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By: Robert Janis

SCORE in the Desert
If you are a desert racer or wish to become one, you need to know about
SCORE.

SCORE International Off-Road RacingFounded in 1973 by Mickey Thompson, the racing organization produces six in the desert events, three of which include ATV racers. The events are:

Laughlin Desert Challenge
Tecate Baja 250
Tecate Baja 500
Las Vegas Terrible Cup III
Las Vegas Primm 300
Tecate Baja 1000

The Tecate Baja 250, Tecate Baja 500, and the Tacate Baja 1000 include ATV racers. ATVs began to participate in SCORE in 1983.

The organization has been producing races in Baja, Mexico since July 1974. Its first race, however, was a short course race at the old Riverside International Raceway in Riverside, California in October, 1973. This race evolved into the SCORE World Championship and held until the Riverside track closed in 1988.

Today there are cars, trucks, motorcycles and ATVs that race in SCORE events. There are 17 pro classes for cars and trucks and 7 for motorcycles and ATVs. The age of the people who participate in races range from 15 years old to 70 years old. Fifteen-year-old racers must also have a notarized guardian release. SCORE sets the upper age of 70 because of insurance considerations.

There is a participation fee, but the cost depends on the race and the class. The entry fee can run from $1,000 to $2,200. There is a discounted entry fee for the sportsman's class. These are amateur racers with winners receiving trophies, not money. Fifty percent of the fees paid by members of the pro classes go into the purse. The purse is distributed to the winning racers of the pro classes.

ESPN International, NBC, and the Outdoor Channel broadcast the Tecate Baja events each year. The SCORE race schedule begins in mid-January and runs to the middle of November.

Companies that sponsor SCORE include: Sunoco Race Fuels, GP Bryant Petroleum, Terribles, Toyota Motorsports, Signpros Custom Lettering, Bilstein, Advanced Color Graphics, Fram, Prestone, Autolite, Bendix, Kar TekOff-Road, Comondu, Loreto, Baja California Secretary of Tourism, Gobierno De Baja California Sur, American Racing ATX Series All Terrain Wheels, Las Vegas Primm 300 Off-Road Race, Airstar Space Lighting, Slime, Red Bull, B.F. Goodrich Tires, Tecate Beer, Coca-Cola of Mexico, Laughlin Desert Challenge, Suzuki, RCI Race Radios, McKenzie's Performance Products, Los Cabos, and Mulege.

Sal Fish has been director of SCORE International for more than 30 years. He explained that sponsorships are set up on an individual basis. "If a company wants to become a sponsor, they need to contact me," said Fish. "I want to know what a potential sponsor wants to accomplish. Do they want to furnish products that show how tough they are in the Baja, or do they want to develop an association with the off-road market. After I talk to them to see what they want to accomplish, then we design a program specifically for them whether that entails simply banners or a contingency program or using their ompany name on an event or providing them with an associate sponsorship. There are all kinds of ways we can provide a benefit to a sponsor. There is no stock, cookie-cutter type of thing. We want to do something that at the end of the year provides the best return to the sponsor." Moreover, sponsors exhibit at SCORE events.

"All events have what is called a Contingency Row the day before each event. Racers register to compete and go through all of the technical inspections during the day. It is open to the public. All companies that sponsor SCORE are allowed to set up booths, and they are available to talk to spectators about the products they offer." Fish added that some companies have been sponsoring SCORE for 30 years.

One of Fish's responsibilities is to create the courses on which the contestants race. For the races in the Mexican Baja, Fish has to negotiate with the mayor of the city or town through which the race travels. He also has to deal with the Mexican Department of Ecology and all the landowners who own the land through which the racers travel.

SCORE also holds races in Nevada. Fish has to deal with government agencies in that state to prepare races, too. For example, he must deal with the Nevada State Bureau of Land Management as well as authorities of the different towns and cities the racers will be traveling through.

"Most events we have been holding for the last 30 years," explained Fish. "Basically, the racers go over the same territory with maybe some minor differences.

