TIJUANA, Baja California, Mexico — Helping launch the unique, three-day, split session race, a team led by Shane Esposito rode fast and hard Friday to capture the overall motorcycle victory on the opening day of the internationally-televised Tijuana 21st SCORE Desert Challenge. The event is Round 3 of the four-race SCORE World Desert Championship.
Having held over 150 races in Mexico in the last 40-plus years, this is the first time that SCORE has held a race that has both started and finished in Tijuana.
With entries from 15 U.S. States and 14 countries, the race features classes for cars, trucks, UTVs, motorcycles and quads. Motocycles, quads and a few car/truck classes raced on Friday in two sessions and the balance of the car, truck and UTV classes will race on Saturday and Sunday.
Riding for Chris Haines’ Adventure Tours, Esposito and Justin Morgan split the time to pull off the overall and Pro Moto Unlimited Class victory on the No. 45x Honda CRF450X in a total winning time of 3 hours, 24 minutes, 48 seconds.
With Esposito riding the first of three laps in each session and Morgan running the second and third laps over the 23-mile desert loop, the team averaged 40.43 miles per hour for six laps in the 138-mile race. Both racers are regular riders for the team and Esposito was substitute rider of record for Guatemala’s Francisco Arredondo, the team’s primary rider of record.
The team has now won two straight defeating the 1x team of Mark Samuels both in Tijuana and in June’s SCORE Baja 500 in Ensenada.
With the course running in a counter-clockwise direction, the other car and truck classes, including the marquee SCORE Trophy Truck, SCORE TT Legend the unlimited Class 1 and Trophy Truck Spec divisions will run the first half of their race in one of three groups on Saturday and final half on Sunday. Racing for those classes will start each day at 8 a.m. and finish at 4:25 p.m. (PT).
The featured SCORE Trophy Truck, SCORE TT Legend and Trophy Truck Spec divisions will start on both Saturday and Sunday at 2:25 p.m. (PT).
The unique-format race is being held at a spectator-friendly start/finish line and ‘hot pit’ area located on the southeast outskirts of Tijuana to the east of the popular Rancho Casian area off of Boulevard 2000 (Highway No. 201). The actual start/finish line area and hot pits is located 2.3 miles inland off of the highway. The official race course of 23 miles is seeing all classes cover a total of six laps for 138 total miles split into two sessions.
At the finish line, Morgan commented, “Shane Esposito (rider of record) rode the first lap of each session and I finished it off, riding the last two laps of each session to win our second SCORE race in a row. We rode pretty smooth in this race. The first heat was a little sketchy. We are preparing for November’s 50th SCORE Baja 1000 so Chris Haines (team owner) entered four motorcycles here so all of us riders would get plenty of seat time before the race everyone has been waiting for a long time. We’re planning on entering two teams in the 100 so this was good prep work for all of us.”
MORE CLASS WINNERS
Among the racers who won their respective motorcycle classes were: Ryan Liebelt, Reedley, Calif. (Pro Moto 30, Yamaha WR450), Francisco Septien, Ensenada, Mexico (Pro Moto 40, KTM 450EXC), Jose Armando Carassco, Rosarito Beach, Mexico (Pro Moto Ironman, Suzuki RMZ450X), Mark Hawley, Anaheim, Calif. (Pro Moto 60, Honda CRF450X) and Said Sanchez, Tijuana, Mexico (Honda TRX450R.
Winners among the car and truck classes that raced on Friday were: Ernie Negrete, San Diego (Class 5-1600, VW Baja Bug) and Armando Salazar, Ensenada, Mexico (Class 11, VW Sedan).
ART SAVEDRA MEMORIAL SHOOTOUT
During the Friday racing action, two of SCORE’s historical VW Baja Bug racing classes (Class 5-1600 and Class 11) held the Art Savedra Memorial Shootout in memory of SCORE’s Tech Director who passed away recently. These classes will run both halves of their race on that day with a time-out between their sessions.
There will be a special trophy and bonus purse for this special part of the race.
