LA PAZ, Mexico — As nighttime began to fall at 6:30 p.m. (Pacific Time) over Mexico’s majestic Baja California peninsula, desert racing action is heating up as 298 adventurers battle the terrain, the competition and their own endurance levels as the 45th Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 roars into the evening.
Early leaders on unofficial corrected time in motorcycles is the 1x Honda team led by rider of record Colton Udall, San Clemente, Calif. and in four-wheel vehicles is the No. 97 Chevy Silverado SCORE Trophy Truck driven by Las Vegas’ B.J. Baldwin.
With the bone-jarring 1,121.55-mile course traveling on both sides of the peninsula, the granddaddy of all desert races started Thursday morning in Ensenada and will finish all the way down the peninsula in La Paz, Baja California Sur.
With the 2012 SCORE Desert Series season point championships on the line, 298 total cars, trucks, motorcycles and ATVs competing in 35 Pro and 6 Sportsman classes, began their arduous journey down the peninsula. The 298 total starters is the third most of the 19 times the world’s most famous desert race has finished in La Paz, and the 11-most overall in the event’s 45-year history.
The motorcycle and ATV classes began their odyssey at 6:30 a.m. (PT) Thursday with the car and truck classes starting at 11:31 a.m., four hours after the last ATV left the line.
Completing its 39th year as the world’s foremost desert racing sanctioning body, the event is the finale of the five-race 2012 SCORE Desert Series.
The race, which started on Boulevard Costero adjacent to the picturesque Bahia de Todos Santos in front of the iconic Riviera del Pacifico Cultural Center in the heart of Ensenada. The adventure will finish on the outskirts of La Paz on Highway 1 near the Grand Plaza Hotel, race headquarters for the southern half of the event. The entire race schedule is being conducted on Pacific Standard Time.
The fastest finishers are expected to complete the course in approximately 20 hours in the elapsed-time race where one vehicle will started every 30 seconds. All vehicles will have 45 total hours to complete the course to become official finishers of this legendary classic. The course will officially close at approximately 10 a.m. (PT) on Saturday.
Three manufacturers are battling it out for the overall and Class 22 motorcycle victory as the JCR Honda team led by Udall had an unofficial 6 minute, 30-second lead at race mile 730 near San Juanico over the No. 8x of Robby Bell, Menifee, Calif., rider of record on a Kawasaki and 24-minute lead over the No. 5x of Kurt Caselli, Murrieta, Calif., rider of record on a KTM motorcycle.
The four-wheel vehicle battle appears just as close after 400 miles near Bahia Los Angeles as the top 15 vehicles unofficially on corrected time are part of the field of 33 SCORE Trophy Trucks, SCORE’s marquee racing division for high-tech, 850-horsepower unlimited production trucks.
Baldwin unofficially was leading at race mile 400 by 56 seconds over fellow Las Vegan Bryce Menzies, driver of the No. 1 Red Bull Menzies Motorsports Ford F-150. With things changing fast in the unforgiving Baja desert, Dan McMillin was in third place in the No. 23 McMillin Homes Ford F-150.