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PR-SCORE-Baja 1000 Race Report

November 22, 2003

Miller/Arciero win in SCORE Trophy-Truck

Honda’s Hengeveld/Campbell & Fortin/Townsley’s Jimco capture overall wins As 153 adventurers official finishers at 36th annual Tecate SCORE Baja 1000

BFGoodrich Tires win 18th straight overall 4-wheel crown as over 200,000 watch 272 starters in season finale in Ensenada, Mexico

ENSENADA, Mexico-In what will be considered one of the toughest races in the history of this legendary event, American Honda motorcycle teammates Steve Hengeveld and Johnny Campbell along with Jimco teammates Doug Fortin and Charlie Townsley posted the overall motorcycle and 4-wheel victories late Saturday at the 36th Annual Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 desert race.

A total of 272 of 283 adventuresome entries took the green flag Friday in Ensenada, competing in 27 Pro and 5 sportsman classes for cars, trucks, motorcycles and ATVs. The challenging 808-mile route down the Pacific Ocean side of the Baja California peninsula, across and back up the eastern side of the peninsula along the Sea of Cortez before ending back in Ensenada was the season-finale of the six-race 2003 SCORE Desert Series. When the finish line closed inside of the Antonio Palacios Devportivo baseball stadium in the heart of Ensenada late Saturday, 153 vehicles survived, making it to the finish line within the 32-hour time limit.

Mexico tourism officials estimated crowds around the course in Ensenada and across Baja California at over 200,000, a record for the event.

First to cross the finish line was the Honda XR650R of Hengeveld and Campbell, who methodically marched across the technical, tight, and twisting course to an overall winning time of 15 hours, 39 minutes and 52 seconds. Campbell took the green flag, riding for 381 miles and Hengeveld captured the checkered flag, after riding for 427 miles. The pair average speed was 51.58 miles per hour, which clearly reflected the difficulty of the course.

While the American Honda teammates were the fastest vehicle in the grueling race, Fortin and Townsley in their Chevy-powered Jimco open-wheel desert racecar led all four-wheel vehicles to the finish line, covering the challenging course in 16:24:28 while averaging 49.27 mph.

For Hengeveld, Oak Hills, Calif., the victory was his fourth class win and his second straight while his teammate Campbell, San Clemente, Calif., improved his record run in this desert classic to seven straight.

"We had a very good race over a very, very rugged course," said Hengeveld, 28, as he relaxed in the winner’s circle. "Johnny’s a great rider and got us a big lead, although he did hit a rock and broke the front wheel at about mile 70."

"I knew what I needed to do, but with the darkness, the fog around Ojos Negros, and the toughness of the race course, I had to pay attention and keep focused and under control. My adrenaline is pumping now, but when it wears off, my body will definitely tell me it took a beating. There is no greater thrill or accomplishment in our sport than to be champions of the SCORE Baja 1000. Don’t wake me up…it’s unbelievable."

With a starting grid jammed with former overall and individual class champions, dramatic racing action covered the northern part of the foreboding Baja California peninsula Friday and Saturday during the 36th running of the legendary Tecate SCORE Baja 1000, the granddaddy of all desert races.

Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year as the world’s foremost desert racing series, the SCORE Desert Series returned to Mexico for the last of its three annual races in Baja California. Entries came from 28 U.S. States, Washington, D.C., Mexico, Brazil, Canada, France, Guatemala, Israel, Japan and Uruguay.

In the manufacturer’s battle of ‘beat the Baja’ research and development, Chevy won its sixth overall 4-wheel crown, Honda earned it’s 14th overall motorcycle win and BFG Tires captured its 18th consecutive overall 4-wheel vehicle triumph.

Fortin and Townsley also were the overall 4-wheel vehicle winners in this race in 2001, making them the only non-SCORE Trophy-Trucks to win this crown in the 10-year history of this legendary race.

"Our car ran great, we didn’t make any serious mistakes and our BFG tires were once again tougher than Baja, we had absolutely no flats on the toughest SCORE Baja 1000 course ever," said an elated Fortin as he greet Townsley at the finish line.

