April 13, 2020
SCORE Desert Diaries–
BIDING TIME, Parte Dos
SCORE champions Justin Morgan, Cameron Steele
staying focused while waiting for end of COVID-19
ENSENADA, Baja California, Mexico – (While the world continues its ferocious fight against the vicious virus called COVID-19, SCORE is checking in on several of its racers during this shutdown to see how they are doing and how are they are preparing for when life returns to the new normal in a special series called SCORE Desert Diaries—Biding Time.)
Two of the top veteran racers in the SCORE World Desert Championship, SoCal’s Justin Morgan and Cameron Steele are anxiously waiting to be able to get the 2020 SCORE Baja racing season started.
With the 2020 season reduced to three races while the battle rages against Coronavirus (COVID-19), desert racers around the world are hoping to start the 2020 SCORE season at the 52nd annual BFGoodrich Tires SCORE Baja 500, presented by 4Wheel Parts, in Baja California.
Launching its 47th season as the World’s Foremost Desert Racing Organization, the season-opening event of the three-race internationally-televised 2020 SCORE World Desert Championship has been moved to June 17-21 in Ensenada. Ensenada is a coastal city on the Bahia de Todos Santos area of the Pacific Ocean, 80 miles south of the U.S. border at San Diego.
Most the world’s best desert racers will be in action at this year’s celebration of one of the top 10 motorsports events in the entire world. All three 2020 SCORE races will be run on the northern part of Mexico’s magnificent Baja California peninsula for the fifth consecutive year.
Domestically, the entire 2020 SCORE World Desert Championship will be televised on a delayed basis on the World of X Games show on the ABC Television Network as co-produced by SCORE International and award-winning BCII TV of Los Angeles. It will also be syndicated internationally to 25 countries.
Mark Samuel’s Monster Energy Slam Life Racing (SLR Honda) team of Yucca Valley, Calif., has won eight consecutive SCORE races with Morgan, 30, El Cajon, Calif. Individually, Morgan has been part of the overall winning motorcycle team in the last 11 SCORE Baja races.
With his two primary teammates sidelined with injury, in order to keep the SLR Honda winning streak alive, Morgan had to ride with three other veteran SCORE Baja racers to win last November’s 52nd SCORE Baja 1000. Morgan’s normal teammates are team owner Samuels, 30, and Justin Jones, 28 Murrieta, Calif.
In last year’s SCORE Baja 1000, Morgan split the riding time with talented SCORE Baja vets Shane Esposito, Temecula, Calif./Max Eddy Jr, Barstow, Calif. and David Kamo, Caldwell, Idaho.
For Morgan it was his second overall win in the SCORE Baja 1000 while it was also the second for Esposito, third for Eddy Jr and fourth for Kamo.
Morgan started his impressive SCORE Baja run in 2017 as a co-rider for Guatemala’s Francisco Arredondo as Arredondo won the season point title by winning the last three races that season.
One of the most popular racers in the history of the sport, Steele, of San Clemente, Calif., is an action sports TV announcer when he isn’t roaming the trails and back country of Mexico’s magnificent Baja peninsula. He also owns the Monster Energy Desert Assassins race team and Baja HQ, a full service aftermarket off-road shop in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
Steele expands his passion and love from Baja each year by hosting both 2-wheel and 4-wheel trips down the Baja peninsula. His current annual signature trip (that started in 2014) is the Monster Energy Trail of Missions, presented by BFGoodrich Tires, that airs annual on ABC’s World of X Games show.
A second generation desert racer, Steele, 51, a 2018 inductee into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame, has been traveling in Baja since he was two years old and has raced in eight different classes in SCORE races. Starting in the 1600cc limited classes of 5-1600 and 1/2-1600, Steele has been a star racer in the marquee SCORE Trophy Truck division since 2005.
Toiling in SCORE Trophy Trucks for 13 years at the time, Steele ended the 2018 season by winning SCORE Trophy Truck in both the SCORE Tijuana Desert Challenge and the SCORE Baja 1000 for his first two race wins in the premier class. In 2017 Steele also finished second in SCORE Trophy Truck in the epic 50th BFGoodrich Tires SCORE Baja 1000 peninsula race from Ensenada to La Paz.
Steele proudly drives the Monster Energy Desert Assassins No. 16 Ford Raptor. He chose the No. 16 to honor his heritage in the 1600cc classes.
Justin Morgan shares some responses for Slam Life Racing while Cameron Steele comments for the Desert Assassins responding to some questions from SCORE regarding this down time from life as we have known it.
SCORE: How are you and your family coping overall with this virus situation?
JM: Everything is about normal with my family and this virus it’s not affecting us too much.
CS: We are doing pretty well and working hard to stay healthy. We started our lockdown on March 13th and the six of us have been handling each other pretty well. We have a new born, Grace, (plus wife Heidi and oldest daughter Kay) so we are keeping busy! The fish, Blue, and I are the only boys so we are outnumbered.
SCORE: Is everybody healthy at home?
