ENSENADA, Mexico--From legendary stars to image-building new superstars, the sports biggest names from yesterday and today along with some soon-to-be-known heroes of tomorrow are all lined up and ready for the green flag to drop Sunday at the massive once-in-a-lifetime Tecate SCORE Baja 2000 presented by AutoZone. Easily the world's longest and richest desert race ever, adventurers from across the globe will race non-stop from Ensenada to Cabo San Lucas, crisscrossing Mexico's mysterious Baja California peninsula in a race which won't be fully over until early evening next Wednesday (Nov. 15).
Aging warriors like Rod Hall, Walker Evans, Larry Ragland, Larry Roeseler, Jack Johnson, Chris Haines, Ivan Stewart, Bob Gordon, Corky McMillin, Jim Smith and Ron Bishop, and young guns like Robby Gordon, Ed, Tim and Troy Herbst, Dan Smith, David Ashley, Curt LeDuc, Mark McMillin, Rob MacCachren, Johnny Campbell, Tim Staab and Bekki Freeman are all geared up to begin the greatest odyssey in the history of the most unique motorsport in the world. The group has 84 class wins in the SCORE Baja 1000, the regular SCORE season finale.
Currently with 263 official entries in 24 pro and six sportsman classes for cars, trucks, motorcycles and ATVs, SCORE's tribute to the new millennium is clearly living up to its slogan as a 'Race for the Ages'.
Besides 30 states and Washington, D.C., entries to date have also come from Mexico, Australia, Bahamas, Canada, England, France, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland. The historic race starts at 6 a.m., Sunday.
The race itself features 23 checkpoints over a majestic 1,676.94-mile desert course. Entry totals will continue to climb for the longest point-to-point, non-stop desert race ever held as race teams from around the world brace for the final round of the five-race 2000 Duralast SCORE Desert Series.
While entries will be accepted through pre-race registration in Ensenada Friday and Saturday, the current 263 field includes 181 cars and trucks and 82 motorcycles and ATVs. The richest desert race in history includes a total purse of over $500,000 in cash and contingency posting. Instant Mexico Auto Insurance will also present a $1,000 bonus to the fastest overall four-wheel and two-wheel vehicles. AutoZone will also present the inaugural AutoZone Trophy, a specially designed sterling silver award for the overall 4-wheel vehicle winner.
Starting with Motorcycles at 6 a.m. on Sunday in front of the Riviera Convention Center in Ensenada, vehicles will leave in 30-second intervals in the elapsed-time race. All event times are Pacific Standard Time.
Pre-race festivities, including the colorful SCORE manufacturer's midway along with the contingency verification and safety inspection of each race vehicle, will be held adjacent to the San Nicolas Resort in Ensenada. It will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday on the eve of the most historic race in the sport's history.
From all walks of life, entries include Washington attorney Richard Bliss, California Highway Patrolman Mark Daniels and Grant Molay, a hair stylist from England.
Johnny Campbell's Class 22 Honda XR650R will be the first official starter and Craig Corda's Ford F-150 Trophy-Truck will lead the featured division for car and truck classes two hours after the last ATV starts the odyssey. SCORE starting positions are determined by blind draw. Campbell has won three straight Baja finales.
Both Southern California racers, Campbell, of San Clemente, and Corda, of Calexico, are the rider and driver of record for their respective teams. Because of the race distance and the degree of difficulty of the course, most teams will use three and many four or five rider/driver combinations in their quest to finish.
Led by the featured high-tech SCORE Trophy-Truck division, the car and truck classes will start at the race approximately 9 a.m. (or two hours after the last ATV). While the fastest vehicles in the singularly spectacular race are expected to complete the course, which criss-crosses the intriguing Baja California peninsula like shoelaces, in approximately 35-36 hours, the elapsed-time race will have an 80-hour time limit for starters to finish.
The featured SCORE Trophy-Truck division, for 750-horsepower unlimited production trucks, has 18 entries to date. Besides Corda, other top teams include NASCAR Winston Cup racer Robby Gordon/Las Vegas' Rob MacCachren in a Ford F-150, Las Vegas brothers Tim and Ed Herbst in another Ford F-150, Chevy's Larry Ragland of Phoenix/Brian Stewart of Long Beach, Calif., Chevy's Walker Evans of Riverside, Calif./Brendan Gaughan of Las Vegas, the Dan Smith/David Ashley Duralast Ford F-150 tandem of Riverside, Calif. and Toyota's duo of Ivan Stewart, Alpine, Calif. and Larry Roeseler, Hesperia, Calif.
