Photo: Tony DiZinno

BFGoodrich SCORE Baja 1000 turns 50, as MacCachren goes for 4 in a row

1 Comment

The mecca of North American desert off-road racing hits its golden anniversary this week, with more than 400 entries from 44 U.S. States & the District of Columbia, two U.S. Territories and 27 countries set to hit Baja California, Mexico for the 50th BFGoodrich Tires SCORE Baja 1000.

Baja isn’t just a race for most of its competitors but a proper authentic human experience, as the race traverses through the desert but fully engages with the fans who stand roadside as the Trophy Trucks, cars, quads, UTVs, motorcyles and other offbeat vehicles all make their way.

For most of the field that runs on BFGoodrich Tires, which is also the race’s title sponsor, it’s akin to a spiritual awakening, being one with the machine in the open desert where there almost no rules, nearly anything goes, and the test of endurance is met with the fact that you’re almost entirely on your own.

More than 100 teams that run on BFGoodrich Tires have registered to receive pit support from BFGoodrich, which entitles them to a bevy of free support including fueling, vehicle welding, tire changes, mechanical repair, bottled water and much more from a support crew of more than 200 people. BFGoodrich Tires will also award $50,000 contingency money to the overall winners of this year’s Baja 1000 running exclusively on their tires.

“This is a huge weekend for us as we’re excited to be with SCORE as its official tire, the entitlement partner for the 50th Baja 1000, and the 50th Baja 500 which is spring of 2018,” Chris Baker, motorsports director, BFGoodrich and Michelin North America, told NBC Sports.

“November this year at the Baja Peninsula is such a beautiful place, and for us, it’s such a key component of our brand heritage and our product development heritage.”

This year’s race is back to being a point-to-point race rather than a loop race, as the 2016 edition was. For this year’s course, it’s a 1,134.4-mile course with five physical checkpoints, 147 visual checkpoints and the finish line. There are 20 speed zones (either 37 or 60 mph) for a total of 162.87 miles. As per normal the race starts in Ensenada, and the race works its way south down the peninsula to La Paz. This is the race’s first time ending in La Paz since 2014.

It’s fitting that a historic event will have history-making potential on the line, as Las Vegas’ Rob MacCachren, 52, goes for his fourth straight overall victory at Baja, which would be a record.

Last year, MacCachren shared his No. 11 Rockstar Energy MacCachren Motorsports Ford F-150 SCORE Trophy Truck with Jason Voss en route to the win. The loop race was only 854.5 miles that started and ended in Ensenada, and the duo completed the distance in 17 hours, 12 minutes and 58 seconds, averaging 49.63 mph.

Using that as a reference, expect this year’s course that’s nearly 300 miles longer to take several more hours to complete. There is a 48-hour time limit for vehicles to complete the run but figure the win should be in the low-to-mid 20-hour mark.

MacCachren won in 2014 and 2015 co-driving with Andy McMillin of the powerhouse McMillin team and family, before McMillin branched off into a separate truck in 2016. This year, MacCachren will go for the quartet with Voss, of Cupertino, Calif. and Justin Smith, also of Las Vegas.

MacCachren qualified second for the event, after qualifications were held in late October at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Off-Road Track. Pole man is Robby Gordon, who has extensive off-road experience and has three overall wins in the legendary Baja classic. He’ll be in the No. 77 Team Gordon Chevy Silverado, and will co-drive with Damen Jefferies.

The McMillin family out of National City, Calif. is spread nicely over four Trophy Trucks strong this year, with family patriarch Mark McMillin back behind the wheel himself. Mark McMillin is a five-time Baja winner, and will co-drive with his brother Scott McMillin (2 overall wins) and niece Jessica McMillin (Scott’s daughter) in the No. 43 SCORE Trophy Truck. Elsewhere Andy McMillin (No. 31), Luke McMillin (No. 83) and Dan McMillin (No. 23) are the headlining drivers in three other trucks. Luke McMillin will co-drive with Larry Roeseler, who has 17 class wins in this race, including a record 13 overall wins (10 on a motorcycle).

The Trophy Trucks category has several other notable drivers including Larry Connor, Bryce Menzies, Toby Price, Ricky Johnson, Justin Lofton, P.J. Jones, Troy and Tim Herbst, Armin Schwarz, B.J. Baldwin, Cameron Steele, Carlos “Apdaly” and Juan C. Lopez and more.

