Pro UTV Forced Induction racer Austin Weiland and Pro UTV Normally Aspirated driver Kaden Wells came out on top of the SCORE Baja 400 in their respective classes for the second year in a row on Saturday. Weiland completed the third edition of the event in 9:30:18, tops among all UTV entries in the third race of the 2022 SCORE World Desert Championship, while Wells’ time of 10:04:39 was good for fourth overall among the 38 entries that raced across four classes.
For Weiland, the win was his second of the season, joining his June victory at the Baja 500 after a DNF in the season-opening San Felipe 250. Wells, on the other hand, had finished third in both races, putting him 14 points behind NA class leader Joe Bolton. Unfortunately, with just three NA class entries, he’d only be able to make up a portion of that deficit on Bolton, who would maintain the points lead by finishing second.
The Forced Induction class was far and away the largest UTV field, with 23 starters heading out from Ensenada on Saturday morning and 15 of them finishing the nearly 400-mile route. Weiland’s winning time was just over 16 minutes faster than runner-up finisher Rodrigo Ampudia, while Ampudia had nearly 15 minutes of his own on third place Wes Miller. 2020 SCORE World Desert Champion Matt Burroughs and Marc Burnett completed the top five, while incoming points leaders Edgar Garcia Leon and Justin Lambert also scored top-10 finishes.
Still, there’s no taking Baja for granted, and plenty of big names failed to make it to the finish line. The DNFs ranged from Dakar Rally T4 champion AJ Jones to Brandon Schueler, who had entered the weekend third in the championship with hopes of claiming yet another title for the trophy case. Even defending SCORE World Desert Champion Phil Blurton, returning to the series for the first time this season, took a DNF after finishing second in this race last year.
Weiland and Wells were joined on top of the box by Mike Cafro, who traded in his checkered flag in the Pro Stock UTV class last year for a Pro UTV Open victory this time around and a class-winning time of 10:30:47. Cafro took a 27-minute victory over second place Craig Scanlon, who scored his third podium of the year, while Kristen Matlock finished third. Randy Emberton completed the class winner by taking Cafro’s vacated Pro Stock win, as points leader Anibal Lopez was one of the four DNFs in the six-entry division.
From here, focus shifts to the biggest event of the year, the 55th SCORE Baja 1000 on November 15-20. Blurton won last year’s race to take the Pro UTV FI class and overall SCORE titles, while Elias Hanna won in Pro UTV NA and Justin Elenburg and Cafro completed their sweeps of the Open and Pro Stock seasons, respectively. In the meantime, coverage of the 3rd SCORE Baja 400 will air on ESPN2’s World of X Games on Sunday, November 6.
Check out Ernesto Araiza’s full gallery from the race here!