ENSENADA, Baja California, Mexico—For those who have been around desert racing for…let’s say…the last 50 years or so, there is a short list of names that would come to mind when the Granddaddy of All Desert Races is brought up in conversation. For this year’s 51st SCORE Baja 1000, SCORE International has selected Mexico’s Nico Saad, the only person who has been behind the scenes at all 50 of the previous races, as the Grand Marshal for this year’s anniversary of the world’s most iconic desert race.
Honorably humble, unusually unassuming, famously friendly by nature while constantly and consistently working diligently behind the scenes by choice on behalf of SCORE Baja racing for nearly 45 years, Saad is the beloved owner of the San Nicolas Resort and extremely cherished and productive President of Proturismo de Ensenada.
Returning for the second time as the leader of the impactful local tourism group in his long and storied public service career and an integral part of the overall historical fabric of Ensenada, Saad is the individual who opened the door with the Baja California governor for SCORE. In 1973 Mickey Thompson started SCORE International Baja racing that has evolved into the World’s Foremost Desert Racing Organization for 44-plus years.
Now SCORE is celebrating its 45th season of producing desert racing in Baja California and Saad, 79, has been cleverly and artistically orchestrating from behind the scenes every single year along the dusty trail from 1967 to 2018. Saad has purposefully shied away from the spotlight, but he will always stand tall as one of a handful of pillars in the dynamic history of SCORE Baja racing.
Over 300 entries, from 35 U.S. States and 20 countries are expected to compete in this year’s 51st anniversary celebration of the SCORE Baja 1000 which is revered worldwide as the Granddaddy of all Desert Races.
The world’s most iconic, oldest, prestigious and longest continuously held desert race, this year’s SCORE Baja 1000 will be a loop race of 806.76 miles in the northern state of Mexico’s majestic Baja California peninsula. It will start for the 44th time and finish for the 25th time in Ensenada. The race is annually the finale of the four-race SCORE World Desert Championship, which has been held exclusively for the past three years in Baja California. The start/finish line compound will once again be adjacent to the historic Riviera del Pacifico Cultural Center.
With a total time limit of 36 hours in the elapsed-time race, the motorcycle and quad classes will start at 4 a.m. (PT) on Friday, Nov. 16 and the car, truck and UTV classes will follow with their start on at 10:30 a.m. (PT) on Friday, Nov. 16. The fastest finishers are expected to complete the race in approximately 16 hours.
“One of the first persons who reached out to us when my wife Elise and I bought SCORE from Sal (Fish) at the end of 2012 was Nico Saad,” remembers SCORE CEO and President Roger Norman. “Never wanting to impose, Nico has remained strongly in our corner for all of these six seasons since we purchased SCORE. He is one of those unsung heroes who continues to work so diligently and courageously behind the scenes to keep our sport and SCORE in the forefront of the business community and political leaders of Baja California.”
“We are very grateful to Nico and thankful for all of the many, many contributions he has made on behalf of SCORE, our racers, our sponsors and our fans. How Nico has changed with the times to keep SCORE and our sport relevant is extremely admirable.”
“It is a unique and special privilege for SCORE to honor him as our Grand Marshal of the 51st SCORE Baja 1000. He has the ‘title’ this year, but to us, Nico’s contributions every year have helped to keep SCORE’s position as the World’s Foremost Desert Racing Organization. He has done so much and with such humility, he really has earned the right to be ‘Grand Marshal’ for every SCORE Baja race in Ensenada.”
EL GRAN JEFE – A HALL OF FAMER
If ever there has been an unsung hero behind the scenes of SCORE Baja racing it has been Nico Saad. A champion of all desert racing, Saad is a keen businessman who has helped SCORE dot all of the ‘I’s and cross all of the ‘T’s and pulled many necessary ‘strings’ for four and one-half decades to help ensure SCORE’s preeminent place in Baja California for all of these glorious years.
He has earned numerous honors in his exciting career as a public servant and tourism magnate, but among them all, Saad smiles excitedly when it is mentioned that he was inducted into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2008 as an Industry Pioneer.
A consummate negotiator and liaison with government officials, military leaders, police agencies, landowners and government agencies, another honor that brings a twinkle to his eye and smile to his face came in 2007 when he was honored by Sal Fish to be named as Grand Marshal of the 40th annual SCORE Baja 1000 along with legendary racers Rod Hall and Ron Bishop, the only racers who competed in all 40 SCORE Baja 1000 races to that date. (While Bishop retired after 2007, Hall capped his amazing career last November by racing in his race-record 50th SCORE Baja 1000).
