Once jokingly described as an “all-day plane crash,” the Baja 1000,
SCORE’s flagship event, is a point-to-point race across more than 1,200
miles of Baja California’s most rugged terrain, starting in Ensenada
and finishing in La Paz some 48 hours later. Now far from its 1960s
roots, Baja is a high-tech sprint in serious racing machines. Today’s
top-tier desert racer is about as similar to a fancy SUV as Velveeta is to
Brie, and the premier class consists of 900-horsepower Trophy Trucks,
literally capable of flying over obstacles while tearing across the desert.
Sophisticated “buggies,” as well-engineered as most road racing cars,
lead a variety of pickups, historic racers, motorcycles and even classic
V W Baja Beetles that fill out the field.
As a car nerd, I’ve given a lot of
thought to my bucket list of must-attend races. Way up high on that
list is the granddaddy of all desert
races, the SCORE International
Baja 1000, which is celebrating its
50th year, this November 14–18.
And whatever the machine, Baja racing
vehicles demand service — not just gas and tires
— with frequent major roadside fixes common
after unplanned encounters with rocks, animals
and even cacti. The pit crews following along the
dusty route in separate vehicles and taking on
these repairs range from seasoned professionals
to friends and families working for beer, pizza
and tacos. Not all teams have pit crews, but those
that do appreciate the help from those doing it for
the excitement and love of the sport.
Pre-race buzz is palpable as Ensenada
becomes filled with Baja racers, fans and
hangers-on, all gearing up for the downtown
start. My fantasy plan includes ogling the sexy
mechanical hardware, followed by retreating to
a comfy poolside bar at one of Ensenada’s many
resorts. I’d come back to watch the Trophy
Trucks blast off early the following morning,
and after a siesta, grab a rental Jeep and head
out to watch a pit stop or two. Finally a celebratory margarita would be in order as I check off
this must-do event.