As the SCORE World Desert Championship returns to its normal four-race slate for 2021, the 53rd annual Baja 500 returns to its normal slot as the second race of the season this weekend. With almost 250 entries expected on the line for Saturday, and 68 racers already on the entry list with past wins in this event, the 466-mile Ensenada-based loop race will be one of the most hotly contested events of the year.
The 2021 SCORE season kicked off with the return of the San Felipe 250 two months ago, and for anyone who’s been following the sport’s top class over the past few years, the podium shouldn’t have been a surprise. In the end, it was top qualifier Bryce Menzies taking the Trophy Truck and overall victories by the razor-thin margin of 16 seconds over Luke McMillin, with Andy McMillin completing the podium. All three are back on the entry list this weekend, with Menzies and Andy McMillin having won this race in the past and defending class champion Luke hoping to use his first Baja 500 win as a key to his title defense.
But behind them, all of last year’s top class winners are back, led by 2020 Trophy Truck and overall winner Dan McMillin, Class 1 winner and defending class champion Cody Parkhouse, and Pro UTV Forced Induction winner and defending SCORE World Desert Champion Matt Burroughs. Meanwhile, last year’s Pro UTV NA winner Kristen Matlock and Class 7 winner Jeff Proctor are among those who look to defend their 2020 Baja 500 victories after having also won in San Felipe in April.
While the Trophy Truck class leads the current entry list with 32 total entries (including five Legends entries), Pro UTV FI and Trophy Truck Spec aren’t far behind at 28 and 26 teams, respectively. Brandon Schueler teamed up with Cayden MacCachren to take the Pro UTV FI win in San Felipe in a tight battle with Austin Weiland and Wes Miller, and they’ll all continue their battle with Burroughs, Branden Sims, Phil Blurton, and more this weekend.
As for Trophy Truck Spec, Jorge Sampietro will look to recapture the form that took him to last year’s race victory after a 12th place finish in San Felipe. Jason Coleman won the opener by three minutes over Ryan Hancock, while fastest qualifier Kyle Jergensen completed the podium. Just as designed, the Spec class may produce the closest racing of all this weekend; the top 17 teams finished within an hour of one another at San Felipe, compared to 14 in Trophy Truck and eight in Pro UTV FI.
The first motorcycle leaves the line for the BFGoodrich Tires 53rd SCORE Baja 500 at 6AM PT on Saturday, while the car and truck classes take to the course starting at 10AM PT. While COVID-19 protocols still restrict spectators from race week festivities and the start-finish line, they’ll be allowed in open areas around the course itself provided that they follow public health and safety guidelines. Following this weekend, the third round of the 2021 SCORE World Desert Championship, the 2nd SCORE Baja 400, will take place the week of September 14-19.