BFGoodrich

COPS Racing at the 50th Baja 1000

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

“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 right now).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Excessive tire wear can lead to low pressure.
Epiphytic plant balls on the wires of Ciudad Insurgentes.
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 is a full 20 minutes in front of the #2 guy in class. 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 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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
Northbound, at 28º north latitude, passing into the state of Baja California. The race is over. Go home.

 

Baja 1000: COPS Prerun and Race

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.

Sunday morning off-loading the prerunner, Oprah, in Cuidad Insurgentes. Morgan and John practiced different sections on the way south to La Paz. On Race Day, Morgan would drive the Class 1 and John would drive the Class 10.
Sunday morning off-loading the prerunner, Oprah, in Cuidad Insurgentes. Morgan and John practiced their different sections of the race course in the southern third of Baja. On Race Day, Morgan would drive the Class 1 and John would drive the Class 10.
The COPS prerunner was built by Racer Engineering, sporting a race Corvette motor and three feet of suspension travel. It has two front seats and one back seat - perfect for optimum course reconnaissance.
The COPS prerunner was built by Racer Engineering, sporting a race Corvette motor and three feet of suspension travel. It has two front seats and one back seat – perfect for optimum course reconnaissance.
John Langley, Team Owner, discusses the day's logistics with Morgan and Bill.
John Langley, COPS Team Owner, discusses the day’s logistics with Morgan and Bill.
Dennis and Ron gas up Oprah at the soon-to-be BFGoodrich Pits near Santa Rita.
Dennis and Ron gas up Oprah at the soon-to-be BFGoodrich Pits near Santa Rita.

Waiting for Oprah at the soon-to-be BFGoodrich Pits near Santa Rita.

Morgan and Bill practicing their portion of race course near Punta Conejo. On race day, they'll be piloting the Class 1 car.
Morgan and Bill practicing their portion of race course near Punta Conejo. On race day, they’ll be piloting the Class 1 car.

A Photo Sphere from Punta Conejo and the light house – click and drag to look around.

Bill and Morgan describe some minor mechanical issues to Dennis, the team's "Chaseman."
Bill and Morgan describe some minor mechanical issues to Dennis, the team’s “Chaseman.”
Navigating a race course access road.
Navigating a race course access road.
We get distracted by a giant bug on the windshield.
We get distracted by a giant bug on the windshield.

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.

Oprah charges into the silt beds at Santa Rita.
Oprah charges into the silt beds at Santa Rita.

A Photo Sphere of the Hyatt Place La Paz lobby – click and drag to look around. That’s Ron standing by the front desk.

Stewart gasses up Oprah, while Morgan climbs out.
Stewart gasses up Oprah, while Morgan climbs out.
Prerunning is over for the day - running back to the highway on the Punta Conejo road.
Prerunning is over for the day – running back to the highway on the Punta Conejo road.

A Photo Sphere while waiting for Oprah – click and drag to look around.

Symbolic sunset photo, transitioning from prerunning to race day.
Symbolic sunset photo, transitioning from prerunning to race day.
Steve and I had to drive into our camp site near the silt beds, the day before the race which would keep us from driving on a live race course. We had to drive around 15 miles on a dirt road to Punta Conejo, then another 15 miles north along the Pacific, on the beach. We were very remote.
Steve and I had to drive into our camp site near the silt beds, the day before the race which would keep us from driving on a live race course. We had to drive around 15 miles on a dirt road to Punta Conejo, then another 15 miles north along the Pacific, on the beach. We were very remote.

A Photo Sphere of our camp site on the Pacific Coast – click and drag to look around.

The night before the race got to us, we enjoyed a campfire on the beach and some Tecate beers. As it turns out, really big moths like Tecate beer too.
The night before the race got to us, we enjoyed a campfire on the beach and some Tecate beers. As it turns out, really big moths like Tecate beer too.

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.

One of the lead Trophy Trucks past our location was Clyde Stacy from Bristol, VA - he would finish 7th in Class.
One of the lead Trophy Trucks past our location was Clyde Stacy from Bristol, VA – he finished 7th in Class.
Justin Davis was  the Class 1 leader in his Rigid Industries Jimco, finishing first in Class in around 24-1/2 hours.
Justin Davis was the Class 1 leader in his Rigid Industries Jimco, finishing first in Class in around 24-1/2 hours.
Late afternoon sun shows off the sandy whoops in the course.
Late afternoon sun shows off the sandy whoops on the course.
Late on Friday evening the new Jimco Class 10 made it to around RM1180 and the clutch failed. Actually, the clutch had been slowly failing for the prior 100 miles, but without a spare, the car was stopped, pressure plates were scuffed up and reassembled. The car made it a final 30 miles before the clutch gasped its final breath of life. We found the car after sunrise Saturday morning and towed it 20 miles to the highway with a bigger truck and trailer. When the dust settled, our race day was 36 hours.
Late on Friday evening the new Jimco Class 10 made it to around RM1180 and the clutch failed. Actually, the clutch had been slowly failing for the prior 100 miles, but without a spare, the car was stopped, pressure plates were scuffed up and reassembled. The car made it a final 30 miles before the clutch gasped its final breath of life. We found the car after sunrise Saturday morning and towed it 20 miles to the highway with a bigger truck and trailer. When the dust settled, our race day was 36 hours.

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.