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2023 SCORE Baja 1000: Race Recap

Image via Red Bull Content Pool

The 56th running of the SCORE Baja 1000, the most prestigious race in the SCORE World Desert Championship, was unlike any other in event history. With a 1,310-mile route heading up the Baja California peninsula from La Paz to Ensenada for the first time, racers had 50 hours to face an incredibly diverse set of challenges, including plenty of silt. Just 178 of the 335 total entries would get it to the finish line, headed up in the overall order by seven of the 17 SCORE Trophy Trucks to make it to Ensenada.

Trophy Truck Classes

After more than a decade of trying, Bryce Menzies is finally a Baja 1000 champion. After starting the race strong in his #7 Mason Motorsports Trophy Truck and sharing driving duties with Andy McMillin and Tavo Vildosola, Menzies became the 10th racer in SCORE history to earn the Baja Triple Crown award with wins in the Baja 1000, Baja 500, and San Felipe 250 over his career.

The Menzies team’s 22:35:33 was just good enough to hold off Luke McMillin and Rob MacCachren, who were just one minute and 19 seconds behind. The battle also settled the season-long championship in Menzies’ favor; after finishing third to McMillin in San Felipe to open the season, Menzies won the Baja 500 and 400 as McMillin finished fourth and second, respectively, to enter the weekend with a nine-point advantage that he wouldn’t relinquish.

Mike Walser, Christopher Polvoorde, and Ray Griffith teamed up to lock out the Trophy Truck podium for Mason-built trucks. Four more Trophy Trucks, including the top Legends team headed up by Gustavo Vildosola Sr., were next in the overall order; Vildosola was one of just five racers to sweep all four races on the season. Eighth overall was the top TT Spec entry of Riley Herbst, who teamed up with his father Troy and Jordan Dean for the class win; Travis Williams and Pat Sims completed the class podium, but the class remains under technical review for post-race engine inspection.

Car, Motorcycle, and Quad Classes

Top honors among the Class 1 cars, and 12th place overall, went to Kyle Quinn and Wilson Motorsports for the second straight year, putting a difficult season behind them with a finishing time of 26:14:49. They were joined on the class podium by Brendan Gaughan, who teamed up with Casey Mears to finish second in class and 14th overall, and Cody and Shelby Reid. The entire Class 1 podium was separated by just over 22 minutes.

Slotting in between Gaughan and Reid at 15th overall was the top Pro Moto Unlimited entry, a five-rider KTM 450SX-F squad led by Bolivia’s Juan Carlos Salvatierra. Salvatierra only rode the first few miles due to injury, with Shane Logan taking over soon after to establish a lead they’d never relinquish and eventually getting back on for the final 70 miles.

Other notable winners included 17-year-old Nicolas Velez, who swept all four races this year to take the Pro Quad championship on a Honda. Defending SCORE Class 10 champion J. David Ruvalcaba took his class victory by more than an hour, while Oliver Flemante scored his third Class 11 win of the year by more than four hours.

UTV Classes

Polaris Factory Racing’s first year on the Pro UTV Open entry list ended in glory in Ensenada with a race win, two podium finishes, and a class title. The win would go to Cayden MacCachren, the fastest finisher among any of the 54 UTVs to start the journey; the 2021 SCORE Rookie of the Year teamed up with former motorcycle standout Justin Morgan and drifting, rallycross, and Pikes Peak legend Rhys Millen to finish the route in 27:25.03 in the #1821 Polaris RZR Pro R.

Justin Lambert would score his second podium in a row in second, just over seven minutes behind, while MacCachren’s teammate Brock Heger would lock up the class title in third. Heger, who had support from Ronnie Anderson and JD Marsh along the way, won both the Baja 500 and 400 to establish a 19-point lead over Wayne Matlock coming into the race.

Elsewhere, it was Can-Am racers taking the Pro UTV Forced Induction and Pro Stock UTV wins. Jason Murray led a sweep of the FI podium for former class champions in Can-Ams, with Matt Burroughs and Phil Blurton in second and third, and locked up another SCORE title for himself in the process. In Pro Stock, the mother-daughter team of Lucy and Lia Block won their first Baja 1000 while running in honor of family patriarch Ken Block; they teamed up with Rodrigo Ampudia and Terry Madden to beat their closest competition by more than an hour.

Completing the Pro UTV class winner list was Lawrence Janesky in Pro UTV NA, who beat Joe Bolton by just under eight minutes in the #1914 Honda Talon. In total, across the four Pro classes, Polaris and Can-Am took five podiums and one class sweep apiece, while Honda took the remaining two medals, both in NA.

2024 Schedule

The 2024 SCORE World Desert Championship kicks off on March 20-24 with the 37th San Felipe 250. It’s followed by the 56th Baja 500 on May 29-June 2, the 5th Baja 400 on September 11-15, and the 57th Baja 1000 on November 12-17. After concluding the 2023 season with a point-to-point run, all four of next year’s races will be single-loop races.

Chris Leone

A veteran of the motorsports industry (both physical and digital), Chris Leone contributes coverage of race events of all types to Off-Road Racer. Elsewhere, he is the marketing/communications manager at iRacing, media director of Jim Beaver's Down & Dirty Show, and a frequent contributor to UTV Underground.

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