JM: Everyone is healthy at home.
CS: All is good! The dog wants to know why she is getting so many baths ha ha!
SCORE: How is your business handling this situation?
JM: My job has not been changed at all, people are still buying avocados and there’s plenty of work to do.
CS: We shut Desert Assassins and Baja HQ and are looking forward to getting back at it. I have been working on SCORE Baja 1000 planning and budget so I’ve been pretty focused on that and family. We also have a couple trips and TV shows coming up with Trail of Missions and Rip to Cabo so all that is being worked on as well. By the way, all of our TV shows and videos are available on the DA YouTube.
SCORE: What are you doing with your race team during this time?
JM: The race team is at idle at the moment, we will probably do some testing in the near future.
CS: The guys are off and taking care of family and catching up at home. We have been working on a plan for the year with the changes. The race trucks, No. 16 and No. 14 are mostly ready to race, when ever that can safely start back up.
SCORE: Is your race shop still working?
JM: San Diego Powerhouse is still very busy working on bikes. Bobby has our Honda CRF450X bike ready to go.
CS: No we are shut down for now. Doing what we can on computers and very anxious to get back after it!
SCORE: How are you keeping in touch with your race team?
JM: The team usually communicates over the phone so that has not changed.
CS: Text with much of the team and call them some. We have around 40 hard core DA lifers that support our effort and we could not do it without them. We have a huge group of family that is based in Chula Vista and were a big part of West Racing, who had many Baja championships and who René Brugger races with when we sucked him into the DA vortex in 2007. Rene and Heidi have won many races together and Rene’s son Richie is with us now at the shop and they are “Prep by Brugger” officially. Crazy but a volunteer named Tim Martin suggested René when we needed driving help at the 2007 SCORE Baja 1000 and he’s been stuck with us ever since, dang that’s been 13 years! If he quits I quit, no joke!
SCORE: Have you done or are planning to do any form of vehicle testing in the near future?
JM: Mark Samuels owns the team SLR Honda and yes we will be racing together again in 2020. This extra time before we start gives Justin Jones more time to recover from his injury which will be another big help to our team.
CS: We have been all over the place on ideas and building more than testing. We have done some recent Eibach Spring testing and FOX Shocks testing to get more mechanical grip in our trucks. The truck we love is the Geiser Bros truck and it is very easy to drive (as far as TT’s go) and we have had great success with them. The future is likely going to have a lot of 4×4 combinations and technology. We teamed with Ricky Johnson and the Mason guys for the 2019 SCORE Baja 1000 and it was a great experience but we failed to finish, my first personal TT DNF since the 2006 peninsula run. We are also working on the Ford BroncoR program and building a plan and Geiser has been working on some development there as well. The Ford team has a lot of passion and we feel a great vibe from them and the BroncoR.
SCORE: Will you be submitting the application with the SBA for the payroll stimulus payroll?
JM: I won’t be submitting anything for payroll subsidy. Thankfully, we are all still working and as I wrote earlier, the demand for avocados is still high.
CS: Our bank is lagging but we will apply for the PPP.
SCORE: Have you had a chance to play the new SCORE Baja Big Air Game yet on Apple Apps or Google Play? If so, how did you do?
JM: No, no time for video games. But I’ve heard that it’s very cool.
CS: I haven’t played as I’ve been having baby duties, cooking three meals a day and doing dishes like a madman! I actually haven’t even watched my TV or web edits since we have been so busy. But with SCORE and BCII putting it together, I am sure it’s very rad.
SCORE: How hard has the adjustment been for you to just sit and wait while the virus is eradicated?
CS: It’s interesting. Staying away from people is not my usual so I feel a little off. We have been teaching school too so that’s an added excitement ha ha!
SCORE: What are you doing to get some physical and mental exercise and stay physically sharp during this challenging time?
JM: It’s been difficult sitting and waiting when we were ready to go racing, but it gives us a chance to get better. I have been trying to get myself into better shape by riding mountain bikes and have been riding my motorcycle every chance I get.
CS: I’m recovering from a wrist/hand injury from King Of the Hammers so I’ve been limited. Between Feb, 8 and March 13, I was testing my hand and mostly walking/running the dog and just this week rode my pedal bike in the neighborhood. I’m still hurting but it’s getting better. Jumping jacks while cooking and planking while down on the ground with the baby are my go to.
SCORE: What is your best race memory of the 2019 SCORE World Desert Championship?
JM: My best 2019 SCORE World Desert Championship race memory was during the SCORE Baja 1000, with a comfortable lead racing the last part of my section from Hwy 3, k77 to the finish with a fresh clutch at night with the perfectly watered dirt (from the all the rain during race week).
