Off Road

Baja 1000 torches competitors, McMillin and Samuels survive to repeat

10 Mins read
Credit: McMillin Racing

The 2022 SCORE International Baja 1000 course might have been shorter than the previous year’s as its mileage was in just the triple digits at 828.25 miles (760.91 for Moto/Quad), but what the Ensenada loop lacked in distance was compensated with a technical and difficult route that took its toll on competitors. Yet despite the attrition presented, one variable remained constant: Luke McMillin, Rob MacCachren, Mark Samuels, Justin Morgan, and Kendall Norman winning the overall.

McMillin and MacCachren, sharing the #83 Trophy Truck with Jason Duncan as co-driver, was the first Four-Wheeler to complete the race with a total time of sixteen hours, thirty-seven minutes, and forty-five seconds. The overall was a family feud as McMillin, his older brother Dan in the #23, and cousin Andy in the #7 were the top trucks. However, Andy and team-mate Bryce Menzies suffered a case of déjà vu when a pair of transmission failures ended their race after 478 miles; the duo had led much of the 2021 race before their engine gave out. Luke and MacCachren fell behind with a driveshaft problem but made up ground after the #7’s exit. The #23 and #83 battled for the rest of the race, and Luke capitalised on Dan suffering a flat tyre to retake the lead and pull away. Dan settled for second at 16:59:39. Nearly forty minutes behind the McMillin Racing 1–2 was Larry Roeseler, who completed the full distance on his own.

The McMillin/MacCachren duo enjoyed their second straight overall victory, while Menzies’ retirement enabled McMillin to secure the Trophy Truck class championship. McMillin had started the season with a victory in San Felipe and was poised to clinch at the 1000 despite Menzies winning the pole via his Baja 400 victory as the latter did not finish the Baja 500 (which MacCachren won in his own truck).

“[It] was probably the most highs and lows I ever had in a Baja 1000, and then also by the end, the most calm Baja 1000 I ever had,” said McMillin. “At the beginning, Rob passed Bryce at Mile 70 for the physical lead and I was like, ‘Alright, that’s pretty cool, but it’s early. It’s very, very early.’ And then Rob got a flat, Dan and Bryce got by him, and Rob worked his way past both of them again. My brother started having a little bit of engine issues—just some popping and stuff, no big deal, it worked its way out and his truck was running good after that. Rob also caught Bryce down at San Felipe, passed him on a line, and I was down there waiting at Zoo Road and to my surprise, Rob was first so that was pretty cool.

“So that was the high. And then the low was we lost the driveshaft on Puertecitos Road and we had about twenty minutes of downtime. I was sitting at my pit at Morelia Junction waiting for the truck. I was ready to get in first or second and then go do battle with the #7, I was looking forward to that, but unfortunately it didn’t work out for either of us. At the time, Rob was down, he dropped down to fourth vehicle on the road but there was no one else. There was four or five vehicles running, it was the two McMillin trucks, Bryce and Bebo (Andy’s nickname), and then also Larry Roeseler was back there, also Cameron Steele was in the mix. But behind that, it was a big ol’ gap, so once we changed the driveshaft, I knew Rob could push back up and catch him and sure enough, he got right up on Cameron. The #7 went down with a transmission change, so we were third on the road. I got in the truck third, and then Cameron Steele and Ryan Arciero lost a transmission so then we’re sitting 1 and 2, my brother and I. We got up on him through the desert, Josh Daniel, who was in my brother’s truck, and then they did a driver change.

“We went into Mike’s (Sky Ranch) a minute and twenty seconds apart, which was pretty exciting. From there, I drove the entire Mike’s loop blind. I couldn’t see five feet in front of me. Eventually, my brother ended up getting a flat tyre unfortunately and we got around him. From there, we just drove it in. It was kind of odd. The last 300 miles, my brother was ten to fifteen minutes behind us, and then behind him, they were saying, ‘You got forty-five minutes to an hour gap.’ It was kind of like a long pre-run really because this is what me and my brother do down here pre-running, we follow each other. It’s no pressure, nothing going on, and that’s kind of how it was. We just drove in and here we are for a three-peat.”

