The 44th annual Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 is a race like no other. It pits the unfailing determination of seasoned and amateur drivers against the unforgiving, rugged landscape of the Mexican wilderness. Drivers are forced to negotiate rocky lake beds, deep pools of silt, and town roads lined with adoring fans, all while trying to stave off the competitors nipping at their heels. Most drivers aren't there to win; they're there just to finish.

This year, the city of Ensenada played host for the start and finish of the race, which took place Nov. 17-19. Almost 300 drivers left the city streets, looped 700 miles through the Mexican terrain, and then returned to where they started. Friday morning, motorcycles and Trophy Trucks meandered through the calm city streets, breaking the early morning silence as they made their way to the start line. At 6:30 a.m., motorcycles and ATVs left the start line, getting a healthy head start before the cars and trucks were scheduled to leave four hours later.

In past years, drivers managed to navigate through streets that were still open to the local public, before reaching the open highway. But for the first time in the race's history, the Trophy Trucks were forced to restart when a local big-rig rolled and blocked the course just four miles after the start. The start was moved to race-mile five, and the Trophy Trucks officially began to leave the repositioned start line at 12:23, more than an hour after they were scheduled to begin.

Along with the 36 pro and seven sportsman classes for cars, trucks, motorcycles, and ATVs, the Trophy Trucks battled their way back within the 32-hour time limit. Only 155 entrants officially finished. Of the 123 left, some rolled through the finish line just for the accomplishment and bragging rights, while others were forced to admit defeat due to the countless problems brought on by this magnificent and ruthless race through the desert.

WINNING ORDER

PRO CARS AND TRUCKS
1. Andy McMillen (Ford F-150)
2. Nick Vanderwey (Chevy Silverado)
3. Bryce Menzies (Ford F-150)

MOTORCYCLES
1. Kendall Norman (Honda CRF450X)
2. Shane Esposito (Kawasaki KX450F)
3. Colton Udall (Honda CRF450X)




TOYOTA AT BAJA
Written By Allyson Harwood
Photos By: Ken Pamatat

Parent-company Toyota had two entries in this year's Baja 1000 event. The first was a race truck based on the Baja Series Tacoma T|X Pro, built by the guys at Long Beach Racers. As Ted Moncure, TRD Product Development manager and the Tacoma's driver, explained, "Taking a brand-new truck apart and modifying it with everything required to be a SCORE-legal race vehicle includes hundreds of little details, each of which is a multi-hour project. Plumbing the fuel cell, wiring the race radio and intercom system, installing the fresh-air system, making mounts for GPS tracking devices, hood pins, window nets, race seats, seatbelts, off road lights, fire extinguishers, jacks, tool bags, etc. all adds up." It takes time, but the finished product is the big payoff. Unfortunately, this truck didn't finish the race: A broken shock shaft and damaged CV boot delayed the team some, but the damaged differential would've taken too long to repair in the allotted race time, and the team had to throw in the towel.

The other vehicle, driven by Joe Bacal and Paul Williamsen, was a JT Grey Racing Lexus LX 570 (#860), entered in the Stock Fullsize class. Thirty seconds ahead of them was Rod Hall in a Hummer H1, and another half-minute ahead was Wes Bevly in a new Ford F-150. Williamsen explains, "Joe drove smooth, careful, and fast -- like a guy who knows every aspect of his Geiser-built stock truck, which he does, since this is the truck he's raced since going pro in June 2009. After being directed down a cliff and rolling five times while leading the Baja 500 in June 2011, Joe repaired the rollcage and replaced every exterior panel of the LX 570 except the left rear door skin." Most of the race went like clockwork for the Lexus, which finished in second place for Stock Fullsize after the F-150, with the H1 another 45 minutes behind.