Unique for SCORE, the 21st the SCORE Desert Challenge is using a race format that has all classes racing in five different groups for a total of six laps over a surprisingly rugged 23-mile race course (138 total miles) split into two, three-lap sessions.
WHERE THEY’RE FROM
With 131 official entries, there are entries from 15 U.S. States and 14 countries. Nations are USA, host nation Mexico along with Austria, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Guatemala, Italy, New Zealand, Spain and Switzerland. States with entries so far are Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.
Running predominately on land owned by prominent developer Grupo Musquis, SCORE Race Director Jose Grijalva confirms that this year’s course is extremely beautiful and picturesque with more places to pass than last year’s course. He further stated that around four miles was actually part of last year’s course that started and finished just south of Rosarito Beach. The course runs in a counterclockwise direction with two checkpoints. Checkpoint 1 is at race mile 12.05 and Checkpoint 2 will be at race mile 17.8.
Most of the terrain for this race course is on mountains, hills, valleys and local trails. In addition to Grupo Musquis land, the course also runs through areas like La Nopalera, Los Pancho’s and Ejido Mesa Redonda.
With less than two months remaining before the historic 50th anniversary race of the iconic BFGoodrich Tires SCORE Baja 1000, the City of Tijuana and the Tijuana tourism groups has given SCORE a multi-year contract that moved this race from nearby Rosarito Beach where it was held last year.
While this is the first time in Tijuana, the SCORE Desert Challenge has been held 20 previous times since it first began in 1995. It was held in Laughlin, Nev., USA, from 1995 through 2012, in Plaster City, Calif., USA, in 2014 and in Rosarito Beach, Baja California, Mexico in 2016.
In 1967, the first SCORE Baja 1000 (then called the Mexican 1000) started at the bull ring in Tijuana and the 1995 SCORE Baja 1000 started in the wash near the Hotel Lucerna in Tijuana but no SCORE race has ever finished in Tijuana before this year.
In addition to the two starts in Tijuana, SCORE Baja races have been held numerous times in Ensenada and San Felipe, several times in La Paz, a few times in Mexicali, Santo Tomas, Ojos Negros and Cabo San Lucas, and once each in Loreto and Rosarito Beach.
The race is being filmed to air on a later date on the El Rey Network as a one-hour special.
Official SCORE Sponsors: BFGoodrich Tires-Official Tire, Title Sponsor of this year’s SCORE Baja 1000 and a top sponsor of the 50th SCORE Baja 500 in 2018, Monster Energy-Official Energy Drink, King Shocks-Official Shock Absorber, RACELINE Wheels-Official Wheel, Axial R/C-Official R/C Vehicle, El Rey Network-Official Television Partner, Wide Open Excursions-Official Arrive and Drive Company, Crystal Bay Casino-Official Casino.
SCORE Official Partners: PCI Race Radios, 4 Wheel Parts, The Satellite Phone Store, Satellite Del Norte, Instant Mexico Auto Insurance, CETTO Vineyards.
Additional SCORE Associate Partners: Proturismo Ensenada, Baja California Secretary of Tourism, Baja California Sur State Government, Baja California Sur Secretary of Tourism, Mexicali Ayuntamiento, COTUCO Mexicali/San Felipe, Cruz Roja Mexicana, Corporate Helicopters, McKenzie’s Performance Products, Advanced Color Graphics.
Tijuana SCORE Desert Challenge Special Partners: XXII Ayuntamiento de Tijuana, Baja California Secretary of Tourism, Tijuana Comite de Turismo and Convenciones, Comite de Marcadotecnia Turistica, Asociacion de Hoteles del Noroeste.
For more information regarding SCORE, visit the official website of the SCORE World Desert Championship atwww.SCOREInternational.com.
Tijuana 21st SCORE Desert Challenge
Sept. 22-24 – Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico
Round 3 of four-race 2017 SCORE World Desert Championship
(138 miles, six total laps of 23-mile course, split into two sessions)
TOTAL ENTRIES: 131 (as of 9/22/17)
TOTAL DAY 1 STARTERS:55; TOTAL DAY 1 FINISHERS: 36
(from 15 U.S. States, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany,
Great Britain, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland)
NOTE–FRIDAY’S PORTION OF THE RACE INCLUDED ALL PRO AND SPORTSMAN MOTO AND QUAD CLASSES ALONG WITH SEVERAL CAR/TRUCK CLASSES RUNNING THEIR RACE IN SPLIT SESSIONS. REMAINING CAR/TRUCK AND UTV CLASS WILL RACE FIRST HALF OF THEIR RACE ON SATURDAY, FINAL HALF ON SUNDAY.
