No Wrong Turns: Off-road Race in the Baja

Take a bunch of hardcore off-road racers, support teams, mechanics, motorbikes, ATVs, a host of other racing vehicles and throw them all into the Baja desert…what do you get? You get the Baja 1000.

Last week we ran into a guy at a local bar who competes in this race. He gave us a quick run-down of what it includes: the race begins in Ensenada, though it has started in Tijuana and Mexicali, and ends in La Paz or Cabo San Lucas. There are tons of different vehicle categories from four wheelers, which range from Baja Bugs (VW Bugs on steroids) and mini trucks, to motorcycles, which can vary from 125cc to 250cc or more. The guy who we chatted with swears by his customized bike and, after competing twelve times as well as sustaining numerous injuries (he wanted to show us all of his battle-wounds which we politely declined), didn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

The Baja 1000 began in 1967. Initially the race was 849 miles (the 1000 is a bit misleading as the course tends to vary yearly) and the winning team finished the race in less than 28 hours. These days teams are finishing under 26 hours, an astounding time to me since it took us about 3.5 days to get from Tijuana to La Paz and we were on the main road. These guys drive all day and night in attempt to win the race. The course consists of rocks, dry lake-beds, mountain passes, paved roads and a lot of desert scenery. Mechanical problems and flipped vehicles only reinforce the fact that this is a brutal course and it’s because of this that only half of the teams are actually able to finish the race.

Competitors usually enter as a team where they take turns riding so it is more like a relay race. Team members often carry a toolkit that can be used in case of a breakdown. They ride to a designated stop and then switch drivers after 6 hours (about 300km) of racing. There are some who attempt this race solo but they are few and far between.

According to our Baja 1000 source, competing in the race isn’t cheap. The racing vehicles cost a fair bit, tack on the add-ons and time spent customizing them and the price just keeps on rising. Fuel, pit teams and extra gear add to the overall cost. Geez, not only does it cost a lot of money, there is a fifty percent chance of not finishing…I had to ask why they keep competing, our rider guy (about eight beers later) just replied, “It’s just awesome man!” Well said.

For more information on the Baja 1000 click here and here.

No Wrong Turns” chronicles Kelsey and her husband’s road trip — in real time — from Canada to the southern tip of South America in their trusty red VW Golf named Marlin.