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.
This is the daddy of all off-road races: the Mexican 1000. It started exactly 50 years ago by the National Off-Road Racing Association, the first sanctioning body dedicated to off road racing. The first event began in Tijuana and finished in La Paz, while this 50th Anniversary running would start in Ensenada and finish in San Jose del Cabo 1,264.10 miles down the peninisula. After leaving Ensenada, racers passed through San Felipe, Bay of Los Angeles, Loreto, and then La Paz before the dash to the finish. Start to finish took five days, if you were lucky enough to make it.
Day 2: San Felipe to Bahia de Los Angeles (221.00 miles)
Day 3: Bahia de Los Angeles to Loreto (396.70 miles)
Day 4: Loreto to La Paz (293.30 miles)
Then the Shinola hit the Westinghouse. The #250 drove into a Grand Canyon-sized rain rut which hurdled them off the road, breaking tie rods and the rack-and-pinon steering. One of the #250’s rescue trucks hit a cavernous pothole on Highway 1, which fatally damaged its steering. At 10:30 pm, we received a text from Zak asking us to help in the rescue effort — we were looking at a four-hour commute to the Pacific side of the peninsula. Meanwhile, only minutes before the start in Loreto, the #55’s starter failed causing a one-hour delay in starting the race, knocking Zak from around fifth place to near 25th.
A mile from the finish, the driver’s-side rear brake caught on fire, and neither Zak or Josh were aware of it until they arrived on the podium and a hundred guys came running at them with fire extinguishers. The COPS Racing #55 finished sixth in class and 15th overall.
Cameron Steele cinched the overall win in his Geiser Trophy Truck — congratulations to all!
The 49th running of the SCORE Baja 1000 was held November 18 with 270 competitors planning to finish the 854-mile course. The race started in Ensenada running east to Ojos Negros, then back to the Pacific Coast and south to El Rosario. After a big loop in the desert, racers headed back up the Pacific Coast, then east toward the Sea of Cortez. Once on the east side of the peninsula, the course headed back toward the checkers in Ensenada. Only 142 racers eventually saw the finish.
We had two days to get to Loreto, two-thirds of the way down the Baja Peninsula. Steve and I manned COPS Racing Chase 3 to help with prerunning the course (practicing), and as support crew during the Baja 1000 Off Road Race – we worked the lower third of the course between Loreto and La Paz. This year’s race was a peninsula run, starting in Ensenada and finishing in La Paz, with 1275 miles in between.
COPS entered three cars in the 1000: the #50 Trophy Truck driven by Zak Langley; the Class 1 car driven by Morgan Langley; and the brand new Jimco Class 10 driven by John Langley, Team Owner. Along with us, 70 other people helped the COPS Racing effort along the length of Baja.
Disclaimer: There’s only three actual race-related photos, and one could be debated.
The Baja 1000 started and finished in Ensenada, with 900 miles inbetween. Steve and my task with COPS Racing was to work as a support/extraction vehicle for our race cars while they pass over a particularly long, nasty silt bed at the southern end of the course. We went armed with all the typical recovery gear, including a sat phone. Our sole purpose in life was to keep the COPS cars moving.
Thursday: We drove from Ensenada to Cataviña and spent the night with the COPS crew.
Friday: Commute from Cataviña to our position on the race course, near RM430, at Punta Blanca. The last 30 miles of the drive was on unmapped, primative desert roads.
Both of the COPS entries did not make it to us, both DNF’d. The Trophy Truck, while running strong, hit a boulder near RM350 and took out the front left suspension. The Class 10 car lost its clutch around RM385.
With the exception of one flat tire, the COPS Trophy Truck ran a flawless day, starting physically in the 24th position, and finishing 14th. The Class 10 car DNF’d 200 miles into the race with a blown tranny.
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.
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.