The SCORE International Tecate Baja 500 is the second longest of all off-road races held in North America. As a pre-curser to its big brother, the Baja 1000, the Baja 500 typically wreaks havoc on the men and women behind the wheels as well as the rigs they hurl down the course.
June 7th, 2014 in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, nearly 40 Trophy Trucks fueled up and took a stab at the harsh Mexican desert-scape. Jesse Jones, who races the Fox #76 Trophy Truck, had to fight through a wicked series of setbacks. In qualifying, Jones was not a top qualifier as he normally is. The trucks transmission decided it no longer wanted to have a usable first gear and left the team running on second and third throughout the balance of the qualifying run. This year’s Baja 500 race was a tight course, leaving the truck lagging back and placing them into the sixteenth starting position.
Jones went down to Baja two weeks early so that he and fellow team member Bryce Menzies could pre-run the entire 447 mile loop. The team went through and chose the best lines, passing locations and pit spots. Utilizing KMC Beadlocks and the same FOX 3.0 Factory Series Coilover and 4.4 Factory Series Bypass shocks, the prerunner Jones uses is very specifically set up with many parts that are identical to those on the race truck giving him a higher level of confidence on race day.
Lined up at the starting line, half way through the pack, Jones had a tall order ahead of him. The miles of experience and preparations gave The team a solid basis for working up through the pack. Within the first 100 miles of the race, Jones had already over taken every trophy truck in adjusted time. By race marker 200, Jones had passed 10 trucks putting him into the sixth position physically.
Each truck starts off on a staggered time so not everyone is running down the course right next to each other but the grunt and hard work Jones had put in was paying off. “We passed half the trucks when they were on the side of the road” mentions Jones, “and the other half at race speed.”
Still leading in corrected time, the trucks oil pump belt gave way. Jones and co-driver Joe Weining got a new belt installed and got their rig back on the track in enough time to keep their lead. By mile 400, Jones had one truck left in front of him, Bryce Menzies.
The last 100 miles of the race proved to be challenging and frustrating. Five more belts peeled off the front of the engine due to damaged pulleys. Menzies ended up edging in an stealing the top spot by a meager 6 minute difference. Jason Voss in the #35 truck snuck in between them on corrected time.
After all the troubles, Jesse Jones persevered and snagged the third place podium spot in Ensenada. Out of a field with 37 trucks leaving the starting line, nearly half of which did not finish the race, Jones beat through the mess against an unforgiving desert and proved determination and prep can mean the difference between a top finisher and a DNF.