2014 SCORE San Felipe 250 ATV Recap and Results 0
For as long as I can remember, I’ve spent the last weeks of February pr-running and preparing for what I’ve always felt was North America’s toughest off-road race. Having raced the notoriously whooped out San Felipe 250 for the last fifteen years on an ATV, I attempted to step into the thriving Pro UTV class this year. As they say, “with age comes a cage” and a shoulder injury had led to months in the shop building the next step of my racing career. The build was deeper than I anticipated and I failed to finish in time for the SCORE opening round. Just week shy of the San Felipe 250, I threw in the towel and became a spectator/pit crew instead of a participant. I headed south to chase for the 1A ATV team of Adolfo Arellano, Francisco Vera, Nick Destout and Bradley Howe. This would be the first time in a long time I wouldn’t be behind the bars, but it would still be a wild ride.
Five A.M. Saturday comes quickly for the entire crew after prepping and pre running for an entire week. SCORE starts the motorcycles and quads at 6am sharp, leaving the line one at a time with 30 second intervals. Car classes including UTV’s are scheduled to start leaving the line 3 hours after the last ATV. The booming UTV class is the absolute last vehicles to see the green flag wave. Once considered race promoter Sal Fish’s “Vision” or even “child”, SCORE was sold at the end of the 2012 season, passing the proverbial torch to trophy truck racer Roger Norman of Norman Motorsports.
Norman’s inaugural 2013 season wasn’t exactly smooth, but still probably considered a success. Multiple class and rule changes shook things up a bit, some an improvement and others we will have to see play out. There is talk of favoritism to the car and truck classes, even some claiming a direction toward phasing out the bikes and quads all together. While both bike and ATV entry numbers were down this year, I truly don’t think they’re going anywhere.
The big news for ATV’s this year is the merging of class 24, 25, and 26. I really feel the Class 24-25 merger had been needed for quite some time, 25 being the big dogs of the sport and 24 was paying out equally to slower teams on the same vehicles. With pretty much everyone racing 450’s it only makes sense to have one Pro winner. Class 26 “Pro Utility” was eliminated as well, falling victim to this same merger. While class numbers were small, the 4×4 ATV’s were actually the only ATV class that was currently bringing any sort of factory support into Baja. As they are not competitive against the lighter, and better suspended 450 sport quads, class 26’s elimination was the demise of anyone racing them. Hopefully SCORE will see this to be a mistake and we’ll see them back in the near future.
This years San Felipe course was a completely different animal than the typical sand-whoop filled loop that has been run year after year. Rumored to be the result of a land issue with one of the ejidos (communal agriculture area) south of San Felipe, the new course would run out of town via Huatomote Wash heading north up through Mike’s Sky Ranch and then over the notoriously rocky route known as the Summit. Then it would be down through Laguna Salada, returning to San Felipe backwards through the typical first thirty miles of whoops.
Class 25 Pro ATV had a 8 teams entered in this years San Felipe 250. The 3A Honda 700xx of Michael Zelenka drew the pole position and would be the first ATV to peel out of from under the San Felipe arches. Thirty seconds later the 1A TRX450R of Adolfo Arellano would leave in hot pursuit. Four quads back was the always competitive 10A quad of Javier Robles Jr. with a two-minute deficit. As the chase for the 1A quad, we handled the rider swap at RM 80. Francisco Vera brought the 1A machine leading into the pit at RM 80, and we sent Brad Howe off into the Mike’s loop with a little more than two minutes on Mike Cafro riding the 10A Honda.
While driving the short distance from RM80 to the next pit in Valle De La Trinidad, we noticed something was wrong. The two leading motorcycles passed us on the highway, coming southbound when they should have been heading north to the infamous Summit. We quickly switched the radio to Weatherman to find that extreme weather and supposedly a stuck/broken bulldozer had left the Summit section of racecourse impassable. SCORE had decided mid-race to cut the race significantly short, rerouting the racers back towards San Felipe on highway 3 for almost 40 miles of pavement. As with many other teams, the 1A quads pit service was located north of the now redirected race course. We were left scrambling to acquire race gas as the quads were now approaching sooner than expected.
