Baja 1000

The Baja 1000, 5 Miles East of Bahía Blanco

Our mission at this SCORE Baja 1000 was very simple: go to Race Mile 435, and wait for the three COPS Racing cars to arrive. Our sole purpose was “extraction” – if any one of our cars get stuck in the miles-long silt beds, our job was to find them and get them moving again. Should extraction be necessary, there was a 100% chance it would be at night, in total darkness – more commonly known as “fun.”

COPS Racing was campaigning Trophy Truck #50, driven by Zak Langley; the Class 10 car was driven by Morgan Langley, and John Langley handled the driving duties of the brand-new Trophy Truck Spec. The 830 mile course started in Ensenada, with a loop south along the Pacific, east to the Sea of Cortez, then north to San Felipe, then west, back to the finish in Ensenada.

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Our first stop in Baja was at the Horsepower Ranch outside Ensenada with its Legends Party, where off-road legends, Rob MacCachran and Rufus Parnell “Parnelli” Jones, were inducted into the Hall of Fame.
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The McMillins provided their contemporary race trucks for static display at Horesepower, plus Mark McMillin was showing his old Class 1 car. Speaking of Mark McMillin, the food at the Ranch was exceptional.

Inside the bar at the Horsepower Ranch:

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On Thursday we left Horsepower Ranch and headed toward the hotel at Cataviña via Highway 5 and San Felipe. This is the end of the pavement, about 25 kilometers south of Gonzaga Bay. New highway construction is continuing to the south and west, progressing toward Highway 1. The creeping black death slowly takes over Baja.
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The new highway alignment runs about 2km west of Coco’s Corner, spanning some large arroyos.
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On Friday morning, we left the hotel in Cataviña, and headed to our position on the course at RM435 – the commute took close to six hours.
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The road west of Highway 1 was scenic and fast. Leaving the highway, the desert was green and happy.
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The Cardon, Boogum Trees and cholla were plentiful on the way to the San José de la Piedra fish camp on the Pacific coast.
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Once at the coast, we drove south about 25 miles, past bay after spectacular bay with no people, no buildings, no nada.
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Good Lord, another beautiful bay.

A photo sphere taken at the south end of Bahía Córbin – what the locals call Cuchillo. Steve does an excellent Coco impersonation.

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One of the race leaders was 45x ridden by Francisco Arredondo of Guatemala.
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45x would finish the race, third in the Pro Motorcycle class, in 17 hours, 8 minutes.
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Raul Hernandez riding 14x KTM, finished sixth in the Pro Motorcycle class.
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The last rider before sunset. We only had nine hours to kill before our race cars arrive. The Trophy Truck and Class 10 were running strong, but the Trophy Truck Spec experienced mechanical problems around Race Mile 250 and couldn’t continue in the race. When the checkered flag dropped, the Trophy Truck finished 11th in class, and the Class 10 finished second in class.
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Saturday morning, heading back to civilization, we crossed El Islote dry lake – think: Bonneville Salt Flats (and all associated speed).

El Islote:

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Alfonsina’s in Gonzaga Bay was our Saturday night hotel. Friday was a long race day, and a shower and bed were greatly appreciated.
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Ahhhh … it’s time to relax at Gonzaga Bay – the end of a 1200 mile weekend.

COPS Racing at the Baja 1000

The Baja 1000 was not kind to COPS Racing. The Class 1 car, driven by Morgan Langley, made it about 250 miles before the tired torque converter gave up the ghost. The Trophy Truck lost two engine cylinders near Loreto (RM850), but after several hours of down-time tinkering, Dan Martin managed to limp the truck to RM975 where it DNF’d. The combination of a hill and a silt bed near Punta Conejo sucked the remaining life out of the engine.

Staged race fuel at the BFG pits near La Purisima, RM750.
Staged race fuel at the BFG pits near La Purisima, RM750.
Waiting ... and waiting ... and waiting at the pits.
Waiting … and waiting … and waiting at the pits.
Dan Martin arrives in the COPS Trophy Truck and takes on fuel for his trip over the mountains to the next pits near Loreto.
Dan Martin arrives in the COPS Trophy Truck and takes on fuel for his trip over the mountains to the next pits near Loreto. See the video.
A race spectator's shoes, right about here.
A race spectator’s shoes, right about here.
A disappointed John Langley learns about the demise of the Team's Trophy Truck.
A disappointed John Langley learns about the demise of the Team’s Trophy Truck.

