ENSENADA, Mexico – With just 20 seconds separating the top qualifiers, Ensenada’s home-grown Ampudia brothers posted the fastest qualifying time Thursday to earn the first four-wheel vehicle starting position in Saturday’s 49th annual SCORE Baja 500.
Entries from around the world are officially entered in round two of the SCORE World Desert Championship, being held this week in Mexico’s Baja California Norte, starting and finishing in Ensenada, the seaside port on the Pacific Ocean, 80 miles south of San Diego.
With Aaron Ampudia, 24, the youngest of the three brothers serving as the driver of record, middle brother Alan Ampudia, 26, drove the 2.98-mile desert qualifying course near Uruapan, 24 miles south of Ensenada, with oldest brother Rodrigo Ampudia, 32, riding as passenger in the team’s No. 10 Ford Raptor to a fast time of three minutes, 36.80 seconds at an average speed of 49.48 mph. The Ampudia brothers will lead a field of 37 SCORE Trophy Trucks into the desert over a rugged race course of 513.67-miles.
With qualifying for the marquee SCORE Trophy Truck division for high-tech, 850-horsepower unlimited production trucks and the unlimited Class 1 for open-wheel desert race cars and Trophy Truck Spec, 34 of 37 entries in SCORE Trophy Truck, four of 13 entries in Class 1 and 13 of 17 entries in Trophy Truck Spec ran in the qualifying session. The vehicles that didn’t qualify will start at the back of their respective classes.
Second-fastest qualifier was B.J. Baldwin in the No. 97 Monster Energy Toyota Tundra, who qualified in 3:38.24 and third was Bryce Menzies, in the No. 7 Menzies Motorsports Ford Raptor, who completed his qualifying effort in 3:38.42.
The top qualifier in Class 1 was Mike Malloy at 3:57.67 in a Chevy-powered Jimco open-wheel desert race car and top qualifier in Trophy Truck Spec class was the No. 250 John Langley COPS Racing Mason-Chevy driven by co-driver Luke Johnson in 3:59.44.
The Baja 500 is an elapsed-time race with staggered starts as the green flag on Saturday as the green flag on Saturday drops first for the motorcycles and quads at 5:30 a.m. and approximately 10 a.m. for the cars, trucks and UTVs. While the fastest vehicles are expected to complete the rugged 513.67-mile course in nine hours, all vehicles will have a 20-hour time limit to become an official finisher in the grueling race.
With late entries accepted on-site until the close of registration on Friday, nearly 275 entries are expected at the start line with entries from 28 U.S. States and 14 countries already in the field. Besides the USA and host country Mexico, other countries represented on the starting grid so far are Austria, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Ecuador, Germany, Great Britain, Guatemala, Japan, the Netherlands and Spain.
Among the entries are 62 racers who have combined for 208 class wins in this historic race.