CS: Honestly from a racing standpoint 2019 was tough on us. After two wins in 2018 and runner up to the Championship we had two sixth place finishes in Baja as we struggled with a new truck set up early in 2019. The SCORE Baja 500 ended poorly with a water line failing but we ran all day in the top three without pushing too hard so that’s probably our racing highlight. The best moment of the year for me was also the saddest. Having my brother and former racing partner, Pistola’s (Pete Sohren) family asked if he could ride with us at the SCORE San Felipe 250 and although not a great result (sixth out of 40 some trucks) wasn’t bad and we took Pete a solid ride. We raced the 2005 TT season together and ran in front at both the SCORE Baja 500 where we started first and at Vegas to Reno. We did a lot of racing together and had a lot of great times. He is missed by the whole desert and off-road racing community.
SCORE: Which SCORE Baja race is your most favorite and why?
JM: My favorite SCORE race is the SCORE San Felipe 250. I really like the terrain and that it’s a short race so everyone is in a sprint the whole time.
CS: The SCORE San Felipe 250 is my favorite race. I love the fact that there is more than one way in most washes and that it’s so rough. This is a driver’s race where pre running counts and to be able to go fast enough to win but be smart enough to finish is a big part of it. The picturesque setting and the beauty of the Sea of Cortez and the rugged mountains coming together is pretty mesmerizing. The other thing is that San Felipe still has that small town Baja feel and other than on the malecon there isn’t traffic and stop lights all around.
The SCORE Baja 500 is one of the top motorsports events in the world. It was started originally in 1969 by the NORRA organization. Mickey Thompson and his SCORE International organization were invited by the Mexican government to take over the event starting in 1974. Sal Fish ran and later owned and produced the SCORE Baja 500 for 39 years until he sold SCORE in December of 2012.
The first Baja 500 organized and produced by SCORE was held on July 26, 1974 as the first of over 150 SCORE Baja races.
Ensenada is the heart and soul of the SCORE Baja 500 as the popular summertime race will start for the 47th time there and finish for the 43rd time there.
BFGOODRICH TIRES UNMATCHED
As part of their massive SCORE Contingency program for 2020, long-time SCORE sponsor partner BFGoodrich Tires is offering a large contingency bonus for each overall winner in the 2020 SCORE World Desert Championship. For the 52nd annual SCORE Baja 500, the contingency bonus is US$25,000. BFGoodrich Tires is entering its 44th year as the Official Tire of SCORE and in 2020 the company will also be the title sponsor of both the 52nd SCORE Baja 500 and the 53rd SCORE Baja 1000.
Presenting sponsor of both of those iconic races will be 4 Wheel Parts.
BFGoodrich Tires is celebrating over four decades as a major player in SCORE Baja racing. In addition to being the official tire of SCORE International for over four decades, BFGoodrich Tires has now produced the tire of choice for 30 of the overall 4-wheel vehicle winners in the SCORE Baja 1000, including 30 of the last 34 years along with a record-run of 20 straight from 1986 through 2005. In total, BFGoodrich Tires has now be the tire of choice for the overall 4-wheel vehicle winner in 92 SCORE Baja races including 32 in the SCORE Baja 500.
Here is the REVISED three-race 2020 SCORE World Desert Championship (as of April 3, 2020) schedule of events, for the fifth consecutive year all races will be held in Baja California, Mexico:
- BFGoodrich Tires 52nd SCORE Baja 500, presented by 4 Wheel Parts, June 17-21, Ensenada, Mexico
- 34th SCORE San Felipe 250, Sept. 16-20, San Felipe, Mexico
- BFGoodrich Tires 53rd SCORE Baja 1000, Nov.17-22, presented by 4 Wheel Parts, Ensenada, Baja California
ABC TV AGAIN IN 2020
For the second straight year, the 2020 SCORE World Desert Championship aired on the ABC family of networks. The four-races air as one-hour specials on ABC TV’s World of X Games program with replays on ESPN2.
ABC first covered the 1967 and 1968 Baja 1000 races on the old ABC Wide World of Sports show with Jim McKay and again in the late 1980s with veteran motorsports journalist Sam Posey.
All of the SCORE race coverage shows also continue to air internationally in nearly 25 countries in Europe, Asia, Latin America and South America via syndication and ESPN International.
Official SCORE Sponsors: BFGoodrich Tires-Official Tire and Race Title Sponsor, Monster Energy-Official Energy Drink, 4 Wheel Parts-Official Off-Road Retailer and Race Presenting Partner, Ford-Official Truck and SUV, King Shocks-Official Shock Absorber, Polaris RZR-Official UTV, RACELINE Wheels-Official Wheel, VP Racing Fuels-Official Fuel, Wide Open Excursions-Official Arrive and Drive Company, Crystal Bay Casino-Official Casino.
SCORE Official Partners: PCI Race Radios, The Satellite Phone Store, Instant Mexico Auto Insurance, Lucerna Hotel.
Additional SCORE Associate Partners: Baja California Secretary of Sustainable Economy and Tourism, XXIII Ensenada Municipal Government, XXIII Mexicali Municipal Government, Mexicali and San Felipe COTUCO, Cruz Roja Mexicana.
For more information regarding SCORE, visit the official website of the SCORE World Desert Championship at www.SCOREInternational.com.