A few months ago, an article in a major newspaper cast a dim light on racing in Baja. Citing noted green think tank The Center For Biological Diversity, the account served up a quote from CBD biologist Daniel Patterson, saying, "These races have little to no environmental oversight, and the maximum speeds they encourage result in maximum damage to the landscape and wildlife ... just so gringo motorheads can rip it up." For those unfamiliar with the group, the off-road community has the CBD to thank for the lawsuit that roped off nearly a third of the Glamis Dunes, all in the name of protecting a small weedy plant known as Pierson's Milkvetch.
Off-roaders and racers are used to being vilified by the mainstream media, but that's changing. With high-profile celebrity racers such as Paul Newman and Jesse James, and films such as Dust to Glory, mainstream America is being treated to the true side of off-road racing and its flagship event, the Baja 1000. For 2004, CNBC covered the 37th Baja run in a three-part series, and The Learning Channel sent a crew to accompany Terrible Herbst Motorsports for an upcoming episode of "Rides." Dylan Ratigon, host of CNBC's "Bullseye," spent some time in the codriver's seat of Pete Sohren's Number 2 Trophy Truck.
Gone are the days when the general public's view of off-road racing was filtered by those who would see its demise. We hope the new positive light cast on off-road racing can bring the sport a notch or two closer to traditional stick-and-ball games in terms of popularity and profile. Currently, racers such as Ed, Tim, and Troy Herbst enjoy elevated celebrity status in Baja, but are nearly anonymous outside of racing circles when in their home country. We look forward to the day when Baja champions have to endure the same American autograph seekers who mob baseball greats and golf standouts. Here's hoping.