In 1925 Saad’s parents immigrated to North America from Lebanon. As soon as they were processed through Ellis Island his parents moved West to California and then to the state of Baja California in Mexico. They settled in the City of Ensenada where Saad was born in 1939.
As a young man in the late 1950s and early 1960s Saad gained recognition as a world-class barefoot water skier and participated in numerous shows and exhibitions.
At the age of 24, Saad became involved in the growing tourism industry in Baja California. It was around that time that he broke ground on the construction of the San Nicolas Resort. The San Nicolas is celebrating its 50th year as well in 2018.
During construction of his hotel, that has since added the only Caliente Casino and Caliente Race and Sports Book in a hotel in Mexico, local businessmen appointed him to the position of the President of the Ensenada Tourism Chamber.
By October of 1969 the then Governor of Baja appointed Saad Director of State Tourism for Baja California. Nico left the post in 1971 to turn his attentions to his growing hotel however he has obviously remained very active in helping sustain and grow desert racing in Baja.
Continuing to work for five decades behind the scenes, Saad agreed to return to his post as president of Proturismo de Ensenada in 2017.
A supporter, friend and admirer of Saad since they first met in the early 1970s, former SCORE owner Sal Fish (part of SCORE from 1974-2012) was not at a loss for words, commenting, “Nico Saad is one of just a handful of men that you can truly say is part of that unique and exclusive league of extraordinary gentlemen. What he did for SCORE at the beginning to get it started and continued every year since cannot be measured any other way but to say honestly that SCORE’s history in Baja California would have been short-lived without his involvement.”
ON-LINE RACER REGISTRATION
Racer Registration continues at www.SCORE-International.com under Race Info on the SCORE Baja 1000 page. Any questions, contact SCORE Registration Director Audreonna Cuarez at 775. 852.8907.
NUMERO UNO, DOS TIEMPOS
In a special voting held in 2016 and 2017, the invincible SCORE Baja 1000 was selected as the No. 1 motorsports event in the world both years in a reader’s choice voting conducted by the USA Today newspaper, defeating such events as the Indy 500 and the Knoxville Nationals.
2018 REMAINING SCHEDULE
51st SCORE Baja 1000, Nov.12-18, Ensenada, Mexico
Here is the four-race 2019 SCORE World Desert Championship and for the fourth consecutive year all races are being held in Baja California, Mexico:
33rd SCORE San Felipe 250, April 3-7, San Felipe, Mexico
51st SCORE Baja 500, May 29-June 2, Ensenada, Mexico
SCORE races are airing domestically on the El Rey Network and outside of the U.S. on ESPN International as well as syndication. The SCORE Baja 1000 race coverage show will be a two-hour special.
El Rey Network is a 24-hour, English-language lifestyle network and is available in 45 million homes across the country through cable and OTT providers and via satellite on DirecTV Channel 341 and Dish Network Channel 253. For more information on how to watch El Rey visit http://elreynetwork.com.
Official SCORE Sponsors: BFGoodrich Tires-Official Tire and official race title sponsor, Monster Energy-Official Energy Drink, King Shocks-Official Shock Absorber, Polaris RZR-Official UTV, RACELINE Wheels-Official Wheel, VP Racing Fuels-Official Fuel, Lucerna Hotels & Resorts-Official Hotel and official race title sponsor, 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.
Additional SCORE Associate Partners: Proturismo Ensenada, Baja California Secretary of Tourism, Mexicali Ayuntamiento, COTUCO Mexicali/San Felipe, Cruz Roja Mexicana, Corporate Helicopters, McKenzie’s Performance Products, Advanced Color Graphics.
Lucerna Hotels & Resorts 22nd Tijuana SCORE Desert Challenge Special Partners: XXII Ayuntamiento de Tijuana, Baja California State Secretary of Tourism, Comite de Turismo and Convenciones, Comite de Marcadotecnia Turistica, Lucerna Hotels and Resorts, Asociacion de Hoteles del Noroeste.
For more information regarding SCORE, visit the official website of the SCORE World Desert Championship atwww.SCOREInternational.com.
51st Annual SCORE Baja 1000
Schedule of Events (as of 10/17/18)
MONDAY, Nov. 12–(All times PST)
Noon – 5 p.m. – SCORE Chassis Inspections-Playa Hermosa Beach 1.1 miles south of Riviera del Pacifico Cultural Center