It began 50 years ago as the National Off Road Racing Association’s Mexican 1000, beginning in Tijuana and racing from Ensenada to La Paz. 68 vehicles started the race competing in four classes. This year, SCORE-International is the sanctioning body for the race named the Baja 1000, with a 1,134 mile run from Ensenada to La Paz with more than 400 entrants. (course map).
Racers have 48 hours to complete the course which means everyone will be driving through a night. The slower classes and cars with problems will be racing through two nights. No matter how you slice it, racing in the Baja 1000 involves a really long day.
Cops Racing Team entered three cars in the race: Trophy Truck #50 driven by Zak Langley, the Class 1 #150 driven by Morgan Langley, and the Mason Trophy Truck Spec #250 making its inaugural run, driven by Team Owner John Langley. Each of the three cars would have three drivers to move it down the peninsula.
But let’s back up a week and a half. The entire team departs for Baja, all equipment in tow, long before the race to begin …
“Prerunning,” aka “practice,” aka “course reconnaissance” — running the course in advance of the race to see what’s out there. Unlike race day, prerunning is much more relaxed and can include an occasional fish taco. Drivers make notations of the course on the GPS, marking areas which require special attention, such as big rocks, or surprise turns, or silt beds, or goats — the list is endless.
The COPS prerunners between Loreto and La Paz were essentially the same cars as the race cars. Once drivers got the feel of the race course in the prerunners, the transition into a race car was seamless.
Mike, Zak, John and Josh stopping for a bottle of water and a rest north of Ciudad Insurgentes. Friendly locals pass by with a truckload of hay. 30 minutes later, they passed by again in the opposite direction, but with an empty truck.
400 miles down Baja, Mexicans have a slightly different vision than the President of the United States.
John’s Trophy Truck Spec prerunner — very similar to the all-new #250 Mason truck he will be driving in the race.
Every time we stopped while prerunning, locals would show up, seemingly out of nowhere, to look at the cars and take photos. Of course, this gave us the opportunity to hand out steekers.
Goat season in Baja. Here, a flock migrates from over there to over there, with little regard to highway traffic.
Josh and Mark fueling the prerunners at the same place the race trucks will take on fuel during the race: the future location of BFGoodrich Pit #8 at Santa Rita, Race Mile 1013.
Morgan makes a low-key departure after fueling. His destination is La Paz, 120 miles away.
A local videos John’s equally stealthy departure after fueling.
In the parking lot of the La Paz Hyatt, John shows off the tree he nailed while prerunning (among other things which we won’t go into at this time).
We celebrated our first night in La Paz with a team dinner on the beach at Stella’s Cucina Al Forno & Beach Club, an exceptional Italian restaurant.
Sunrise over Island Carmen offshore from Loreto. Our prerunning day begins.
COPS arrived in Loreto before most other teams, but on the weekend prior to the race, the hotel parking lot was filling up with other teams’ prerunners.
Chickens, as it turns out, are big fans of COPS Racing.
Early morning in the parking lot of the Mision Hotel. Note the damage to the front right fender of the prerunner, and remember that damage. Time to use your short-term memory.
Excessive tire wear can lead to low pressure.
Epiphytic plant balls on the wires of Ciudad Insurgentes.
The 50th Baja 1000
Let’s cut to the chase. Our race day started on Friday morning at around 2:30 at the BFGoodrich pits near the oasis/farming community of La Purisima. The three COPS cars left the starting line in 750-mile-distant Ensenada, 15 hours earlier. The #150 Class 1 and #50 Trophy Truck DNF’d and would not see Valle T or Loreto, respectively. On the other hand, the #250 Trophy Truck Spec was doing well, quite well.
The COPS #250, making its inaugural run, takes on fuel at the BFG Pits at Race Mile 750. Steve Hengeveld was a full 20 minutes in front of the #2 guy in class — my timing had to be off. Kash Vessels drove the first third of the race before handing the truck over to Steve. Once he arrives in Loreto, Steve will hand over the driving duties to John who takes it to the finish. Time to pull that damaged front right fender out of short-term memory.
The second of only two actual race photos. The #250 takes 27 gallons of fuel at the BFG Pits — just enough to get the truck over the mountain and to the driver change in Loreto.
The view from the BFG Pits after sunup.
We dashed to the finish in La Paz, but that was after John Langley drove the #250 to a first place finish in class, and 13th overall. Of the 405 entrants, around 240 finished. We all met at Stella Restaurant for a celebratory dinner on the beach while John chats with the owner of the restaurant.
El Señor Vaca Muerta es amigo de Chupacabra. ¡Mierda!
Driving up the peninsula, I came in contact with a cow (no, not Señor Vaca). The cow started walking onto the highway from the left side, but at the last second, thankfully, the cow turned away from me and I only sideswiped him, causing us to take a short, unplanned ride into the desert.
We spent Thanksgiving night in San Ignacio during the northbound trek. Who needs turkey and stuffing when you have fish tacos and a margarita especial?
Early morning light on the Rio San Ignacio palms, Volcán las Tres Virgenes in the background.
Northbound, at 28º north latitude, passing into the state of Baja California. The race is over. Go home.