JUSTIN MORGAN, No. 45x (first in class. Quotes following the second session. Substitute rider for Francisco Arredondo) — Shane Esposito (rider of record) rode the first lap of each session and I finished it off, riding the last two laps of each session to win our second SCORE race in a row. We rode pretty smooth in this race. The first race was a little sketchy. Hopefully, Nic Garvin is OK. I know he went down in the first race and got hurt.
BRANDON PRIETO No. 66x (Fourth in class, Santiago Creel, ROR) (Quotes following the first session) — (Brandon, the rider who just finished) — It went pretty good. I was fortunate to have a good start. I was able to get my bike in front so I had a clear track the whole way. That helps a lot because the track is pretty dusty. It went pretty good, I had no issues. Everything went perfectly. I caught a clean race. It was pretty rocky out there along the whole track. You just need to be careful along such a rocky course and you just need be careful and not over-ride yourself. I’m just happy to be in one piece. (He rode the full 3 laps.) BRANDON PRIETO (quotes after the second session) — It went very good out there. I didn’t have any issues, any crashes. That was the main goal. I just rode smooth and had fun out there. I enjoyed the course a lot. It’s pretty tough out there, but it was fun for sure.
GRANT STATLEY, No. 44x (Third in class, Rider of Record Justin Morgan) (Quotes after second session) — This morning I was out of it. About mile 9, Nic Garvin crashed in front of me. He was hurt pretty bad so I stayed with him for 20, 30 minutes. My race was pretty much over so I ended up cruising the rest of the way in the first race. I hadn’t pre-run the race course at all. I found out Tuesday that I was going to race. I got in a sight lap. I was last off the line anyway. It would have been tough anyway. I got to start first in the second session and got clean air. It was great. But then I got a lot of dust in my face from Justin Morgan at one point of the race.
MARK SAMUELS, No. 1x (Second in class, Quotes following the first session) — It was super dusty in the morning when we first went out and with the sun just crossing over the hills it was really tough to see. But, me and Brandon Prieto on the 66x we kind of got through the pack and me and him kind of had a fun race at the end. It was tough going through lappers, we probably had five lappers on the last lap. It was a cat and mouse game. It’s really tough to pass out there. It’s pretty dangerous. I had a couple of close calls (where I almost put the bike down). I tried to stay consistent the whole time.
RAY DEL SOGLIO, No. 3x — (DNF, Quotes following the first session) — It went pretty bad out there. Nic Garvin, my teammate, started and he was going to do this whole race solo. I was just going to be the backup rider for this one. He had a really bad crash at about race mile 12, right before checkpoint one. Our focus then was really just to get him safe so I rode out there and I assisted him until we got him safe, which meant the race was pretty much over for us by the time I got back on the race bike. Our priority is, obviously, our teammates and their safety so that’s what our focus was all about. The next race (second session) won’t really matter, we’re pretty much out of this race now so I just wanted to go out and ride and have a little fun and do it for Nic. I just need to make sure he’s OK.
ERNIE NEGRETE, No. 567 (First in class, Quotes following the second session) — After the first heat we had a little problem with one of the rims, it was a little bit bent. We hit it with a hammer and my dad told me to change it but I told him it was good. And guess what, we had to change it. So we lost about six minutes. We had about a seven-minute lead on the first lap. We’re going to be in the top three. Everybody is very competitive in this Baja bug class. We’re very excited to be here on the podium. There was a lot of dust but we’re just happy to be here in our hometown — TJ.
FRANCISCO REYNOSO, No. 551 (Third in class, Quotes following the second session) — The race was excellent, we won both heats. We had no real problems. There was someone in front who was in my way. But the only thing that is really in my way is my age. I’m 44 years old. There was a lot of dust so it was hard to see. The car was amazing and that’s why we won.
