Above: Cameron Steele is set to take part in the 50th SCORE Baja 500.
The countless miles of pre-running are done. The homework and all the pre-race hoopla are complete. Now, all that’s left for competitors in the historic 50th running of the BFGoodrich SCORE Baja 500 is what it’s really all about in the first place – the race itself.
Like they have for five decades, on Saturday morning a field of 350 or so competitors will gather at the SCORE International starting line in Ensenada, Baja, Mexico for a race many veteran driver are already calling the roughest and toughest in history. For the past two weeks competitors in all classes have come back from this year’s record 542.12-mile course universal in their assessment of what lies ahead. They share one voice of respect for the challenge that lies before them.
The day will start early, as the green flag will drop first for the motorcycles and quads at 3:30 a.m. (PT) and then approximately 8 a.m. (PT) for the cars, trucks and UTVs. While the fastest vehicles are expected to finish in around 11 hours, all vehicles will have a 22-hour time limit from the time each start to become an official finisher.
Event title sponsor BFGoodrich Tires has posted a $25,000 contingency bonus for the first four-wheel racer on BFG to help commemorate this year’s race.
That battle is expected to be as hot as the arid desert terrain that is prevalent in much of the course’s eastern loop (near San Felipe), especially in the sport’s premiere Trophy-Truck division. A stacked field of 35 unlimited trucks is on hand, including Baja 500 overall winner Rob MacCachren (pictured below). The Las Vegas native earned the race’s highly coveted four-wheel pole position thanks to winning the recent SCORE San Felipe 250.
MacCachren, driving the No. 11 Rockstar/Makita/BFGoodrich Ford, is part of a strong contingent of energy drink-sponsored Trophy-Trucks. While the internationally recognized brands might be sparse in places like Indianapolis or Le Mans, in Baja there is a virtual war raging among Rockstar (MacCachren), Monster Energy (BJ. Baldwin, Cameron Steele and the Herbst family and Speed Energy (Robby Gordon).
But, the big story so far lies with the blue, red and yellow colors of Red Bull. First, France’s international rally raid superstar Cyril Despres is subbing for injured Red Bull-sponsored racer Bryce Menzies. Representing his first Trophy-Truck race, Despres (also a Red Bull athlete) has successfully complete a intense week of pre-running and vehicle testing. The Menzies Motorsports team has taken the race’s overall title on three separate occasions.
The second arrow in Red Bull’s Baja 500 quiver came as a total surprise. Prior to the event’s massive two-day Tech and Contingency proceeding, Andy McMillin’s No. 33 state-of-the-art Mason-built Trophy-Truck was unveiled with complete Red Bull factory livery (below). A former Red Bull athlete racing with Robby Gordon at the time, McMillin parted ways with the brand in 2007. Since that time the son of racer Scott McMillin has worked hard to perfect his craft, winning the sport’s most prestigious races along the way – including the Baja 500.
“For a brand like Red Bull to believe in me, invest in me, and trust me to represent their brand to the best of my abilities is a responsibility I look forward to not only fulfilling, but passing beyond their expectations,” explained McMillin. “I am living proof that if you put in the hard work, and never give up, the tides will turn and you will get what you were after — no matter what that is.”
One thing is for certain, a 500-plus mile endurance marathon through the Baja desert will break out tomorrow in all classes tomorrow and into Sunday morning.
For live BFGoodrich Baja 500 tracking and on-site streaming, race fans can visit www.score-international.com. Complete post-race coverage and results will follow.