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Baja 500: Race-Report from the SCORE-Organisation.

Repeating as a race champion is difficult in any form of motors, but teammates Larry Ragland, Cave Creek, Ariz., and Brian Collins, Las Vegas stormed through a SCORE-record field of 492 starters to capture a second-straight stunning overall 4-Wheel and SCORE Trophy-Truck victory Saturday in the 39th Tecate SCORE Baja 500 desert race.

Starting and finishing in Ensenada, Mexico, Collins drove the first 155-miles in the No. 12 Collins Motorsports Chevy Silverado before turning the wheel over to Ragland to drive to the finish, covering the challenging, dust-filled 424.22-mile course in 9 hours, 10 minutes and 58 seconds, averaging 46.20 miles per hour.

Ragland and Collins captured the 4-wheel vehicle win with a flawless race over a boulder-strewn, silt-grabbing tight and twisty desert course in front of a massive crowd estimated at nearly 200,000 spread out along the course as estimated by Mexican tourism officials. The record-setting race was filmed for television by Aura360, SCORE'S TV production partner, to air a one-hour special on The Outdoor Channel in the U.S. and ESPN International worldwide.

Also defending their overall motorcycle and Class 22 champs is the team of Robby Bell, Murrieta, Calif./Kendall Norman, Santa Barbara, Calif., with help from new teammate Steve Hengeveld, Oak Hills, Calif., on the No. 1x Honda CRF450X. And successfully defending their overall ATV and Class 25 victory was the team of Danny Prather, Ramona, Calif./Mike Cafro, Carlsbad, Calif., on the No. 1a Honda TRX450R.

The Bell/Norman/Hengeveld time covered the rugged course 8:51:11, averaging 47.92mph on their motorcycle while Prather/M. Cafro team completed it in 10:09:07 with an average speed of 41.79 on their ATV race machine.

Hengeveld now has seven class wins and six overall titles in this race.

Bell/Norman also won this year's SCORE motorcycle season opener in March at the Tecate SCORE Baja 250 to remain unbeaten in the 2007 SCORE Desert Series. Prather and M. Cafro along with co-riders Levi Marana, Hemet, Calif., and Marc Speath, Warner Springs, Calif., remained unbeaten for two race as well two SCORE wins last year on the way to their first SCORE season point championship. It was Cafro's fifth career win in this race.

With the final outcome never fully decided in the elapsed-time race until the checkered flag, NASCAR's Robby Gordon, Mooresville, N.C., finished second overall and in SCORE Trophy-Truck in his No. 71 Chevy CK1500, just 3 minutes, 57 seconds behind Ragland/Collins and Las Vegas' B.J. Baldwin, who led on corrected time much of the race before rolling his No. 1 Chevy Silverado several times just five miles before the finish line, recovered to finish third overall and in SCORE Trophy-Truck in his Chevy Silverado. Baldwin, the reigning SCORE Trophy-Truck season point champion whose truck is also prepped by Las Vegas' Collins Motorsports. Just 2:37 behind Gordon and 6:34 behind Ragland/Collins.

Beating an impressive season-high field of 33 SCORE Trophy-Trucks for his first Tecate SCORE Baja 500 win in the marquee SCORE racing division for 800-horsepower, high-tech, unlimited production trucks, Ragland's win was seventh class triumph and fith overall victory in this race as well as his 10th career SCORE Trophy-Truck race win. His 10 career SCORE Trophy-Truck race wins are second only to the 11 won by Las Vegans Ed and Tim Herbst.

For Collins, it was his fourth class triumph and second overall 4-Wheel crown. His previous class wins were in 1997 and 1998 in Class 8 and SCORE Trophy-Truck last year. The win was also his fifth career race win in SCORE Trophy-Truck and his third since teaming up with Ragland in 2005.

