The Tecate SCORE Baja 500 is considered by many to be among the most challenging desert off-road racing events in the world. It was started in 1969 by the National Off-Road Racing Association (NORRA). The late Mickey Thompson and SCORE were asked by the Mexican government to take over the event in 1974. Sal Fish ran and later owned and produced the Tecate SCORE Baja 500 for 39 years until he sold SCORE to Roger Norman in December of 2012.
This year marked SCORE’s 41st year as the world’s foremost desert racing organization, and this race is one of the most popular events on the SCORE schedule. Most of the best desert racers were revved up and ready for action at the starting line of this year’s 46th anniversary of the Tecate SCORE Baja 500, the original desert race produced by SCORE on July 26, 1974. But as they say in racing, there can be only one.
Menzies Blew Them Away
Right from the drop of the green flag to the fluttering wave of the checkered, Las Vegas’ Bryce Menzies roared across the rugged race course to capture the overall and SCORE Trophy Truck victory Saturday, June 7, 2014 at the 46th Tecate SCORE Baja 500 desert race. Round three of the five-race SCORE World Desert Championship started and finished in Ensenada, the seaside port on the Pacific Ocean, 80 miles south of San Diego.
After qualifying second, Menzies took over the physical lead early in the elapsed-time race and powered his way to the finish line with a time of 8 hours, 51 minutes and 49 seconds, averaging 50.26 miles per hour in his No. 70 Red Bull Menzies Motorsports Ford F-150 over the 446.9-mile course around the northern part of Mexico’s majestic Baja California peninsula.
Menzies, 26, earned his fourth career race win in the SCORE Trophy Truck division for high-tech, 850-horsepower unlimited production trucks including victories in the Tecate SCORE Baja 500 in three of the last four years. He led a field of 232 starters from 20 U.S. States, the U.S. territory of Guam, and 15 countries competing in 26 Pro and 5 Sportsman classes for cars, trucks, UTVs, Motorcycles and ATVs.
His victory also marked another milestone as BFGoodrich Tires, the official tire of SCORE for over three decades, celebrated its 30th overall four-wheel victory in 35 years of competing in the Tecate SCORE Baja 500. Following complete data tracking review of the vehicles, BFGoodrich Tires officially swept the podium with Jason Voss of Cupertino, California, second overall and in SCORE Trophy Truck in 8:55:16 in the No. 35 Ford F-150, while third overall and in SCORE Trophy Truck was Jesse Jones, 48 of Phoenix, with a time of 8:57:20 in the No. 76 Ford F-150.
When the race course officially closed on Sunday morning at 5:58 a.m., 126 of 232 starters (54 percent) completed the course within the time limit to become official finishers. Both the start and finish line were located in the heart of Ensenada on Boulevard Costero adjacent to the historic Riviera del Pacifico Cultural Center. It was the seventh straight year that both the pre-race activities and the finish line were all held at this location. However, for the first time in a decade, the course ran in a counter-clockwise direction around Baja California Norte.
Different Turn Of Events
Last year Menzies finished third behind Robby Gordon and B.J. Baldwin in this race, missing out on a possible three-peat. About his winning run this year, Menzies said, “We started second and we were just kind of cruising and not taking it that fast and somehow we came up with a flat in Uruapan. (Jason) Voss got by and then we had another problem on the beach and Luke McMillin got by us. We kept charging and didn’t give up and we passed Voss (when he had) a flat. We passed Robby (Gordon) coming down Mike’s Sky Ranch.
“Once we were there we knew we were in clean air and we needed to play it smooth. Something was going wrong with my truck near the finish. The brakes were out so I had to really cruise the last seven miles. I love being down here and this is my favorite race of the year. On the beach section the weather was cool and everything was running really cool.
“We knew it was going to get hot when we got to the San Felipe side of the course and it got really hot. It was probably over 100 degrees down there but the weather was perfect and the wind was moving just enough that we could run up on guys and pass them.
“I think the reason I like the SCORE Baja 500 so much is because it is an endurance race but it is also a sprint race. You have the longevity but you’ve got to go fast as well. You get every type of terrain. You get roads, mountains, silt, rocks and that’s what draws me to the 500. You go from the coast all the way over the mountains and back again.”
Trophy Truck Lineup
The top nine overall finishers in the race were all SCORE Trophy Trucks. Finishing fourth behind Menzies, Voss and Jones was Las Vegas’ B.J. Baldwin (No. 1 Chevy Silverado), fifth was Las Vegas’ Rob MacCachren (No. 11 Ford F-150), sixth was Luke McMillin of El Cajon, California (No. 83 Ford F-150), seventh was Mark Weyhrich of Troutdale, Oregon (No. 9 Ford F-150), eighth was Gary Weyhrich, Troutdale, Oregon (No. 98 Ford F-150), and ninth was Mexico’s Juan C. Lopez (No. 18 Ford F-150).
