Off Road

Trophy Trucks struggle, Bryce Menzies cruises to Baja 500 win

4 Mins read
Credit: Art Eugenio/Red Bull Content Pool

Trophy Trucks might be SCORE International‘s premier class, but Saturday’s Baja 500 was eager for their blood.

While attrition was relatively on par for the 500 (the 2022 edition had eighteen finishers in TT while 2023 just saw one fewer), many trucks were plagued by mechanical issues throughout the day. Most notably, points leader and San Felipe 250 winner Luke McMillin lost his power steering pump early on, followed by hitting a rock that destroyed a brake caliper and his fourth and fifth gears in what he attributed to “just driving too hard,” and eventually finished off the podium in fourth. His brother Dan McMillin suffered a bent gear shaft after eighty miles and had to replace his steering box, but managed to reach the finish in seventh.

Alan Ampudia, who finished second to McMillin in San Felipe, retired after 223 miles with a mechanical failure. Team Australia’s woes also continued as the power steering box broke while Toby Price was running in seventh, followed by the rear pinion shaft doing the same with Paul Weel at RM 330. Variants in the Legends and Spec categories also saw victims like Elijah Kiger and Broc Dickerson‘s #238 TT Spec blowing a transmission at RM 140 and classmate Christopher Polvoorde breaking a differential 150 miles later.

Other classes weren’t safe either like Class 1, where Brad Wilson battled with Cody Reid for the lead before retiring with a transmission problem, and San Felipe victor Cody Parkhouse rolled just twenty-five miles into the race.

The #16 TT of Cameron Steele and Ryan Arciero and #55L TT Legends of Jose Flores were involved in perhaps the largest accident of the day. Arciero was chasing Gary Magness and Flores down a narrow road exiting Ojos Negros when the trio started to stack up and Arciero rammed into the slowing Flores. While Flores was able to finish fifth in his class, the #16 was out altogether.

“I had no idea he was there until it was too late,” wrote Arciero. “There were three of us trucks stacked up leaving Ojos and going back to speed after the speed zone ended. It is a very fast and straight part of the course and i was running through the dust and didn’t expect to see the truck in front slow down and by the time I saw him it was way too late. And I hit full brakes but could not slow down in time. Closing rate was way too fast.”

Most managed to overcome their issues to salvage finishes like Tavo Vildósola, who nearly bowed out at the halfway point but managed to place twelfth, and Tim Herbst, who lost a belt early on yet recovered for a top ten in tenth. TT driver Kevin Adler and TT Spec’s Bryan Scheible had particularly eventful rebounds as both rolled their trucks shortly after the 400-mile marker, but respectively came back to place sixteenth and twenty-second in their classes.

Bryce Menzies was technically not exempt as he suffered an early flat tyre, but he benefitted more from the drama than was hurt as he won his fourth Baja 500. Previous victories came in 2011, 2012, and 2014.

“We started out early, got a flat early, had to make up some time on Luke and Alan,” recalled Menzies. “Got by Alan with an issue, and then got by Luke going slow, so from there, picked our way to the finish. Kept it smooth. A couple little issues here and there but nothing major. To win number four feels very special.”

Mike Walser provided the closest competition and finished seven minutes back for his best finish since a third at the 2022 San Felipe 250. Amid the tumultuous day endured by his peers, the TT Spec of Jason McNeil impressed by finishing third for the very rare overall podium by his class; he was the first non-Trophy Truck to podium overall in a SCORE race since Justin Morgan won the 2018 Baja 1000 on a bike.

Oliver Flemate had a busy day in triple duty, finishing twelfth in his #244 Trophy Truck Spec before linking up with the #1203 SCORE Lites team and placing second in class there. After that, he hopped into the #1105 Volkswagen Beetle and won Class 11, reaching the finish shortly before 3 AM. The great Larry Roeseler also went from truck to Beetle as he finished third in Trophy Truck before migrating to the #1143 Class 11, but he and Eric Brandt exceeded the time limit to finish by forty minutes.

Brock Heger notched his and Polaris Factory Racing‘s first SCORE win as he finished thirty-first overall to win Pro UTV Open, beating Branden Sims to be the best performing UTV driver as a whole. Rodrigo Ampudia, from rival manufacturer Can-Am and UTV overall champion in San Felipe, retired from the 500.