Thanks to a compassionate staff at the Valle Trinidad BFG pits, we fueled and then paced the 1A machine on the unexpected and new 40-mile highway section. The new course was now to re-enter dirt at Borrego, and we arrived there to find the ten or so motorcycles that were leading, all sitting there awaiting a restart while Score officials were busily marking a new section of course. Confusion was running rampant, and there was nearly blows when one of the lead bike teams decided to fuel their bike in the supposed impound. Racers were told that the hold up would be resurrected quickly, but no one really had any solid answers as to what was going to take place.
As it turned out, the front-running racers were held for over three hours before the official restart. Riders were started in their order of arrival, with one minute intervals. Times were recorded as they had entered the “hold” and the overall time would be adjusted at the finish. After hours of waiting, SCORE actually only marked around nine miles of course before it would reconnect into the final southbound leg of the originally marked course. Teams who had spent multiple days pre running the gnarly 100-mile Summit now had to race an unseen course before passing the bikes to their waiting teammates. The two lead quads had arrived in Borrego with two minutes and ten seconds separating them. With the two-minute deficit for starting order, this meant the 1A quad had a mere ten second lead going into the new course. Jorie Williams on the 10A and Nick Destout riding the 1A both knew that it was going to be an all-out battle to the finish. Both riders left on the gas and Destout gave up his minute gap by overshooting a turn and stall ing is ATV. Destout got it fired right before Williams could pass him, and the tow racers entered the next pit separated by seconds. The 10A machine was able to take the physical lead with about 59 miles left to race.
Francisco Vera rode like a maniac on the last leg, and was able to quickly regain the lead for Arellano’s 1A team. Both teams had a great race to the finish line, with the 1A finishing with the physical lead but on estimated adjusted time everyone was fairly sure the 10A had won by less than 10 seconds. Official results were released Sunday morning and all six finishing ATV teams had amassed penalties of some sort. Javier Robles Jr. was the official winner on the 10A, despite being dinged three minutes for speeding on the highway. Their finish time was 4:21:37. Adolfo Arrellano’s 1A team was hit for a 13-minute penalty for not fully stopping for a check point, finishing with an official time was 4:34:45. Jesus Lopez rounded out the podium nearly a half-hour later with a time of 4:58:31.
Living this race from the chase truck was a whole new experience for me. Having been behind the bars for the last fifteen years, I thought I would be bored or bummed out not getting to actually race. This was not the case at all. I definitely missed racing, but I now have a better understanding and respect for what my chase crew has gone through in the past. Everyone on the team is equally as important, completing their tasks for the team to have any shot at a win. The mass confusion with the redirect and restart was stressful for the racers, if not more so for the chase crew. The weather combined with SCORE’s lack of organization had us running at full-throttle to ensure a successful program. In the end, it was still great racing with an awesome battle between the top two teams. The 10A team of Javier Robles, Mike Cafro, Jorie Williams, and Felipe Velez handled the adversity with precision and calmness, and they were rewarded with the big win.
PRO ATV Results —
1. Javier Robles Jr, Mike Cafro, Jorie Williams, Felipe Velez, Honda TRX450R, 4:21:37 (30.06 mph);
2. Adolfo Arellano, Francisco Vera, Nick Destout, Bradley Howe, Honda TRX450R, 4:34:46;
3. Jesus Lopez, Juan Sanchez, Jesus Munguia, Honda TRX450R, 4:58:32;
4. Jesus Selem, Rodolfo Navarro, Jorge Lopez, Honda TRX450R, 5:17:51;
5. Michael Zelenka, Joe Ramo, Honda TRX700XX, 5:34:57;
6. Said Sanchez, Edgar Moreno, Roberto Villalobos, Honda TRX450R, 6:23:07