SCORE International, one of the major off-road racing bodies in the world, will be truly living up to its name with the running of the 21st Presidente SCORE Baja 1000 Friday.
Two rally drivers from the Soviet Union will be in the running, along with others from France, Italy, Japan, Finland, Sweden and South Africa. There also will be heavy driver participation from Mexico and the United States.
Nikolai Bolchikh, 39, of Moscow, and Alexei Grigoriev, 43, of Smolensk, will be the first race drivers from the Soviet Union to compete in North America, according to Sal Fish, president of SCORE International, the Westlake Village-based sanctioning body.
“All over the world, people are in awe of the Baja 1000,” Fish said. “We get letters and phone calls from overseas all the time from people asking about the race.”
The Baja 1000 was the race that launched the sport of off-road racing in 1967.
The Soviet drivers, who were accompanied by a team manager, a team sponsor and two reporters, have been pre-running this week to get a look at the rugged 704-mile mountain-desert course. The race will start and finish in Ensenada, about 65 miles south of Tijuana.
The Soviets’ vehicles are a pair of Nissan trucks entered by Bob Utgard of Quartz Hill, who has been negotiating for 4 years to bring a Soviet team to the race.
Their trucks should be capable of finishing. Utgard is 1 of only 11 drivers to have completed all 2,332 miles in the first 7 races on the High Desert Racing Assn./SCORE International circuit, although he drives a VW Baja Bug. The Soviets will be in the factory 4 x 4 truck class.
More than 315 cars, trucks and motorcycles are expected to start in the final event of the series. The race will officially begin at 6:45 a.m. Friday in downtown Ensenada, and the first 25 miles are supposed to be run at normal highway speeds until the drivers reach Ojos Negros, where high-speed racing is scheduled to begin.
The course will cross the Baja peninsula for nearly 400 miles to San Rafael on the Gulf of California before heading north through San Felipe and back west to Camalu on the Pacific Ocean via the San Pedro Martir mountains. The final 160 miles will be along the Pacific beaches and coastal valleys back to Ensenada.
A number of HDRA/SCORE championships will be on the line in the final race. One, the Toyota True Grit championship for the driver with the fastest overall average speed for the season has turned into a father-son battle between Bob Gordon and his son Robbie, both of Orange. Bob, 40, has averaged 48.12 m.p.h. in his unlimited 2-seater desert buggy, and Robbie, 19, has averaged 47.11 m.p.h. in his Ford pickup truck--a converted hay wagon.
The younger Gordon has already won the Mint 400, Baja 500, Fireworks 400 and the Riverside closed-course championship in his class. His father is the defending overall Baja 1000 winner with 7-time winner Malcolm Smith, and this season has driven the winning 2-seater in the Parker 400 and the Baja 500 and also has finished second twice.
SPRINT CARS--Ron Shuman clinched his first California Racing Assn. championship with a second-place finish last week at Ascot Park. The former World of Outlaws driver from Tempe, Ariz., needed only to finish one position ahead of Mike Sweeney to succeed Brad Noffsinger as the Parnelli Jones Firestone series champion and he did just that. Jerry Meyer was the winner and Sweeney was third. . . . Saturday night will be Fan Appreciation Night at Ascot Park and the season will end Nov. 19 with the Don Peabody Classic.
MIDGET CARS--Ventura Raceway will run a United States Auto Club full midget national championship race Saturday night, featuring Sleepy Tripp, Western States regional champion and former USAC champion, against Kevin Olson, the reigning USAC champion, and Rich Vogler and Stan Fox, plus Southland favorites such as P.J. Jones, Tommy Astone, Rusty Rasmussen and Wally Pankratz. The main event will be 50 laps on the one-fifth mile dirt oval. The same cast will be at Ascot Park on Thanksgiving night for the 48th running of the Turkey Night Grand Prix.
STOCK CARS--The Race for Pride, scheduled for Saturday night at Saugus Speedway with Winston Cup drivers entered, has been canceled because of date conflicts.
Bobby Allison was a surprise visitor to the Checker 500 last weekend at Phoenix and was walking without a cane for the first time since his near-fatal accident last June at Pocono. Allison, 50, was accompanied by his wife, Judy, and reiterated that he is still undecided about whether he will race again. He is still suffering from memory lapses, a painful left hip and double vision.
Ron Hornaday Jr. of Palmdale and Ken Pederson of Sausalito tied in points for NASCAR Southwest Tour rookie of the year but Pederson won the tiebreaker. Each won a race but Pederson also had a second-place finish, which Hornaday did not. . . . Roman Calczynski of Sepulveda won the Southwest Tour championship with his second-place finish in the AC Delco 300 to Jim Thirkettle of Sylmar in a battle of former Saugus Speedway champions.
Scott Gaylord of Huntington Beach lost Winston West rookie-of-the-year honors to Bob Howard of Colorado Springs when neither of them could qualify for the Checker 500. That left Howard with 13 points to 10 for Gaylord.
INDY CARS--Dick Simon, who became the oldest Indianapolis 500 driver in history last year at 55, has retired to concentrate on running his team. The San Juan Capistrano veteran will have Arie Luyendyk and Scott Brayton as his drivers. Simon drove in 177 Indy car races since 1970 without winning. His best finish was a third in the 1970 California 500 at Ontario.
MOTOCROSS--The second round of the Continental Motosport Club’s Fall Finale series will be held Sunday at Perris Raceway. . . . The Western USA championship series will move to De Anza Park, east of Riverside, for Round 2, Sunday.
VINTAGE RACING--Among the drivers signed by promoter and former Indy 500 winner Rodger Ward for the Palm Springs Vintage Grand Prix on Nov. 19-20 are Parnelli Jones, Danny Ongais, Bob Bondurant, George Follmer, John Morton, Milt Minter, Ronnie Bucknum and Jay Chamberlain. Racing will be on a downtown circuit. The American Cities Racing League and Formula Russell cars will race on the same course.
DRAG RACING--If you blinked and missed something at the National Hot Rod Assn.'s World Finals 2 weeks ago at Pomona, you can catch it Saturday at 1:30 p.m. on Channel 4’s NBC SportsWorld. . . . Sand drags will compete Saturday and Sunday at San Bernardino’s Glen Helen Park.
FORMULA ONE--When officials of the international racing federation dropped Detroit from the 1989 Grand Prix schedule because “the organizers are incapable of meeting the safety criteria for a Formula One world test,” it meant that the United States will be without an F-1 race for the first time in 30 years. Since 1959, Grand Prix events have been held at Sebring, Fla.; Riverside; Watkins Glen, N.Y.; Las Vegas; Dallas; Long Beach, and Detroit. Next year, the June 18 race through downtown Detroit streets will be with Indy cars.