The Rundown On The Baja Race

We’re talking about the big one, of course
BY: EDGAR GONZALEZ
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The Baja 1000 attracts racers from all over the world.

 

Who hasn't heard of the Baja 1000? you? Really? Well it is a wild off-road race, one of the most famous in the world, attracting competitors from all over the globe. This race runs for approximately 1,000 miles through the Mexican desert, from top to bottom of the Baja California peninsula. Billed as the longest non-stop point-to-point race in the world, it’s a perfect recipe for adrenaline junkies. Entrycostsfrom year to year, but the driver and co-driver must be members of SCORE and registration / entry fee depends on the class of vehicle competing. At the top end, entry fees can exceed $4,000 for trophy trucks and start at about $2,500 for "sportsman" motorcycles and quads

The race is the final round of a four-race annual series, including the SCORE Desert Challenge, the SCORESan Felipe 250the SCOREBaja 500. The 2017 Baja 1000 marked the 50th anniversary of the race.[3]

The Baja 1000 has been held since 1967 and was founded by Ed Pearlman. Several vehicle classes compete in this race. Cars, motorcycles, ATV's, buggies, and custom vehicles.

It all really started in 1962 when two wild thrill-seeking Gringos, Dave Ekins and Bill Robertson Jr. wanted to test the reliability of a Honda motorcycle, raced each other running from Tijuana to La Paz. They checked in the telegraph offices along the way to officially keep track of their times. They were also accompanied by two journalists in an airplane who reported on this event to tabloids and motorcycle magazines. The plane also served as a guide to choose the best route while also landing several times to help refuel the motorcycles’ tanks and provide food and drinks. Ekins won this first race by an hour, racing 39 hours 56 minutes with a total distance of 952.7 miles.

Between 1962 and 1967 the record was broken several times and by then buggies were also part of the race. The route became so popular that an organized race was the next logical step, so Mr. Pearlman took this step by creating the National Off-Road Racing Association (NORRA) and then announced the first official race the "Mexican 1000 Rally."

The Baja 1000 grew in popularity when ABC's Wide World of Sports covered the 1968 event. This attracted several high-profile drivers and big sponsors. This new batch included Mickey Thompson, Indy 500 winner Parnelli Jones, movie actor James Garner, and Mary McGee, the first woman to compete in the event.

From 1967 to 1973 NORRA organized the event, but in 1973 the Mexican government took away the concession. Adding this to the fact that the oil crisis was in full bloom, the race was cancelled in 1974. Then the government got a clue that they couldn’t run it and sold it to Sal Fish and it became SCORE. In 2012 Fish retired and sold it to racer Roger Norman, who remains president to this day.

In the beginning, the Baja 1000 only had a few types of vehicles competing. But today a SCORE race will host close to 40 classes based upon vehicle type, skill level and age. The vehicles range from the relatively inexpensive motorcycles and quads all the way up to the powerful trophy truck and class 1 vehicles that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to build. In between there are classes for buggies, Jeeps, ATVs, UTVs, stock Volkswagens called Baja Bugs, production vehicles, trucks, custom fabricated race vehicles and many more.

All kinds of drivers race in this competition: There are huge race teams which are factory-supported groups that build custom vehicles and provide chase vehicles via helicopters and drones, and then we have the much smaller sportsman teams competing in an all-stock vehicle with no chase vehicle support at all. Regardless of their size and vehicle, all have their fun in this Mad Max like race in the middle of the Baja desert.

One curious fact is the route has unexpected surprises in the form of booby traps. Every year there are reports of spectators sabotaging the course by digging holes, blocking river flow, or burying and hiding obstacles. This is all done by spectators who just want to see mayhem, they don’t want to hurt anyone, and they help pick up the fallen drivers and send them on their way after having a good laugh. Drivers are advised to be aware of groups of spectators along the way for it may mean they tampered with the original course "just to see some of the action up close".

We talked to Chris Rasidic, a driver in the Baja 1000, and he kindly answered our questions:

How long have you been a driver? I've been involved in all kinds of racing for some 13 years now, two and a half competing in the Baja 1000, but I also race in the Baja 500 and several other international races.

What's your team name? Murray Racing.

What is your vehicle? A 2018 CanAm Maverick X3 Turbo2, UTV 1000cc turbocharged 235. We represent the CanAm factory team.

What's the cost of your vehicle? The vehicle itself costs about $29,000-$35,000 but what we add in equipment will cost from $120,000 to $150,000 USD.

How much of that equipment do you have to replace after a race like the Baja 1000?

About 40-50 per cent of the equipment was replaced on previous years. But this year was a very good one, we replaced almost nothing just over $2,000 USD. The whole vehicle lasted for the whole race, all thousand miles of it. Not even a flat tire.

What's your experience with the booby traps, have you encountered any?

Not me but the guys at the pits talk about it all the time. I have encountered some hostile people though, but this is the exception because most people along the way are very kind and helpful.

There are other long races in the world but none of those have booby traps and incoming traffic. Welcome to Mexico!