ENSENADA, B.C., Mexico (Nov. 12) -- In the longest desert race ever held in North America, off-road stars Larry Ragland and Ivan Stewart have begun a duel that could stretch to over 35 hours in the tough terrain of Baja California as the...
ENSENADA, B.C., Mexico (Nov. 12) -- In the longest desert race ever held in North America, off-road stars Larry Ragland and Ivan Stewart have begun a duel that could stretch to over 35 hours in the tough terrain of Baja California as the historic Tecate SCORE Baja 2000 got underway Sunday.
Doubling the distance of the annual Baja 1000, the 1,726-mile trek through the Mexican peninsula features some 262 two and four-wheel vehicles and over 900 competitors in one of the most grueling off-road events ever attempted. Starting Sunday morning in Ensenada, 65 miles south San Diego, racers battle the rough Mexican landscape and fatigue to race to the finish line at Cabo San Lucas, the base of Baja California.
Ragland, a Baja 1000 winner four of the last five years, and Stewart, a multi-time champion in Baja California, set a blistering pace in the early portions of the rain-soaked course that included mountains, river washes and desert sand conditions.
After the first 300 miles, Ragland, 57, of Phoenix posted an average speed of 58.834 miles per hour in Chevrolet Trailblazer to lead the overall four-wheel standings as well as the Trophy Truck division. Ragland has won the overall Baja 1000 title in 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1999.
Stewart, the 1998 Baja 1000 winner of Lakeside, Calif., trailed Ragland by one minute, five seconds after 300 miles in his Toyota Tundra pickup after leading in the early stages of the two-day off-road contest. Stewart, 55, averaged 57.557 m.p.h.
Ironically, Ragland's co-driver for the 1,726 miles is Brian Stewart, Stewart's son, while 12-time Baja motorcycle champion Larry Roeseler is co-driving with Stewart.
Third overall after 300 miles was Troy Herbst of Las Vegas, the overall point leader in the five-race Duralast SCORE Desert Series. Herbst averaged 55.122 m.p.h. in his specially-prepared Jimco buggy. Fourth overall in the early stages was Herbst's older brother, Tim, who averaged 53.997 m.p.h. in his Ford F-150 truck, while NASCAR and CART driver Robby Gordon posted the fifth fastest speed at 53.428 also in a Ford pickup.
In the motorcycle classes, three-time defending Baja 1000 winner Johnny Campbell of San Clemente, Calif., leads the overall two-wheel competition after 450 miles.
Other class leaders included Tim Moore of Manhattan Beach, Calif., in Class - 1600 (buggies); Darren Skilton of Orange, Calif., in Class 3 (4X4 vehicles); Perry McNeil of Lemon Grove, Calif., in Class 7 (small trucks); Curt LeDuc of Cherry Valley, Calif., in Class 8 (full-size trucks); Ron Dalke of Tucson, Ariz., in SCORE Lites (limited buggies) and Marc Stein of San Diego in Class Stock Full (stock trucks).
The first overall finishes are expected to cross the finish line at Cabo San Lucas on Monday, Nov. 13, afternoon while entire 1,726-mile course will remain open for 80 hours for the final finishers.