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.
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.
For the purpose of the Baja 1000 Off Road Race, COPS Racing divided the peninsula into thirds, to best manage crew and logistics. Our section of the course was the lower third, between Loreto and the finish at La Paz. During the race, our job was to hang out close to some nasty silt beds near Race Mile 1190, and wait for the Class 10 car. Should he encounter stuckage problems, we were there to help unstuck.
A Photo Sphere from Punta Conejo and the light house – click and drag to look around.
If you’re keeping score, here’s our route as chase guys: SoCal → Loreto → Cuidad Insurgentes → Punta Conejo → La Paz → Cuidad Insurgentes → Santa Rita → Punta Conejo → La Paz → Cuidad Constitución → La Paz → Punta Conejo → RM1190 → Punta Conejo → RM1180 → Loreto → SoCal. All that equals 3354.06 miles with an average speed of 46.43 mph, and almost 72 hours of moving time.
A Photo Sphere of our camp site on the Pacific Coast – click and drag to look around.
The race started in Ensenada Thursday morning, but didn’t reach us, 1100+ miles down-course, until early Friday morning. The COPS Trophy Truck passed us Friday afternoon running strong, finishing 8th in Class. We ultimately got word the Class 1 went into a ditch halfway down Baja and ripped out the car’s front end, rendering a DNF. And the brand-new Class 10 Jimco was running strong toward us.
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.