RPM Off-Road took it all at SCORE Tijuana DeZert Challenge
Last year, SCORE tried something different in Rosarito doing a DeZert Challenge, a Grand Prix-like event where the racers had to fight in a short loop during a few heats, something we considered was lacking in the SCORE calendar (Like those crazy days in Laughlin NV) after the event we thought it had goods and bads but definitely it was in the good direction, Early this year the same event was announced but this time the location changed to Tijuana with just a couple of months prior the date.
The last time that SCORE started a race in Tijuana was in 1995. This year is the first time that a race start and ends in that city. It is known that Tijuana has a bad reputation due security but this weekend was proof enough to say that there’s not much to worry about. The event started on Thursday with the contingency, probably the smallest SCORE contingency we ever saw in the recent years, only one square long in one of the nicest areas in Tijuana locally known as ‘Zona Rio’. Small in space but it was packed with fans and people walking by trying to see what was going on and the best part was the contingency was held in between two monuments, One of Abraham Lincoln and the other one of Cuauhtémoc (The first one was donated by the US government as a sign of friendship and the other one is honoring the last Azteca Emperor) symbolizing the union between both countries in Off-Road.
The next morning on Friday the bikes and sporstman classes took the green flag for a 21 mile loop racetrack, a total of 130 entries separate by heats on a racetrack with lots of elevation changes, tight areas and almost no passing sections (but with more passing areas than the Rosarito racecourse according with SCORE) a real challenge specially for the big classes like the Trophy-Trucks. Shane Esposito was the Friday Overall Winner with a time of 3 hours 24 minutes averaging 40mi/hr.
On Saturday and Sunday was turn for the 4 wheel classes where the Pro UTV Turbo class had the biggest entry numbers with 13, taking the first turn along with all the other limited classes with exception of Class 10 and TT Spec who raced later in the day. At 8:00 am the green flag dropped and the dust started to fill the area.
“The most challenging part out there would have to be picking a pace. You can easily get fooled into making mistakes, knowing that this is a sprint-style race and that could cause you to lose a lot of time. Maybe I wasn’t the fastest driver out there today, maybe the smartest. Or, on top of that, maybe the luckiest. There was so much dust. You were constantly behind someone. You would encroach on them, ready for a pass and, then, you would hit a silty section and you would literally have to stop, probably coming to a full stop maybe 10 times each lap. The course is really technical, really fun. The second half is just like Rally Road so we were just having a blast on that…” said Rhys Millen after finishing 3rd on Friday and 2nd after the Sunday race.
Mark Burnett gave Can-Am their first win announcing at the end of the race that he will Ironman the upcoming Baja 1000 in November “… It’ll be the last time I ironman a race. I’m looking forward to it and I would love to get a win in ironman because it would be a big story out there. It would be quite a way to go out.” said Burnett.
As mentioned above the racetrack had really tight areas where any mistake will be costly, like 2946 of Jose Juarez who in front of our cameras miss a turn falling more than 60 feet barrel rolling into a ditch, luckily the driver and co-driver were fine and even the UTV was running and moving after the crash, however they did not continue the race.
In the next group leaded by the Class 1, Shelby Reid took the 1st place both days of racing having a gap of 8 minutes between her and Brian Wilson who took the 2nd place on board of his Class 12 (leaving his Class 1 unharmed for the Baja 1000) and last on the Podium Al Torres took the 3rd place. Only this 3 teams managed to finish both days of racing.
Trophy-Trucks and Trophy-Truck Specs were the last class to race in both days. RPM Off-Road took it all. Justin Matney’s truck driven by Josh Daniels took the Overall win, Apdali Lopez took 2nd and Lalo Laguna driving instead of Armin Schwarz took 3rd and, if that’s not enough, in the Trophy-Truck Legends Class Jeff Geiser took the Class win finishing both days of racing (only 1 truck in class), Clyde Stacy must be really proud of his army of talented teammates. Finally in Trophy-Truck Spec, Elias Hanna after winning the Rosarito race last year he comes back and takes the win and the pole position for the Baja 1000 in his Class.