Video: COPS Racing TT#50 Fuel Stop

The COPS Racing Trophy Truck receives fuel at the BFGoodrich pits near Race Mile 747 (La Purisima) in the 2012 Baja 1000. Fifty miles down course from this pit, #50 would lose two engine cylinders (listen to the engine sound at the pits). Driver: Dan Martin.

Prerunning the Baja 1000

Some say prerunning is one of the most-fun aspects of desert racing – I have to agree. It’s much more relaxed than the race environment, and there’s always time to stop for a taco and admire the view. COPS Racing divided its chase/prerun crews into two groups: one working the top half of Baja, and one working the lower portion of Baja. We got to work the southern section, between Loreto and the finish line in La Paz.

The spring-fed rio at San Ignacio - one of the first things you see driving into town.
The spring-fed rio at San Ignacio – one of the first things you see driving into town.
Sunset west of San Ignacio.
Sunset west of San Ignacio.
Dinner: carne asada tacos from a taco stand in San Ignacio. ¡Muy bueno!
Dinner: carne asada tacos from a taco stand in San Ignacio. ¡Muy bueno!

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The San Ignacio town square is quiet, and looks like something out of a Hollywood movie set.
The San Ignacio town square is quiet, and looks like something out of a Hollywood movie set.
Mission San Ignacio was founded by the Jesuit missionary Juan Bautista de Luyando in 1728 at the site of the modern town of San Ignacio.  The site proved to be highly-productive, agriculturally, and served as the base for later Jesuit expansion in central Baja.
Mission San Ignacio was founded by the Jesuit missionary Juan Bautista de Luyando in 1728 at the site of the modern town of San Ignacio. The site proved to be highly-productive, agriculturally, and served as the base for later Jesuit expansion in central Baja.
The mission is still a working church, and please, no hats or flash photography, Steve.
The mission is still a working church, and please, no hats or flash photography, Steve.
A restauranteur is a fan of COPS Racing and steekers.
A restauranteur is a fan of COPS Racing and steekers.
Our chase crew had a morning to kill, so we decided to drive down to the San Ignacio Lagoon, the winter-time sanctuary of the Pacific Gray Whale.
Our chase crew had a morning to kill, so we decided to drive down to the San Ignacio Lagoon, the winter-time sanctuary of the Pacific Gray Whale.
Prerunning between San Ignacio and Loreto.
Prerunning between San Ignacio and Loreto. See the video.
Gassing up the two prerunners, Oprah and Beetlejuice, at El Medano, five miles west of Santa Rita, on Highway 1. The prerunners run on Pemex.
Gassing up the two prerunners, Oprah and Beetlejuice, at El Medano, five miles west of Santa Rita, on Highway 1. The prerunners run on Pemex.

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Josh and Dan in a prerunner, headed to La Paz.
Josh and Dan in a prerunner, headed to La Paz.
George talks to Dan in a prerunner near Punta Conejo.
George talks to Dan in a prerunner near Punta Conejo.
LEDs provide light for the prerunners during night practice. North of Loreto.
LEDs provide light for the prerunners during night practice. North of Loreto.
About three weeks prior to our arrival in Loreto, the area got hit hard by hurricane Paul. The surrounding desert was Kauai-like green, and there was flood debris along the beach.
About three weeks prior to our arrival in Loreto, the area got hit hard by hurricane Paul. The surrounding desert was Kauai-like green, and there was flood debris along the beach.

COPS Racing at the Baja 1000

COPS Racing entered three cars in the Baja 1000: Class 1, Class 4 (aka 10), and Class 12. These pics were taken at two BFG pits – one near RM690 (La Purisima, night time) and one near RM850 (Cuidad Insurgentes, daylight). John Langley brought the Class 4 to a first-in-class finish in La Paz. Hours later, Dan Martin finished in the Class 1, but not without mechanical problems. The Class 12 ran strong until it blew its motor near RM800 and was out of the race.

