Racing from the other seat – SCORE Journal – May 2020 Issue


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As SCORE continued to evolve as the World’s Foremost Desert Racing Organization, San Diego’s Mark McMillin won the overall 4-wheel title for the second consecutive year at the 1988 Presidente SCORE Baja Internacional (nee Baja 500). The race started in Ensenada on Saturday, June 4, 1988 and finished for the first time in the 20-year history of this race in Santo Tomas, the wine country south of Ensenada.

     First across the finish line in the elapsed-time race and fastest of all 332 starters in the 1988 race was the motorcycle team of Dan Ashcraft, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. and Kurt Pfeifer, Costa Mesa, Calif. Competing in 24 Pro classes for cars, trucks, motorcycles and quadrunners, there were a total of 202 finishers in the race, 60.8 percent.


     With the 2020 season reduced to three races while the battle rages against Coronavirus (COVID-19), desert racers around the world are hoping to start the 2020 SCORE season at the legendary 52nd annual BFGoodrich Tires SCORE Baja 500, presented by 4Wheel Parts, in Baja California.

      Launching its 47th season as the World’s Foremost Desert Racing Organization, the season-opening event of the three-race internationally-televised 2020 SCORE World Desert Championship has been moved to July 14-19 in Ensenada. Ensenada is a coastal city on the Bahia de Todos Santos area of the Pacific Ocean, 80 miles south of the U.S. border at San Diego.

     Most the world’s best desert racers will be in action at this year’s celebration of one of the top 10 motorsports events in the entire world. All three 2020 SCORE races will be run on the northern part of Mexico’s magnificent Baja California peninsula for the fifth consecutive year.

     Ensenada, the off-road racing capital of the world is the heart and soul of the SCORE Baja 500 as the popular summertime race will start for the 47th time there and finish for the 43rd time there.


     Mark McMillin won his second straight Presidente SCORE Baja Internacional race run in chilly fog on the coast and 110-degree heat inland. McMillin averaged 56.42 miles per hour over the 479-mile race course. He drove solo on the course that ran from coast to coast in Baja California and back in eight hours, 29 minutes, 22.3 seconds at the wheel of the No. 100 Big Blue M Porsche-powered Chenowth to re-establish single-seat Class 1 unlimited open-wheel cars as the class of desert racers to beat.

     His finish also topped friendly rival Bob Gordon, Orange, Calif. who won Class 2 in a powerful two-seat Chevy-powered Chenowth open-wheeler. Gordon’s time of 8:41:41.9 to earn the class win for unlimited two-seaters, but not the race 4-wheel overall as he and McMillin continue to have wheel to wheel battles each race.

     Finishing third overall while winning Class 8 was Bob Gordon’s 19-year old budding star son Robby Gordon, Orange, Calif. in a Venable Racing Ford F-150 with a time of 8:46:29 while fourth overall and second in Class 8 was Steve Kelly in 9:12:09.

     The fifth overall finisher and second in the unlimited Class 1 was Tom Koch, Ridgecrest, Calif. with a time of 9:27:44.

     Besides Mark McMillin, the other two McMillin family racers competing also had podium finishes in their respective classes. Mark’s father Corky McMillin, Bonita, Calif., finished third in Class 2 (10:08:47) while Mark’s brother Scott McMillin, Bonita, Calif., placed second in Class 1/2-1600 (9:53:01).

     In the motorcycle race at the 1988 SCORE Baja Internacional, the team of Ashcraft and Pfeiffer were the fastest overall vehicle and Class 22 winner, cocking a time of 8:10:30.2 for an average speed of 58.59mph on their Yamaha 490. Second overall motorcycle and second in Class 22, just 3.05 seconds behind the winners was the team of Paul Krause, Laguna Beach, Calif. and Larry Roeseler, Boulevard, Calif. on a Kawasaki.

     The third overall motorcycle and winners of Class 21 was the team of Ted Hunnicutt Jr, Moorpark, Calif. and Brett Howell, Lancaster, Calif., with a time of 8:35:28. Fourth overall, second in Class 21 and the only other motorcycle team to finish in less than nine hours was the team of Tod McKay, San Diego and Tim Morton, Solana Beach, Calif., in 8:51:18.

     The fastest quadrunner (called quads or ATVs today) in the race was ridden by the team of Dean Sundahl, San Diego and Lance Schoonmaker, Lemon Grove, Calif. who recorded a Class 25 winning time of 9:45:25.


     A veritable who’s who of SCORE desert racing won their respective classes at the 1988 Presidente SCORE Baja Internacional.

     Airline pilot Mike Schwellinger, Thousand Oaks, Calif., and Les Erickson, Thousand Oaks, Calif. split time behind the wheel of their Jeep CJ-7 to win Class 3 in 11:36:14 and Jerry McDonald, San Clemente, Calif. and Joe MacPherson, Santa Ana, Calif., teamed up to win Class 4 in their Chevy C1500 in 9:49:08.

