Baja 500 bound

May 25, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

Ensenada — Imperial Valley-based off-road racers are heading into this weekend's SCORE Baja 500 with full heads of steam.

The father-son team of Brawley's Larry and Miles Wyatt and Bob Lofton of Westmoreland have all won races in San Felipe this season driving their unlimited class 1 buggies, while motocross phenom Aaron Tuck of Brawley has continued to dominate local races at the Plaster City staging area on his Honda XR 650.

To keep winning this weekend, the local racers will have to step it up.

In this year's Baja 500, the third race in SCORE's six-race season, the local guys will take on a grueling 479-mile course from Ensenada to Ojos Negros and do battle with more than 240 vehicles in 24 different classes.

For those thinking about making the trip to the Mexican coast to root on the Valley speedsters, motorcycles and ATVs will begin the race at 6 a.m. Saturday with the cars (buggies) and trucks following at 7:30 a.m. Vehicles will start one every 30 seconds in the elapsed-time race.


For Lofton, the race is especially important because it will determine the course of his season.

If he and teammate Mike Julson of San Diego don't do well in the 500 they'll forget about most of the future SCORE races and concentrate on winning the Pro-Dirt Racing Association championship.

At the beginning of the race year, Lofton and about 20 other class 1 racers all put $5,000 into a pot, formed their own association and decided to compete against each other in five races, whether the races are sponsored by SCORE, Best in the Desert or another association. Lofton is leading the Pro-Dirt standings and near the top in the SCORE rankings after his win in the San Felipe 250.

If he places near the top of the SCORE leader board Saturday, Lofton said he and Julson will probably race the Baja 1000 this fall and go for the class 1 season championship.

Among the entries he'll be competing against in class 1 are Las Vegas resident Troy Herbst and the San Diego County racing brood the McMillin family.

SCORE spokesman Dominic Clark said 70-plus father Corky McMillin and his sons Mark and Scott will suit up and compete against each other.

The McMillins have a total of 12 class wins in the SCORE Baja 500, including six overall titles. Mark McMillin is the defending overall and class 1 winner in the race.

Herbst, who has three class wins in this race, is the defending five-time SCORE class 1 season point champion.

Julson, who builds the extremely popular Jimco race car chassis, won class 1 and was second overall at the Tecate SCORE San Felipe 250 in March.

Julson's teammate, Lofton, said he is worried about Mark McMillin and the Herbst "Landshark." He said they'll both likely be there at the end.

As for Tuck, he'll be racing against Steve Hengeveld of Oak Hills. It's going to be a tough assignment as Hengeveld has won the overall motorcycle and class 22 titles in this race the last two years on his American Honda factory-sponsored No. 1X Honda XR650R. Tuck races a similar Honda.

Pre-race festivities will center around the Riviera Convention Center in downtown Ensenada on Friday and the race will start on the boulevard adjacent to the center and finish on the outskirts of town at the end of Avenida Ruiz. Traditionally drawing large crowds, the pre-race "Manufacturer's Midway" and display of all the race vehicles will be adjacent to the San Nicolas Hotel, near downtown Ensenada. It will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. the day before the race.

For more information, contact SCORE International at its Los Angeles headquarters (818) 225-8402 or visit the official SCORE Desert Series Web site at

>> SCORE spokesman Dominic Clark contributed to this story.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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