Cody Parkhouse and his father Brian, who are both out of Long Beach, California, and the defending season Class 1 champions, teamed up to take on and defeat a large group of 16 talented starters to win the unlimited Class 1 for open-wheel desert race cars in their Chevy-powered Jimco, finishing 10th overall in the grueling Tecate SCORE Baja 500 race.
Several racers with multiple class wins added to their winning career totals in the Tecate SCORE Baja 500. Leading the way was Donald Moss, Sacramento, California (Class 3, Ford Bronco) who recorded his sixth class win in this race. Jim Dizney of Alpine, California (Class 60, Honda CRF450X) now has five, and his teammate Jim O’Neal from Simi Valley, California, now has 17 class wins. Earning his fourth class win in this race was J. David Ruvalcaba of Ensenada, Mexico (Class 1/2-1600, VBR-VW).
Three motorcycle racers remain undefeated after their third win in the 2014 SCORE World Desert Championship Series. They are Tony Gera of Santa Cruz, California (SCORE Ironman, Honda XR650R); Giovanni Spinali of Julian, California (Class 40, Honda CRF450X); and Raul Hernandez of Tijuana, Mexico (Sportsman M/C, KTM 450EXC).
Gaining their second class wins of the year at the Tecate SCORE Baja 500, were Marc Burnett of Lakeside, California (Class 19, Can-Am Maverick), who won over 17 starters in his class; and Pete Sohren of Phoenix (Class 7, Ford Ranger); and Rick de la Pena of Rancho Cucamonga, California. (Limited M/C, Honda CRF250X).
Several of the Tecate SCORE Baja 500 competitors won their class for the first time in 2014. Pacing the group was Mike Johnson of Santa Monica, California (Class 10 Alumi Craft-Chevy), in which he won his class for the second straight year, defeating a huge field of 28 starters. Two other first time 2014 winners who also won back-to-back titles in this race were Francisco Arredondo of Guatemala (Class 30, Honda CRF450X), and Chelsea Magness of Desert Hot Springs, California (Protruck, Ford F-150).
Besides Magness, the second female driver of record to win her class in this year’s race was Wendy Belk of Northridge, California (Class 5, VW Baja Bug), who was competing as the driver of record for the first time in a SCORE race.
Among the other class winners picking up their first win of the season were Jonathan Brenthel of Newport Beach, California (Trophy Truck Spec, Chevy Silverado); Ricardo Vindiola of San Quintin, Mexico (Class 7SX, Ford Ranger); Rick Sanchez of San Vicente, Mexico (Class 8, Ford F-150); Gustavo Avina of Ensenada, Mexico (Class 5-1600, VW Baja Bug); and Luis Martinez of Mexicali, Mexico (SCORE Lites, Foddrill-VW).
Ricky Brabec of Oak Hills, California was on the factory-supported No. 4x THR Motorsports Monster Energy Kawasaki KX450F, and was the rider of record for the overall motorcycle and Pro Open motorcycle class winning team after being the first vehicle off the starting line Saturday morning. Sharing riding duties with teammates David Pearson, Panaca, Nevada, and Max Eddy Jr, Barstow, California, the Brabec team finished the race in 8:58:27, averaging 49.81 mph to win for the second time in three SCORE races this year.
The fastest overall ATV was the team led by Adolfo Arellano, Tijuana, Mexico on the No. 1a Honda TRX450R in a time of 10:02:35. His co-riders were Christian Vera of Spring Valley, California, Cody Mitchell of Las Vegas, and Travis Dillon of Lakeside, California.
On to Dakar
This year’s Tecate SCORE Baja 500 was also a qualifying race for special entry packages into the 2015 Dakar Rally in South America. Winners in car and truck classes will come from SCORE Trophy Truck, Class 1, and Class 10, along with another winning entry from Pro motorcycles (all with time adjustments). The winners will be officially announced at a later date.
The Tecate SCORE Baja 500 is an arduous desert off-road race that tests the durability of the drivers and their race vehicles, as well as support crews. Regardless of the difficulty, the men and women that compete in the arena of desert off-road racing continue to do it year in and year out, for many reasons. Chief among these are that it tests their character, makes them stronger, and they love the sport. Stay tuned to Off Road Xtreme for more of what makes you stronger.