Andy McMillin makes it two in a row with victory in the Baja 500

This time, the key was to be in front of everybody else. In desert racing they release competitors at timed intervals starting the morning of race day, so you could be leading on the charts but be back in the pack out on the course. But back in the pack can be a real pain at some races, the Baja 500 in particular.

So it was a real advantage for Andy McMillin that he started first and never had anyone else in front of him for 487 miles of desperate desert dirt, winning the 51st SCORE Baja 500 in Baja California, Mexico last weekend. He did it in 9 hours, 49 minutes and 12 seconds.

Many of the other contenders — and who knows how things might have turned out — were held up in a giant silt bed just two miles into the race. Trucks and buggies were spread out all throughout the miserable dust depths, bogged down in what can perhaps be best described as an Olympic swimming pool full of dust about the consistency of talcum powder. Silt is neither dirt nor air, and is often the most difficult obstacle racers face out in the desert.

With racers being released every 30 seconds from the starting line south of Ensenada, the time at which you arrive at the silt beds is often the luck of the pre-race draw. Get there before anybody else and you just stand on the throttle, powering through the stuff. But slow down even a little and you’ll find yourself sinking deeper and deeper into the mess. McMillin got there first, sailed through, and never looked back.

“We had clear air all day,” said McMillin, who also won the season-opener San Felipe 250 in April.

Desert racing

But that’s all part of racing in Baja, you never know what you’re going to encounter.

This year the course started at Estero Beach Resort south of the coastal town of Ensenada. Usually the race starts in downtown Ensenada, but there were other events happening there so it all moved to the off-road race course at Estero Beach. From it went inland all the way to Highway 5 before winding west past Mike’s Sky Rancho up in the mountains, back out to the Pacific Ocean and from there north back to Estero. Total race distance was 487.11 miles, close enough to 500.

With three McMillins in the race, including Andy’s cousins Luke and Dan, for a while it looked like there would be a family finish.

It was looking like a 1, 2, 3 McMillin finish,” said cousin Dan McMillin. “But being that we started so far up front, we knew we had a lot of big guys behind us and it was going to be tough. We were 1, 2, 3 flying, going really fast all the way to mile 300.  Luke and Andy kept going, we were coming to Colonet Bridge and we hit a hole on the grated road… The truck was down about 30-35 minutes. But here we are at the finish and Luke, my brother, got a great (second-place) finish and congrats to my cousin Andy (who won). It was fun. I could see both of their dust trails ahead of me and it was fun.”

So it was Andy McMillin, Luke McMillin and Carlos “Apdaly” Lopez on the podium, in that order.

Honda won in the motorcycle class, as it seems to always do, with riders Justin Morgan, Mark Samuels, and Justin Jones all taking stints on a Honda CRF450X. They finished in 10:50:11. Second and third in motorcycles went to KTMs, over an hour behind the Hondas.

The Baja 500 is the second race in the four-race SCORE desert racing season, with all races taking place in Baja. Up next is a new event called the Lucerna Baja 400 September 18-22, followed by the granddaddy of them all, the Baja 1000, November 19-24. 
 

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