One legend outside the Trophy Trucks category is Rod Hall, 79, of Reno, Nev. Hall, who will turn 80 on November 22, is the only driver to have raced in all 49 previous Bajas, and will race in his 50th this week, co-driving in the Stock Full (truck) class with Chad Hall, Austin Hall, Chris Woo and Frank DeAngelo in the No. 8101 Hummer H1Alpha. He has 24 class wins.

The field also includes a wealth of past Baja winners both overall and in class, lots of family ties spanning several generations, fathers and sons both together and apart, brothers together, female racers and ironman riders (nearly 20 riders will attempt to ride Baja solo in Pro Moto Ironman).

There’s significantly more to consider when looking ahead to this race, but that’s a brief primer. Our posts from last year’s on-site coverage are linked here (race winners, week recap, McMillin chase vehicle recap, BFGoodrich celebrates 40 years at Baja).

The start times and planned order are below.

START LINE-Blvd. Costero in front of the Riviera del Pacifico Cultural Center

FINISH LINE-Adjacent to Grand Plaza Hotel on the outskirts of La Paz

START – Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017—12 a.m.-Midnight Motos, Quads (Pro Moto Unlimited & Limited two-minute intervals. All other moto, quad classes–one-minute intervals).

Order Subject to Change—Pro Moto Unlimited, Pro Moto Limited, Pro Moto 30, Pro Moto 40, Pro Moto 50, Pro Moto Ironman, Pro Moto 60, Pro Quad, SPT Moto, SPT Quad

START – Thursday, November 16, 2017—10 a.m. Cars, Trucks, UTVS (TT, 1, 10, TT Spec-one minute intervals–five-minute gap between those classes. Other classes-30 second intervals).

Order Subject to Change—TT, 1, 10, TTSpec, Hammer Unltd, Hammer Ltd, 1/2-1600, 5, 8, 7, SL, HM, 3000, TL, Pro UTV FI, Pro UTV, Pro UTV Unltd, PT, 5-1600, 3, BC, SF, 7SX, 3700, 1700, SM, 9, 11,  V-Trailblazer, V-Innovator, SPT Unltd Truck, SPT Buggy, SPT Ltd Truck, SPT UTV, Safari

TIME LIMIT: 48-hour time limit from the time each vehicle starts to cover the course

IMSA: Heavy news week leading into Thanksgiving holiday

Photo courtesy of IMSA
Leave a comment

After the weekend and before the Thanksgiving holiday this week, IMSA has rolled out a number of announcements itself, while IMSA could be set for further announcements in the weeks to come starting next week.

Here’s a roundup:

QUALIFYING AT ROAR SET FOR PIT POSITIONS, GARAGES AT ROLEX 24

Here are key notes from IMSA’s Monday release about how Sunday at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 will take on a greater significance:

  • The pit boxes and garages each team will use during the Rolex 24 will now be allocated based on fastest qualifying times set during Sunday’s third and final day of the Roar. Each of the three WeatherTech Championship classes – Prototype (P), GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) – will have a 15-minute qualifying session on Sunday, Jan. 7.
  • The fastest-qualifying Prototype will receive the first pit box on pit lane starting at pit-in and also will be assigned to the first garage in the Prototype section of the WeatherTech Championship garage. The fastest GTD car will receive the second pit box on pit lane and the first garage in the GTD section, with the fastest GTLM car receiving the third pit box and the first garage in the GTLM section.
  • New for 2018 – P and GTLM will pit together under a full course yellow. Therefore, to give class separation in the pits, P and GTLM teams are assigned pit boxes to ensure they are separated by a GTD Team.

This, coupled with the addition of the first IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda one-hour, 45-minute race with two drivers, will make this a more shaken up Roar.

REGS, REGS, GET YOUR REGS

IMSA has released the Sporting and Technical Regulations for 2018 this week. The aforementioned note about P and GTLM teams pitting together is a change from P and Prototype Challenge (PC) class cars pitting together, with GTLM and GTD together as it was this year.

