“Cat and mouse” game ends with Luke McMillin scoring San Felipe 250 victory

The 2022 SCORE International World Desert Championship began in dramatic fashion as the opening San Felipe 250 came down to a matter of minutes. The Trophy Truck class’ Luke McMillin and defending winner Bryce Menzies Arrived at the finish together, and McMillin officially took the overall victory by just two minutes.

McMillin, who finished runner-up to Menzies in the 2021 edition and qualified third for Saturday’s race, completed the 277-mile course in four hours, twenty-five minutes, and 20.573 seconds with Jason Duncan at his side. Pole winner Menzies battled with second-fastest qualifier Justin Lofton in the early stages until McMillin passed Lofton and the latter’s engine expired after eighty-eight miles. A downed tire from hitting a rock and questionable engine performance for Menzies allowed McMillin to close the gap, and the two traded the lead for the rest of the event in what McMillin described as “cat and mouse.” McMillin kept Menzies at bay in the dash to the finish to defeat his time of 4:27:29.269.

Despite the narrow defeat, Menzies described the run as a “solid day. Me and Luke just went back and forth, but he’s on top of his game. We tried everything we could do to track him down, but we also knew that this is qualifying for the Baja 500. Just stoked to back down here in the Malecón.”

The overall win is the 100th in Baja for McMillin’s tire supplier BFGoodrichcontinuing a legacy that began with Bob Gordon winning the company’s first in the early 1970s. McMillin is now on a three-race streak of podium finishes that includes winning the Baja 1000 as a co-driver to Rob MacCachren last November. MacCachren overcame a sixteenth-place starting spot, which topped off a difficult qualifying day in which his Trophy Truck got beached in very fine silt, to finish fourth.

“We ran clean today. We had no issues, no close calls. We just kept moving all day,” McMillin told the SCORE broadcast. “We picked off Lofton going up north, caught him on some lines, passed him moving which was really cool, and then worked our way right up to Menzies. Got up behind him on the lake bed and they were changing the tire at the end and we got out front. We were out front for a while and then got to our pit, we had a little hiccup and Menzies got back by us. We were heading to Matomi (close to Route Mile 220) and we got on the high road, and I was probably thirty-eight seconds behind Bryce. I know the game on the high road, so I took it easy and he pulled over right before we got to Matomi, and from there we just drove it in. Amazing.”

Joining McMillin and Menzies on the overall podium was the Trophy Truck of Mike Walser and Jax Redline. The 17-year-old Redline showed impressive pace upon taking over the truck at the RM 126.9 checkpoint, bringing it from fourth to the lead by RM 200 before hitting a tree and blowing a tyre. In spite of the mishap, Redline secured his best SCORE finish to date.

Similar to what happened in Trophy Trucks, Gus Vildósola won the Trophy Truck Legends by two minutes over defending SF 250 winner Rolf Helland. Vildosola’s triumph came despite dealing with a transmission problem throughout. His son Tavoa TT driver, retired after sixty-four miles.

Trophy Truck Spec saw a duel for the win between Christopher Polvoorde and Christian Sourapas before the latter’s hopes evapourated when his fuel ran out with seventeen miles to go. Sourapas endured a chaotic day prior to his fuel tank going empty as he suffered a pair of tire flats and ran out of spares, forcing him to slow his pace. Polvoorde was the only driver of the class to record a time below five hours. The reigning Great American Shortcourse Pro Lite champion, he has enjoyed a strong start to 2022 with a win in King of the Hammers’ Toyo Tires Desert Challenge T2 in February.

Credit: Ronny Wilson

Kyle Quinn, who is among a handful of drivers in the racing world with Type 1 diabetes, took the Class 1 victory. Quinn raced alongside Scott Mahelona before handing off the #138 Jimco machine to Ronny Wilson and Craig Darrowwho brought it home with a forty-nine-second advantage over Damen Jefferies after repairing a damaged alternator.

Chase Warren won in Class 10 for the second straight year and third in the last four 250s; the lone non-victory was a runner-up finish in 2019. Warren started at the back but reached the front by halfway and never looked back. Cesar Cuevaswho defeated Warren for the 2019 win, placed second.

Scott Brady secured his first SCORE victory in Class 7 with nearly eighteen minutes over Randy Bluth. His previous best finish was a runner-up in the 2021 Baja 400while he had finished sixth and last in the class—albeit still running to make Class 7 one of two four-wheel divisions where everyone completed the race in time—in last year’s SF 250.

The Volkswagen Beetles of Class 11 captured many hearts at the Baja 1000 when an astounding eight entrants (over twice as many as the previous best since 2010 of three in 2018) finished. Of the six in San Felipe, three completed the race led by Fernando Prado with defending World Champion Hector Sarabia trailing by forty-one seconds. Eric Solorzanoan eleven-time SF 250 class winner including six in a row from 1999 to 2004, was among the retirements.

Of the four UTV division winners, Wayne Matlock (Pro UTV Open) and Justin Lambert (Pro UTV Forced Induction) set times below seven hours. Matlock, the first UTV racer to win the SCORE overall WDC in 2018, was the highest finishing UTV in forty-fifth overall. 2019 Baja 1000 class winner Lambert rebounded from a retirement in the 2021 250.

The Moto and Quad classes raced an alternate route from the four-wheelers that broke away at RMs 80 and 230 but finished together at El Malecón; four-wheelers faced immediate disqualification if they encrusted on the Moto course.

Much like their four-wheeled counterparts, the Moto overall culminated in a close battle separated by two minutes. Pro Moto Unlimited’s Juan Carlos Salvatierrawho claimed three of four legs in the 2021 World Desert Championship’s Pro Moto Ironman class with a second in San Felipe, barely held off Pro Moto 30’s Jano Montoya as his time of 6:01:34.172 trumped Montoya’s by two minutes and nineteen seconds. Montoya has won Pro Moto 30 in back-to-back SF 250s, while defending Pro Moto Unlimited winner Derek Ausserbauer was third in class.

