Trophy Truck

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.

 

COPS Racing at the 50th Mexican 1000

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.

If you’d like to follow along, here’s a map of course, from top to bottom.

Extra-credit reading and videos below the photos.

Contingency Row and Tech Inspection

For the 2017 Mexican 1000, COPS Racing campaigned two trucks: Zak Langley and Josh Valko will pilot the #55 Trophy Truck, while somewhere back in the dust, John Langley and Mike Howell will be in the Trophy Spec #250. That's COPS Crew Chief Mike Meehan with Josh escorting the trucks through Contingency and Tech.
For the 2017 Mexican 1000, COPS Racing campaigned two trucks: Zak Langley and Josh Valko will pilot the #55 Trophy Truck, while somewhere back in the dust, John Langley and Mike Howell will be in the Trophy Spec #250. That’s COPS Crew Chief Mike Meehan with Josh escorting the trucks through Contingency and Tech.
As with many races, Contingency Row and Tech Inspection were held in front of the Riviera Cultural Center in Ensenada.
As with many races, Contingency Row and Tech Inspection were held in front of the Riviera Cultural Center in Ensenada.
Rene Aguirre was piloting Triple Nickel Racing's El "Galaxia de la Baja," a 1964 Ford Galaxie competing in the Vintage Production Cars Class. He saw the finish in San Juan.
Rene Aguirre was piloting Triple Nickel Racing‘s El “Galaxia de la Baja,” a 1964 Ford Galaxie competing in the Vintage Production Cars Class. He saw the finish in San Juan.
Spencer Low's 1988 Nissan King Cab.
Spencer Low’s 1988 Nissan King Cab.
Dennis signs John's autograph on an over-served, and over-friendly local.
Dennis signs John’s autograph on an over-served, and over-friendly local.
Jon Steinhilber and Joe Lowery drove their 1965 Meyers Manx in the Pioneer Era Class (1967 - 1975).
Jon Steinhilber and Joe Lowery drove their 1965 Meyers Manx in the Pioneer Era Class (1967 – 1975).
This 1959 Triumph TR3 was in the first NORRA Mexican 1000 50 years ago, but DNF'd after breaking a crankshaft near Santa Ynez. This year, the car saw the checkers in San Jose del Cabo.
This 1959 Triumph TR3 was in the first NORRA Mexican 1000 50 years ago, but DNF’d after breaking a crankshaft near Santa Ynez. This year, the car saw the checkers in San Jose del Cabo.
A '57 Chevy Bel Air in a 1300 mile Baja race? Sure, why not. The #609, aka the Rippin' Rooster, was a fan favorite originally built and raced by Larry Schwacofer more than 30 years ago.
A ’57 Chevy Bel Air in a 1300 mile Baja race? Sure, why not. The #609, aka the Rippin’ Rooster, was a fan favorite originally built and raced by Larry Schwacofer more than 30 years ago.

Day 1: Ensenada to San Felipe (200.20 miles)

NORRA President Mike Pearlman signals John that he has 10 seconds until his start. It was Mike's dad, Ed, who started this race 50 years ago at the same spot.
NORRA President Mike Pearlman signals John that he has 10 seconds until his start. It was Mike’s dad, Ed, who started this race 50 years ago at the same spot.
Number 55 ends a 117-mile race section near Mike's Sky Ranch to begin a Transit on Highway 3 to the northern end of El Diablo dry lake.
Number 55 ends a 117-mile race section near Mike’s Sky Ranch to begin a Transit on Highway 3 to the northern end of El Diablo dry lake.
George flags in #250 for a brief pit stop near San Matias.
George flags in #250 for a brief pit stop near San Matias.
Co-driver Mike exits the truck while the #250 is fueled.
Co-driver Mike exits the truck while the #250 is fueled.
The first day of racing was uneventful -- the way we like it. Night time consumes San Felipe on the Sea of Cortez.
The first day of racing was uneventful — the way we like it. Night time consumes San Felipe on the Sea of Cortez.

