Over 330 entries expected for 37th Annual Tecate SCORE Baja 500 desert race
by Dominic Clark
LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- Southern California’s borders into Mexico’s Baja California will be even busier for the next few weeks starting Saturday as several thousand crew members and racers, representing over 300 race teams begin the arduous task or pre-running the rugged race course for next month’s popular Tecate SCORE Baja 500 desert race.
Traditionally one of the most popular events on the SCORE schedule, over 100,000 spectators are expected to enjoy the world’s best desert racers in action at round 3 of the six-race 2005 SCORE Desert Series, to be held June 3-5 in Ensenada, Mexico.
With over 330 entries expected from 20 U.S. States, Mexico, Canada and Japan in the world’s foremost desert racing series event, the green flag will drop at 6 a.m. on Saturday (June 4) for the motorcycle and ATV classes in the Tecate SCORE Baja 500, followed by the car and truck classes two hours later at 8:30 a.m.
Looking much like an inverted deflating balloon on a string, the 419-mile race course starts in downtown Ensenada adjacent to the Riviera Convention Center and finishes at Deportivo Antonio Palacios baseball stadium, 9th & Guadalupe Ave., in the heart of Ensenada. The course travels in a counter-clockwise direction, with the first 51.01 miles from the start to Tres Hermanos (17 miles south of Ojos Negros) being used both ways. With the SCORE course marking crew finishing on Friday, the course will open for practice on Saturday. No pre-running is allowed from the start to Ojos Negros, rm 34.0 except outbound only from May 30-June 3.
“With today’s competition and incredible racing equipment, I seriously doubt if anyone could win the Tecate SCORE Baja 500 without pre-running,” said Hawaii’s Alan Pflueger, who was the overall and SCORE Trophy-Truck winner last year in his No. 28 Pflueger Racing Chevy Silverado. “Year in and year out, the Tecate SCORE Baja 500 is the roughest, toughest, most challenging course we race on and if you aren’t prepared by multiple practice runs, you won’t be able to drive fast enough to win and there will be plenty of rocks waiting to jump out and bite your front end off. There are always rocks, but you can be better prepared to avoid them.”
From Tres Hermanos, the course heads west to Uruapan then onto Hwy 1 (K42) at race mile 74.4, turning south for approximately six miles on pavement to Santo Tomas at rm 80.4 (Hwy 1, K51). The course then heads southwest for toward the Pacific Ocean, across by Erendira at rm115.6, looping down around Cerro Celo before heading northeast up to Highway 1 just below San Vicente at rm138.70 (Hwy 1, K96). After four miles of pavement, the course heads east at rm 142.79 (Hwy 1, K102+) up a grade towards Valle De Trinidad.
At rm171.7, the course represents a tall boot, running south, west, back east and then north around Rancho El Coyote , Rancho Buenavista, and then by Mike’s Sky Rancho at rm 251.3 and back down to rm 270.9 (Hwy 3, K138). The course then heads northwest on the pavement of Hwy 3 for just less than 12 miles, passing through Valle De Trinidad to rm 282.1 (Hwy 3, K118). The course then heads north on the infamous ‘goat trail’ past Santa Catarina and up for a loop through the magnificent pine forest before droping down to rm 344.8 for a right hand turn onto Hwy 3 at K78+. It turns left at rm 345.95 after just a mile on pavement (Hwy 3, K77).
The course then winds its way past Cerro Colorado back to Tres Hermanos. After returning to Tres Hermanos at rm 369.7, the course heads north to Ojos Negros at rm 385.8 (Hwy 3, K39) and back to Ensenada over the first 51.01 miles of the course.
The starting line area will once again be adjacent to the Riviera del Pacifico Convention Center in downtown Ensenada, Mexico. The finish line will be inside the Deportivo Antonio Palacios baseball stadium at 9th Street and Guadalupe Avenue in Ensenada. It is located approximately 1.5 miles east of the start line area. The admission will be free to this special SCORE finish line celebration. Vehicles will start in 30-second intervals in the elapsed-time, 419.0-mile race.
The world’s foremost desert racing series will showcase 24 Pro and 5 Sportsman classes for cars, trucks, motorcycles and ATVs in Ensenada, which is located 65 miles south of the U.S. border at San Diego on the Pacific Ocean side of the majestic peninsula.
To date, the classes with the most entries are: Class 1-2/1600 (36), Class 1 (35), SCORE Trophy-Truck (28), SCORE Lite (19), Class 5/1600 (19) and Class 10 (17).
