on Saturday?

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