Gavin Skilton Wins SCORE Baja 1000 in Honda Ridgeline
California Desert Racer Upsets Baja Legend Rod Hall in Stock Mini Class
Gavin Skilton made history Saturday by driving his 2009 Honda Ridgeline truck to the Stock Mini class victory in the 41st annual Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 off-road race, the granddaddy of all desert competitions.
Skilton, 38, recorded Hondaís first truck win in the legendary Baja 1000 in an exciting run to the finish line after 631.35 miles. Skilton, who also won the most recent SCORE International desert event at Primm, Nev., in September, came from behind with just three miles remaining to capture Hondaís first truck title on the rough Baja, California terrain.
The Orange, Calif., racer led the Stock Mini category early in the event over competitors the likes of 19-time Baja winner Rod Hall and young star Ryan Millen. However, Skiltonís six-minute advantage evaporated when his Ridgeline truck suffered a flat tire. He charged back to close on Millenís lead, but the Honda pickup then became stuck in a silt bed.
Skilton felt his race was over just four miles from the finish, when a rear axle broke. Skilton and his crew made the axle change expecting to finish second in the division.
However, just a mile beyond Skiltonís misfortune, Millenís Toyota truck encountered trouble and Skilton was able to drive by to the finish line. Skiltonís elapsed time was 21 hours, 22 minutes and 21 seconds. Hall, seeking a record 20th class title in the Baja 1000, placed second in a Hummer H-3.
GAVIN SKILTON: ďI held a six-minute lead but I made a mistake. I got caught in the silt. A friendís truck pulled us out of the hole. I had to make up about six minutes and I couldnít do it. I broke my vehicle trying to catch the leader. But the competitor [Ryan Millen in a Toyota] broke his vehicle even worse. He broke one mile from my final breaking point. We replaced our axle and he is still sitting there. I had a great race up to Mile 570. We had one small flat when I slammed into a road crossing. That was the only time I was out of the truck since noon [on the opening day]. I knew it wouldnít be easy. It was a shorter race than usual in Baja, but the terrain was still tough. Never underestimate the Baja, ever. I thought my race was over four miles from the finish. Then, three miles from the finish, my competitor got stuck in a hole. We always say, íDonít give up.í And today was proof of that motto. The Honda Ridgeline was the best handling truck in our class today. Itís great to win this event for Honda.Ē
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