Image via Polaris Factory Racing
The 56th running of the SCORE Baja 1000, the most prestigious race in the SCORE World Desert Championship, was unlike any other in event history. With a 1,310-mile route heading up the Baja California peninsula from La Paz to Ensenada for the first time, racers had 50 hours to face an incredibly diverse set of challenges, including plenty of silt. Just 178 of the 335 total entries would get it to the finish line, headed up in the overall order by seven of the 17 SCORE Trophy Trucks to make it to Ensenada.
Polaris Factory Racing’s first year on the Pro UTV Open entry list ended in glory in Ensenada with a race win, two podium finishes, and a class title. The win would go to Cayden MacCachren, the fastest finisher among any of the 54 UTVs to start the journey; the 2021 SCORE Rookie of the Year teamed up with former motorcycle standout Justin Morgan and drifting, rallycross, and Pikes Peak legend Rhys Millen to finish the route in 27:25.03 in the #1821 Polaris RZR Pro R.
Justin Lambert would score his second podium in a row in second, just over seven minutes behind, while MacCachren’s teammate Brock Heger would lock up the class title in third. Heger, who had support from Ronnie Anderson and JD Marsh along the way, won both the Baja 500 and 400 to establish a 19-point lead over Wayne Matlock coming into the race.
Elsewhere, it was Can-Am racers taking the Pro UTV Forced Induction and Pro Stock UTV wins. Jason Murray led a sweep of the FI podium for former class champions in Can-Ams, with Matt Burroughs and Phil Blurton in second and third, and locked up another SCORE title for himself in the process. In Pro Stock, the mother-daughter team of Lucy and Lia Block won their first Baja 1000 while running in honor of family patriarch Ken Block; they teamed up with Rodrigo Ampudia and Terry Madden to beat their closest competition by more than an hour.
Completing the Pro UTV class winner list was Lawrence Janesky in Pro UTV NA, who beat Joe Bolton by just under eight minutes in the #1914 Honda Talon. In total, across the four Pro classes, Polaris and Can-Am took five podiums and one class sweep apiece, while Honda took the remaining two medals, both in NA.
The 2024 SCORE World Desert Championship kicks off on March 20-24 with the 37th San Felipe 250. It’s followed by the 56th Baja 500 on May 29-June 2, the 5th Baja 400 on September 11-15, and the 57th Baja 1000 on November 12-17. After concluding the 2023 season with a point-to-point run, all four of next year’s races will be single-loop races.