Second overall among 4-wheel vehicles and winners of the marquee SCORE Trophy-Truck class was the Chevy Silverado of Mark Miller, Carefree, Ariz.,/Ryan Arciero, Foothill Ranch, Calif. With Miller starting the race and Arciero finishing, the pair held off a record field of 24 in their class, finishing in 16:28:45, four minutes and 43 seconds behind Fortin/Townsley. Miller/Arciero also won the Tecate SCORE Baja 500 in June.

Second in SCORE Trophy-Truck and third overall were Las Vegas brothers Tim and Ed Herbst, in a time of 17:17:04 in their Terrible Herbst Motorsports Ford F-150. The Herbst brothers, who have won a record 11 times in this class, were second last year as well in this race. With their finish, the talented brothers clinched their record fourth SCORE Trophy-Truck season point championship.

Fourth overall and second in Class 1 was the father/son team of Scott and Andy McMillin, Poway, Calif., at 17:23:28 in a Jimco-Chevy. Finishing fifth overall and in third in SCORE Trophy-Truck was the team of Gus Vildosola, Mexicali, Mexico/Rob MacCachren, Las Vegas, in the Vildosola Racing Ford F-150 with a time of 17:46:38.

Finishing sixth overall and third in Class 1 was the team of brothers Dale and Darren Ebberts, Canyon Lake, Calif./Ernie Castro Jr., Newport Beach, Calif., in 18:00:05 in a Jimco-Toyota. The finish, combined with the DNFs of Mark and Gary Weyhrich, Troutdale, Ore., and Troy Herbst, Las Vegas/Larry Roeseler, Hesperia, Calif., earned Ebberts his first SCORE Overall point championship and his second in Class 1. The title snapped Herbst’s six-year class winning streak. Herbst went out of the race with severe front-end damage in his Smithbuilt-Ford.

Ron Brant, Torrance, Calif./Richard Boyle, Ridgecrest, Calif., were seventh overall and fourth in Class 1 with a time of 18:03:30 in another Jimco-Chevy. Eighth overall and fourth in SCORE Trophy-Truck was the team of Dan Smith/David Ashley, Riverside, Calif., at 18:25:50 in a Ford F-150. Smith and Ashley had won this race overall the last three years.

In just his second race in SCORE Trophy-Truck, Las Vegas’ B.J. Baldwin teamed with fellow Las Vegas Larry Job to finish an impressive ninth overall and fifth in their class at 18:31:48 in a Ford F-150.

Rounding out the top 10 overall four-wheel vehicle finishers while winning Class 10 in a Henry Chassis-Honda was Orange, California’s youthful duo of Kory Halopoff, 20, and third-generation desert racer Harley Letner, 19, in 18:41:02. The pair also won Class 10 in this year’s Tecate SCORE Baja 500 in June.

Second overall in the motorcycle race and second in Class 22 was the team of Chris Blais, Stanton, Calif./Chuck Dempsey, Van Nuys, Calif./Andy Grider, Los Olivos, Calif., with a time of 16:32:44 on a Honda XR650.

A surpising third overall motorcycle was the Class 40 (for riders over 40 years old) winning team of Chris Haines, Dana Point, Calif./Craig Adams, San Clemente, Calif./Paul Ostbo, Cle Elum, Wash./Jack Johnson, Las Vegas/Rich Binckley, Woddinville, Wash., at 17:37:30 on a Honda XR650R. For Haines, it was his 10th career class win in this race while Johnson earned his ninth in the storied race.

The fourth overall motorcycle was the Class 30 (for riders over 30 years old) winning team of Sergio Vega, Ensenada, Mexico/Gerardo Rojas, Vicente Guerrero, Mexico, at 17:43:18 on a Honda XR650R. The team was the highest finishing Mexican team out of the 54 entered in the race.

Second in Class 40 and the fifth overall motorcycle finishers were the team of Jim O’Neal, Chatsworth, Calif./Tim Withers, Pepeekeo, Hawaii/Jeff Kaplan, Thousand Oaks, Calif., just three seconds behind the Vega team at 17:43:21 on a Honda XR650R.

