Baja 500: Pre-race notes 2007-05-22

SCORE Baja-record field now at 485 Class 1 stars searching for overall 4-wheel vehicle win; Class 22 Aces hunting for overall M/C win at 39th Tecate SCORE Baja 500 M/C & ATV racers include Bell/Norman/Hengeveld, ...

SCORE Baja-record field now at 485

Class 1 stars searching for overall 4-wheel vehicle win; Class 22
Aces hunting for overall M/C win at 39th Tecate SCORE Baja 500

M/C & ATV racers include Bell/Norman/Hengeveld, Blais/Pearson, Burnett/Childress/Highland, O'Neal, Pfeiffer bros., Harden, Karasawa, Ruvalcaba, Prather/Cafro for June 1-3 race in Ensenada

LOS ANGELES--While it's very probable that the 39 SCORE Trophy-Trucks will grab much of the spotlight, the unlimited Class 1 cars and Class 22 motorcycle division will provide their own specialbrilliance during next weekend's 39th Annual Tecate SCORE Baja 500, the second-oldest desert race in the world.

Round 3 of the six-race 2007 SCORE Desert Series, the World's Foremost Desert Racing Series, featuring a race-record lineup of nearly 500 entries competing in 28 Pro and 6 Sportsman classes for cars, trucks, motorcycles and ATVs, will be held June 1-3 in Ensenada, Mexico.

A race-record field of 53 unlimited Class 1 open-wheel desert race cars are set to attempt to capture the overall 4-wheel vehicle title, unseating the marquee SCORE Trophy-Trucks, those high-tech, high-budget, 800-horsepower, unlimited production trucks who have won the overall 10 times in their 13-year history.

And while the thundering herd of SCORE Trophy-Trucks and Class 1 race cars blast their way around the Northern part of the Baja peninsula, the growing field of motorcycles and ATVs, now at an amazing 207 total entries, will be waging their own special challenge against the elements, the competitors and their own mental and physical strength and stamina.

With late entries accepted up to race morning, nearly 500 entries are expected from 32 U.S. States from Hawaii to Rhode Island as well as Mexico, Austria, Canada, England, France, Germany, Guatemala, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa. The green flag will drop for the race at 6 a.m. on Saturday (June 2) for the motorcycle and ATV classes in the Tecate SCORE Baja 500, followed by the car and truck classes three hours after the last ATV at approximately 10 a.m. The SCORE Baja race-record 485 vehicles entered to date include 278 cars and trucks and 207 motorcycles and ATVs.

Back to defend their overall 4-wheel vehicle and SCORE Trophy-Truck title is the team of Larry Ragland, Cave Creek, Ariz./Brian Collins, Las Vegas, in the No. 12 Collins Motorsports Chevy Silverado. Returning as the overall motorcycle and Class 22 champs is the team of Robby Bell, Murrieta, Calif./Kendall Norman, Santa Barbara, Calif., on the No. 1x Honda CRF450X. Back to defend their overall ATV and Class 25 victory is the team of Danny Prather, Ramona, Calif./Mike Cafro, Carlsbad, Calif., on the No. 1a Honda TRX450R.

Added firepower for Bell/Norman in Baja on Team Honda will be Honda desert racing star Steve Hengeveld, Oak Hills, Calif., who sat out the Tecate SCORE Baja 250 while recovering from a seriously broken right arm he injured in mid-January. Hengeveld has six class wins and five overall titles in this race, riding every year for the American Honda factory team. The three-rider team will split the course up in thirds, Bell starting and riding to race-mile 121, Norman will run the second leg to race mile 252 and Hengeveld will ride the rugged final section of the course.

"I guess I hurt my arm pretty good, but I'm back and ready to roll," said Hengeveld, who has earned five career Class 22 SCORE season point titles. "Robby and Kendall have been a very good team and they earned the 1X they have during last season and they won the first race this year, so we should have a pretty strong threesome for the rest of the season. It's great to be back in the saddle again." This year's massive field will challenge the very technical and rugged 420.11-mile course. Pre-running, or repeated practice driving and riding the course will be allowed up to the day before the race (Friday, June 1).

And, if anyone is able to cover the rough and tumble, serenely majestic course faster than one of the galaxy of SCORE Trophy-Trucks, their family name will probably be Herbst or McMillin, two of the winningest Class 1 families in all of SCORE Baja racing.

Both with SCORE Baja racing histories dating back to the 1970s, the Herbst family, of Las Vegas, has compiled nine class wins in this race since family patriarch Jerry Herbst won Category 3 in 1970 while the McMillin family, SCORE's first three-generation race team based in San Diego, has notched 13 class wins since second-generation racer Scott McMillin picked up the first for his family in 1981 in Class 10.