Day 2: San Felipe to Bahia de Los Angeles (221.00 miles)

Early morning, John and Mike are going over their truck. John was noticeably antsy -- he was anxious to get to the starting line.
Early morning, John and Mike are going over their truck. John was noticeably antsy — he was anxious to get to the starting line.
Inside the #250's cockpit, Co-driver Mike makes last-minute adjustments to John's GPS.
Inside the #250’s cockpit, Co-driver Mike makes last-minute adjustments to John’s GPS.
One of the competitors in the 1000 was a 1987 Volkswagen Vanagon in the RV Class, which just returned with a win at the 24 Hours of Lemons.
One of the competitors in the 1000 was a 1987 Volkswagen Vanagon in the RV Class, which just returned with a win at the 24 Hours of Lemons.
Starting in the fifth position, Zak gets final instructions from Mike Pearlman.
Starting in the fifth position, Zak gets final instructions from Mike Pearlman.
A mile south of Coco's Corner we were able to help Randy Wilson who had rolled at a particularly sneaky curve. Both occupants were out of the truck and OK. The 1993 Ford Ranger was racing in the Prerunner Truck class, and finished first in class at the checkers.
A mile south of Coco’s Corner we were able to help Randy Wilson who had rolled at a particularly sneaky curve. Both occupants were out of the truck and OK. The 1993 Ford Ranger was racing in the Prerunner Truck class, and finished first in class at the checkers. As we were leaving, I said to the driver “Be safe out there.” He replied with “It’s a little late for that advise.”
South of San Felipe, the race course followed a dirt section of Mexican Highway 5. We met people out there, who I'd wager, did not know a race was underway.
South of San Felipe, the race course followed a dirt section of Mexican Highway 5. We met people out there, who I’d wager, did not know a race was underway.
The entire team was housed at "The Castle" overlooking the Bay of LA.
The entire team was housed at “The Castle” overlooking the Bay of LA.
End of day in Bahía de los Ángeles.
End of day in Bahía de los Ángeles.
Any sleep anywhere, is good sleep. But with overnight, near-hurricane-force winds, sleeping was a noisy challenge at best.
Any sleep anywhere, is good sleep. But with overnight, near-hurricane-force winds, sleeping was a noisy challenge at best.

Day 3: Bahia de Los Angeles to Loreto (396.70 miles)

Zak leaves the line in the Bay of LA; destination Loreto in Baja California Sur.
Zak leaves the line in the Bay of LA; destination Loreto in Baja California Sur. Due to logistics, this was the last time we saw the trucks or team until we arrived in Loreto.
Once in Loreto, there was in impromptu pow wow in the hotel parking lot.
Once in Loreto, there was in impromptu pow wow in the hotel parking lot.
High temperatures created brake rotor issues -- they were identified and fixed.
High temperatures created brake rotor issues — they were identified and fixed.
Dennis and Josh make repairs to the #55's rear fender hanger which was severely damaged during a tire blow-out.
Dennis and Josh make repairs to the #55’s rear fender hanger which was severely damaged during a tire blow-out.

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.

We arrived at the #250 at first light Wednesday morning. The plan was to swap broken parts with parts that almost fit -- it could then be limped five miles back to the trailer.
We arrived at the #250 at first light Wednesday morning. The plan was to swap broken parts with parts that almost fit — it could then be limped five miles back to the trailer.
Mike, Mike, and Steve work on repairing the #250. It's always handy when you can lift the fiberglass hood off the truck and put it somewhere out of your way.
Mike, Mike, and Steve work on repairing the #250. It’s always handy when you can lift the fiberglass hood off the truck and put it somewhere out of your way.
Highway 1 heading south from San Juanico (Scorpion Bay) to Ciudad Insurgentes where we could catch up with the day's race in progress, broken truck in tow.
Highway 1 heading south from San Juanico (Scorpion Bay) to Ciudad Insurgentes where we could catch up with the day’s race in progress, broken truck in tow.
Waiting for his time to start, Roger (aka Royer) Lovell is running his 1968 Ford Bronco in the Vintage Short Wheelbase 4x4 Class.
Waiting for his time to start, Roger (aka Royer) Lovell is running his 1968 Ford Bronco in the Vintage Short Wheelbase 4×4 Class.
The COPS Trophy Truck begins a Special Section just south of Ciudad Constitucion. Next stop in 200 miles, La Paz.
The COPS Trophy Truck begins a Special Section just south of Ciudad Constitucion. Next stop in 200 miles, La Paz.