Picking up their fourth straight class wins in the race on Honda XR650R motorcycles were Richard Jackson and Jim O’Neal. Jackson, 56 of Acton, Calif., won Class 50 for riders over 50 years old, tying Roeseler for the most class wins on a motorcycle with 11.

The Factory Honda ATV team of John Gregory, Chula Vista, Calif./Doug Eichner, El Cajon, Calif./Tim Farr, Canton, Ohio/Marc Spaeth, Ramona, Calif., won Class 25 and were the fastest overall ATV team in a time of 18:27:24 on a new Honda TRX450R. It was the team’s second win in three races this season and this race marked the racing debut of the Honda TRX450R.

Completing a storybook racing season, high school student Brian Ickler, 18, of Poway, Calif., earned a season-high fifth SCORE Lite victory, teaming with Gus Vildosola Jr., Mexicali, Mexico, in a time of 19:18:17 in a Jimco-VW.

Dave Sykes, Del Mar, Calif., won for the fourth time this year in Class 8, teaming with Dave Westhem to finish in 22:45:05 in their Chevy Silverado. The other four-time winner this season was in Class 3, where brothers Donald Moss, Sacramento, Calif., and Kenneth Moss, Marysville, Calif., claimed the victory in 23:18:04 in a Ford Bronco.

Class 7 was won for the third time this season by Craig Turner, Yorba Linda, Calif., at 26:44:15 in a Ford Ranger.

Winning for the third time this season in Class 7S was the team of Bob Graham, Yorba Linda, Calif./Mike Horner, Mission Viejo, Calif., with a time of 27:39:58 in a Toyota Tacoma.

Mexico’s Marco Nunez won for the third time this season in Class 5/1600, teaming with Norberto Rivero, also of Ensenada, finishing in 22:25:45 in their 1600cc VW Baja Bug.

Also picking up his third win of the season in Class 9 was Eric Fisher, Ensenada, Mexico, at 24:27:22 in a Garibay-VW.

In Class 5 for unlimited VW Baja Bugs, the team of Joe Heger/Shawn McCallum of Imperial, Calif., won for the third time this year with a time of 21:00:46.

Earl Thigpen, Murrieta, Calif., picked up his third straight win to go undefeated this season in ATV Class 24, teaming with Brian Pinard, Wildomar, Calif., in 22:39:30 on a Honda TRX250R.

The Protruck class was won for the first time this year by Matt Scaroni in 19:08:48 in a Ford F-150. He split the driving with his father Steve Scaroni and Supercross racing legend Ricky Johnson.

Richard Jackson, 57 of Acton, Calif., won Class 50 (motorcycle riders over 50) for the fifth time in this race and second time this season. Riding a Honda XR650R, Jackson split the riding time with Bob Wadlow, Arcadia, Calif., Mark Force and Guy Wilson, Bakersfield, Calif., along with John Rogers, Palm Desert, Calif., in 20:27:04

Capturing the win in Class 1-2/1600, which had a race-high 27 starters, was ESPN sportscaster Cameron Steele, San Clemente, Calif., at 21:00:10 in a Prep By Jake-VW.

The special Centrix Financial Baja Challenge class was won for the second straight year by Bob Sutton, Englewood, Colo., at 23:37:10 in one of 11 identically prepared Porsche-powered Baja touring cars. Sharing driving duties this year were Rod Millen, Huntington Beach, Calif., Stefan Johansson, Indianapolis, Jeff Zwart, Woody Creek, Colo., and Andrew Thomason, Huntington Beach, Calif.

Winning Class 21 for the second time in three races this year was Joe Desrosiers, San Marcos, Calif., who teamed with Julian Guerra, Goleta, Calif., and Mark Daniels, Oxnard, Calif., at 19:25:22 on a Yamaha YZ250.

