2021 SCORE San Felipe 250 Starts The Season Off Right!
Story By: Mike Ingalsbee | Photos By: GET SOME Photo & HighRev Photo
The small fishing village of San Felipe in Baja Mexico is known for sand, sea, and fun in the sun. It’s the perfect place to kick your feet up, have some tacos, and wash it down with a margarita or cold beer. However San Felipe is also a great place to test the determination of off road racers. The very same sand that feels great between your toes on the beach, can wreak havoc on a race car.
Not only does the deep sand cook transmissions, snap axles, and grind any moving parts into dust, but it also forms into whoops; the irregular bumps that stretch for miles. There are shallow whoops that will shake your fillings, square edged whoops that pound the car, and deep loose whoops that most just call holes; holes that are as big as a car. If you are going fast enough, you can “stay on top” which means the car will skip across the peaks while the tires fall down into the valleys. Once the depth or frequency becomes too deep, or too widely spaced, the entire car will plunge into the bottom, and either dig the front bumper into the sand, or bottom out the rear which can send you off course into the unknown. There are some sections that are not entirely whooped out; like in the sand washes. Obviously the sand is still there, but rocks, and boulders are thrown in to shred tires, and crush wheels. Drivers need to pick their way through with precision, which isn’t easy when the car has been getting pounded for miles.
Once you hit a fast section it’s time to take a break; right? Not exactly. This is a sprint race, the smooth sections are where you can make up time. You have to push the same car you’ve been hammering into submission for hours, but at full speed. Every squeak, every rattle, and every vibration plays with your mind when you’re going flat out. How fast do you really want to go? The answer is, as fast as it takes to win.
You would think that starting out front would be a big advantage. Most of the time, it’s true, but in San Felipe many of the winners came from the back of the pack. Was it just bad luck for those who started out front or great fortune for those in the rear? That’s something that can be debated forever. You never know what’s going to happen when racing off road. That’s why wins are so coveted, and struggles are common. Even the best teams can have unforeseen problems. Take for instance reigning SCORE series overall, and UTV turbo class champion Matt Burroughs. He started towards the front, and soon found himself battling with two other champions for the lead; Phil Blurton and Justin Lambert. Blurton later said he was taking it easy since it was his first Baja race and was still learning. He said they took it easy for 200 miles (which is not normal for him), then picked up the pace at the end. He finished 4th. Lambert had some issues, and suffered a DNF (did not finish). Burroughs was rammed from behind by a class 10 car, and had downtime to replace broken parts on the rear suspension. He would persevere to finish 10th.
That allowed Austin Weiland to move up from the 10th starting spot to run first on the road. He was driving a brand new car build by TSCO. He lost the front drive with 20 miles to go, but made it to the finish; the first UTV to take the checkered flag. Unfortunately for Austin, the Jagged-X team of Brandon Schueler bombed from the 29th starting position to take the fastest time, and the win. The time gap was just over a minute. While Weiland drove the entire way, Schueler had some help driving from Cayden MacCachren; son of the GOAT, Rob MacCachren. Cayden already has a WORCS series championship under his belt. It’s good to see him having success in desert racing as well. No doubt Cayden is getting some valuable tutelage from his Dad, but he can learn from Schueler too. He’s an OG in UTV racing. Schueler said they had a single flat tire, and ran out of gas. Fortunately they were close to a pit when it happened. Wes Miller built on his Baja resume’ with another podium; he finished 3rd.
In the naturally aspirated class, it was one more come from the back winner. For Kristen Matlock however, that’s how she normally rolls. She usually starts in the rear, and sometimes even contends for the overall while racing from the back of the NA pack. “We thought it was going to be a fast, smooth, easy-going run,” said Matlock. “After those SCORE Trophy trucks got out there, and tore it up a bit, it gave us a little bit of a challenge. They turned up some rocks for us, so we had to dodge some bullets. We didn’t quite get the overall we were hoping for; I had some minor clutch issues, but we got those fixed.”
Dodge Poelman finished second place. He tried his best to chase down Matlock, but was on a pace to finish in one piece. “We just drove our race,” said Poelman. “The course was super rough from the cars that went before us. The holes were big, the ruts were bigger, and at the end of the day, we were just trying to chase down Kristen Matlock. I think we put a few minutes on her, but she was just too quick for us to keep up with. We blew a belt and a tire but other than that, we had a clean race, and we are super happy to be at the finish line.”
Kaden Wells was third. He usually gives Matlock a strong run for her money, but the deep sand was a bit much for Wells’ axle shafts. He broke 2, and then broke 2 more. “We were fighting problems all day but it was fun,” he said.
Nobody worked harder for the win than Justin Elenburg. He came out on top in the Pro UTV Open class. His co-driver Mike York started the race and drove to race mile 139 where Justin got in to the finish. They hit some cactus, and had 2 minor fires. One was a CV joint; the other was caused by venting fumes that were ignited by the hot turbo. They had an axle issue (probably from the CV boot fire), and hit a rock which flattened a tire. “It sounds like the other driver might have hit something,” says Elenburg. “But the rest of the BFGoodrich tires held up amazingly. It was definitely “whoop nation” out there.” Josh Herzing had another solid run to finish second with Lacrecia Beurrier doing a stint behind the wheel, and Cameron Ornelas was third.
Another notable win was by Mike Cafro in Pro Stock UTV class. He had 2 cars entered in the race. He took the green flag in his number 2975 turbo car, then turned the car over to co-driver Jamie Kirkpatrick at race mile one. He then got behind the wheel of the number 3955 Pro stock UTV. His turbo car finished 5th, and he won Pro stock finishing 4th overall UTV.
Depending on the results from San Felipe, some racers will run the entire SCORE series, while others may have different plans now. One thing is for certain, the SCORE series does not get any easier moving forward. The San Felipe 250 was actually 280 miles long, and filled with brutal terrain. The remaining races are 400 miles, 500 miles, and the most challenging of them all, 1000 miles at the Baja 1000. With plenty of tough competition, and no mercy from the Baja terrain, 2021 looks to be an incredible year for Baja racing.