2011 Tecate Score Baja 500 Tech and Contingency
With the 43rd running of the Tecate SCORE Baja 500 scheduled to start tomorrow morning, Ensenada was abuzz with race teams making their way down contingency row and concluding with final tech inspection. SCORE officials said there were 242 entries as of this afternoon, though that number could change slightly before racing begins. According to SCORE officials 242 entries will tackle a grueling race course of approximately 454.69 miles in the Baja California desert.
As is the case each year at the 500, the roughness of the course is a huge talking point. This year is no different, although some of the top teams that even though they talk about the course conditions every year, they still feel this is one of the roughest Baja 500 courses they have seen. “Attrition is going to play a big role in this race,” said Ryan Arciero, who has teamed with Troy Herbst for the race.
SCORE President and CEO Sal Fish addressed the media today at the pre-race press conference. Before talk of the race began, Fish asked the crowd for a moment of silence to honor Jeff “Ox” Kargola, who passed away on the Rip to the Tip dirt bike ride earlier this year (see his first short-course win here).
“A few weeks ago he was down here on a fun ride and unfortunately crashed on a motorcycle and passed away,” Fish said. “He won in San Felipe at the Tecate SCORE San Felipe earlier this year, and unfortunately he did pass away on a fun run going from Baja to Cabo San Lucas. In memory of Ox I’d like to take a few seconds.”
The JCR Honda team, of which Ox was a member when he won the 2011 San Felipe 250 with teammate Colton Udall, had to try to fill the void left by his passing. Team owner Johnny Campbell was able to enlist accomplished off-road racer David Kamo to race with Colton Udall, and to honor Ox, the team will run an “Ox” plate in Class 22 in the 500.
Another story heading into tomorrow’s race is that of Roger Norman and the newest addition to his co-driving team, Tim Nugent. At last year’s Baja 500, Norman had an accident with Nugent, who was racing in Sportsman motorcycle last year. Nugent got lost in the dust of another Trophy Truck and never heard Norman coming.
“Last year was probably my toughest Baja 500 ever, I had a terrible accident with Tim Nugent, who’s right here standing with me. All of us in this racing community have a love for this sport and a love for each other, and I’m just really proud to have Tim on my team this year. When we get to that finish line, no matter what, we’re going to be on the roof of that car celebrating that he’s been able to heal from 23 broken bones. He’s here with me today to race this race and do what he set out to do last year, which is conquer the Baja 500.”
Nugent is grateful for the opportunity, but he also knows this race will offer some healing for Norman as well.
“I know not only was the healing for me, physically, but it’s also, as far as from the driver’s side, it’s a healing for Roger as well,” he said. “I took that as I’m trying to heal myself, and I also want Roger to heal. So I appreciate the opportunity, Roger, and I thank you very much.”
As is usually the case, the 500 brings out the heavy hitters of off-road racing, especially in the Trophy Truck class. This year, Andy McMillin will look to defend the title of 2010 winner after he and his father won the race last year. Larry Roeseler, racing with Tim Herbst this year, will look to add to his 16 class wins at the race (with 11 overall wins). Rob MacCachren is also a threat in Baja and is one of the best all-around off-road drivers competing today. He’s especially a threat considering he leaves the line 9th.
A few big-name racers were not so lucky with starting draws, including last year’s Baja 1000 winners Gustavo Vildosola Jr. and Sr., who will leave the line second to last. Leaving just in front of them is BJ Baldwin, who will also have a lot of work ahead to be in contention, especially considering the new summit section. Robby Gordon is also starting toward the back of the pack in 27th, and he took a different approach to the race this year and brought out his Dakar Hummer instead of his Trophy Truck.
“It’s going to be a tough one. It’s going to be really tough,” Gordon said. “I’m fortunate enough that we have two cars we can pull, and when we drew number 27, it’s like, alright, we’re not going to stop for fuel now, so let’s bring the Hummer and see how it does against the Trophy Trucks.”
Another interesting story line for this year’s race is that of Viry Felix in the 1401 Sportsman Car, as she will be trying to complete the entire race as the only driver.
Be sure to check back with Off-Road.com for coverage of the race tomorrow. Also, if you haven’t already, enter the BFGoodrich Off-Road.com Tire Giveaway by following us on Facebook by clicking “Like.”