Grabbing a 2 a.m. taco before the Class 12 gets to us in La Purisima.
Grabbing a 2 a.m. taco before the Class 12 gets to us in La Purisima.
Waiting and waiting at the BFG pits at La Purisima.
Waiting and waiting at the BFG pits at La Purisima.
Morgan Langley brought the Class 12 in for the fuel stop. The car started in Ensenada, 15 hours earlier, and with the exception of getting stuck in a silt bed for 30 minutes, the trip was uneventful. Joe Taylor, COPS Crew Chief supervises from the left.
Morgan Langley brought the Class 12 in for the fuel stop. The car started in Ensenada, 15 hours earlier, and with the exception of getting stuck in a silt bed for 30 minutes, the trip was uneventful. Joe Taylor, COPS Crew Chief supervises the stop from the left.

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Morning tule fog in the desert cut visibility to only 25' at times.
Morning tule fog in the desert cut visibility to only 25′ at times.
At the BFG pits at Cuidad Insurgentes, Ron Martin discovers a sheared bolt on the Class 1's front suspension.
At the BFG pits at Cuidad Insurgentes, Ron Martin discovers a sheared bolt on the Class 1’s front suspension.
Dan Martin, driver, and Brian Martin, co-driver, cousin, depart the BFG pits.
Dan Martin, driver, and Brian Martin, co-driver, cousin, depart the BFG pits.
The Class 4 arrives at the BFG pits at Cuidad Insurgentes.
The Class 4 arrives at the BFG pits at Cuidad Insurgentes.
Mike Howel handled co-driving chores; Zak Langley was the driver. At the next stop, Zak would hand the wheel over to John Langley.
Mike Howel handled co-driving chores; Zak Langley was the driver. At the next stop, Zak would hand the wheel over to team owner, John Langley. John would ultimately bring the car to a first-in-class finish in La Paz.
Craig Casey inspects the Class 4 before departure. He also blew the dust out of my Tacoma's air filter (thanks!).
Craig Casey inspects the Class 4 before departure. He also blew the dust out of my Tacoma’s air filter (thanks!).

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Prerunning the Baja 1000

We went to Baja to prerun the Baja 1000 a week before the race with COPS Racing. Our section of the course to practice was between Loreto and La Paz – the lower third of the course, around 300 miles of Baja nastiness. Dan Martin practiced for his race-day Class 1 run, and John Langley reconned the course for his Class 4 car. Those of us chasing, practiced waiting and being patient. The race would start in Ensenada on Thursday morning, but wouldn’t reach us, 800 miles down-course, until early Friday morning.

One of the things chase crews are good at: waiting, telling stories, and being patient.
One of the things chase crews are good at: waiting, telling stories, and being patient.

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The Sea of Cortez out the hotel window. We stayed in the (said condescendingly) "golf course" section of town.
The Sea of Cortez out the hotel window. We stayed in the (said condescendingly) “golf course” section of town.
While prerunning, Bill and John stop for some minor electrical problems. As always, locals come out of nowhere.
While prerunning, Bill and John stop for some minor electrical problems. As always, locals come out of nowhere.
Some local cops ran out of gas, so we helped them get back to base.
Some local cops ran out of gas, so we helped them get back to base.
The motto of a good chaser: rest when you can.
The motto of a good chaser: rest when you can.

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The La Paz malecón.
The La Paz malecón.

40 Years to Glory

These photos are from the static display at SCORE International’s “40 Years to Glory” — a wing-ding at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center commemorating the 40th running of the Baja 1000. Parnelli Jones was not part of the static display.

Bruce Meyers stands next to the revolutionary Meyers Manx. It was produced by his Fountain Valley, California company from 1964 to 1971, in the form of car kits applied to shortened chassis of Volkswagen Beetles.
Bruce Meyers stands next to the revolutionary Meyers Manx. It was produced by his Fountain Valley, California company from 1964 to 1971, in the form of car kits applied to shortened chassis of Volkswagen Beetles.

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Malcom Smith's Husky.
Malcom Smith’s Husky.

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Parnelli Jones climbs out of Big Oly.
Parnelli Jones climbs out of Big Oly.
Ivan Stewart's Trophy Truck.
Ivan Stewart’s Trophy Truck.