Over 200 racers to start Baja 1000

Ganddaddy of All Desert Races Starts Friday 15 Champions, with 41 Combined Overall Wins, Among Nearly 220 Racers in the 34th Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 Entries from 30 States, six countries set for Final Round of 2001 Duralast SCORE Desert ...

Ganddaddy of All Desert Races Starts Friday
15 Champions, with 41 Combined Overall Wins, Among Nearly 220 Racers in the 34th Tecate SCORE Baja 1000

Entries from 30 States, six countries set for Final Round of 2001 Duralast SCORE Desert Series

ENSENADA, Mexico--With a starting grid filled with former overall and individual class champions, dramatic desert racing action will cover the northern part of the mysteriously picturesque Baja California peninsula Friday and Saturday during the 34th running of the legendary Tecate SCORE Baja 1000, the granddaddy of all desert races. The historic motorsports tradition will start and finish in Ensenada, Mexico.

Nearly 220 vehicles from 30 States, Canada, France, Israel, Japan and Mexico, are expected to take the green flag in the historic race that features 25 Pro and 5 Sportsman classes. Motorcycles and ATVs will begin the race at 6:30 a.m. (PST) Friday with the cars and trucks starting their trek at 8 a.m. (PST). Vehicles will start one every 30 seconds in the elapsed-time race and will have a 30-hour time limit to become official finishers. This will be the 27th time the race has started in Ensenada and will be the 16th time it has finished in the popular city on the Pacific Ocean, some 65 miles south of San Diego.

No less than 15 former overall race champions, who have combined for a phenomenal 41 titles in either the four-wheel or two wheel divisions, are entered along with a record 26 fathers who will either race with or against their sons. All will attempt to etch their individual names into the lore of the most famous of all desert races.

Mark Post, of San Juan Capistrano, Calif., will drive the first four wheel vehicle to leave the starting line--the No. 3 Riviera Racing Ford F 150 in the featured SCORE Trophy-Truck division in the final round of the five-race 2001 Duralast SCORE Desert Series. Johnny Campbell, of San Clemente, Calif., will ride the No. 1x factory-sponsored Honda XR650R motorcycle in the open Class 22 that will start first among two-wheel vehicles.

"It doesn't get any better than the SCORE Baja 1000, and I oughta know," quipped veteran Rod Hall, who is the only driver who has raced all 33 previous years in this event. "If there is one desert race you tell your grand kids about, it's this one. You run this race just once and you have enough stories to last a lifetime."

Hall, 62, of Reno, Nev., has a record 16 class wins and one overall title (1969) in the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000. He will drive an AM General Hummer this year in the Stock Full class.

Pre-race festivities will center around the San Nicolas Hotel in Ensenada on Thursday and the race will start adjacent to the Riviera Convention Center in downtown Ensenada and finish on the outskirts of town at the end of Avenida Ruiz. Traditionally drawing large crowds, the pre-race Manufacturer's Midway will be held adjacent to the San Nicolas, near downtown Ensenada. The colorful pre-race manufacturer's midway and display of all the race vehicles will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday.

Campbell, 30, is one of the 15 former overall champions, and is on the verge of history, having won four straight SCORE Baja 1000 overall motorcycle titles. He will race with San Diego's Tim Staab, 23, who has won three overall titles with his mentor. Campbell is currently tied with legendary motorcycle champion Larry Roeseler, who had four straight overall motorcycle wins from 1988-1991.

Roeseler, 43, of Hesperia, Calif., has 12 class wins and 10 overalls and will co-drive this year with Las Vegas' Troy Herbst, the four-time defending and current SCORE Class 1 point leader in his Terrible Herbst Motorsports' Ford-powered Smithbuilt open-wheel desert race car.

The other former overall winners entered are five-time winners Mark McMillin, San Diego, and Larry Ragland, Phoenix, four-time champ Jack Johnson, Las Vegas, two-time winners Dan Smith, Riverside, Calif., and Bob Gordon, Orange, Calif.

David Ashley, Riverside, Calif., Robby Gordon, Orange, Calif., Steve Hengeveld, Oak Hills, Calif., Dave Richardson, La Mesa, Calif., Steve Sourapas, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., and Ryan Thomas, El Cajon, Calif., each have one overall crown.

Robby Gordon, who won this race in 1989 in a Ford pickup, will be pulling double duty this weekend as he will also drive the No. 31 Chevy of Richard Childress Racing in the NASCAR Winston Cup race in Homestead, Fla.

Also pulling double-duty this weekend will be Las Vegas' Brendan Gaughan, 26, who is the defending NASCAR Winston West champion and current point leader. Gaughan, another second-generation desert racer, will co-drive with Roger Gray in a Chevy Silverado in the featured SCORE Trophy-Truck division before heading to Irwindale, Calif., to race in the NASCAR Winston West season finale.

This year's starting lineup is full of former as well as hopeful champs all striving to earn a piece of history.

Las Vegas' Rob MacCachren hasn't won the overall title in the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000, but he enters this year's race as the overall and Class 1-2/1600 SCORE point leader with three wins and a second in 2001.

Cisco Bio, Spring Valley, Calif., is the only undefeated racer in a SCORE four-wheel vehicle class, having won all four races this season in Class 9 in a VW-powered Tubular Design race car.

Another 'celebrity' racer this year is Japan's Hiro Matsushita. The 40-year old former regular in the CART Champ Car series, will drive a Mitsubishi Montero Sport in Class 3 International.

Israel's Team Etgarim, which means Challenge is Hebrew, will be the first team with four paraplegic drivers to enter a SCORE race. The team is led by driver of record Eyal Yerushalmi, 40, an industrial and management engineer from Kibuttz Beit-Nir. Yerushalmi, who raced on a motorcycle in the 1992 SCORE Baja 1000, was permanently crippled in both legs while racing on a motorcycle in the 1994 Pharos Rally in Egypt. Since then, Yerushalmi has moved to race cars equipped with hand controls and continued to compete in area races along with the Paris to Dakar race and the Atlas Rally.

In addition to the 2001 Duralast SCORE Desert Series class point championships, also being decided in Mexico will be the winners of the $12,000 Toyota True Grit and Milestone Awards for racers who complete all required race miles during the season.

The race will be televised as a one-hour special on the Speedvision Network. Shoemaker Productions of San Clemente, Calif., is producing the show which will first air at 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. (PST) on Saturday, Dec. 22 and 10 a.m. (PST) on Sunday, Dec. 23.

- www.score-international.com.

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Series Score
Drivers Robby Gordon , Rob MacCachren , Rod Hall , Tim Staab , Brendan Gaughan , Larry Roeseler , Mark Post , Larry Ragland , Troy Herbst , Johnny Campbell