In the hunt for the coveted Overall 4-wheel vehicle title, the Herbsts have two (Troy Herbst-2002, 2003) and the McMillins have four (family patriarch Corky McMillin and his second son Scott-1983, 1986 and Corky's oldest son Mark McMillin-1988, 2001).

When it comes to Class 1 in the Tecate SCORE Baja 500, either a Herbst or a McMillin has won it in 11 of the last 13 years, and 10 of the last 11.

In that incredible string of Class 1 victories, Troy Herbst has captured the checkered flag seven times (1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006).

Starting this stretch for the McMillins was Corky McMillin, who passed away in September of 2005 at age 76 while still a SCORE regular, and his son Scott in 1994. Mark McMillin picked up two more Class 1 wins in 1997 and 2001. In 2005, Scott McMillin and his son Andy McMillin won Class 1.

This year, Andy and Scott will be drive together in the No. 31 Chevy CK1500 in the SCORE Trophy-Truck division. Mark McMillin, the 2005 SCORE point series Class 1 season champion, will carry the McMillin colors in the No. 144 McMillin Racing Chevy-powered Jimco.

Daniel McMillin, 19, Mark's son, will be the fourth McMillin competing this year, racing in Class 1-2/1600. The youngest member of McMillin Racing currently competing in SCORE races earned his first career SCORE class win in March at the Tecate SCORE Baja 250.

For the Herbst family, Troy Herbst and his older brothers Ed and Tim, will all be competing. Troy, the youngest at 40, will split driving with Larry Roeseler, who has an amazing 16 class wins including 11 overall titles in this race. Herbst and Roeseler have teamed up for a rare triple, winning Class 1 in 2002, 2003 and 2004, including the overall the first two years. The will drive the No. 100 Terrible Herbst Motorsports Smithbuilt-Ford.

Ed Herbst, 46, and Tim Herbst, 44, the winningest team in SCORE Trophy-Truck history with 11 class wins and four season point crowns, will split driving in the No. 19 Terrible Herbst Motorsports Ford F-150 SCORE Trophy-Truck. Ironically, they are still looking for their first win in SCORE Trophy-Truck in this race.

At the top of the list of talented challengers to knock off Troy Herbst and Mark McMillin are Las Vegas' B.J. Richardson, the current Class 1 point leader, Robert Ross, second in points and John Herder, third in points and who won Class 1 in the season-opening SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge in January.

Including Bell/Norman, defending class champions in two other motorcycle classes are back this year as well.

Including Prather/Cafro, the top five overall ATV finishers from last year are all entered this year as well.

Among the contenders to challenge the factory Honda team in the motorcycle race are the teams led by Chris Blais and Mike Childress.

Blais, Apple Valley, Calif., finished third in this year's Dakar Rally and will race on the No. 7x Red Bull/KTM motorcycle with Las Vegas' David Pearson. Childress, who won the overall motorcycle crown in the Tecate SCORE Baja 500 in 2005 with Mouse McCoy, will be the third rider this year on a team led by Marc Burnett, Chula Vista, Calif. The third team member is Shawn Highland, Temecula, Calif., a professional Freestyle rider. Burnett, who won Class 21 in this race in 1996, and Highland, finished third in Class 22 on the teams Suzuki RMZ450 in March's Tecate SCORE Baja 250. Childress finished second in that race with Andy Grider as his co-rider.

Two former overall motorcycle winners, Scot Harden and Kurt Pfeiffer, will race with family efforts this year. Harden, 50, Menifee, Calif., who has four class wins including three overalls (1978, 1985, 1986) in this race, will ride with his son Brent Harden, 23, Sun City, Calif., Mike Lafferty, 31, Temecula, Calif. And Jacob Cornett, 23, La Mesa, Calif., on a KTM 450XC in Class 21. Scot Harden's overall win in 1985 was with Kurt Pfeiffer.

Lafferty is a 7-time AMA National Enduro champion, Brent Harden was the 2006 AMA District 37 Enduro Series champion, and Cornett is a veteran motocross racer.

Kurt Pfeiffer, 43, Riverside, Calif., who has five class wins including two overalls (1985, 1988) in this race, will ride with his brothers Kent, 45, and Scott, 50, who both live in Costa Mesa, Calif., and who were both also successful SCORE racers in the 1980s. Between them, the Pfeiffer brothers have 14 class wins in the Tecate SCORE Baja 500 and in 1981 and 1982 the three brothers won two classes. Kurt won Class 20 each year with different riders and Kent and Scott rode together to win Class 21 each of those years. They will be racing in Class 40 (riders over 40 years old) this year on a Yamaha YZ450 sponsored by Beach Yamaha, who was their primary sponsor over 20 years ago.

