Baja 500: Series pre-event news 2009-05-18

16 defending class champs return Busy pre-running begins Friday in Mexico on rugged 432.51-mile race course for 41st Tecate SCORE Baja 500 June 4-7 event in Ensenada has entries from 24 States, 12 countries; course map available at ...

16 defending class champs return
Busy pre-running begins Friday in Mexico on rugged 432.51-mile race course for 41st Tecate SCORE Baja 500

June 4-7 event in Ensenada has entries from 24 States, 12 countries; course map available at www.score-international.com

LOS ANGELES--With the release of the official course map, GPS files and course notes this past weekend, pre-race activity steps up significantly starting Friday when the world's best desert racers officially begin their pre-running and course logistics activities for next month's 41st Annual Tecate SCORE Baja 500, the second-oldest desert race in the world.

Round 3 of the five-race 2009 SCORE Desert Series, the World's Foremost Desert Racing Series, will feature over 275 entries, competing in 28 Pro and 6 Sportsman classes for cars, trucks, motorcycles and ATVs, will be held June 4-7 in Ensenada, Mexico. 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 this year's 41st anniversary of the Tecate SCORE Baja 500.

With late entries accepted up to race morning, over 275 entries are expected for the 432.51-mile race from 25 U.S. States from Hawaii to Vermont along with the additional countries of Mexico, Austria, Canada, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan and Portugal.

The green flag will drop for the race at 6 a.m. on Saturday (June 6) 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. With vehicles starting one every 30 seconds in the elapsed-time race, it will start and finish in front of the Riviera del Pacifico Cultural Center on Boulevard Costero in the heart of Ensenada, leaving and returning into the city through the spectator-laden Arroyo Wash.

The talented field of veteran desert racers heading to Baja includes 16 defending class winners out of the 25 Pro classes that had finishers in last year's race, including the three overall winners--B.J. Baldwin (4-Wheel), Kendall Norman (2-Wheel) and Wayne Matlock (ATVs). Four of last year's class winners will be racing this year in different classes.

Also entered are the drivers who won the last seven overall 4-Wheel vehicle titles and the riders who have won the last nine overall 2-Wheel vehicle titles.

Driving the No. 1 Baldwin Motorsports Chevy Silverado SCORE Trophy-Truck, B.J. Baldwin of Las Vegas, won the closest 4-wheel overall battle in SCORE Baja history last year when he defeated the team of Mark Post, Laguna Beach, Calif./Rob MacCachren, Las Vegas, by a mere seven seconds. The Post/MacCachren duo is entered again in the No. 3 Riviera Racing Ford F-150 SCORE Trophy-Truck.

As SCORE CEO/President Sal Fish announced prior to the start of this season, the rugged course 432.51-mile course is a near-duplicate of last year's, accept just under 10 miles shorter. To help reduce the costs of pre-running, the course, which runs in a clockwise direction, resembles a deflating balloon, winding east to Ojos Negros, down to near San Felipe, back West to the Pacific Ocean near San Vicente and back north east through Santo Tomas on the way back to Ojos Negros and then Ensenada.

The only pre-running that will be allowed on the first 36.8 miles of the course will be outbound only and only on Thursday and Friday, June 4 and 5. No inbound pre-running on the last 36.8 miles of the course will be allowed. Pre-running of the rest of the course will start and finish in the Ojos Negros area.

The four official race checkpoints, where all vehicles are required to make a quick stop, will be located at race mile 87.32 (Santa Catarina), rm199.17 (Borrego), rm 296.81 (San Vicente) and rm389.76 Rancho San Antonio. All vehicles are also required to run International Rally Consultants tracking devices.

Kendall Norman, Santa Barbara, Calif., returns as the three-time defending overall motorcycle champion, but he will have a new teammate this year on his Johnny Campbell Racing Honda CRF450X. Riding with Norman this year will be Timmy Weigand, Santa Clarita, Calif.

The pair opened this season with an overall motorcycle win in March at the Tecate SCORE San Felipe 250 while the veteran Campbell, 38, San Clemente, Calif., who has five overall two-wheel wins in this race, is listed as a possible third rider, if needed, on both the Norman entry and his other American Honda-supported JCR team led by Colton Udall, who is also from San Clemente.

