As the entry list continues to expand dramatically, so does the list of talented racers who will compete for the coveted overall 4-wheel vehicle victory in next month’s popular Tecate SCORE Baja 500 desert race. Traditionally one of the most popular events on the SCORE schedule, over 150,000 spectators are expected to cheer the world’s best desert racers in action at round 3 of the six-race 2005 SCORE Desert Series, to be held June 3-5 in Ensenada, Mexico.
With over 350 entries expected from 20 U.S. States, Mexico, Canada and Japan in the world’s foremost desert racing series event, the green flag will drop at 6 a.m. on Saturday (June 4) for the motorcycle and ATV classes in the Tecate SCORE Baja 500, followed by the car and truck classes two hours later at 8:30 a.m.
SCORE Trophy-Truck already has a race-record 28 of the 800 horsepower, high-tech unlimited production trucks entered while there are 36 vehicles in Class 1, the division for unlimited open-wheel desert race cars. And the lineup in both classes is filled with former class and overall winners. Among the entire field are 12 drivers who have combined for 24 of the overall 4-wheel vehicle victories, including each of the last five years.
While capturing the class win is priority one, racers in SCORE Trophy-Truck and Class 1 are often disappointed at the finish line if they haven’t also won the overall title.
Fierce competition is once again expected in both of the top classes, and the entire race for that matter as a race-record 70 racers who have combined to earn 181 class wins, will be in the starting grid.
Since its debut in 1994, SCORE Trophy-Trucks captured seven straight overall wins before Mark McMillin, El Cajon, Calif., broke the string by winning in Class 1 in 2001. Class 1 kept it going in 2002 and 2003 thanks to the team of Troy Herbst, Las Vegas and Larry Roeseler, Hesperia, Calif., before Honolulu’s Alan Pflueger brought SCORE Trophy-Truck back to the very top of the podium last year. Herbst has been nothing short of phenomenal in his Smithbuilt-Ford, having won Class 1 in six of the last nine years in this grueling race.
“The SCORE Baja 1000 has the well-earned legacy as the top desert race in the world, but the SCORE Baja 500 may be the toughest,” said McMillin, who has six class victories including two overalls in this race. “The course is the toughest we see all year with the most diverse terrain, changing weather conditions around the track, and with the most entries of the year, the competition is tougher than the Indy 500. Then mix in over a 150,000 spectators along the race route, and you clearly have the ingredients for a real pressure-cooker. It’s one of those things that you can’t really fully comprehend unless you’ve been there and experienced it first hand. Every racer wants a class win, but none of us would be in Class 1 or SCORE Trophy-Truck if we didn’t want the overall victory even more.”
Mark McMillin, 48, who won his first overall in 1988, only has to go to the dinner table to see some of his stiffest challengers. Family patriarch Corky McMillin, a very spry 76, is the oldest racer in the event and will lead a group of three McMillin Racing Class 1 cars around the Baja peninsula. Mark will be in No. 103, just behind his brother Scott, 44, who will split driving with his son Andy, 17, a third generation desert racer.
Corky and Scott McMillin have twice won this race driving together (1983 and 1986) and Scott and Andy, who live in Poway, Calif., won Class 1 and the overall at this year’s Tecate SCORE San Felipe 250 in February.
Looking much like an inverted deflating balloon on a string, the 419-mile race course starts in downtown Ensenada adjacent to the Riviera del Pacifico Cultural Center and finishes at Deportivo Antonio Palacios baseball stadium, 9th and Guadalupe Ave., in the heart of Ensenada. It is located approximately 1.5 miles east of the start line area. The admission will be free to this special SCORE finish line celebration. Vehicles will start in 30-second intervals in the elapsed-time race.
Pre-race festivities for the 37th Tecate SCORE Baja 500 will center around the Riviera del Pacifico convention center in downtown Ensenada on Friday (June 3). Traditionally drawing thousands of spectators, the pre-race Manufac-turer’s Midway and display off all the race vehicles will be held adjacent to the San Nicolas Hotel, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.