Day 5: La Paz to San Jose del Cabo  (152.90 miles)

Zak and Josh depart La Paz for a final day of racing.
Zak and Josh depart La Paz for a final day of racing.

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!

After the checkers -- time for a beer and taco. Or two.
After the checkers — time for a beer and taco. Or two.
Josh Valco handled co-driver duties in the #55 for the entire 1,264.10 miles of the Mexican 1000.
Josh Valco handled co-driver duties in the #55 for the entire 1,264.10 miles of the Mexican 1000.
The NORRA closing party was held on the beach at the Club de Playa Campsesre. There was music and food and drink along with a spectacular view of the Pacific.
The NORRA closing party was held on the beach at the Club de Playa Campsesre. There was music and food and drink along with a spectacular view of the Pacific.
Steve attempts to get a photo by the really big NORRA sign.
Steve attempts to get a photo by the really big NORRA sign.
COPS Racing Team Owner, John Langley happy with the results of the #55.
COPS Racing Team Owner, John Langley happy with the results of the #55.
The COPS Racing table was conveniently located next to one of the bars, and very close to the awards stage.
The COPS Racing table was conveniently located next to one of the bars, and very close to the awards stage.

The 1200 Mile Drive Home

The race is over, so Friday morning we all pack up and start the trek back north — it will take three full days of driving to get home.

This is Baja, so this must be a vaca crossing.
This is Baja, so this must be a vaca crossing.
We're heading north quickly, but stop for a tailgate lunch on the beach at Ligüí.
We’re heading north quickly, but stop for a tailgate lunch on the beach at Ligüí.
Looking north across Estero Ligüí -- the dark blue Sea of Cortez is distant.
Looking north across Estero Ligüí — the dark blue Sea of Cortez is distant.
When in Loreto, we like staying at the always awesome Oasis Hotel, home of the world's best margaritas.
When in Loreto, we like staying at the always awesome Oasis Hotel, home of the world’s best margaritas.
A quick stop for fish tacos at Buenaventura on Bahia Concepcion. A tradition.
A quick stop for fish tacos at Buenaventura on Bahia Concepcion. A tradition.
Beginning the one-hour wait to cross the border into the US at Tecate. When we got home, we had driven a little over 2,900 miles with more than 52 hours of driving time. What we call "fun."
Beginning the one-hour wait to cross the border into the US at Tecate. When we got home, we had driven a little over 2,900 miles with more than 52 hours of driving time. That, with sleep deprivation and hunger, is what we call “fun.”

Extra-credit reading and videos:

A Few Photos from the Baja 1000

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.