Wayne Matlock, El Cajon, Calif., is back as the defending overall ATV champion and will lead a four-rider team on a Honda TRX700XX. Riding with him again this year will be Harold Goodman, Brownstown, Mich., along with new teammates Wes Miller, Fallbrook, Calif. and Josh Caster, El Cajon, Calif. The Matlock/Goodman/Caster trio won this year's ATV overall title at the Tecate SCORE San Felipe 250.

While late entries will be accepted up to race morning, as of today, the Pro 4-Wheel vehicles classes with the most entries are: SCORE Trophy-Truck (24), Class 1 (17) and Class 1-2/1600 (16).

Leading the Pro Motorcycle classes in entries so far are Class 22 (17), Class 30 (12) and Class 21 (11). Class 24 leads the Pro ATV classes with 11 entries to date.

Among the Sportsman classes, SPT Motorcycles over 250cc has 27 entries and SPT Motorcycles under 250cc has 13. There are also 13 SPT ATVs to date.

This popular SCORE early summer race began in 1969 under the auspices of the old NORRA organization and SCORE began its enduring run with it on July 26, 1974. This year will be the 36th anniversary of the first SCORE race in Baja.

Included in nearly $400,000 in contingency posting and the cash purse for the race, Sunoco Race Fuels, the official race fuel of SCORE, has posted a special US$5,000 cash contingency bonus for the overall 4-wheel vehicle winner.

Besides B.J. Baldwin, Kendall Norman and Wayne Matlock, the other drivers and riders who will be attempting to defend their class wins from last year are: Kevin Carr, San Diego (Class 5, VW Baja Bug), Dan Chamlee, Carpenteria, Calif. (Class 7, Ford Ranger), Daniel Reyes Jr., Calexico, Calif. (Class 9, Venegas-VW), Jesus Gonzalez, Ensenada, Mexico (Class 10, Dunrite-Honda), Rick St. John, Encinitas, Calif. (SCORE Lite, Duvel-VW), Brett Helm, Poway, Calif. (Class 40, Honda CRF450X), Jim O'Neal, Simi Valley, Calif. (Class 50, Honda CRF450X) and Donald Lewis, Marlborough, Conn. (Class 60, Honda CRF450X.

Heidi Steele, San Clemente, Calif., is one of four female driver/rider of record this year and she is also one of the five racers who won their respective classes last year but will be competing in a different class this year. In Steele's case, however, she will be competing in two classes. After winning Class 7SX last year, she is racing with teammates in both Class 6 and Class 7 this year in different Ford Rangers.

Besides Heidi Steele, the other four racers who will be in different classes this year are Luis Ramirez Jr., Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, who is the second driver this year for Damen Jeferries in SCORE Trophy-Truck after winning Class 1 last year; Adam Pfankuch, Carlsbad, Calif., who is the second driver in SCORE Lite for Rick St. John this year after winning Class 1-2/1600; Connor Penhall, Corona, Calif., who will lead a team in Class 22 after being the second rider for Chad Black while winning Class 20 last year; and Scott Myers, Sun City, Calif., who is the rider of record in Class 40 this year's for Brett Helm's team after leading a team to victory last year in Class 30.

For the second straight year and just the second time in the 41-year history of the Tecate SCORE Baja 500 desert race, the colorful pre-race Manufacturer's Midway and Contingency, the start and finish line will all be located in the heart of Ensenada, Mexico on Boulevard Costero adjacent to the historic Riviera del Pacifico Cultural Center. It will be first time in race history that both the pre-race activities and the finish will be held on this historic boulevard.

The SCORE Manufacturer's Midway will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, June 5 on Blvd Costero. Racer registration will again be held in the Grand Ballroom of the San Nicolas Hotel. Registration hours will be from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 4 and from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday June 5.

The awards celebration will be held poolside at the San Nicolas Hotel on Sunday, June 7 at 10 a.m.

In addition to season point class point championships, drivers in the Pro car and truck classes are also racing to earn prestigious SCORE Toyota Milestone Awards given to all drivers who complete every required mile of the five-race season. Being presented by Toyota Motorsports for the 24th consecutive year, a total of 32 drivers remain eligible after Round 2 of the 2009 SCORE Desert Series.

-credit: score

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Series Score
Drivers Rob MacCachren , B.J. Baldwin , Heidi Steele , Johnny Campbell , Luis Ramirez Jr.