(Quotes following the first session.) We came last week to test drive the car and they knew the car very, very well, the engine and the course. Basically, we did our homework. That’s why we did so well. From here (the start) to mile nine — that’s the hardest part. There were no surprises. The course is very technical. You need to make sure you know where you’re going. You have to keep your eyes open and in front.
TOMAS FERNANDEZ, No. 555 — (Second in class) Happy with the way things turned out in this session. We punctured a tire on the second turn of the first lap. We were a lot of minutes ahead. We had to put a front tire on the rear and we lost about 5 or 6 minutes. We had a very clean run besides that and we were running very fast. We started fast so we didn’t get that much dust. No dust at all until our third lap. A lot of painful areas and fast areas on the last third of the course. The most difficult for us was the first third. From mile 5 to mile 12 it’s very rocky, a lot of ditches on the sides of the road. Besides that, there were not a lot of surprises. We did a lot of pre-run and we recorded a video, which we were able to watch at home.
ARMANDO SALAZAR, No. 1121 (First in class, ROR Dennis Hollenbeck) (Quotes following the second session) — On race mile 13 we had a lot of problems with the fuel pump. The motor dies when we’re going uphill. Then, it started again when we were going downhill. But, we were very close to the finish line, about race mile 17. Then the motor died again. And, then we knew we needed gas so we came up to a fan who said they had three gallons. The put it in our tank and we went on to finish. The course seemed very different between this morning and this afternoon. The course was in bad shape this afternoon. Eric (Solorzano, 1111) started behind me. He was very close but he never passed me. It was very exciting. They told me I was only five minutes ahead and with the problems with the fuel pump and the fuel, it was very exciting to finish ahead.
RAMON BIO, No. 1118 (DNF, Quotes following the first session) — We started off at a slow pace, trying to keep a constant pace, no mistakes. After the first lap, I stopped at my pit and they told me I was 3 minutes down on time so we stepped up the pace, got a little more aggressive. We passed the first place Class 11 vehicle at race mile 10 and we just kept up that fast pace, keeping it aggressive. At the first crossing, race mile 5 or 6 on the last lap, the clutch cable gave out. About two-thirds of the last lap we had no clutch.
PRO MOTO LIMITED
LARRY SERNA, No. 160X (First in class, ROR Santiago Creel (Quotes following the second session) — Santiago helped us in the beginning and then Maximo Mangino and I took over. It was a pretty clean race for all three of us. We had no problems. We felt good on the bike, the suspension was good. My team, the pits, everyone was just on point today. It was a good day for us. The course did change a bit due to the cars, which rode between our sessions. But they, actually, cleaned the course up fairly well, some of the ruts were cleaner but there were rocks everywhere. It was a tough course but it was fun, though. This would be a really special win. We’ve been racing the whole year. We had problems in the 250, the engine blew up and we had to walk in to the finish. The 500, we also had engine problems. We finished last but we did finish. So, we’re here trying to do our best. Hopefully, we got the win. We deserve it.
PRO MOTO 30
ANDREW PUCKETT, 300X (First in class, ROR Ryan Liebelt) (Quotes after second session) — I rode three laps today — one lap in the first session and the last two laps in this session. Today we had Justin Schultz start, Ryan Liebelt road about 10 feet as rider of record, taking it easy this week. The key today was riding smart. I was bummed to hear that Nic Garvin went down. Being down here for the first time it’s the nerves. I just tried to say calm, stay focused, think about what was in front of me, ride my own race. There wasn’t a lot of pressure on trying to win. We felt like we were going to finish well and we just needed to keep the bike rolling. I did have a little spill in the rocky section, skipped across those for a minute. It was pretty technical, a lot more rocks than I would have expected. It was really not bad. The bike is what I think really helped me. Last week I pre-rode on an F and this is an FX. I know that I rode faster on it. I really liked this bike. I saw all that dust this morning and I was glad I wasn’t in it. On the second loop, I asked the first rider to give me a good start and I really had a clear track. The dust wasn’t really that bad this afternoon after we settled in. If we win this one, it’s on to the next one and next year is looking even better. This will be my first 1000 and I’m excited about that one. This was to get me going, get a passport going and give me some experience on how everything goes down here.
