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53rd SCORE Baja 1000 Is Here to Remind Us 2020 Doesn't Totally Suck

The ultimate off-road race somehow survives the horrible year that is 2020.

The year 2020 has been a strange one, to say the least. The automotive and racing industries took a hit with delayed auto production and canceled events; heck, even the infallible SEMA Show was canceled. Not all hope has been lost, however. Working in compliance with various health and safety regulations (and even incorporating a virtual driver's meeting), the 53rd SCORE Baja 1000, presented by 4 Wheel Parts, is set to take place from November 17-22, with the actual race staging occurring on the morning of Friday, November 20. The bike classes will start racing at 4 A.M. PST, with the four-wheel classes following at 10 A.M.

What is the route of the SCORE International Off-Road Racing Series' 2020 Baja 1000? Both the (spectator-free, sigh) start line and finish line of the BFGoodrich Tires Score Baja 1000 loop will be located in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. The coastal city of Ensenada is about 80 miles south of San Diego, California, and has been the starting point for most of the Baja 1000 races. The full course distance is reported to be 898.4 miles (767.06 miles for the Sportsman course), allotted over a 40-hour time period. The fastest vehicles will finish in under half that time.

The loop runs counterclockwise, traversing south from Ensenada along the west coast of the Baja California peninsula for about 200 miles into Check Point 1, the first of four physical full-stop checkpoints. The course then navigates northeast into Check 2 (at about the 400-mile mark) in the center of the Baja Peninsula before heading southeast to Check 3 (about the 600-mile mark) along the eastern coast of the peninsula. Traveling north takes racers through San Felipe before eventually heading west toward Check 4 (about the 840-mile mark) and then the finish line in Ensenada. Racers will navigate some of the most challenging—and iconic—sections of washes, sand, rock, silt, and dry lake beds in the desert off-roading world, while also having the opportunity to splish-splash on the shores of the great Pacific Ocean.

*Photo gallery depicts previous Baja 1000 images.

There are 180 official race entries in more than 30 different race classes. The premier SCORE Trophy Truck class will feature at least 18 of the gnarliest desert race trucks out there. The packed-house of talent will include most of the household names in the sport: #23 Dan McMillin; #19 Tim Herbst; #83 Luke McMillin; #10 Alan Ampudia; #77 Robby Gordon; #11 Rob MacCachren; #40 Chris Miller; #70 Kevin Thompson; #38 Eric Hustead; #90 Raul Gomez; #22 Jax Redline; #16 Cameron Steele; #7 Bryce Menzies; #97 BJ Baldwin; #89 Mike Walser; #27 Jonathan Brenthel; #52 Rick Sanchez; and #78 Tyler Bolland. Note that most trucks will have multiple drivers; for example, Bryce Menzies and Andy McMillin are teaming up to pilot the #7 truck, as are Robby Gordon and Damen Jefferies for the #77 "Unicorn" truck. There will also be co-pilots and, of course, lots of behind-the-scenes pit crew members assisting with the ins-and-outs of these race trucks.

Aaron and Alan Ampudia won the Baja 1000 in 2019; Cameron Steele and Pat Dean took the race in 2018. The only other race in the pandemic-abbreviated 2020 SCORE Series was the Baja 500 (September 22-27), in which the top five Trophy Truck finishers were #23 Dan McMillin, #19 Tim Herbst, #83 Luke McMillin, #10 Alan Ampudia, and #77 Robby Gordon. Racers must run both the Baja 500 and Baja 1000 to qualify for the 2020 SCORE World Desert Championship.

The 2021 schedule currently has four races on the schedule: San Felipe 250, Baja 500, Baja 400, and Baja 1000. Desert racing is full of ups, downs, carnage, and surprises; let's go racing!