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HARD TIMES AT THE 1973 BAJA 1000

Posted in Features on March 8, 2016
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Some wise (but creative) guy’s reminder of what you were up against while running the 1973 Baja 1000 was displayed in this series of signs just north of Puertocitos.

This part of the racecourse is now paved, so the road that almost took your shocks off is now smooth as a babies butt in comparison. But the worst part of the course lay a few miles ahead; the feared “Three Sisters” area that was a few miles south of the sleepy fishing village of Puertocitos and about 60 miles south of San Felipe on the gulf side of the Baja Peninsula.

It was a series of steep uphill cliff hugging grades, full of sharp rocks that made it especially treacherous. It was in a later race that Walker Evans blew four tires at once going up one of the grades. For many others competitors, their race ended here.

But back to the start. Ensenada was the traditional beginning of the racecourse. From there, the racers snaked their way over the terrain all the way to La Paz, almost 900 miles further on. Farmland, mountainous terrain, deserts, a pine forest that reminded a couple of photographers of Scotland, they were all distinctive parts that made up the race course all the way to the finish.

This race had a lot of controversy attached to it. NORRA (National Off-Road Racing Assn) had organized the Baja 500 and Baja 1000 since 1967, and had plenty of experience putting on events. But shortly before the 1973 event, the Baja Governors office informed all in a press release that the event would be promoted and run by the Baja Sports Committee, a group of local officials with the help of a few American advisors.

The Baja Governor’s office stated “While NORRA has done an excellent job with the races, the time has come when the proceeds for these events should no longer go into the pockets of individuals, but rather to the benefit of the children and youth of the Peninsula”.

It all sounded good on paper, but in the end it seemed that most of the proceeds from this event went into expenses in putting on the race and ‘administrative costs’.

Although official reasons for the BSC taking over the races from NORRA has been obscured with time, it was widely supposed, and quoted at the time, that a racial slur toward the Mexicans from a NORRA official at the Baja 500 finish line (held 5 months earlier) was the reason that NORRA was kicked out of Baja. Whether it was true or not, it was all the Mexican government needed to throw their support behind the upstart BSC.

The winners were Bobby Ferro and Johnny Johnson in their Sandmaster single seater with a very quick time of 16 hour and 50 minutes., Walker Evans was second, over an hour behind the winners.

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