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.

No Wrong Turns: Surfers Give Cars Away in Baja Road Race

A few weeks ago I overheard a bunch of locals chatting about a group of American surfers who drove down to the tip of Baja California Sur and gave away everything they came with including their cars. I decided to do a bit of research and find out what this was all about.

A group of guys, who affectionately refer to their vacation time together as “TGT” (The Guys Trip) decided to switch up their rather typical surf vacations for a new kind adventure — a trip that would jar them out of their middle-class comfort zones and, as they put it, “require balls.” The trip was dubbed “The Baja 3000”.

“The Baja 3000” challenged the surfers to choose a teammate and a vehicle that would get them to the tip of the Baja in seven days. Each team had a budget of $3000 which had to cover the purchase of a vehicle, car insurance (US and Mexican), permits, food, fuel, toll charges, and their accommodation. The maximum budget that could be allotted to the car purchase was $1500, leaving the other half to cover the remaining expenses. I want to know where they found decent cars to drive in Mexico for $1500!

As if that wasn’t already enough of a challenge, they created a complicated contest, based on a point system, with a list of activities that had to be completed along the way. Each team was given a camera and film as well as journal to document their contest accomplishments. Points were given based on the activities completed. One of the top ways to earn points was to have village children paint the car (earn 5000 points). One way to lose a serious amount of points was to receive jail time (lose 100, 000 points…though I think losing points would be the least of your worries).

They even had a “Baja 3000” trophy along with a prize for the winning team. The prize involved never having to buy beer for the rest of the trip and well-deserved bragging rights.

And, though the trip was all in fun, these guys also wanted to give back to the community where they have spent dozens of years surfing. Teams donated cars, school supplies, books and much more to low income families as well as to local organizations like Classroom on Wheels and Communidad Biblica de Cabo San Lucas.

Sounds like a fun and socially responsible vacation to me…I wonder where they will head to next year.

Check out their website for more information.

“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.

Photo of the Day (4/23/07)

This is a parade of Reliant cars, coming into Helsinki, during the “Reliants to Russia” road rally, wherein the contestants raced 4000 miles across 12 countries from London to Latvia, via the Arctic Circle. Teams used only one of three Reliant models of three-wheeled cars, and raised money for various charities.

If that’s not your style, sign up now for the 2008 Plymouth to Dakar road race.