Brad carefully applies COPS branding to the new ES-Motorsports-built Class 1 car.
Brad carefully applies COPS branding to the new ES-Motorsports-built Class 1 car.
Zak Langley with co-driver Josh Valco piloted the COPS Racing Trophy Truck #50 off the line in Ensenada. Rick Johnson assumed driving duties for the second half of the race, bringing the car home.
Zak Langley with co-driver Josh Valco piloted the COPS Racing Trophy Truck #50 off the line in Ensenada. Rick Johnson assumed driving duties for the second half of the race, bringing the car home.
Passing Race Mile 30, Trophy Truck #11 would ultimately win the 49th running of the Baja 1000 becoming a three-peat for Rob MacCachran with an elapsed time of 17 hours and 13 minutes.
Passing Race Mile 30, Trophy Truck #11 would ultimately win the 49th running of the Baja 1000 becoming a three-peat for Rob MacCachran with an elapsed time of 17 hours and 13 minutes.
Morgan Langley drove the new COPS Racing Class 1 car to a third place finish. It was the car's first race and ran nearly flawless.
Morgan Langley drove the new COPS Racing  Class 1 car to a third place finish. It was the car’s first race and ran nearly flawless.
This ice cream vendor used the race course to reach a spectator area, darting between Trophy Trucks.
This ice cream vendor used the race course to reach a spectator area, darting between Trophy Trucks.
John Langley and Mike Howell in the COPS Racing #250 Trophy Truck Spec.
John Langley and Mike Howell in the COPS Racing #250 Trophy Truck Spec.
Spectating a desert race is dirty business; these guys didn't bother to roll up the windows.
Spectating a desert race is dirty business; these guys didn’t bother to roll up the windows.
A few miles down course from here, the #250 made a hard impact with a ditch ending its dash to the finish.
A few miles down course from here, the #250 made a hard impact with a ditch ending its dash to the finish.
A single car, non-race-related accident occurred on Highway 3 near Valle T. The Tacoma rolled many times, taking out a fence line and several small trees, seriously injuring the two occupants. Police and an ambulance arrived after about 20 minutes.
A single car, non-race-related accident occurred on Highway 3 near Valle T. The Tacoma rolled many times, taking out a fence line and several small trees, seriously injuring the two occupants. Police and an ambulance arrived after about 20 minutes.
The COPS Trophy Truck and Class 1 stopped to take on fuel at Race Mile 593/710. Dirty driving lights required cleaning, but nothing else was needed during the stop.
The COPS Trophy Truck and Class 1 stopped to take on fuel at Race Mile 593/710. Dirty driving lights required cleaning, but nothing else was needed during the stop.
Fueling towers and gravity help keep pit times to a minimum during this 2 a.m. pit stop. Once the car left the pit, it would complete a big loop in the desert and return for fuel in about two hours.
Fueling towers and gravity help keep pit times to a minimum during this 2 a.m. pit stop. Once the car left the pit, it would complete a big loop in the desert and return for fuel in about two hours.
A bonus photo taken inside Johann Hussong's Cantina in Ensenada (est. 1892) of "the guy with the camera."
A bonus photo taken inside Johann Hussong’s Cantina in Ensenada (est. 1892) of “the guy with the camera.”

Mexico Highways 5 and 1 to Loreto

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.

After spending the night in San Felipe, our first stop was for ice and supplies at Playa Grande in Gonzaga Bay, Baja. Today's drive, from San Felipe to Mulegé, would be 680 km.
After spending the night in San Felipe, our first stop was for ice and supplies at Playa Grande in Gonzaga Bay. Today’s drive, from San Felipe to Mulegé, would be 680 km.
New pavement continues to km 154, about six miles south of Gonzaga, making the trip from San Felipe fast and easy. The black death is slowly creeping south and west, ultimately connecting to Highway 1 at Laguna Chapala. But today, we were fortunate enough to experience 25 miles of dirt (subject to change).
New pavement continues to km 154, about six miles south of Gonzaga, making the trip from San Felipe fast and easy. The black death is slowly creeping south and west, ultimately connecting to Highway 1 at Laguna Chapala. But today, we were fortunate enough to experience 25 miles of dirt (subject to change).
The 300-meter bridge construction over Arroyo Santa Maria. Traffic was detoured to one side of the new road, then the other. And then back again.
The 300-meter bridge construction over Arroyo Santa Maria. Traffic was detoured to one side of the new road, then the other. And then back again.
Steve and I stopped at Coco's Corner to say hello to Jorge and give him some stuff we'd brought. In exactly a week, the Baja 1000 would be invading Coco's, 400 miles from the start in Ensenada.
Steve and I stopped at Coco’s Corner to say hello to Jorge and give him some stuff we’d brought. In exactly a week, the Baja 1000 would be invading Coco’s, 400 miles from the start in Ensenada.