Ragland has won five times, including four of the last five overall in the SCORE Baja 1000, Evans nine times and Roeseler 12 times while Stewart, with three career wins, won the 1998 overall crown.
San Diego's Mark McMillin has eight event wins, while his father Corky, the oldest driver of record at 71, has one of his own with his youngest son Scott. All three McMillins are expected to be contenders again this year.
Among the other racers to draw first starting positions within their respective classes were: Troy Herbst, Las Vegas (Class 1, Ford-powered Smithbuilt), Sammy Ehrenberg, Las Vegas (Class 1-2/1600, VW-powered Jimco), George Seeley Jr., Glendale, Calif. (Class 5, VW Baja Bug), Eric Hardin, Anaheim, Calif. (Class 7S, GMC Sonoma) and Bob Shepard, Phoenix (Protruck/SS/Truck), Chevy C1500).
Las Vegas-based Terrible Herbst Motorsport, has two high-profile entries in the race. Tim and Ed Herbst, 37 and 39 respectively, will co-drive the No. 1 Ford F-150 in the featured SCORE Trophy-Truck division. Troy Herbst, the youngest of the three Herbst brothers at 34, will co-drive the No. 100 Ford-powered Smithbuilt open-wheel desert race car in Class 1 with NASCAR Winston Cup and Craftsman Truck Series owner Jim Smith. Both Herbst entries are the defending class champions in the Duralast SCORE Desert Series.
The race also includes every SCORE Trophy-Truck season champion since the featured division was introduced in 1994: MacCachren (1994), Stewart (1995), Robby Gordon (1996), LeDuc (1997), Ashley/Smith (1998) and Tim/Ed Herbst (1999).
Of particular note, Reno's Hall and Ron Bishop, Escondido, Calif., are the only two racers who have competed in all 32 SCORE Baja 1000 races, Hall in trucks and Bishop on a motorcycle. Hall, 62, with a record 16 SCORE Baja 1000 class wins, will race in an AM General Hummer in the Stock Full class while Bishop will compete in the open Sportsman motorcycle class this year.
Las Vegas' Bekki Freeman, the only female SCORE regular, has won two straight in the SCORE Baja 1000.
Besides Gaughan, this year's NASCAR Winston West champion, visiting racers from open wheel pavement background are: P.J. Jones in the Protruck/SS/TRUCK class along with Jimmy Vasser, Mike Groff and Roberto Guerrero who are all part of the special Baja Challenge class for identically equipped Baja touring cars.
Shoemaker Productions of San Clemente, Calif., is producing the race to air as a one-hour special on the Speedvision Network. First airings are set for Fri., Dec. 15 at 7 and 11 p.m. (PST) and Sat., Dec. 16 at 11 a.m. (PST).
The survivor's celebration in Cabo San Lucas will be held at 2 p.m. on the afternoon of Thursday, Nov. 16 at the Plaza Las Glorias Resort.
Tecate Beer, one of Mexico's top breweries, is the title sponsor of the event. Tecate also is title sponsor of the other two SCORE races in Mexico--the Tecate SCORE San Felipe 250 and the Tecate SCORE Baja 500. AutoZone, the Memphis-based Auto Parts Store with nearly 3,000 outlets in 41 states, is the presenting sponsor for the monumental event. Besides Duralast, also part of the SCORE annual sponsor team are: BFGoodrich Tires, elf lubricants, Tecate, Bilstein shocks, and Instant Mexico Auto Insurance.
While Tecate and AutoZone are the major sponsors, the other sponsors for the Tecate SCORE Baja 2000, presented by AutoZone, are: Terrible Herbst, Inc., 76 Fuel, Coca-Cola of Mexico, Hertz Rent-a-Car of La Paz, Globalstar, Qualcomm, Telcel, States of Baja California and Baja California Sur, Fonatur, the Departments of the State Secretaries of Tourism of Baja California and Baja California Sur, Tourism Promotion Trust Fund for Ensenada, Cotuco of Ensenada, the Hotel and Motel Association of Ensenada, San Nicolas Resort in Ensenada, Municipalities of La Paz, Comondu, Loreto, Los Cabos and Mulege, along with the Villa del Palmar Beach Resort in Cabo San Lucas.