2024 Baja 500: Team Australia finally victorious

After two and a half agonising years, Toby Price and Paul Weel can finally call themselves SCORE International race winners.

The #46 Team Australia Trophy Truck had struggled with abysmal luck since its début in 2022 that overshadowed its strong pace, being the fastest qualifier thrice but only finishing two of seven races entering Saturday’s Baja 500. At the season-opening San Felipe 250 in April, Price was battling for the win until the control arm broke.

After starting on the pole again, Price and Weel finally got the monkey off their back as they beat Tavo Vildósola for the overall win by seven minutes. Vildósola had taken the lead through the first 100 miles before losing it to Price. As Weel took over for the rest of the race, Vildósola was left to scrap with Christopher Polvoorde and Bryce Menzies. Polvoorde easily held off Menzies, the latter the defending Baja 500 winner, for the final spot on the podium after Menzies struggled with mechanical issues.

“It’s been hard. The last twelve months have been hard,” an emotional Weel described at the finish.

Like in April, Cayden MacCachren won both his class and the UTV overall in a 1–2 finish for Polaris ahead of Branden Sims. The Can-Am of Mitchell Alsup averted a Polaris podium sweep as he beat Polaris Factory Racing boss Craig Scanlon by twenty-one minutes. Short course stars and brothers Ronnie and RJ Anderson led early but finished sixth due to a broken radius rod at the 200-mile mark; the 500 was the former’s first desert race since claiming his maiden victory in the discipline at the Mint 400 in March.

While Polaris was once again the top marque, all three UTV manufacturers scored a class win at the 500 with Can-Am’s Kaden Wells and Phil Blurton respectively winning Pro Stock UTV and Pro UTV Forced Induction. Honda’s Michael McFayden dominated in Pro UTV Normally Aspirated before retiring with a vehicle issue, though fellow Talon driver David Pedder picked up the baton to win.

Linc Day was involved in a bizarre pre-race accident when his Trophy Truck Spec t-boned a shuttle bus at a crossroad, resulting in damage to both vehicles. Day was able to continue the race anyway, but retired halfway through.

The McNeil family had a Baja 500 to forget. After a rough landing in qualifying forced Jason McNeil to withdraw his #200 Trophy Truck, his son Connor McNeil and brother Brandon McNeil‘s #242 TT Spec had a power steering pump break 100 miles in. Nonetheless, they reached the finish fifteenth in class.

Tim Herbst also pulled out his #19 TT following a qualifying rollover, and instead slid into the #242 TT Spec driven by his son Pierce Herbst and nephew Thor Herbst. The #242 finished second in class, fourteen minutes behind Justin Davis.

On the two-wheel side, Justin Morgan ran on foot with his bike in tow to the finish, but his dash was all for naught as his #7X team received a twenty-minute penalty after the SPICA tracker was found to not be on at the second checkpoint. The top six bikes were all penalised in some form, with the #11X of Arturo Salas Jr., Ciaran Naran, and Carter Klein getting eighteen seconds added for speeding.

Still, the #11X’s infraction was chump change as they were promoted to their second straight win of the year. Salas, despite falling early in the race and running out of fuel at one point, netted back-to-back Baja 500 wins.

After being disqualified from San Felipe, Javier Rubio finally got it done at the 500 as he became the first ever official finisher of the new Pro Moto Adventure class for rally raid bikes. His Kove 450 Rally was the only bike of the three entered in the category to finish as Dustin Davis exceeded the twenty-hour time limit and Scott Purcell crashed out.

The Polaris Pro Stock UTV of Yoshua Morquecho was the 111th and final Four-Wheeler to be classified as a finisher, arriving in Ensenada less than five minutes before the time expired. Pro Quad rider Danny Magdaleno held the same honour among the bikes as he finished forty-sixth overall and half an hour before Hour 20.

While finishing after twenty hours will have you listed as a retirement, many were likely just glad to reach the end anyway. Santiago Creel‘s TT Spec arrived without its hood and caked in mud three-and-a-half hours after the limit. John Marshall, the only entrant in Stock Full Size, endured a Baja 500 from hell after his Mercedes-Benz G-Class rolled during testing in May, suffered a rash of vehicle problems that required past-midnight repairs, and arrived in Ensenada just after sunrise.

Stock Full Size was one of four classes without a finisher alongside Class 3 (Ikuo Hanawa in his Baja 500 début), Class 5-1600 (Zackery Woodruff), and Class 7SX (Armando Duron and Jim Horne). Pro Moto Limited’s Adam Joslin and Pro Moto 40’s Gary Sparks were disqualified for going backwards on the course and riding on a road deemed out of bounds by SCORE.

Class winners

4-Wheelers

Class Overall Finish Number Driver of Record Time
Class 1 10 168 Cody Reid 10:20:48*
Class 1/2-1600 85 1606 Daniel Goodrich 15:01:45*
Class 10 24 1000 Francisco Vera 10:42:49
Class 11 90 1100 Oliver Flemate 15:56:41
Class 3 DNF N/A No Finishers N/A
Class 5-1600 DNF N/A No Finishers N/A
Class 5 Unlimited 62 500 Eli Yee 13:18:58*
Class 7 71 700 Dan Chamlee 13:36:08
Class 7F 97 700F Justin Park 18:03:13
Class 7SX DNF N/A No Finishers N/A
Class 8 84 809 Josh Klenske 15:01:34
Pro Stock UTV 57 3925 Kaden Wells 12:37:43
Pro UTV Forced Induction 50 2944 Phil Blurton 12:05:51
Pro UTV Normally Aspirated 66 1984 David Pedder 13:28:00
Pro UTV Open 19 1821 Cayden MacCachren 10:36:42
SCORE Lites 98 1277 Mario Alcala 18:03:42*
Stock Full Size DNF N/A No Finishers N/A
Trophy Truck 1 46 Toby Price 9:20:22*
Trophy Truck Legends 5 1L Gus Vildósola 9:51:49
Trophy Truck Spec 7 285 Justin Davis 10:06:09*
* – Received a time penalty

Moto

Class Overall Finish Number Rider of Record Time
Pro Moto 30 29 317X Ethan Wheeler 14:48:43
Pro Moto 40 7 411X Francisco Septien 12:13:57*
Pro Moto 50 14 547X Mike Prunty 13:17:26*
Pro Moto 60 37 649X Donald Lewis 15:59:58
Pro Moto Adventure 28 827X Javier Rubio 14:43:59
Pro Moto Ironman 18 792X Daniel Mastrude 13:41:53
Pro Moto Limited 9 110X Armando Ortiz 12:35:23*
Pro Moto Unlimited 1 11X Arturo Salas Jr. 10:36:03*
Pro Quad 12 7A Eduardo Hernandez 12:56:03*
Sportsman Moto 17 259X Jhoan Sanchez 13:34:21*
Sportsman Quad 8 124A Erick Talamantes 12:18:26*

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Author: Justin Nguyen

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