PRO MOTO 50
RICK EMERSON, No 500x (First in class, Marty Gomez ROR) (Quotes following the second session) — The race was pretty sketchy, real fast, rocky, lots of moving rocks so you had to be on your game, tough in the corners to roll it fast, but pulled through it and got used to the speed. Didn’t get any get-offs. Had two stalls which were tricky. I had to find neutral, get this thing popping and get it going again. But, it only held me back probably only 20 seconds. I have never raced a Baja race. I’m an Enduro guy. I had just gotten back from France to the ISDE Team in the 40-plus so a little bit older than that now.
DOUG SMITH, No. 549x (Second in class, Quotes after second session) — Eric McKenna rode most of the race. I just helped him out a little bit. He did a great job but the first race this morning he fell down twice, got a hole in his arm. He had to go stitch it up. You could tell, there was blood all over the hand guard so it wasn’t good. But, he manned it out and finished the race and I think we got first place after this session. We had to be careful of the dust. It’s real dangerous if you go off the course. There’s a lot of ruts, lot of rocks so you just have to maintain and don’t go ride over your head, and then you can make it. Then, it’s a lot safer for everyone. We felt good on this one. I think we’re going in a solid second in the point standings so I ‘m real happy with this one going into the 1000.
PRO MOTO 60
MARK HAWLEY, No. 600x (First in class, quotes following the second session) — The other riders on my team did fabulous. Andy (Kirker) put time the other riders, everyone one of our guys put time on the other riders. Andy Kirker and Rod Hendrickson did a fabulous job. I’m very proud to have them on the team. Andy said he got a little squirrely in spots because of the heavy dust from the quads. It was really hard to see this morning. but he pulled it off. We’re good, we’re really happy where we finished. ROD HENDRICKSON, No. 600x (Quotes following the second session) — It was a great race, Mike here built us a great bike. Today’s my 60th birthday so I made the 60’s team by the day. I think I speak for the team when I say we ain’t as good as we once was but we’re as good once as we ever was. We’ll see you at the Baja 1000. We’re going to win that one too.
PRO MOTO IRONMAN
JOSE CARRASCO, No. 721x (First in class, Quotes following the second session) — I’m really happy. SCORE put on a great race this time, especially here in my hometown. We’re so happy (this could be his third straight win) to keep the points lead going into the Baja 1000. It gives us a lot of confidence going into the 50th Anniversary so we’re happy for that. It was a great race but I can’t say it was flawless because we had a couple of bobbles out there. It was something that we definitely didn’t want to do because we knew we had to save it and finish strong. At the end of the day, the race got the better of me. It was a rocky course, very dusty. This second heat was a lot better than the first one due to the weather conditions, it was a little more windy and that definitely helped out to have a clear track and clear vision. At that point it was just trying to hit all the right lines and just making it to the finish. The last three miles are really rocky and the course is very technical. In the blink of an eye you can be on the ground if you’re not paying attention or if your arms are too stiff. You just have to be very, very careful. The guy who commits less mistakes is going to be out front. We’re happy we’re in one piece and we’re looking forward, training hard for the Baja 1000.
PRO MOTO 40
FRANCISCO SEPTIEN, 400x — (First in class, quotes following the second session; ROR Jano Montoya) — It was really, really tough out there. A lot of rocks, very technical. We just tried to keep it on two wheels and that’s we did to take it home. And, we’re here at the finish. Both heats I rode solo. The rider of record, Jano, couldn’t pre-run so I did it all by myself. No problem. The last lap I fell, slipped on some rocks but other than that everything went OK.
ADOLFO ARELLANO, No.13a (First in class, ROR Said Sanchez) — (Quotes following the second session) — We had an electrical problem in the second heat on the first lap. It took me a lot of time to fix it. I dropped all the way back and I had to pass them again. Other than that, no problems. SANCHEZ — It went very well for us other than the electrical problem.