Besides Menzies, the course took a bite out of many frontrunners. Multiple Trophy Trucks retired with mechanical issues ranging from the #34 of Broc Dickerson and Apdaly Lopez suffering rear end problems to the engine failure on the #86 of Marc Martinez, James Dyer, and Chad Carney. Teenage sensation Jax Redline never got a chance to showcase his abilities as his #86 TT broke down before Mike Walser could switch out with him. Greg Adler‘s #56L Trophy Truck Legends rolled onto its roof, though he was able to continue after getting back on his wheels.

Transmission issues proved to be a recurring issue as they claimed Steele and Arciero’s #16 Trophy Truck as well as the #10 TT driven by Alan Ampudia and Tavo Vildósola, with the #10’s transmission overheating and catching fire to ruin an otherwise strong day as Ampudia and Vildósola were the leaders on time at one point. A bigger blaze consumed the #46 TT of Team Australia‘s Toby Price and Paul Weel; Weel and co-driver Preston Schmid were able to get away without injury, though the truck was burned down until only the frame remained.

“Seriously lost for words. The day started out well, Paul and Preston were holding a strong pace doing exactly what was needed. Two early flat tyres but boys were still up there holding their own. Around race mile 170 this was our end result. Truck completely destroyed but the boys are safe which is all that matters,” posted Price on social media. It has been a difficult two months for him after wrecking on his bike at the Rallye du Maroc in September, though he won’t have time to mope as he prepares for the 2023 Dakar Rally. “There is nothing you can say or do to make this situation better, I really wish it was a bad dream and my stomach stops being in such a knot. Everyone worked so hard on this [and] Paul has had such a shit run in this sport. I’m heart broken for you mate! You really are a great person and deserve so much better then this.”

Thirteen of twenty-nine Trophy Trucks failed to finish, compared to just seven of twenty-two in 2021.

Credit: Toby Price Motorsport

Christopher Polvoorde and Ray Griffith looked to be the top Trophy Truck Spec until their #204’s engine expired. Although the #264 of Pierce Herbst, cousin Riley Herbst, and James Dean took advantage to lead the class to the finish, they received a time penalty of twenty-three minutes and eighteen seconds for speeding and missing Virtual Checkpoints that relegated them to third. Elijah Kiger and Jason Coleman were promoted to the win as a result. Kiger was also the highest finishing non-Trophy Truck overall in fourth.

Had the penalty not occurred, Herbst—who was just four days removed from signing a contract extension to continue in the NASCAR Xfinity Series—would have joined a slate of drivers who have raced in NASCAR and won at the Baja 1000 including Walker Evans, Brendan Gaughan, Robby Gordon, Parnelli Jones, Ricky Johnson, Roger Mears, Mark Stahl, and to a degree MacCachren. Justin Lofton, another driver competing in the 1000 with NASCAR experience, fell victim to an alternator problem before he could even reach Mile 90. Gordon’s son Max, sharing the #1977 Pro UTV NA with Brian Barackman and Mario Gutierrez Jr., retired with a broken transmission while Gaughan never got going and exited early on. Johnson won the Trophy Truck Legends with Gus Vildósola while P.J. Jones, son of Parnelli and a NASCAR alumnus, was sixth in Pro UTV Forced Induction.

Austin Weiland, who was riding a two-race win streak, made it back-to-back-to-back in Pro UTV FI ahead of defending class champion Phil Blurton. Austin Jones, the SSV winner at the 2022 Dakar Rally, was tenth. Kaden Wells took the Pro UTV Normally Aspirated victory ahead of the two Honda Off-Road Factory Racing Team Talons of Zach Sizelove and Elia Hanna; the latter took the lead in the early stages before a steering rod and drive system broke.

Jeff Proctor won Class 7 for the second straight year and in his final scheduled race as a driver, having announced his bowing-out from driving earlier in the week due to health concerns. It is also the last race for his Honda Ridgeline as Honda Factory Team intends to switch to an upgraded “Gen 2 Baja Ridgeline” that is capable of Trophy Truck competition in 2023.

