Juan Zunino died Monday in an accident while pre-running for Saturday’s Baja 500. He was 28.
The single-bike crash occurred near Cohabuzo, where the 132nd mile of the Baja 500 is scheduled to run through. Another pre-runner encountered the scene and alerted Baja Pits, who had a pit area two miles away, but Zunino was pronounced dead at the scene.
Initial reports say he suffered severe head trauma in the accident, though specific injuries have yet to be confirmed by the coroner.
“I had the worst experience of my life today,” wrote Pro Moto Unlimited rider Arturo Salas Jr. “I never thought I would see something so harsh in my sport, more so being there… I hope evervone takes care of themselves in whatever they do, take care prerunning this baja! Blessings to all…”
Zunino was a relative newcomer to the SCORE International World Desert Championship, but already had experience racing for other teams that included finishing third in Pro Moto Unlimited at the 2022 Baja 400 as part of Ignacio Laviosa‘s #32X stable.
Deciding to race on his own for 2023, he won the Pro Moto Ironman class on début in the season-opening San Felipe 250 in April, while also placing third overall among all bikes, to become the first Argentinian rider to win the 250. He dedicated the win to his younger brother Gianfranco, who passed away in a crash himself in 2019 at the age of 17. The older Zunino had paid tribute throughout his own career with the slogan “4JIMMY”, which is also present on his helmet.
Prior to SCORE, he raced in enduro events such as the Enduropale Mar Del Plata in Argentina.
He would have been one of eleven entrants competing in the Baja 500’s Pro Moto Ironman category for riders racing on their own without team-mates.
“The details of the incident are still being investigated but all of us at SCORE are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our racers,” stated SCORE International President Abelardo Grijalva. “Juan was just launching his SCORE racing career that started with his victory on our season-opening SCORE San Felipe 250 in April.
“We express our deepest condolences and send our prayers to Juan’s family and friends.”