“This is a project that we started last year, and today we harvest making history,” proclaimed Salvatierra on Instagram.

Credit: Juan Carlos Salvatierra

Fernando Beltran triumphed in Pro Moto Limited for the second year in a row, while defending SCORE Pro Moto 40 World Desert Champion Ryan Liebelt secured his fifth straight class win after sweeping the 2021 WDC. Liebelt also hit double-digit SCORE victories with his third consecutive SF 250.

In the one-man Pro Ironman divisions, Brandon Wright and Luis Ernesto Villafana respectively won the Moto and Quads. Wright, the defending Pro Moto 40 World Desert Champion as one of Liebelt’s lieutenants before moving to Ironman racing, faced a stiff challenge from Aaron Richardson until the latter crashed on RM 220. Villafana was the reigning Pro Quad co-champion.

The five Sportsman divisions were classified in a separate overall than the rest of the grid. Sportsman Moto rider David Navarro led the overall with a ten-minute, thirty-one-second advantage over fellow classman Filiberto Garcia. A pair of Gonzalezes went 1–2 in Sportsman Quads with Fidel Gonzalez beating Juan Gonzalez by five minutes.

Of the twenty-nine classes, thirteen saw every competitor finish all 277 miles; By comparison, the 2021 race had eight. Baja Challenge boasted the most of the four-wheelers with three (Barry Thompson, Edward Muncie, William Jordan), while Class 7SX was two-for-two with Dario Serrano and Armondo Duron. Three had just one entry that finished: Cesar Gutierrez in Class 3, while Troy Stone and Lawrence Rust respectively did so in 1400 Sportsman Unlimited Truck and Buggy achieved the feat. The remaining eight came in the Moto/Quads led by ten in Sportsman Moto, followed by Pro Quads (seven), Pro Moto Limited and Pro Moto 40 (five), Pro Moto 30 (four), Pro Moto 50 (two: Vance Kennedy and defending Baja 1000 class victor Giovanni Spinali), Pro Moto 60 (one: Scott McIntosh), and Pro Quad Ironman (one: Faelly Lopez).

Four entrants were disqualified. Among the four-wheelers, Steve Allen (Pro UTV Forced Induction) and Fernando Ponce (Class 5 1600) were respectively penalised for cutting the course and an illegal engine. The lone punished rider Jose Lozada (Pro Moto Ironman) had the same infraction as Allen, while Dario Rabago Morales (Sportsman Quads) went backwards on the track.

The second round of the World Desert Championship will be the Baja 500 on 1–5 June. Larry Roeselerwho was one of nine Trophy Trucks to not finish the San Felipe 250, is the defending overall winner.

Class winners

Full results, including overall classification, are available on the SCORE International website.

Class Overall Finish Number Driver Time
Baja Challenge 132 BC1 Barry Thompson 8:31:48.910*
Class 1 25 138 Kyle Quinn 5:22:41.971
Class 1/2 1600 103 1626 Martin Rangel 7:44:06.650
Class 10 27 1088 Chase Warren 5:27:26.999
Class 11 164 1155 Fernando Prado 10:28:00.922
Class 3 172 319 Cesar Gutierrez 11:44:31.448
Class 5 1600 142 555 Jose Enrique Gutierrez 9:12:16.302
Class 7 44 703 Scott Brady 6:07:58.201*
Class 7F 127 701F Brandon Walsh 8:21:54.298
Class 7SX 145 744 Dario Serrano 9:20:52.239
Class 8 DNF 818 Jessalen Sells N/A
Heavy Metal DNF 8044 Brett Maister N/A
Pro Moto 30 42 325X Jano Montoya 6:03:53.694*
Pro Moto 40 84 400X Ryan Liebelt 7:14:59.160*
Pro Moto 50 83 522X Vance Kennedy 7:14:15,742
Pro Moto 60 143 600X Scott McIntosh 9:14:04.550*
Pro Moto Ironman 87 750X Brandon Wright 7:21:20.300
Pro Moto Limited 72 180X Fernando Beltran 6:51:07.247*
Pro Moto Unlimited 41 10X Juan Carlos Salvatierra 6:01:34.172*
Pro Quad Ironman 156 83A Faelly Lopez 9:47:10.354*
Pro Quads 62 7A Luis Ernesto Villafana 6:26:38.395*
Pro Stock UTV 102 3910 Brent Stowell 7:43:36.888
Pro UTV Forced Induction 49 2918 Justin Lambert 6:13:15.198
Pro UTV Non-Aspirated 107 1957 Joe Bolton 7:52:12.945*
Pro UTV Open 45 1871 Wayne Matlock 6:08:50.068
SCORE Lites 66 1216 Matt Ferrato 6:31:51.945
Trophy Truck 1 83 Luke McMillin 4:25:20.573
Trophy Truck Legends 8 21L Gus Vildósola 4:46:43.418
Trophy Truck Spec 11 204 Christopher Polvoorde 4:53:34,351
* – Received a time penalty

Sportsman

Class Overall Finish Number Driver Time
1400 Sportsman Unlimited Buggy 11 1533 Troy Stone 8:17:04.085*
1400 Sportsman Unlimited Truck 18 1468 Lawrence Rust 9:51:14.012
Sportsman Moto 1 214X David Navarro 7:07:01.957*
Sportsman Quads 4 111A Fidel Gonzalez 7:27:48.117
Sportsman UTV Open 16 1809 Jim Borden 9:17:00.753

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