The Ford Ranger Raptor, a joint project between Ford Performance, new Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee Brad Lovell, and Australian Supercars team Kelly Racing, successfully completed the race in Stock Mid-Size with Lovell, Jason Hutter, and Australian Off Road Racing Championship stars Andy and Danny Brown. 2015 Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Famer Curt LeDuc followed in a Ford Bronco Raptor as part of the chase crew and at one point helped tow the Ranger out of deep silt. Another Australian success story comes in Class 1 as AORC driver Kevy Nott arrived on Saturday with his son and kart racer Jackson as team-mate. Nott used the AORC season-opening St. George’s 399 in May to prepare for the race. Price, a friend of his, helped him send his vehicle off for Mexico in May.

Some of the smaller classes had only a single finisher. In the two-car Stock Full, Marc Van Tassell overcame brake problems in Canguro Racing‘s Land Cruiser while technical ally Tomonori Noto of Team JAOS bowed out at the 100-mile mark with electronic and engine issues. Joshua Cobb reached the finish in the race’s final hours while fellow TrophyLite racer Craig Lumsden suffered a litany of mechanical issues. Cole Johnson finished in Hammer Truck Unlimited while Kent Fults went up in smoke just nine miles in. Class 5 boasted six entries yet only Ramon Fernandez completed the course.

Class 11 stole the show in 2021 when eight of eleven went the distance. However, only Oliver Flemante was able to officially do so in 2022. Reigning SCORE class champion Alex Gonzales battled multiple troubles with his Beetle and made a frantic dash to the finish as the closing time loomed; while he got to celebrate with his team and the fans remaining upon making it, he was formally classified as a retirement as he exceeded his 36-hour time limit by just two minutes.

Turmoil extended to the two-wheeled vehicles as well. Juan Carlos Salvatierra, who won all three of the prior SCORE World Desert Championship legs in 2022, suffered a fuel pump failure while team-mate Shane Logan was riding that knocked them out of the win. Samuels and his team of Morgan and Norman assumed the lead and never looked back, with Samuels scoring his seventh Baja 1000 Bike overall while Morgan notched his sixth in a row.

Forrest Minchinton was the second bike overall but finished over an hour behind Samuels. Salvatierra’s #10X entry was able to salvage a third-place finish to secure the Pro Moto Unlimited class title.

In the Pro Moto 50 class, Giovanni Spinali crashed out at RM 478 and suffered multiple injuries that necessitated an air transport to hospital. According to his daughter Gianna, he suffered fractures in his back, hip, and ribs, dislocated hip and shoulder, and broken femur and arms, though none are life threatening. Tanner Janesky helped organise a helicopter extraction for Spinali, earning Janesky a one-hour, twenty-five-minute time credit that ultimately lifted him to victory in the Pro Moto Ironman class.

Despite the course’s difficulty, Janesky and seven other Pro Moto Ironman competitors reached the finish, as did all of the multi-rider stables in Pro Quad. These stand in contrast to Pro Quad Ironman who went zero-for-three. Guy Laycraft was the lone Pro Moto 60 rider to make it. Although three including winner Vance Kennedy saw the finish in Pro Moto 50, Michael Boge and Wayne Christofferson were disqualified for deviating from the route and driving on roads deemed illegal by SCORE; such areas are off limits as they are used by local residents and ranchers.

Every rider who finished save for Salvatierra, Allo Pucci (seventh in Pro Moto Unlimited), Jano Montoya (second in Pro Moto 30), Fernando Beltran (Pro Moto Limited winner), Paul Hart (eighth in Pro Moto Ironman), Hector Chavez (Pro Quad winner), David Navarro and Merril Campbell (first and tenth in Sportsman Moto), and Fidel Gonzalez (second in Sportsman Quad) received a penalty. Besides Boge and Christofferson, four others received disqualifications.

With Baja out of the way, various faces including Price and Jones will now turn their attention towards another premier off-road race as the Dakar Rally begins on 31 December. Pro Moto Limited rider Tomás de Gavardo, set to make his Dakar début in Rally2 and running the 1000 with brother Matteo de Gavardo and Pedro González, was among those disqualified. Ahead of racing Dakar in the SSV class, Gerard Farrés teamed up with fellow Rally competitors António Marmolejo and Ariel Jatón in Baja Challenge and made the finish, albeit after the time limit as their Grand Dragon Team endured extended stops for repairs. While not Dakar, RJ Anderson scored a podium in Pro UTV FI alongside brother Ronnie and father Randy a week before heading to Uruguay to race in Extreme E.