World Rally-Raid Championship T3 points leader and Dakar Rally winner Austin Jones finished fifth in Pro UTV FI alongside his W2RC team-mate Seth Quintero; their car was third overall among UTVs when Quintero swapped out for Jones, who suffered a mechanical issue shortly after taking over. Fellow Can-Am driver Sara Price won the Pro Stock UTV class; Price raced alongside the duo, as well as Toby Price, at the W2RC’s Sonora Rally in the eponymous neighbouring Mexican state in April, where she clinched a Dakar Rally ticket.

Honda Factory Racing enjoyed a double victory day for a 2023 season début as Zach Sizelove won Pro UTV NA for the second year in a row while Ethan Ebert claimed Class 7 in his first SCORE race driving the flagship Honda Ridgeline.

The bike overall saw a first-time winner for the second time in as many races in 2023 as Arturo Salas Jr. scored the victory. Making his début for his own team after departing reigning champion Juan Carlos Salvatierra‘s team, Salas and Clayton Roberts held off Connor Eddy and San Felipe winner Ciaran Naran. Salvatierra had set the best time through halfway before a broken chain and penalties dropped him to fourth.

In Sportsman Quad, an all-women team led by Eva Hernandez, joined by Lilia Rodriguez, Gisse Gomez, Evelyn Gonzalez, and Chyrisma Isom, finished sixth in class.

Class winners

ClassOverall FinishNumberCompetitor of RecordTime
Baja Challenge121BC4Edward Muncey14:49:32.102*
Class 114168Cody Reid10:17:01.952*
Class 566511Eli Yee12:10:11.821
Class 5-1600DNFN/ANo FinishersN/A
Class 743709Ethan Ebert11:14:55.217*
Class 7F145700FGerardo Novelo16:46:04.167
Class 7SXDNFN/ANo FinishersN/A
Class 8DNFN/ANo FinishersN/A
Class 10181091Francisco Vera10:29:40.434*
Class 111^1105Oliver Flemate15:49:45.450
Pro Moto 3065300XJano Montoya12:02:20.626
Pro Moto 40110441XAlirio Amado14:08:11.554
Pro Moto 5080501XRobert Creemers12:47:24.263
Pro Moto 60102644XKevin Ward13:35:17.579
Pro Moto Ironman74700XBrandon Wright12:30:42.574*
Pro Moto Limited63117XJeffrey Row11:51:06.593
Pro Moto Unlimited1911XArturo Salas Jr.10:29:59.968
Pro Quad571ANicolas Velez11:35:54.628
Pro Quad Ironman13783AFaelly Lopez16:16:29.606
Pro Stock UTV903938Sara Price13:06:05.757
Pro UTV Open311896Brock Heger10:45:27.809*
Pro UTV Forced Induction462944Phil Blurton11:18:55.102*
Pro UTV Normally Aspirated861925Zach Sizelove12:59:51.162*
Pro UTV Unlimited933993Richard Fant13:09:57.140
SCORE Lites911211Oscar Alvarez13:07:05.800
Stock FullDNFN/ANo FinishersN/A
TrophyLite1276049Chase Swanson15:02:44.947
Trophy Truck17Bryce Menzies9:06:37.973
Trophy Truck Legends91LGus Vildósola9:56:24.908*
Trophy Truck Spec3234Jason McNeil9:33:36.760*
* – Received a time penalty
^ – Class 11 and Class 7SX are classified in their own group

Sportsman

ClassOverall FinishNumberCompetitor of RecordTime
Sportsman Moto2290XGerardo Rubio12:38:17.578*
Sportsman Quad1139ASergio Jimenez12:16:23.508*
Avatar photo
3505 posts

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

Palestinian podium sweep in Jordan 4x4 gives "sign of hope despite ongoing aggression at home"

2 Mins read
Emad Khabeis led a Palestinian 1–2–3–4 in the Jordan 4×4 Championship’s season opener in a moment of light during an otherwise grim time for their country.
Off RoadProduct Review

Red Bull Scramble Series partners with Wolverine Boot

2 Mins read
Wolverine has teamed up with the Red Bull Scramble Series to produce a limited edition work boot.
Off Road

SCORE introduces Trophy Truck qualifying for full season

2 Mins read
All 4 SCORE International races—San Felipe 250, Baja 500, Baja 400, Baja 1000—will have qualifying for Trophy Truck, Trophy Truck Legends and Trophy Truck Spec in 2024. Previously, it was just the 250 and 400.