The Baja 500 is widely known as the second most grueling off-road race in the world, a race that quickly humbles some of the toughest drivers, and this year was no exception. The 55th SCORE International Baja 500 went down not only as one of the most technical races of the year, totaling 473 grueling miles but acted as the ultimate proving ground for our lights for most of the racers that finished at night.
The majority of the course ran through rocky mountain terrain, offering little margin for error. Starting from Ensenada, the route headed eastward towards Ojos Negros. The initial segment of the course meandered amidst the trees, presenting numerous race lines to navigate. Success required exceptional navigation skills, countless split-second decisions, and precise steering. Additionally, the course featured cross ruts, blind inclines, and numerous sudden drops, adding to its complexity, and when the sun dropped after the first trucks finished, most of the racers would race into the night, making light for this race vital.
Bryce Menzies charged out front for a first-place overall win as he got around Luke McMillin early on after he experienced a mechanical issue. Though Luke was down 15 positions, he charged back through the pack to finish in the top 5 Trophy Trucks. It was Mike Walser who was chasing Bryce Menzies all day and was driving like he had something to prove, letting it all hang out, running a near-perfect race. In the end, Walser finished second overall, eight minutes behind Bryce, with an overall time of 9:06.
Jason McNeil got his second first place finish in Trophy Truck Spec and accomplished a huge feat by finishing third place overall at the Baja 500. Jason started 42 cars behind the first Trophy Truck, which means he raced through heavy dust and many rocks which were kicked up by other big trucks. At the end of the day they were 5th physical vehicle across the finish line, 26 minutes off the lead truck finishing 1st in class and 3rd overall.
Class one winner Cody Reid finished 14th overall in the RPI all-wheel-drive buggy, holding a very good race despite getting caught up in bottlenecks with the spec trucks.
Francisco Vera got first place in class 10 followed by Bruce Yee and Manlio Diaz finished just as the sun set.
In Pro UTV, Wayne Matlock was holding first place, battling it out with the factory Polaris team the first half of the race until he encountered some mechanical issues that made him lose time. In the end Wayne was able to finish 5th overall while his wife, Kristen Matlock, took her Polaris RZR Pro R to a third UTV overall finish.
Phil Blurton took first place in Pro UTV Turbo, followed by Matt Burroughs in 3rd.
In PRO UTV Naturally Aspirated, it was Zach Sizelove who clenched first place for a second year in a row for the Honda UTV team, followed by Lawrence Janesky in second, and Joe Bolton, who rounded out the podium.
Baja Designs CEO Trent Kirby racing with Douglas Cornwell, finished 5th in Pro Stock UTV while encountering CV axle issues midway through the race while it was a long, hard-fought battle. In the end, Sara Price would finish first place in her factory Can-Am, followed by Endy Chavez in Second place.
Class 1/2 1600 is one of the oldest classes racing in Baja that first took shape racing in the early 1980s, and it was Pablo Jauregui who was the fastest through the 500 miles, followed by Eric Pavolka and Roman Pereyra.
The Honda Ridgeline has continued to be a dominant force in Baja for nearly a decade and has continued to show its dominance in class 7, with Ethan Ebert at the wheel taking first place by over seven hours.
Class 11 has continued to be the people’s favorite as it is the most grassroots form of off-road racing you can get; it is nothing more than a stock Volkswagen with safety components to go racing. Oliver Flemate and his team battled his way to first place for a total of 15 hours in his Class 11.
There is no Baja without motos, as our company was founded on the backbone of racing motorcycles in Mexico. When we saw the 11x bike of Atruro Salas cross the finish line, we were so thrilled we were over the moon. But seeing Connor Eddy finishing second, followed by the 3X bike of Ciaran Naran finishing third was equally exciting. It’s one thing to win the race on four wheels but to finish on two wheels it is a battle against man, machine, and Baja.
Following that, it was Brandon Wright who finished first in Pro Moto Ironman, finishing the Baja 500 in 12 hours and 30 minutes, a whole 20 minutes faster than Jason Salosi, followed by Edgar Cota.
SCORE Pro Quads Champion Nicolas Velez took first place, followed by Fransisco Valle. Even in the Sportsman Quad class our own Baja Designs, employee Eva Hernandez took 6th place finishing the race which can be considered an accomplishment in itself.
The 55th edition of the Baja 500 will be remembered as the most demanding and technically challenging race thus far, and we are thrilled to provide a product that has gained the trust of over 80% of racers. We take immense pride in the achievements of our racers this year. Over the past three decades, Baja Designs has dedicated itself to testing our lights in the harsh Baja terrain through firsthand driving experiences. We remain committed to this practice for the next 30 years and beyond, as long as racing continues in Baja. Our presence will always be felt in the Baja racing community.
For any racer’s interested in the Baja Designs Racer Program, please reach out to WesW@bajadesigns.com. La Paz – Ensenada will have many night miles, and Baja Designs lighting is the cheapest horsepower you can buy for a night section. We will see you at the rest of the races this year.