Armin Schwarz newsletter 2007-12-08

40 years of Baja 1000: A Desert Monster in the Prime of Life The Baja 1000 celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2007. Only a few motorsport events besides Formula 1 enjoy as much media coverage as the longest non-stop desert race of the world....

40 years of Baja 1000: A Desert Monster in the Prime of Life

The Baja 1000 celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2007. Only a few motorsport events besides Formula 1 enjoy as much media coverage as the longest non-stop desert race of the world. SCORE as the governing body and organiser estimated that a good 300,000 fans lined up along the 1,300 mile track to watch the action with more than 400 starters in 34 classes for automobiles, trucks, motorbike, ATVs - more or less everything that has wheels. For the 33rd time the city of Ensenada south of the border between the U.S. and Mexico was the starting point. And the competitors had to reach Cabo San Lucas at the very southern end of the Baja California, where the finish was located for the second time in history.

Once again, the Baja had everything that drivers, teams and fans dread and love at the same time: There was rain in the beginning, mud holes. In the night there was fog, and with almost no viz everybody had to stagger around guessing what was waiting behind that white wall - very risky.

US veterans Mark Post/Rob MacCachren/Carl Renezeder saw the chequered flag first after 25 hours, 21 minutes and 25 seconds. With their Trophy Truck they had achieved the incredible record average of 51.13 mph! What a great achievement! Post was crowned the 2007 SCORE champion with his third win out of six races this year. Many other met a very different fate: Of the 424 starters only 30 had arrived at Cabo San Lucas after 30 hours! Maximum allowed time was 53 hours, maybe just to make sure no one got seriously lost in the desert ...

Second came father and son Vildosola, who had been in a very close race with the eventual winners at the 1,200 mile mark but then lost time with two flat tyres. Third amongst the Trophy trucks was racing legend Robby Gordon. Rob by had a story to tell: His crew somehow calculated his driving time to the next pit stop a little too optimistically and sent him off into dusk without his big headlamps. So Robby had to find his way for quite some time with just a torch! And I can tell you, that's a challenge with 800 hp to handle!

Baja legend and multiple motorbike winner, Larry Roeseler won Class 1 for a record fourth time in succession and finished third overall co-driven by Troy Herbst.

But the fastest of all sat on a motorbike; Robby Bell, Johnny Campbell, Steve Hengeveld and Kendall Norman reached the finishes after 24:15.50 hours and averaged 53.43 mph - a new record. With this performance the quartet picked up a theme from the earliest history of the Baja 1000:

Back in 1962 the first crazy guys took up the challenge of the peninsula. Dave Ekin took his 250 cc Honda from Tijuana down to La Paz in 39 hours and 54 minutes. His buddy Bill Robertson, jnr took just an hour longer, they covered some 953 miles , averaging around 24mph. In order to prove their record they had a time sheet stamped at the Tijuana post office, and the saying is that they were in a real hurry to find the post office down in La Paz. It was in April 1967 when Bruce Meyers fired up his buggy called "Old Red" to break Ekin's record by five hours.

But the real big stuff started on 31 October, 1967. Ed Pearlman, the founder of the National Off Road Racing Association NORRA had the fantastic idea to send 68 madmen with the stripped down VW bugs and motor bikes on an 849 mile trip from Tijuana to La Paz. Vic Wilson and Ted Mangels took 27 hours and 38 minutes in their Meyers Manx Buggy, averaging around 31mph. This entire event was called the "Mexican 1000". In 1968 the race started in Ensenada, where since then by far the most starts took place.

Soon the Baja wrote its heroic stories. Parnelli Jones and Walker Evens made the first real big headlines in 1972 during the pre run ning, when a downpour almost washed them into the sea.

1972 was the last Baja organised by NORRA, for ‘73 an organisation dubbed BSC took the rudder briefly, ‘74 was cancelled because of the world wide "oil crisis". From 1975 SCORE International, founded by Mickey Thompson and soon directed by Sal Fish was the organising body to run the SCORE Baja, which was a giant loop with start and finish in Ensenada. Since 1979 the Baja is a point-to-point race.

Dust, racing fuel, serious horse power, fascinating machines and the big challenge of the desert attracted famous racers and lots of celebrities. Clark Gable and Steve McQueen tried their fortune. Mark Thatcher, the son of Britain's iron lady Maggy came. Rick and Roger Mears, Danny Ongais, Robby Gordon, Roberto Guerrero, Brendan Gaughan, or rally aces like Erik Carlsson and Shekhar Mehta are only a few of the names that grace the entry lists year after year.

... and lately even Bavarians followed the call of the desert!

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    Armin Schwarz

-credit: awm

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