Phil Blurton, Mark Samuels earn class victories in 2021 season finale
It was a big week for some of the biggest names in desert racing as the 2021 SCORE World Desert Championship wrapped up with the 54th SCORE Baja 1000 last week. When the dust settled, it was Monster Energy athlete Phil Blurton locking up the Pro UTV Forced Induction class win in his first try at the most challenging desert race in North America. In addition, the Mark Samuels-led SLR Honda team took top honors in the Pro Moto Unlimited class, as he won his sixth career Baja 1000 and fifth in the past seven years.
“It was a pretty flawless SCORE Baja 1000,” Blurton said after earning the victory. “It was our first one ever so we didn’t know what to expect. There were some bottlenecks; we sat for maybe 20 minutes at one point. Then we cruised along the rest of the day. We pre-ran a bunch and I think that helped. We raced all the whole SCORE series this year to get used to racing in Mexico and it seems like that paid off for us. The course was really fun. When we first pre-ran, it was a lot smoother but it got a lot more beat up by the end of today. But it was a super fun course. A little bit of everything. I could do without those whoops at the end though.”
This year’s Baja 1000 was one of the longest in more than half a century of racing. At 1226.35 miles, the point-to-point charge from Ensenada to La Paz was as unforgiving as ever, but Monster’s talented roster of racers was up for the challenge as always.
First to finish in the premier Trophy Truck class, meanwhile, was the Desert Assassins superteam of former race winner Cameron Steele and Ryan Arciero; they’d be scored third overall, just ahead of another Monster-backed superteam of Alan Ampudia, Jax Redline, and Ken Block, who returned to the race for the first time since 2007.
“Ryan started and kicked butt for us,” Steele said after the race. “He brought us in within good striking distance, but then the gap increased from there on out from (the lead). We had a good race at the end. I felt more prepared this year than in previous years. In past years I didn’t feel as on it, but this one I was on my game. It takes an army to do this; we had 90 people around the Peninsula and almost all of our own pits. We have all spent a month down here. My family has been coming down here since the 70’s. It is incredible to be involved in this.”
“I had great teammates with Jax Redline and Alan Ampudia, they put together a good program for us,” said Block. “Unfortunately we had some mechanical issues about 400 miles in that held us up from being on the podium or potentially winning. I was in dust most of my section, but that’s racing; I really enjoyed it. My section had some tricky parts but the rest was flat out, which suits my driving style, coming from rally. I wish we could have been battling for the win, but that’s life.”
Behind the teams led by Steele and Ampudia, the #19 Terrible Herbst squad of Tim and Troy Herbst and Pat Dean would make it three Monster teams in the overall top five, while Jorge Sampietro and his #200 Trophy Truck Spec machine would finish third in class and complete the overall top 10. Coming home fifth in Pro UTV Forced Induction was former Baja 1000 winner Marc Burnett, and adding 10th place in the Trophy Truck class was the second Desert Assassins truck of Bobby Pecoy and Rhys Millen.
The 2022 SCORE World Desert Championship will see all four of this year’s events return, and will kick off on March 29-April 3 with the 35th SCORE San Felipe 250. In the meantime, the 54th SCORE Baja 1000 will air in the coming months as part of ESPN’s World of X Games anthology series.