     Son/father duo of Michael Church/Bill Church of Irvine, Calif., picked up their first Class 10 win of the season (9:28:02) while winning Class 11 over a field of 12 starters in his Stock VW Sedan was Ramon Castro, Ensenada, Mexico (13:05:03). Legendary future Hall of Famer Manny Esquerra of Parker, Ariz. won Class 7 in his Ford Ranger (9:19:52), David Ashley, Placentia, Calif., won Class 7/4X4 in the Enduro Racing Ford Ranger (9:41:02) and Paul Simon, Fallbrook, Calif., won Class7S in another Ford Ranger (9:42:28).

     Defeating a field that saw 21 finishers in their class, brothers Tom DeNault, San Clemente, Calif., and Bob DeNault, San Juan Capistrano, Calif. were the winners in Class 1/2-1600 in a time of 9:42:58.

     The Klawitter brothers, opening up severe wounds among their Class 5 competitors (that saw seven finishers in this race) all season, rubbed a couple of tons of salt into them when they finished 1-2 in the class for unlimited VW Baja Bugs. Hartmut Klawitter, Santee, Calif. got credit for the class win (9:55:03) while Wolfram Klawitter, Riverside, Calif., finished closely behind in second place in the team’s pre-runner (9:58:57).

     In the motorcycle classes, a father and son were part of the winning teams in their respective classes. Both from Las Vegas, Casey Folks won Class 30 (riders over 30 years old) with Pete Sheehan, Kingman, Ariz., as his second rider in 9:28:57 and his son Bryan Folks won Class 20 (under 125cc) as the second rider for John Rudder, Granada Hills, Calif. in a time of 9:21:00. In 1984 Casey Folks, who died in 2017, founded the Las Vegas-based Best in the Desert organization that continues today with Bryan Folks as co-owner and CMO.


     Here is the REVISED three-race 2020 SCORE World Desert Championship (as of April 29, 2020) schedule of events, for the fifth consecutive year all races will be held in Baja California, Mexico:BFGoodrich Tires 52nd SCORE Baja 500, presented by 4 Wheel Parts–July 14-19, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico34th SCORE San Felipe 250–Sept. 22-27, San Felipe, Baja California, MexicoBFGoodrich Tires 53rd SCORE Baja 1000, presented by 4 Wheel PartsNov.17-22, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico


     For the second straight year, the 2020 SCORE World Desert Championship will air on the ABC family of networks. The three-races air as one-hour specials on ABC TV’s World of X Games program with replays on ESPN2.

     ABC first covered the 1967 and 1968 Baja 1000 races on the old ABC Wide World of Sports show with Jim McKay and again in the late 1980s with veteran motorsports journalist Sam Posey.

     All of the SCORE race coverage shows also continue to air internationally in nearly 25 countries in Europe, Asia, Latin America and South America via syndication and ESPN International. The shows are co-produced by SCORE International and SoCal’s award-winning BCII TV.

SCORE SPONSORS…     Official SCORE Sponsors: BFGoodrich Tires-Official Tire and Race Title Sponsor, Monster Energy-Official Energy Drink, 4 Wheel Parts-Official Off-Road Retailer and Race Presenting Partner, Ford-Official Truck and SUV, King Shocks-Official Shock Absorber, Polaris RZR-Official UTV, RACELINE Wheels-Official Wheel, VP Racing Fuels-Official Fuel, Wide Open Excursions-Official Arrive and Drive Company, Crystal Bay Casino-Official Casino.

     SCORE Official Partners: PCI Race Radios, The Satellite Phone Store, Instant Mexico Auto Insurance, Lucerna Hotel.

     Additional SCORE Associate Partners: Baja California Secretary of Sustainable Economy and Tourism, XXIII Ensenada Municipal Government, XXIII Mexicali Municipal Government, Mexicali and San Felipe COTUCO, Cruz Roja Mexicana.

     For more information regarding SCORE, visit the official website of the SCORE World Desert Championship at SCORE Baja 500 Class WinnersStart in Ensenada, Finish in Santo TomasTotal Starters: 332 Total Finishers: 202CARS AND TRUCKSCLASS 1–Mark McMillin

CLASS 2–Bob Gordon/Cal Wells.

CLASS 1/2-1600–Tom DeNault/Bob DeNault

CLASS 3–Mike Schwellinger/Les Erickson

CLASS 4–Jerry McDonald

CLASS 5–Hartmut Klawitter/Wolfram Klawitter

CLASS 5-1600–Ray Gastelum/Tom Minga

CLASS 6–Larry Schwacofer/Sid Spradling

CLASS 7–Manny Esquerra

CLASS 7S–Paul Simon

CLASS 7/4X4–David Ashley

CLASS 8–Robby Gordon


CLASS 10–Michael Church/William Church

CLASS 11–Ramon CastroMOTORCYCLESCLASS 20–John Rudder/Bryan Folks

CLASS 21–Ted Hunnicutt Jr./Brett Howell

CLASS 22–Dan Ashcraft/Kurt Pfeiffer

CLASS 30–Casey Folks/Pete Sheehan

CLASS 38–Bob Prickett/Mike HaneyQUADRUNNERSCLASS 23–Tom SullivanDavid Campbell

CLASS 24–Glen Elliott/John Knudsen

CLASS 25–Dean Sundahl/Lance Schoonmaker

CLASS 34–Juan Lencioni