“This is a challenge that I set myself with Matteo after the Baja 1000 organisers invited us to compete with Pedro, a rider with great experience in this type of race,” said Gavardo. He and his team had finished fourth in class prior to the penalty. “The three of us are all happy to have finished well, and it helped me add kilometres for the 2023 Dakar Rally.”

Class winners

Full results, including overall classification, are available on the SCORE International website.

ClassOverall FinishNumberDriver of RecordTime
Baja Challenge86BC1Frank DeAngelo26:37:55.877
Class 121138Kyle Quinn20:09:57.250*
Class 1/2-1600781616Eli Yee25:59:28.708*
Class 10131016Hiram Duran19:40:53.956*
Class 3DNFN/ANo FinishersN/A
Class 588507Ramon Fernandez26:42:31.012*
Class 5-1600131553Cesar Omar Iniguez34:01:27.592*
Class 741709Jeff Proctor21:42:56.579*
Class 7FDNFN/ANo FinishersN/A
Class 8DNFN/ANo FinishersN/A
Hammer Truck Unlimited1194482Cole Johnson32:25:00.422*
Pro Moto 3079301XDarrel Collins26:12:01.138*
Pro Moto 4047400XRyan Liebelt22:26:45.898*
Pro Moto 5066522XVance Kennedy24:36:18.493*
Pro Moto 60110649XGuy Laycraft29:56:21.572*
Pro Moto Ironman59775XTanner Janesky23:55:03.301*
Pro Moto Limited39180XFernando Beltran21:34:59.021
Pro Moto Unlimited107XMark Samuels18:51:30.152*
Pro Quad5631AHector Chavez23:29:01.599
Pro Quad IronmanDNFN/ANo FinishersN/A
Pro Stock UTV853959Antonio Mendez26:30:36.181*
Pro UTV Forced Induction332954Austin Weiland21:15:57.158
Pro UTV Normally Aspirated481995Kaden Wells23:01:56.914
Pro UTV Open241869Branden Sims20:37:09.534
SCORE Lites1161205Miguel Cortez31:56:17.091
Stock Full1278155Marc Van Tassell33:30:37.277*
Stock Mid-Size83773Brad Lovell26:21:39.519
Trophy Truck183Luke McMillin16:37:45.704
Trophy Truck Legends721LGus Vildósola18:08:10.416
Trophy Truck Spec4238Elijah Kiger17:49:03.874
TrophyLite1296066Joshua Cobb33:48:20.054*
* – Received a time penalty


ClassOverall FinishNumberDriver/Rider of RecordTime
1400 Sportsman Unlimited TruckDNFN/ANo FinishersN/A
Sportsman Moto2214XDavid Navarro22:12:41.128
Sportsman Quad1103ADario Rabago Morales22:10:10.936*
Sportsman UTV Open81818Nate Franklin27:23:28.673*

Class 7SX and Class 11

These classes ran the same, shorter route (695.79 mi) as the Sportsman divisions for safety reasons.

ClassOverall FinishNumberDriver of RecordTime
Class 7SX2740Armondo Duron31:38:30.819
Class 1111105Oliver Flemate26:05:36.210*
Follow @TCFoffroad: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram
Avatar photo
3593 posts

About author
Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
Related posts
InterviewsOff Road

INTERVIEW: Cayden MacCachren highlights San Felipe 250 victory, Polaris and UTV racing

20 Mins read
On the heels of his San Felipe 250 UTV win to begin the 2024 SCORE season, Cayden MacCachren chatted with The Checkered Flag about the victory, Polaris Factory Racing, and the UTV racing scene at large.
Off Road

Toys For Trucks continuing partnership with Dylan Parsons for 2024

1 Mins read
After winning Championship Off-Road Rookie of the Year honours in 2023, Dylan Parsons’ Pro SPEC truck will feature Toys For Trucks backing during the 2024 season.
Off Road

Clayton Roberts undergoing surgery for spinal injury after Hare & Hound crash

1 Mins read
A frightening accident in the National Hare & Hound Pro race on Sunday has left reigning Pro 250 champion Clayton Roberts with a severe spinal cord injury, among others, and fears he may not walk again.