"It was great," said Collins at the finish line as Ragland brought the winning truck home. "Anytime you get an overall winner it's a great day. Everything worked real well, we had one flat tire, threw it on the rack (and) we left Billy (Goerke) riding mechanic out there in the desert with a bunch of guys, but they'll bring him home. I got the flat tire about the last couple of miles coming into the finish line. (There were) no troubles other than the flat tire - it was a terrific day. It was a tough course -- it was really good though, nearly perfect. I was just waiting for B.J. (Baldwin)--I didn't know where he was at. "

Round 3 of the six-race 2007 SCORE Desert Series, the World's Foremost Desert Racing Series, featuring a all-time SCORE record lineup of 492 starters competing in 28 Pro and 6 Sportsman classes for cars, trucks, motorcycles and ATVs. The massive field, what had 519 official entries but 27 didn't make it to the start line, came from 32 U.S. States (from Hawaii to Rhode Island), Mexico, Austria, Canada, England, France, Germany, Guatemala, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa.

The SCORE record 492 starters included 273 cars and trucks and 219 motorcycles and ATVs. The new SCORE record eclipsed the previous SCORE record total of 438 starters set in this race last year.

With the marquee SCORE Trophy-Trucks claiming an impressive 9 of the first 10 overall 4-wheel vehicle finishing positions in the race, a total of 283 survivors out of 492 starters (57.5 percent) made it to finish line within the 20-hour limit. The 283 finishers represent the second largest number of finishers ever in a SCORE race. The number is second only to the record 288 finishers in this year's Tecate SCORE Baja 250.

Robby Bell was equally enthusiastic about his team's overall motorcycle and Class 22 win.

"It was a lot of fun, I really enjoyed it," Bell said at the finish line. "The course was really rough and demanding but it was a good test. The start section has been the same and it was getting torn up but I really enjoyed it. We had a flat tire right early on and I had to ride it on out for about 14 miles until we got it changed and from there on out it was just a smooth race. Kendall (Norman) rode the second section really well over Mike's past the KTM back and then Steve (Hengeveld) rode awesome on the coast and I just got to cruise it in to the finish for about the final 30 miles. I took over right around Rancho San Antonio. Flat tire was it -- other than that it very really smooth and a lot of fun for us. Oh yea, we ran all week to practice; it was a lot of fun - it was a blast."

Second overall among the motorcycles and in Class 22 was the Red Bull/KTM team of Chris Blais, David Pearson and Cyril Despres, who rode a KTM 690 rally bike that arrived from Europe just two days before the race, to finish 27:28 behind the Honda factory team. Blais, Apple Valley, Calif., has raced often in the SCORE series while Pearson, of Las Vegas and France's Despres are new. It was Pearson's second race and for Despres, the overall motorcycle winner in this year's Dakar Rally, it was his first. Blais is also a Dakar veteran, finishing third overall this year.

Finishing fourth through ninth overall among 4-wheel entries for the race-dominating SCORE Trophy-Trucks were Mark Post, San Juan Capistrano, Calif./Rob MacCachren, Las Vegas, Josh Baldwin, Newport Beach, Calif., David Scaroni/Matt Scaroni, Heber, Calif., Garron Cadiente, Mesa, Ariz./Jeff Gieser, Phoenix, Todd Wyllie, New River, Ariz., and Mexico's Gus Vildosola/Gus Vildosola Jr. All but Wyllie in the group drove Ford F-150s while Wyllie drove a Chevy C1500.

The only non SCORE Trophy-Truck in the top 10 overall was unlimited Class 1 winner, B.J. Richardson, Las Vegas, in a Chevy-powered Bunderson open-wheel desert race car. Driving solo while battling the flu in addition to the course and the competition, Bunderson is the current SCORE Class 1 and Overall point leader for 2007 and picked up his second career SCORE class win and first in Class 1. He beat a race-high field of 48 starters.

