Just one race remains on the 2022 SCORE World Desert Championship calendar, and it’s the biggest one of all: the BFGoodrich Tires 55th SCORE Baja 1000. With an 828.25-mile loop ahead of them, starting and finishing in Ensenada, the world’s toughest racers will have 36 hours to conquer their toughest challenge of the year before looking ahead to 2023. Nearly 60 UTV entries are on hand to do battle across multiple classes for the honor of Baja 1000 winner, and if they’re lucky, a SCORE class title as well.
Last year’s race winner and World Desert Champion, Phil Blurton, is one of 27 Pro UTV Forced Induction entries on the entry list, comprising the largest UTV class and third-largest overall. He’ll start 12th, just behind 2022 Dakar Rally winner and former SCORE Rookie of the Year Austin Jones. Austin Weiland will be first off the line thanks to his win at the Baja 400, with points leader Wes Miller (tied with Edgar Garcia Leon) and Matt Burroughs starting second and third behind him. Marc Burnett and Brandon Schueler, meanwhile, have elected to rear start.
Five Pro UTV FI drivers of record—Miller, Garcia Leon, Justin Lambert, Burroughs, and Burnett—are separated by just six points coming into the race, nearly ensuring a winner-take-all event if one of the five can finish first; among them, only Lambert has a win this season, in the opening San Felipe 250. Weiland has the other two wins so far, but thanks to a San Felipe DNF, he’s eighth in the standings, also behind Carlos Quezada and Leobardo Gomez.
Pro UTV Open will bring eight entries to the starting line, with Mike Cafro, Craig Scanlon, and Kristen Matlock the top three starters after their Baja 400 podiums; Pro UTV NA will match that entry count, with Kaden Wells and Joe Bolton set to renew their battle up front. An 11-car Pro Stock UTV field led by Randy Emberton completes the four Pro classes doing battle.
Perhaps the biggest question for those following along with the UTV classes is whether an Open or Forced Induction class entry will post the fastest overall time. Wayne Matlock’s Open win at San Felipe was the fastest overall time, five minutes ahead of Lambert, but Weiland’s Baja 500 and 400 wins were each more than an hour faster than the top Open times as those races came down to attrition. With the still-growing Open class facing its toughest challenge yet, will anyone be able to put together a flawless event to even the score, or will the tried-and-true FI teams continue to hold top honors?
Live streaming of the start/finish line of the BFGoodrich Tires 55th SCORE Baja 1000 will be available on SCORE web and social media channels as always, while a recap of the race itself will be broadcast as part of ESPN’s World of X Games in the coming months. The 2023 SCORE World Desert Championship season kicks off on March 29-April 2 with the 36th SCORE San Felipe 250.