The Baja 4000 is a no-rush navigational road trip from Los Angeles down the Baja peninsula and back up to LA. Teams can enter in either racing or adventure categories, and it is a minimal assistance event. That means there are no rescue teams, no sweeper trucks to collect broken down vehicles and to pick up cast off parts, no rescue helicopter or ambulance. Minimal assistance means that you must rely on your own resources, the kindness of others, and your good luck to get out of any sticky wicket you get you and your equipment into. In case of severe disasters there is a medical evacuation service, but you had better be in your death ditch before calling them in.
The Baja 4000 is a long and difficult trip, of interest to anyone who ever dreamed of participating in the Dakar, the Baja 1000, or the Budapest-Bamako. It’s not a race to the finish, but a grind to the finish.
But the concept is the same. The format is the same. The rules are the same. The challenge is the same and the adventure is the same. There will be difficult moments. There will be tough roads. There will be long days. One thing is certain; nothing is certain and very little goes right.
The race is open to anyone in any type of vehicle. As long as it is street legal you can drive it: cars, trucks, bikes, quads and vehicles shaped like giant tacos have all been known to participate.
There are different ways to enter the race:
RENT A CAR. For about $60 you can rent a Toyota RAV4. For about $100 you can rent a Jeep Wrangler Sahara. Or if you’re on a tight budget, you can get an economy size car for about $35 a day. Not all car rental companies allow you to take their cars to Mexico even if you buy Mexican insurance, and certain companies have restrictions on certain models. Another option is to rent a car in Mexicali and bring it to the U.S. to start from there.
BUY A CAR. Buying a car is worth it if you’re planning on staying an extra two or three weeks in the US or Mexico. It’s also a good option if you want to save money on your entry fee and enter the Spirit category in an old piece of junk. Any car that costs less than $1000 can qualify for the Spirit category. If you are lucky you can also sell it after the rally. Please note that if you are not a US citizen it’s hard to register your car and will take time. Also, the cheaper the car, the harder it is to buy liability insurance for it.
MOTORCYCLE RENTAL: Organizers are currently working on a deal with a motorcycle rental agency that will rent bikes if they can manage more than 10 riders. The bikes will also come with assistance, a mechanic, and even a spare bike if things go bad.
SHIP YOUR CAR OR MOTORCYCLE: They are working on having a container leave from Hungary and it will make a round trip. You can load your motorcycle, car or camping gear in the containers. No, if you can not get a visa, you may not enter the US in the container.
In the racing category, the participants have to complete daily stages from one camp to another. Along the road, they must find geo-points, which are navigational points given by GPS coordinates. These points must be visited, photographed and entered on a daily race sheet. Penalties are given for missing daily stages or speeding in residential areas. The race is monitored by GPS loggers.
In the touring class, there are no points, no geo challenges and no tasks to complete. It’s all pretty laid back. There will be a detailed road book with the daily stages, points of interests, dangers, and you’re free to roam the penninsula and discover. The touring category is about adventure, discovery, connecting with other people, and visiting new places.
Minimal assistance means that this is not a guided tour nor a professional car race. Even though there are race referees at the daily end stages and there is a medical tent for Band-Aids and stuff, there are no rescue helicopters, mechanics, professional tour guides, masseuses or catering trucks. It’s about teams helping each other and participants relying on local resources to solve their problems.
However, they will give each participant a phone number to an emergency medical evacuation service. In case of a serious accident or injury you will be evacuated to the US using Binational Emergency Medical Care, an evacuation service. Access to the services is included in your insurance purchased with your entry fee. Buy it.
With the timed race comes certain requirements, such as roll cages, helmets, ambulance helicopters, timing marshals and more. These all cost money and make the race expensive.
The spirit category has no entry fee. The Spirit category is open to vehicles whose place is in a demolition derby and not on a marathon rally. If someone says, “I can’t believe these guys want to drive this piece of junk,” it qualifies. If the car is pre 1975 it qualifies. If the car is a two-wheel drive car and costs less than $1000 it qualifies. If the car is a mutant vehicle, art car, or puts a smile on spectators’ faces, it qualifies. There will be a maximum of 10 vehicles in this category. You must pay a $500 Spirit deposit which will be returned to you if you show up for the pre-race press conference and at the start line in your promised car. Otherwise you’ll lose the deposit and may be disqualified.
Every night a hotel or campsite will mark the end of the day’s stage. In bigger towns participants will spend the night in two to three star hotels and motels. Outside of the cities tents are recommended.
The rally travels on roads indicated on road maps. However, some of those roads are in grim shape, and some of them are dirt roads. Even the main paved road of the Baja, the trans-peninsular, can be alarmingly skinny and in bad shape in places. The general rule is to expect all kinds of miserable roads.
Motorcycles are encouraged, and each biker will be able to buy support services. The bike support truck, (less charitable people call it the sag wagon), will carry fuel, spare tires, food, water and personal gear from camp to camp. Bikers can enter in both racing and touring categories as well.
Go to www.bamakoadventures.com/en/baja4000 for more information. This sure sounds fun to try!