Faced with the longest (at 542 miles) and potentially the roughest, most grueling Baja 500 in history, like many teams Justin Morgan and Mark Samuels elected to augment their squad and brought in Justin Jones for the 50th BFGoodrich Tires SCORE Baja 500, round 2 of SCORE World Desert Championship.
As winner of round 1—the San Felipe 250—Morgan earned the first starting position for the 3:30 a.m. start, which certainly didn’t hurt the SLR (Slam Life Racing) Honda trio’s chances. Night air is generally damp and still, so dust (especially bad in the many silt beds on this course in Mexico’s northern Baja California peninsula) tends to hang especially long and negate the one-minute spread in start times. So Morgan and company enjoyed clean air for all 11 hours, 54 minutes, and 58 seconds they raced, beating defending series champs Max Eddy Jr., Shane Esposito, and Tyler Lynn on their Contractor Nation/Chris Haines Motorcycle Adventure Company CRF450X by almost 45 minutes, the 1X crew bringing it in after 12:29:54, having lost ground early and playing catchup the rest of the day.
That’s not to say the race was without incident for the SLR Honda trio as something apparently came apart inside the right fork leg during the last couple hundred miles, draining all its oil and making the bike feel like the front wheel might fall off if it left the ground, but they adjusted their riding accordingly, making it safely back to Ensenada to remain undefeated in SCORE this season with the final two rounds left later this year. An inspired push late in the race when they saw dust ahead netted the Skyler Howes, Garrett Poucher, and Michel Valenzuela team third place and their first SCORE podium aboard their Garrett Off-road Racing CRF450X in 13:13:15.
Other class winners were Sergio Garza, Philip Jaramillo, Jorge Ramirez, and Arturo Salas in Pro Moto Limited (less than 400cc) with a final time of 13:56:15, Greg Bardonnex, Ryan Liebelt, Andrew Puckett, and Justin Schultz in Pro Moto 30 (13:59:44); Jeff Kawell, Jano Montoya, Alberto Ruiz, and Sergio Vegas in Pro Moto 40 (14:18:18); John Griffin, Troy Pearce, Earl Roberts, and Giovanni Spinali in Pro Moto 50 (14:36:09); Craig Adams, Doug Smith, Bob Johnson, Guy Laycraft, and Dave Potts in Pro Moto 60 (15:58:49); and Hector Cardena, Joe Leal, Oswaldo Moncada, Raul Ortega Jr., Carlos Silva, and Carlos Silva Jr. in Sportsman Motorcycle (13:20:19 for the Quad and Sportsman Motorcycle-only abbreviated course of approximately 473 miles).