New to their respective classes, desert racers Chad McNeil, Lee Patten and Steve Thompson received the pole positions in the top three divisions at the drawing for starting positions held on April 30.
McNeil, El Cajon, Calif., a second-generation desert racer, will lead the featured SCORE Trophy-Truck division in his new McNeil Off-Road Chevy SCORE Trophy-Truck while Patten, Bellflower, Calif., drew the first start in the unlimited Class 1 and Thompson, Long Beach, Calif., will be at the front of the motorcycle classes.
Drawing the first start in Class 1-2/1600 was Jeff Quade, Temecula, Calif., in a Fisher-VW, while on the pole in SCORE Lite is Mike Halliday, Riverside, Calif., in a Jimco-VW. At the front of Class 5/1600 will be Feliciano Cervantes, Montebello, Calif., in a VW Baja Bug and up front in Class 10 will be Jim Anderson, Claremont, Calif., in a Dunrite-VW.
For the first time in several years, the Tecate SCORE Baja 500 will be televised nationally on a delayed basis. Aura 360, the Maine production and marketing company that has this year’s SCORE television rights, expects to announce within two weeks which national cable outlet will carry the race.
A total of 18 class winners from last year are entered, led by overall winners Alan Pflueger (4-wheel vehicles, SCORE Trophy-Truck), Steve Hengeveld/Johnny Campbell (Motorcycles, Class 22) and Troy Herbst/Larry Roeseler (unlimited Class 1). Pflueger picked up his second class win in the race last year and his first in SCORE Trophy-Truck in his No. 28 Pflueger Racing Chevy Silverado. Hengeveld has five consecutive Class 22 and overall motorcycle wins in this race, including the last three with Campbell, who has five career overall wins as well on the No. 1X American Honda XR650R.
Herbst and Roeseler have won Class 1 the last three years together, including the overall win in 2002 and 2003. In their careers, Herbst has six class wins in the Tecate SCORE Baja 500 with two overalls and Roeseler has 15 class wins, including 11 overalls (nine on a motorcycle). They will again drive a Smithbuilt-Ford open-wheel desert race car.
Nick Vanderwey (Class
and Jim O’Neal (Class 40) have won their respective classes four straight years in this summer classic and Donald Moss (Class 3) has earned three consecutive class wins.
Another of the early entries is NASCAR Nextel Cup owner/driver Robby Gordon, who will return to his racing roots for the first time this season. Gordon, a three-time SCORE class point champion, will once again attempt to pull double-duty, racing the same weekend in the NASCAR race in Dover, Delaware.
Pre-race festivities for the 37th Tecate SCORE Baja 500 will center around the Riviera del Pacifico convention center in downtown Ensenada on Friday (June 3). Traditionally drawing thousands of spectators, the pre-race Manufacturer’s Midway and display off all the race vehicles will be held adjacent to the San Nicolas Hotel, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday (June 3). The post-race awards celebration will be held at the San Nicolas Hotel in Ensenada on Sunday (June 5) at 10 a.m.
Leading the SCORE overall and Class 1-2/1600 point standings, Las Vegas’ Rob MacCachren has put himself at the top of the list in the chase for the $50,000 Kartek Off-Road bonus purse. The top three overall point leaders in the 2005 SCORE Desert Series will receive bonus money of $25,000, $15,000 and $10,000 from the Southern California aftermarket company. MacCachren, who also races in the SCORE Trophy-Truck division with Gus Vildosola in the No. 4 Vildosola Racing Ford F-150, runs a Fraley-VW with Las Vegas’ Bryan Freeman in Class 1-2/1600.
The race also features the hunt for the 2005 SCORE Toyota Awards--the Toyota Milestone Awards and the $12,000 Toyota True Grit bonus purse. Milestone awards are presented to every racer who completes every required race mile for the season and the bonus purse will be split among the point champions in four non-factory backed classes (1-2/1600, 5, Class 10 and SCORE Lite). A total of 45 of SCORE’S toughest desert racers are still in the hunt for Milestone Awards.
SCORE official sponsors for 2005 are: BFGoodrich Tires-official tire, C.L. Bryant-VP Racing Fuels-official fuel supplier. Associate sponsors are: Tecate Beer, Coca-Cola of Mexico, Instant Mexico Auto Insurance, Las Vegas Events, Herbst Gaming, Kartek Off-Road, Centrix Financial, Fram, Autolite, Prestone, Bilstein, Signpros, Cotuco, Fideicomiso Publico para la Promocion Turistica de Ensenada, Cotuco, P.C.I. Race Radios, McKenzie’s Performance Products, and Advanced Color Graphics.
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