Beating (By) Baja
As a dreary and dense fog settled on the seaside town of Ensenada, Mexico, 347 teams from 29 states and 34 countries prepared for one of the harshest races in the world: The infamous Tecate SCORE Baja 1000. This year's 41st annual event featured a 631.35-mile course following the tradition of not being particularly fast or forgiving. In the day and a half that followed the first drop of the flag, only 227 teams would know what it was like to cross the finish line.
While a remarkable 65.4 percent finished the race, there were plenty of tales to tell at the end, from flips and rolls to grenaded engines. This year's overall four-wheel winner was the team of Roger Norman and Larry Roeseler in their Norman Motorsports Ford trophy truck in a time of 12:40:33 with an average speed of 49.8 mph.
Other notables included a First Place win for Honda in the Stock Mini class by Gavin Skilton and his No. 779 Ridgeline race truck in 21:22:21 at an average speed of 29.5 mph. Ford successfully raced its Raptor R to a Third Place finish in Class 8 with a time of 25:28:10 with an average speed of 24.8 mph. Not bad for a truck that was designed for the Stock Full class with a mission of just completing the race. This isn't the last time you'll hear about the Raptor completing the 1000.
On the tire front, BFGoodrich won the overall tire title for the 22nd time in the last 23 years and General Tire cemented its return to desert racing with two class wins (Class 6 and class 9).
We sent three editors down south to cover the race first-hand; here are their stories...
In the days leading up to the race, thousands of hard-working individuals dedicate time, money, and equipment to a cause that may seem like a poor return on the investment. These people take time off work, travel to a place where nobody's guaranteed a return home, and then bust their knuckles until the early morning hours for a 50/50 chance at 20 minutes of glory, bragging rights, and a plastic trophy if you're lucky. Why do they do it? The reasons are as varied as the colors of an Ensenada sunset. Some are trying to fulfill a life-long dream, while others are drawn to a mystique that is virtually indescribable to someone who hasn't experienced it first-hand. In the end, all I could say is Baja is about challenge: Challenging the terrain, challenging the clock, and challenging the rules of human safety for the euphoric high you get when you live to tell a friend about it.
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This year I tagged along with Trophy Truck team No. 2 of Pistol Pete Sohren. Pete's mix-matched crew of mechanics, logistics managers, communication experts, and generally good-natured order-takers personified team spirit. Each member shared a passion that was only bested by dedication to do whatever it took to get the job done. Despite a race-ending head gasket failure at race mile 7, the team found glory in the days before the race, while prerunning the 631-mile course. Everywhere they went, the people of Baja greeted the group with smiles of anticipation, words of encouragement and praise for embracing a venue where economic instability and corruption rule. The Baja Mil is that once-a-year escape from a life full of struggles. The spectators feast on the opportunity to experience the granddaddy of all off-road motorsports, businesses close, and practically everyone stops to watch the race unfold live and in person.
For me, the Baja 1000 is the pinnacle of all that I do each year. And this year was no exception--despite not getting the dream ride of a lifetime in a SCORE Trophy Truck, it was my favorite Baja to date. Now I understand that the challenge itself is rewarding enough, and heroes are everywhere in Baja.
--Robin Stover, Feature Editor