"When preparing for a Baja race, I would work out a route and then present it to the government of Baja," continued Fish. "They have a liaison that works with the landowners, the government and myself. The liaison contacts the landowners to make certain that there are no problems. If there is, we have to re-route around that land. So basically, we are presenting a proposal that is modified or okayed or completely turned down."

According to Fish, work on an event begins about one year in advance. However, because of weather or other circumstances, they are settling on the routes of the race about two to three months before the event.

The nuts and bolts process includes physically checking out the perspective racecourse. "We inspect the area the racers will be running to make certain things haven't changed drastically since last year's race," said Fish. "We make certain that nature hasn't affected anything with a hurricane or whatever. We make sure that the land is passable and determine if any repairs to the road are necessary. If there are, we decide whether we can get the local people to do it, or if we need to hire front loaders or blades to repair the road. It is always a work in progress right up to the day of the race."

Fish added that the course has to be designed in such a way as to assure that the different classes can race it, and that the participants in each class has an opportunity to finish the race. He noted that the classes include stock motorcycles with 10-inch to 12-inch of suspension; SCORE Trophy trucks with 31-inches of suspension and 800 horsepower; VW buggies; 125 motorcycles; and ATVs.

Sal Fish has been director of SCORE International for more than 30 years.
Sal Fish has been director of SCORE International for more than 30 years.

Two weeks before an event, racers are permitted to "pre-run" the course to familiarize themselves with it. During this time, the course is constantly inspected to make certain that it is holding up well. Fish pointed out that some 400 vehicles might run on a course during the pre-run period. The wear and tear on the course can cause the formation of too much silt or the creation of ruts that get so deep that racecars or motorcycles can't get through them. These things must be repaired before the actual race takes place. So keeping the course in good shape is an on-going proposition.

SCORE has been successful attracting spectators to events. The city of Laughlin, Nevada, where a SCORE International event is held every year, commissioned a survey which found that the SCORE race there attracts between 20,000 to 35,000 spectators a year and they spend at an average of $12 million at Laughlin area attractions like restaurants, hotels, etc. The SCORE race held at the Las Vegas Speedway every year attracts between 16,000 to 20,000 people. It has been estimated that the SCORE race in Primm, Nevada also held each year attracts 35,000 people. Also, each of the Baja races yearly attract between 20,000 to 100,000 people.

The idea of desert racing and specifically SCORE desert racing continues to grow. This year's running of the 21st SCORE Tecate Baja 250 had a record 423 official entries. Seventeen Pro ATV racers, six sport UTV racers, and 35 sport ATV racers participated in the event.

As of May, point leaders in the ATV divisions are as follows:

Pro ATV
Class 25 (15 total racers)

1. Danny Prather, Ramona, California, Honda TRX450R
2. Wayne Matlock, El Cajon, California Honda TRX450R
3. Jeff Hancock, Salome, Arizona Honda TRX450R
4. Carmen Caro, Vista, California Honda TRX450R
5. Josh Row, El Cajon, California Honda TRX450R

Class 24 (7 total racers)
1. Francisco Servin, Chula Vista, California Yamaha WRC450
2. Daniel Marin Jr., San Ysidro, California Honda TRX450R

UTVs (5 total racers)
1. Matt Parks, Newport Beach, California Polaris Ranger

ATVs (32 total racers)
1. Alfonso Cota, Tecate, Mexico Honda TRX450R

You can get information on upcoming events, leaders in the different classes, etc. at the SCORE website:
www.score-international.com

The site also includes an online store where you can purchase SCORE Desert Racing Series videos including:

The 2006 SCORE Baja 1000
The 2006 SCORE Baja 500
The Baja Unlimited Discovery HD Special
The 2005 SCORE Baja 1000 broadcasted on NBC
The 2005 SCORE Baja 1000 broadcasted on OLN
The 2005 SCORE Baja 500
The 2005 SCORE Las Vegas PRIMM 300
The 2005 SCORE Las Vegas Terribles Cup
The 2004 SCORE Baja 1000


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