Luke McMillin Wins Again in Baja 1000 With Help From Veteran Rob MacCachren

·5 min read
Photo credit: McMillin Racing
Photo credit: McMillin Racing

Preparation and pairing paid off again for McMillin Racing as 29-year-old Luke McMillin, scion of the all-time great desert racing McMillin family, joined with now-five-time Baja 1000 winner 56-year-old Rob MacCachren to win the BFGoodrich Tires 54th SCORE Baja 1000 Presented By 4WheelParts. MacCachren drove the first 700 miles then handed it over to McMillin for the second half of the 1,226-mile race.

It was the second year in a row that the young McMillin paired with an experienced veteran to win the biggest desert race outside of Dakar. Last year McMillin shared driving duties with the then-63-year-old Larry Roessler for the win.

“It was a great day,” said McMillin. “Rob brought me a great truck in second place. He got on the radio and told me it was a perfect truck so that put the pressure on me that it’s go time. We did our homework, we did our pre-running. We hit our marks. Zero flat tires, zero close calls. We just stayed on the course and did our thing. That made it fun.”

In addition to countless hours of work on the truck itself, the pair had performed thousands of miles of pre-running the course, taking practice runs and memorizing hazards along each stretch the two would drive.

Photo credit: McMillin Racing
Photo credit: McMillin Racing

“We put in the work and had a lot of fun doing it!” McMillin wrote on the team’s Instagram page after pre-running was done. “We ran our entire 595-mile section 4-5 times, covering over 2,800 race miles and laying down over 5,000 notes! All the pre runners ran flawlessly.”

“I came down on three separate occasions to pre-run,” MacCachren said. “Luke came down a couple times doing his section. He is a lot like me. We want to win this one bad. He was down here (on the southern half of the course) pre-running when the race started (up north in Ensenada).”

SCORE International, the sanctioning body that puts on the race, which runs from the northern Baja seaport town of Ensenada all the way down the peninsula to the resort city of La Paz on the Sea of Cortez, had this to say about the winners’ run:

“Starting second physically on the road in the elapsed-time race and splitting the driving in McMillin’s Big Blue M racing machine all-wheel drive 4 Wheel Parts/BFGoodrich Tires No. 11 Chevy Silverado, the dynamic duo patiently worked their way to the front of the pack and finished the beautifully bodacious 1,226.35-mile race down Mexico’s majestic Baja peninsula in a stunning time of 20 hours, 45 minutes and 59 seconds with an astonishing average speed of 59.05 miles per hour.”

Second place went to the Ford Raptor of Gustavo “Tavo” Vildosola of Mexicali, Mexico, along with co-drivers Gustavo Vildosola, also of Mexical, and Ricky Johnson of Trabuco Canyon, Calif. The team crossed the finish line just over a half hour later.

“Luke just had a phenomenal day, unfortunately for us,” said Tavo. “It was tough to catch him. He put a lot of time on us. It took a bit to get used to (our truck's) AWD but we started second, stayed second and finished second.”

While McMillin’s total team consisted of 100 people stationed all up and down the length of Baja, the Vildosolas had 150 crew members. Baja racing is serious business.

Third place went to the veteran team of Cameron Steele and Ryan Arciero.

“Ryan started and kicked butt for us,” said Steele. “He brought us in within good striking distance. But then the gap increased from there on out from Luke. We had a good race with Tavo at the end.”

Steele battled a bout of food poisoning during the race and had to stop once for two minutes to tend to business.

“Hopefully we didn’t lose by those two minutes,” he said.

They did not, finishing about ten minutes behind the Valdosola team.

Some years in Baja the motorcycles beat the trucks in Baja, but not this year. The quickest bike crossed the line two hours and 20 minutes behind the quickest truck. The winning two-wheeled team was again riding red, with Mark Samuels, Justin Morgan, Kendall Norman, and Brandon Prieto taking their shared Honda CRF450X down the course in 23:07:18. Derek Ausserbauer and Colton Udall took second on another CRF450X in 24:22.47, while Jason Alosi, Wyatt Brittner, Ross Neely, and Ray Dal Soglio took third on a Husqvarna FE501 in 25:33:21.

Photo credit: Honda HPD
Photo credit: Honda HPD

Indycar driver Alexander Rossi was part of the team that won Class 7 driving a Honda Ridgeline. Another finisher of note was veteran UTV pilot Wayne Matlock, who co-drove a stock and all-new Polaris RZR XP4 Turbo to third place in Pro UTV Open, finishing the grueling race in 33 hours 10 minutes. Last year’s winner Larry Roeseler drove the whole way by himself this year, all 1,226 miles of it, getting a much-needed tow to pavement at one point from competitor Robbie Gordon.

Also, all the drivers and riders who pulled an overnight stint, along with all the weary pit crews scattered up and down the desert, were treated to a total lunar eclipse Friday night.

"We saw the moon last night and the eclipse, that was very, very cool," said Ryan Arciero. "The eclipse at the SCORE Baja 1000 – how cool is that?"

All part of the experience. A total of 299 entries took the green flag in Ensenada and as of presstime many were still out there. They have until March 29 to get back and get ready for the start of the 2022 season, which starts on that date with the 35th SCORE San Felipe 250.

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