A Photo Sphere from Coco’s – click and drag to look around.

A Photo Sphere from San Ignacio – click and drag to look around.

A Photo Sphere from a side street in San Ignacio – click and drag to look around.

The Mulegé light house.
The Mulegé light house.
The Misión Santa Rosalía de Mulegé was founded in 1705 by the Jesuit missionary Juan Manuel de Basaldúa. Construction of a stone church was begun in 1766. In 1768,  the Franciscans took over responsibility for colonial Baja California from the Jesuits, however, by 1770, the mission was virtually deserted. The Dominicans, who succeeded the Franciscans in Baja in 1773, began rebuilding, but the population remained less than 100.
The Misión Santa Rosalía de Mulegé was founded in 1705 by the Jesuit missionary Juan Manuel de Basaldúa. Construction of a stone church was begun in 1766. In 1768, the Franciscans took over responsibility for colonial Baja California from the Jesuits, however, by 1770, the mission was virtually deserted. The Dominicans, who succeeded the Franciscans in Baja in 1773, began rebuilding, but the population remained less than 100.
The mission ceased to function in 1828. The present church buildings have been extensively restored.
The mission ceased to function in 1828. The present church buildings have been extensively restored.

A Photo Sphere from inside the church (complete with cowering church-goer) – click and drag to look around.

The Río Mulegé is one of only two "real" rivers in Baja California Sur. The river saw lots of recent action from hurricane Odile.
The Río Mulegé is one of only two “real” rivers in Baja California Sur. The river saw lots of recent action from hurricane Odile.

A Photo Sphere of the Río Mulegé – click and drag to look around.

Driving down Highway 1, the first view of Bahía Concepción is of campers occupying Playa Santispac on the bay's north end.
Driving down Highway 1, the first view of Bahía Concepción is of campers occupying Playa Santispac on the bay’s north end.

A Photo Sphere of Playa Buenaventura – click and drag to look around.

Standing rain water in front of Bertha's Restaurant and Bar at Playa Burro.
Standing rain water in front of Bertha’s Restaurant and Bar at Playa Burro.
Even though it's tempting, please do not feed Cheetos to the swamp monster. It's a lot like bears in our National Forests.
Even though it’s tempting, please do not feed Cheetos to the swamp monster. It’s a lot like bears in our National Forests.
Colorful Bahia Coyote - offshore is Coyote Island.
Colorful Bahia Coyote – offshore is Coyote Island.
Due to recent hurricanes, Baja was green and blooming. And as a result, the place was buggy - we mowed down butterflies on the highway by the millions. By the time we returned to SoCal, the front of the truck was covered in a  1" thick crust of butterfly carcasses.
Due to recent hurricanes, Baja was green and blooming. And as a result, the place was buggy – we mowed down butterflies on the highway by the millions. By the time we returned to SoCal, the front of the truck was covered in a 1″ thick crust of butterfly carcasses.
During our drive down Baja, Steve and I took a break on the beach at Ligui. Isla Danzante mostly hides the much larger Isla del Carmen behind.
During our drive down Baja, Steve and I took a break on the beach at Ligui. Isla Danzante mostly hides the much larger Isla del Carmen behind.

The Baja 1000 at Punta Blanca

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.

While driving down Highway 1 to our COPS Racing support position, we took a break at a beach near El Rosario.
While driving down Highway 1 to our COPS support position, we took a break at a beach just north of El Rosario. During the race, we were on the Pacific coast, 300 miles south of Ensenada.
Due to recent rains, the desert was green and blooming and happy.
Due to recent rains, the desert was green and blooming and happy.
Sunset at Cataviña.
Sunset at Cataviña.
The COPS dorms at Cataviña, near RM498. Craig fed us some killer lasagna and fresh-baked cherry/apple pie. We failed to set the desert on fire.
The COPS dorms at Cataviña, near RM498. Craig fed us some killer lasagna and fresh-baked cherry/apple pie. We failed to set the desert on fire.

