2017 49th SCORE Baja 500 Results

Mark Kariya | June 5, 2017

2017 49th SCORE Baja 500 Results – After seemingly years of being in the hunt but coming up short at the finish, a Francisco Arredondo-captained team got that long-awaited overall motorcycle win at the 49th SCORE Baja 500, round two in the SCORE World Desert Championship.

2017 49th SCORE Baja 500 Results

2017 49th SCORE Baja 500 Results
After several years of trying, Francisco Arredondo and teammates Shane Esposito, Justin Morgan and Roberto Villalobos enjoyed a trouble-free day to get their first overall SCORE Baja motorcycle victory. Photography by Mark Kariya

Having drawn the seventh starting spot out of eight Pro Moto Unlimited teams, the Arredondo/Shane Esposito/Justin Morgan/Roberto Villalobos squad faced a very competitive field with four other crews vying for the lead through the first half of the 516-mile race.But after the halfway mark, the infamous San Felipe loop winnowed the lead pack with the Bremen Racing/Chris Haines Motorcycle Adventure Company/Precision Concepts CRF450X wearing plate 45X asserting itself and pulling away to a huge winning margin of 26-plus minutes. They officially completed the arduous and varied course in 11 hours, four minutes and 53 seconds after the post-race review of tracking data assessed them a 10-minute penalty.

The Ox Motorsports Honda trio of Derek Ausserbauer/Ray Dal Soglio/Nic Garvin rebounded from a disappointing San Felipe 250 to claim second in 11:30:26 while Ox Motorsports teammates and San Felipe winners Ryan Penhall/Jason Potter/Mark Samuels settled for third in 11:35:29.

“Justin’s the one who made a lot of time,” Esposito noted. “We started seventh; I got us into physically first around [mile] 60 and [the] 3X of Ausserbauer/Dal Soglio/Garvin] was staying pretty close.”

Though not as hot as last year’s scorcher, it was still over 100 degrees during the San Felipe loop, where even Morgan had to take a break after running out of water in his drink system early.

“I was struggling for a minute there, I really was,” he admitted. “I slowed down for a little bit and regrouped and I got to a pit and they’re like, ‘You’ve got a big lead’ so I was like, ‘Oh thank you! Just put as much cold water on me as you can.’ ”

2017 49th SCORE Baja 500 Results

In fact, Esposito (whose 43rd birthday fell on race day) took part of Morgan’s section in order for Morgan to take a quick break and be better prepared for his final stint from mile 410 at the Goat Trail to 480 at Ojos Negros where the course crossed HIghway 3, with “Espo” taking their Arredondo Racing/Dunlop/Lucas Oil-backed bike from there to the finish.

“We’ve obviously got the speed,” Morgan declared. “We’ve got good equipment. We’ve had a couple freak mechanical failures [in the past], like the solder blowing off at the 1000 [last year while we were leading, killing our lights]. But we just keep going.”

Esposito added, “It feels good [to finally get the win with this team], but I’m just here for the fun.”

Dal Soglio observed, “There were about four bikes within 10 minutes of each other at the halfway point so it was definitely a battle. At the halfway point we were about a minute off the leader, then 1X was not too far behind that and I believe 100X was in there.”

The Rider of Record on the #3X Monster Energy/Lava Propane/MSR CRF450X added, “Nic got on the bike and had some problems with his goggles at first and got passed by a few people, but as soon as he settled into his groove Nic Garvin just started ripping! He got us back to second; at one point we were only seven seconds behind the leader until he blew a corner, but he put down a little over 200 miles straight. He’s just a beast, man! I’ve got to give him a lot of credit.”

That the 10X trio of Kadin Guard/Tommy Harris/Skyler Howes got back to Ensenada was impressive but to physically finish third on their Lake Powell Offroad Association/Fastheads/Monarch Honda CRF450X was even more so after Howes took a digger early.

“We started off the line in sixth,” he reported. “I was able to pass all the up into the lead. As I was trying to pass Nic Garvin for first overall, we were coming down this really gnarly, rocky hill and he had no clue I was there. He just kind of kicked a rock straight to my front wheel and I went down real hard.

“I got up [but] I couldn’t use my front brake at all because my thumb hurt SO bad. So I got it into race mile 80 and our front brake was out so my teammate actually rode the bike with no front brake all the way until race mile 240. There, we did a full service pit and got the brake and the tires and oil and everything [done], and got the bike all fixed up. I did some serious icing on my hand and I was supposed to take the San Felipe loop from, basically, Mike’s [Sky Rancho] road all the back to Mike’s road, so about 130 miles of gnarliness, just relentless stuff. I did that whole thing! I made it from 0 to 80 and 240 back to about 390; in the process I ended up passing 1X.”

It was for naught, however, as the 1X Ox Motorsports threesome of Penhall/Potter/Samuels on their Jackson Motorsports/AHM/Scorpion Helmets CRF450X ended up with the faster official overall time, 11:35:29-11:36:33.

Being the last Pro Moto Unlimited team to start likely hurt their final result, with Penhall saying, “I was stuck in the dust at the very back just trying to stay steady and try to stay focused and not make mistakes. You can only go as fast as far as you can see out there. I got around a couple guys—unfortunately, not enough guys—but we had a few little mistakes. We’ve just got to work on the next race and hopefully we’ll be back to win another.”

The Pro Moto Limited (under 401cc) winners Morgan Crawford/Justin Morrow/Kevin Murphy/Jim O’Neal winners took fifth overall on their Monkey Business Cleaning Products/PCT/HP Race Development Husky FE 350 in 12:08:26 despite developing an injector issue that forced them to stop several times over the last half to clean it.

Other class winners included Jim Holley/Ryan Senacal/Jason Thomas/Kenjiro Tsuji/Tony Wenck in Pro Moto 30 (riders over 30 years old) in 12:50:12 on their Hicklin Powersports YZ450FX; Jeff Kawell/Jano Montoya/Alberto Ruiz/Francisco Septien in Pro Moto 40 in 12:22:47 on their PB Brown KTM 450 XC-F; Robert Gates/Chris Goolsby/Bob Johnson/David Potts/Doug Smith/Steve Williams in 13:12:36 on their HelmetKits.com KX450F; Dennis Greene/Mark Hawley/Andy Kirker/Dennis McLaughlin/Bill Tarling in Pro Moto 60 in 16:10:49 on their Tivoli CRF450X; Josear Carrasco in Pro Moto Ironman in 15:14:47 on his Too Much Fun Promotions RMX450Z; and Jose Galvan/Adan Garcia/Cornelio Garcia/Fermin Vargas in Sportsman Moto in 13:40:43 on their Pirelli-backed YZ450FX.

2017 49th SCORE Baja 500 Results

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Mark Kariya | Contributor Kariya spends way too much time in the desert, but we’re glad he does as he’s the man who gets us our coverage of all things sandy.