ENSENADA, Mexico — Returning to the desert for the first time this year, Bryce Menzies came back to Mexico Saturday to earn a second consecutive overall four-wheel vehicle and SCORE Trophy Truck victory in the 44th annual Tecate SCORE Baja 500.
Menzies blasted his way over 450 miles of Mexico’s blistering Baja California desert in the No. 1 Menzies Motorsports Red Bull Ford F-150 in a winning time of nine hours, 13 minutes, 39 seconds, averaging 48.77 miles per hour.
In the second-closest finish in the storied history of this race, Menzies crossed the finish line second, but won on corrected time in the elapsed-time race by just 11 seconds over fellow Las Vegas B.J. Baldwin.
“We started 19th and we chased dust all day,” Menzies said. “We knew we were behind B.J. by a minute thirty. He started third so he had a lot of clean air. He’s one hell of a driver and I was trying to track him down. My hat’s off to him. What a day.”
Baldwin, who led much of the race in his No. 97 Baldwin Motorsports Monster Energy Chevy Silverado, finished second overall and in SCORE Trophy Truck with a time of 9:13:50, averaging 48.75 mph.
Ironically, in 2008, Baldwin won this race in the closest finish ever by just seven seconds over Rob MacCachren.
Following final data tracking review of the vehicles and any necessary penalty assessments, third place overall was confirmed to be Jesse Jones, who completed the course in a time of 9:29:45 in his No. 76 Jones Motorsports Ford F-250.
The second-oldest desert race in the world, Round 4 of the five-race 2012 SCORE Desert Series, the World’s Foremost Desert Racing Series, featured 259 starters, competing in 36 Pro and seven Sportsman classes for cars, trucks, motorcycles and ATVs.
Pulling off a stunning upset in breaking the 15-year winning streak of Honda, Kawasaki’s Robby Bell led his team to the overall motorcycle victory while recording the fastest time of the race. Bell, David Pearson and Steve Hengeveld split the riding time on the THR Motorsports Monster Energy Kawasaki KX450F to a winning time of 9:10:03 with an average speed of 49.09 mph.
With the Johnny Campbell’s JCR Honda 1x team lead by Colton Udall slowed some by two crashes during the race, Kawasaki’s winning trio defeating the Honda team by two minutes, 28 seconds.
In giving Kawasaki its first win in this race since 1996, the victory was Bell’s fourth overall win in the Tecate SCORE Baja 500, Hengeveld’s seventh and Pearson’s first. It was also Kawasaki’s ninth overall motorcycle win in this challenging desert race.
Luke McMillin won the unlimited Class 1 race and finished fifth overall in the McMillin Homes Chevy-powered Jimco open-wheel desert race care in 9:53:22.
A surprising overall ATV winner, Yamaha’s veteran Greg Row, 48, brought in a couple of very special riders to his team to compete for the victory. Among the riders with Row on a Yamaha YFZ450 were his son Josh and Dustin Nelson, a six-time QuadCross series point champion.
With DJ Noerr also riding for the Row team, the Yamaha squad defeated the prominent Honda teams for Wayne Matlock and Brandon Brown along with Can-Am’s Josh Frederick. The Row team covered the course in 10:50:07 with an average speed of 41.53mph.
Remaining undefeated for the 2012 SCORE Desert Series with their fourth straight class win was Donald Moss (Class 3, Ford Bronco). Winning for the third time this season were Wes Bevly III (Stock Full, Ford F-150) and Andy Bell (Stock Mini, Toyota Tacoma).
Also picking up his second class win this season in a car and truck class was Matt Cullen (Class 10, AlumiCraft-VW).
Among the other first-time car and truck class winners this season were Jason Coleman (Class 1/2-1600, Kreger-VW), Victor Herrera (Class 7, Ford Ranger), Brent Parkhouse (SCORE Lites, Moulton-VW), Ricardo Garcia(Class 7SX), Mike West (Class 7-2, TrophyLite-Chevy), Gavin Skilton (Class 6, Honda Pilot), Jose Lopez (Class 5, VW Baja Bug) and Chelsea Magness(Protruck, Ford F-150).
Traveling all the way from Bristol, Tenn. and Bristol, Va., Justin Matney’s RPM Off-Road team, which opened the season with 11 total class wins in the two rounds in Laughlin in January, had a race-record eight entries in this year’s Tecate SCORE Baja 500 and added an impressive five more class wins to their season total. RPM now has earned a spectacular 18 class wins in the four rounds of the 2012 SCORE Desert Series.
Winning their respective classes for RPM in Ensenada were double-winner Clyde Stacy (Class 5-1600, VW Baja Bug and Class 2, Mason-Chevy), Rodolfo Iribe (Class 8, Chevy Silverado), Derek Fletcher (Class 4, PSD-Chevy) and Jim Bunn/John Matney (Sportsman Buggy, Geiser Chevy).
Winning their respective motorcycle and ATV classes for the second of three SCORE Baja races here were the teams led by Mike Johnson (Class 30, Honda CRF450X), Jeff Kaplan (Class 40, Honda CRF450X) and Marc Prince(Class 50, Honda CRF450X). It was the sixth class win in this race for Kaplan.
Jim O’Neal led a team in Class 21 to victory on a Honda CRF450X to give him 16 career wins in this race and Richard Jackson earned his 14th class win in helping rider of record Al Perrett of Canada captured Class 60 on a Honda CRF450X.
Among the other first-time motorcycle and ATV class winners this season were Gabriel Williams (Class 20, Honda CRF250X), Manuel Jimenez (Class 24, Honda TRX450R and Carl Vella (Class 26, Can-Am Outlander800).
The fastest sportsman motorcycle racer was Carlos Sanchez who led a team to victory on a Husaberg 450. The fastest Sportsman 4-wheel vehicle was Nick Tonelli who won the SPT Truck in a Ford Ranger for his third class win of the season.