Baja 1000 Preview: Into the Great Abyss
By Marty Fiolka | RACER magazine and RACER.com editor at large
For 51 years, a special breed of people have looked toward the annual BFGoodrich SCORE Baja 1000 seeking the glory of victory or to test their internal fortitude. For most, the attraction of taking on off-road racing’s most prestigious event represents a bit of both.
The crowded streets of Ensenada, Baja, Mexico will come alive on Friday morning at 4:30am (PST) as nearly 300 entries from 41 states and 18 countries begin their journey into Baja’s all-consuming abyss. SCORE’s premier Trophy-Truck division will lead myriad of four-wheel classes into the mythical Mexican desert beginning at 10:30am (PST), with veterans and rookies all hoping to conquer this year’s 806.76-mile Baja 1000 course.
Reports coming back from racers spending days doing their homework pre-running the event all share the same sense of impending challenge – with literally miles of Baja’s car-swallowing silt (ultra-soft dirt churned up by years of usage) striking fear into even the most seasoned veterans. While these silt beds don’t historically effect the powerful Trophy-Trucks with their 900-horsepower engines and massive 40” tall tires, those that follow can count on these areas defining the difference between a great race and also-ran status.
Speaking of Trophy-Trucks, 2018 represents the 25th anniversary of the SCORE’s unlimited truck division, an outgrowth of the sport’s evolution from open-wheel buggies in the early 1990s. A total of 13 of the last 14 SCORE Trophy Truck SCORE Baja 1000 race winners are entered in this year’s race, including the last 11 straight. Eighteen competitors entered in this race have combined for 80 career SCORE Trophy-Truck victories over the years.
Ricky Johnson (left) will lead the Trophy Truck field into the Baja desert.
Leading the way among the former SCORE Trophy Truck season point champs are bothers Ed and Tim Herbst with four titles (1999, 2000, 2002, 2003), four-time champ B.J. Baldwin (2006, 2008, 2012, 2013), three-time consecutive and reigning champ Carlos ‘Apdaly’ Lopez (2015, 2016, 2017), and two-time SCORE Trophy Truck season point champs Robby Gordon (1996, 2009) and Rob MacCachren (1994, 2007).
Leading the four-wheel field will be the No.6 Mason-built Trophy-Truck of Larry Conner, racing icon Ricky Johnson and son Luke Johnson. Ricky took full advantage of his truck’s all-wheel drive configuration to clam the Baja 1000 pole at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway as part of the annual SEMA show. Starting second will be the rapidly improving No.83 Racer chassis fielded by McMillin Racing for Luke McMillin and race legend Larry Roeseler. In third will be the No.77 Speed Energy Chevrolet truck of always-entertaining Robby Gordon, a Baja fan favorite who is hungry to return to the top of the podium after a long dry spell.
Other Trophy-Truck racers of note is the No.7 Red Bull supported all-wheel drive truck of Bryce Menzies and Toby Price starting fifth, followed by the second Red Bull No.31 Chevrolet entry of Andy McMillin and local hero Tavo Vildosola in seventh. Lurking not to far behind is current SCORE points leader and former race champion Rob MacCachren in his No.11 Rockstar Energy/BFGoodrich Ford. Ace driver Jason Voss will join Rob Mac again in 2018. The No.16 Monster Energy Geiser-built truck of recent SCORE race winner and Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee Cameron Steele is joined by Las Vegas-based veteran Pat Dean will start in 13th, just ahead of defending race champion Carlos “Apdaly” Lopez in his No.1 RPM-supported Geiser truck.
While the fastest vehicles are expected to complete the course in approximately 16 hours, all vehicles will have 36 hours from the time each takes the green flag to complete the course and become an official finisher of the 51st anniversary race.
The entire SCORE Baja 1000 race will be live-streamed from the SCORE start/finish line ramp on the SCORE website. During the race there will also be live tracking of all vehicles displayed on SCORE’s homepage.
RACER.com will be providing additional coverage all weekend long, including post-race results and some of the highlights of the world’s oldest desert off-road race. Viva Baja!
FOR THE BEST IN RACING NEWS AND ANALYSIS VISIT RACER.COM