The race also includes several top motorcycle riders with several in the age-group classes, including: Jim O'Neal, Japan's Eizaburo Karasawa and Mexico's Gerardo Rojas and J. David Ruvalcaba.

O'Neal, 60, Chatsworth, Calif., has put together incredible teams that have eight age group class wins in six years in this race, including double class wins in both 2002 and 2006. O'Neal, owner of the noted apparel company that bears his name, has retired his Class 40 Honda XR650R that six consecutive SCORE season point championships from 2001 through 2006. This year, he has put together talented teams in both Class 30 and Class 50. In this year's motorcycle season opener, his teams won Class 30 and finished second in Class 50.

Karasawa, always a fierce competitor, has three class wins in this race, two in Class 40 and his most recent in Class 50 in 2005.

Rojas won two straight in Class 30 in 2004 and 2005 while Ruvalcaba has three class wins in this race, capturing Class 21 three straight years, from 1999-2001.

All back to attempt to defeat the ATV team led by Danny Prather and Mike Cafro, the second through fifth place finishers in last year's race are: Wayne Matlock, El Cajon, Calif./Chad Prull, Laveen, Ariz., Francisco Ruano, Tijuana, Mexico, Jeff Hancock, Salome, Ariz., and Josh Frederick, Moapa, Nev.

Led by record-setting Anna Jo Cody, the Tecate SCORE Baja 500 has also attracted several female racers to the motorcycle and ATV classes. Cody, 39, of Simi Valley, Calif., who set a record last November by becoming the first ever female rider to solo and finish within the time limit in the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000, is entered in Class 21 this year with a three-rider all-female team. Besides herself, racing with Cody will be Jennifer Morton, Escondido, Calif., and Stacy Doerksen, Apple Valley, Calif.

Riding solo in Class 21 will be San Diego County School Principal Jessica McCreary, Ramona, Calif. In the Sportsman Motorcycle Under 250cc class with support from her husband Tim McCreary, who will stay close by while riding solo in the Sportsman Motorcycle Over 250cc class.

Among the other female racers entered in a motorcycle class is Nancy Emde, 51, of Vista, Calif., a regular on the Baja trails as part of the Trail Boss Tours company. Emde was the only female rider on a team led by Charles Snell that won Class 20 in last year's Tecate SCORE Baja 1000.

In the Pro ATV Class 24, Brianna Mancillas, 19, Chula Vista, Calif., is the rider of record with the balance of the team being all male riders that includes her father Carlos Mancillas.

To date, the Pro 4-Wheel vehicles classes with the most entries are: Class 1 (53), SCORE Trophy-Truck (39), SCORE Lite (26), Class 1-2/1600 (24) and Class 5/1600 (19).

Leading the Motorcycle classes in entries so far are Class 22 (24), Class 30 and Class 40 (20 each) and Class 21 (19). Class 25 for open ATVs has 15 entries. Among the Sportsman classes, SPT Motorcycles over 250cc has 53 entries and SPT ATV has 20.

The starting line area will once again be in front of the Riviera del Pacifico Cultural Center on Boulevard Costero in downtown Ensenada, Mexico. The finish line will be where it was last year--inside the Campo de Softball Jose Negro Soto stadium at 11th Street (Calle Once) and Espinoza Avenue in Ensenada. The stadium is located approximately 1.5 miles east of the start line area. Vehicles will start in 30-second intervals in the elapsed-time race.

Pre-race festivities at the 39th Tecate SCORE Baja 500 will include the colorful SCORE Midway and tech inspection adjacent to the San Nicolas Hotel in Ensenada from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Friday (June 1). Racer registration will be held in the Grand Ballroom at the San Nicolas Hotel from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday (May 31) and from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday (June 1).

The mandatory racer's briefing will be held at 7 p.m. on Friday (June 1) in the Cathedral Room at the Riviera del Pacifico Cultural Center.

At 11 a.m. on Sunday (June 3), the awards celebration will be held poolside at the San Nicolas Hotel.

Starting and finishing in Ensenada on the majestic Baja California peninsula, this year's tight and technical course will run in a clockwise direction, running East into the middle of the peninsula, then South, followed by a West travel section, turning north, then East, North, Northeast and back West for the final charge back into Ensenada.

-credit: score

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