Daniel Fresh, San Juan Capistrano, Calif., teamed with Vince DiMaio, San Clemente, Calif., to capture Class 7SX at 29:06:56 in a Jeep Comanche. Chad Hall and his brother Josh, Reno, Nev., in a Stock Full, AM General Hummer H1.

Las Vegas’ Bekki Freeman, a three-time Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 class champion, finished seventh out of eight finishers in the special Centrix Financial Baja Challenge class with an all-female team.

Also being decided at the race were the winners of the $12,000 Toyota True Grit and Milestone Awards. The purse will be split among four non-factory class point champs who completed every required mile of the season to join the Toyota Milestone Award winners.

The race was also being filmed for a new sports documentary film, ‘Dust to Glory,’ with a crew of over 80 by critically acclaimed director Dana Brown. It was shot with Brown’s father Bruce Brown as the creative consultant. Bruce Brown is responsible for such notable specialty films as ‘On Any Sunday’, and ‘Endless Summer’. This year, Dana Brown released the popular ‘Step Into Liquid’ surfing documentary. ‘Dust to Glory’ is scheduled for release internationally next June.

The essence of this year’s Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 was summed up best by Mouse McCoy, 34 of Santa Monica, Calif., who rode solo on a HondaXR650R. An accomplished stuntman in Hollywood and one of the ‘Dust to Glory’ producers, McCoy, who wore a helmet camera to provide footage for the film, finished second in his class in 18:02:40.

"Baja is really an amazing place," said McCoy as he exhaustedly spoke to over 100 reporters and photographers gathered at the finish line. "The SCORE Baja 1000 is not about winning or losing, it’s about being down here doing it with your friends. I experienced this race with my best friends in the world taking care of me and nothing could be better than being here. It’s an experience I will have with me for the rest of my life. A lot went on out there inside my brain. It’s you, your bike and the desert. I was riding solo for 18 hours. The one thing that I will always be able to have is the fact that I know I never gave up. The SCORE Baja 1000 is a big, big deal, and I had it covered."

"I was coming in and my hands were numb; I couldn’t use my hands. They shut off so I couldn’t use them. I hit a rock and endoed big time. After I crashed, I was laying there in the desert waiting for someone to run over me. I crawled back up and kicked my bike over and knew nothing was going to keep me from getting to the finish line. I just knew I had to make it. I was really worn out but I kept pushing. Thanks for letting us race in the incredible country."

The extremely popular Grand Marshal for this year’s race was legendary motorsports figure Mario Andretti.

In addition to the sport’s biggest names, cross-over drivers and riders including NASCAR’s Gordon and Brendan Gaughan, CART’s Jimmy Vasser and Michel Jordain Jr., Supercross and motocross legend Ricky Johnson, SCCA’s Jeff Zwart, Rally racer Rod Millen along with former open wheel racers Mike and Robbie Groff, Roberto Guerrero, Stefan Johansson and Johnny Unser competed in this year’s version of the legendary granddaddy of all desert races. Also among the other entries for this year’s classic were TV star Jesse James (Monster Garage), snowboarding champion Tara Takides and TV sportscasters Paul Page and Cameron Steele.

SCORE official sponsors for 2003 are: BFGoodrich Tires-official tire, Southern California Ford Dealers-official vehicle, 76 Racing Fuel-official fuel and Rental Service Corporation-official equipment supplier. Associate sponsors are: Tecate Beer, Coca-Cola of Mexico, Instant Mexico Auto Insurance, Bilstein, Signpros, P.C.I. Race Radios, McKenzie’s, Off Road Innovations and Advanced Color Graphics.

Additional associate sponsors of this year’s Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 were: Cotuco, Fideicomiso Publico para la Promocion Turistica de Ensenada and Centrix Financial of Denver.

With the season complete, the SCORE Tribute Night on Dec. 13 at the Gold Coast Hotel in Las Vegas will honor SCORE’s 30th anniversary along with this year’s season point champions and the annual off-roadsman of the year awards will also be presented.

For more information, contact SCORE at its Los Angeles headquarters 818.225.8402 or visit the official website of the 2003 SCORE Desert Series at www.score-international.com.