For the first time in race history, Volkswagen of America officially entered two of its Red Bull Dakar Rally teams from Germany. Driven by American Mark Miller and South African Giniel de Villers, the two turbo-diesel VW Race Touareg 2s competed in the special SCORE Int'l Truck class and both had impressive finishes. The result was especially remarkable as Miller finished 11th overall among 4-wheel vehicles in 10:00:38 and de Villers was 18th in 10:18:44.

SCORE also announced at the record-setting race the Volkswagen of America has become the Official Vehicle of SCORE International, effective immediately.

Starting and finishing in Ensenada on the majestic Baja California peninsula, this year's tight and technical 424.22-mile course will run in a clockwise direction, running East into the middle of the peninsula, then South, followed by a West travel section, turning north, then East, North, Northeast and back West for the final charge back into Ensenada.

The venerable Rod Hall, 69, Reno, Nev., who earned his first Tecate SCORE Baja 500 class win in 1970 and his most recent last year, won again in the Stock Mini class in his Hummer H3. Hall is tied for the most class wins in the history of this race with Ivan Stewart, who won 17 in his career.

Jim O'Neal, Chatsworth, Calif., became the first rider to win three classes in two different years in the Tecate SCORE Baja 500 as he led separate teams to victory, in both Class 30 (motorcycle riders over 30 years old) and Class 50 (motorcycle riders over 50 years old). With his double victories, Class 30 on a Honda CRF450X and Class 50 on Honda XR650R motorcycle, O'Neal has earned 10 classes wins in this race in the last seven years, the longest consecutive race streak of any racer in this event.

In Class 30, O'Neal's teammates for this historic run which also placed them third overall among motorcycles were Scott Myers, Sun City, Calif./Steve Garnett, Carson City, Nev., and Taber Murphy, Wenatachee, Wash. Riding with the noted apparel manufacturer to earn the Class 50 win were: Doug Heil, Monrovia, Calif./Mike Sixberry, Bullhead City, Ariz./Rick Gill, Carpenteria, Calif., and Charlie Marshall, Carmichael, Calif.

Picking up his sixth career in this race while remaining undefeated in three races this year was Nick Vanderwey, Phoenix, who won Class 8 in a Chevy Silverado while remaining undefeated in Class 10 was Mexico's Lobsam Yee in a Jimco-Honda.

Mexico's Eric Fisher picked up his sixth Class 9 win in this race in a Garibay-VW while winning Class 3 in a Ford Bronco for the fifth time in six years was Donald Moss, Sacramento, Calif.

Defending Protruck class point champion Gus Vildosola Jr., won his class in a Toyota Tundra with driving help from Bryan Freeman, Henderson, Nev. Vildsola also finished drove half the race in SCORE Trophy-Truck where he and his father Gus Sr. finished ninth.

Other 4-wheel vehicle class winners included Dave Caspino, Woodland Hills, Calif. (Class 1-2/1600, Lothringer-VW), Luivan Voelker, Mexicali, Mexico (Class 5, VW Baja Bug), Jose Montoya, Ensenada, Mexico (Class 5/1600, VW Baja Bug), Dan Chamlee, Carpenteria, Calif. (Class 7, Ford Ranger), Jim Hinesely, Bakersfield, Calif. (Class 7SX, Ford Ranger), Scott Wisdom, Lake Forest, Calif. (SCORE Lite, Mirage-VW), John Griffin, Mission Viejo, Calif. (Stock Full, Ford F-350) and Ramon Fernandez, Ensenada, Mexico (Class 11, VW Sedan). It was Fernandez's second straight win of the year.

Among the motorcycle classes, other winners included the team led by rider of record Carlos Casas, Chula Vista, Calif. (Class 21, Honda CR450X) and the team led by rider of record Brett Helm, Poway, Calif. (Class 40, Honda CRF450X.

The 2007 SCORE Desert Series also includes the chase for the $75,000 Kartek Off-Road contingency bonus to be awarded to several 2007 SCORE Class point champions along with the run for the $12,000 Toyota True Grit and Toyota Milestone Awards.

2007/06/04 | 12:51 CET | Editor: MR/HS/SCORE

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