Restart procedures changed will see P cars moved to the lead ahead of GT cars; this created confusion at times throughout 2017 as sometimes another class leader in PC, GTLM or GTD had been the first car behind a pace car.

Each team will be limited to one car change in-season only, subject to “force majeure.”

On the off chance a driver is racing in two cars, his or her maximum drive time will be counted cumulatively between the two cars.

There are other tweaks, of course, but most are largely procedural or within the fine print.

RATINGS REVEALED

The good news with IMSA going down from four classes to three for 2018 is that only one designated pro-am class remains in the form of GT Daytona, which requires at least one Silver (or Bronze) full-season driver alongside the designated pro. Those sneaky “Super Silvers” remain an invaluable asset for using his or her results to their benefit.

The FIA released the initial driver ratings for 2018 this week with a few changes, some young pros going up from Silver to Gold and others getting their request to get downgraded from Gold to Silver approved. Drivers have a couple weeks to appeal if they so desire.

Here’s your friendly reminder of what drivers can be in what GTD cars for the first two races at Daytona and Sebring:

  • Daytona (5 drivers max): GTD: In any nominated two (2) or three (3) Driver combination, a maximum of one (1) Platinum or Gold rated Driver is permitted. In any nominated four (4) or five (5) Driver combination, a maximum of one (1) Platinum and (1) Gold rated Driver are permitted or a maximum of (2) Gold Drivers.
  • Sebring (4 drivers max): GTD: In any nominated two (2) or three (3) Driver combination, a maximum of one (1) Platinum or Gold rated Driver is permitted. In any nominated four (4) Driver combination, a maximum of one (1) Platinum and (1) Gold rated Driver are permitted or a maximum of (2) Gold Drivers.

MAZDA KEEPS ON TESTING, CLOSES ON ANNOUNCEMENTS

The Los Angeles Auto Show, held after Thanksgiving, is a likely landing spot for Mazda Team Joest to reveal, officially, its revised “Evo” version of the Mazda RT24-P and its driver lineup for the 2018 season. While most of the Prototype class lineups (DPi and LMP2-spec cars) have been revealed, Mazda’s has been an exception. In the interim, not long after its Daytona test late last month, they’ve also been testing at Sebring.

FROM SPACE CENTER TO DOWN UNDER

Jordan Taylor undertook testing of a different kind not long ago at, of all places, the Kennedy Space Center. One of this year’s Prototype class champions was undertaking a straight line test in his No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R. Taylor being Taylor, the moment couldn’t pass without him winning at social media (see third tweet).

Taylor goes from down a long runway to down under, visiting his first Virgin Australia Supercars Championship race this weekend at its season finale in Newcastle.

‘MAKING OF A CHAMPION’ PIECES ROLL OUT

The fourth installment of IMSA’s “making of a champion” series highlights Jordan Taylor, who co-drove with brother Ricky to the Prototype class championship this year. These two are part of four done by IMSA so far, along with Pato O’Ward (PC) and Christina Nielsen (GTD). More should follow in the coming weeks.

SPEAKING OF CHAMPS, HINDMAN, AGOSTINI, PRESTIGE WIN LAMBORGHINI WORLD FINAL

The Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Final was held last weekend at the Imola circuit in Italy and the American Prestige Performance team won the World Final overall, with co-drivers Trent Hindman and Riccardo Agostini.

The World Final brings together teams from North America, Europe and Asia that campaign the spec Lamborghini Huracán LP 620-2 in Super Trofeo regional competition. Hindman and Agostini got the weekend off on the right foot by winning the North American championship first, then followed it up at the World Final itself to topple all other domestic and international entries.

You might remember we profiled Hindman last month, as the 22-year-old’s star in the sports car world is clearly on the rise.

Somehow, someway, at the end of the day today we received the title 2017 Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Champions. Race 2 was not perfect and much more nerve racking than we would have hoped but fortunately in the end the job was done. I am honored to be sharing this with @rickyagostini as well as the entire @prestigeperfctr @waynetaylorracing team and I thank them for their incredible effort all year. With this result, we are the first ever American team to win the Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Championship overall. 3/4 overall wins along with the Super Trofeo North America and World titles marks the end of a successful 2017 campaign. Back to reality tomorrow. Thank you all for following us along on this incredible journey.

A post shared by Trent Hindman (@trenthindman) on