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.

There's no Pemex station in Cataviña, but there's gas for sale.
There’s no Pemex station in Cataviña, but there is gas for sale.
Crossing El Islote five miles west of Highway 1.
Crossing playa El Islote five miles west of Highway 1. Pay no attention to that dark spot on the lake.
The road meanders west toward the Pacific. A few miles farther, we passed a Mag 7 support trailer which was at the side of the road,  bent in half. As it turned out, the worse was yet to come.
The course-access road meanders west toward the Pacific. A few miles farther, we passed a Mag 7 support trailer which was at the side of the road, bent in half. As it turned out, the worse was yet to come.
Silt, and lots of it.
Silt, and lots of it.
On the beach north of Punta Blanca (center background), near our support location. We had five hours to wait before the four-wheel racers would arrive at our part of the course.
On the beach north of Punta Blanca (center background), near our support location. We had five hours to kill before the four-wheel racers would arrive at our part of the course.
Two-wheeled racers passing us near RM435.
Two-wheeled racers passing us near RM435.
This unfortunate rider's bike blew a motor at our location, turning him into a pedestrian. We helped him out with a five-mile ride, down-course, to Baja Pits.
This unfortunate rider’s bike blew a motor at our location, turning him into a pedestrian. He cached his bike, then we helped him out with a five-mile ride, down-course, to Baja Pits. He’s from Peoria, Arizona, not Illinois. Update: the Locos Mocos guys at Baja Pits found the rider’s 403X bike (with his help), and got it going again – it turned out the headlight was shorted out, preventing the engine from running. He made a dash for the finish, but timed-out with a DNF.
This bike has been on-the-move for 16 hours since leaving Ensenada.
This bike has been on-the-move for 16 hours since leaving Ensenada.

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.

Saturday: Start the drive home. Here’s a video of our drive from our support location on the coast, back to Highway 1, aka Punta Blanca to Laguna Chapala.

Green happy desert.
Green happy desert.
A quick stop to say hello to Coco.
A quick stop to say hello to Coco.
We have a beer with Coco. Or, we have Pacificos, and Coco enjoys some Sauza Conmemorativo.
We have a beer with Coco. Or, we have Pacificos, and Coco enjoys some Sauza Conmemorativo.
Coco believes in recycling beer cans.
Coco believes in recycling beer cans.
From our "What Was He Thinking?" Department: Half-way between Coco's and Gonzaga, headed south. The load appeared to have shifted.
From our “What Was He Thinking?” Department: Half-way between Coco’s and Gonzaga, headed south. The load appeared to have shifted.
Gonzaga Bay from inside Alfonsina's Restaurant.
Gonzaga Bay from inside Alfonsina’s Restaurant.
1. Fly to Gonzaga Bay
1. Fly to Gonzaga Bay
2. Land at Playa Rancho Grande
3. Set up tent under palapa
4. Enjoy weekend
5. Fly home
The south side of Gonzaga Bay. Williard is on the right.
The south side of Gonzaga Bay. Willard is on the right.
Sunset at Punta Final.
Sunset at Punta Final.

Baja 250: Race Day

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.

IMG_7635
Spectators and pits near RM65.5, south of Laguna Salada. The dust shows a Trophy Truck going past, right to left.
The COPS Trophy Truck rips along a pipeline near RM96.2.
The COPS Trophy Truck rips along a pipeline near RM96.2.

IMG_7639IMG_7640

IMG_7645

The COPS Class 10 near RM65. Morgan Langley drove the first half of the race sharing duties with John Langley. Mike Howell co-drove the entire race.
The COPS Class 10 near RM65. Morgan Langley drove the first half of the race sharing duties with John Langley. Mike Howell co-drove the entire race.

IMG_7652

The COPS Class 10 running strong at RM96.
The COPS Class 10 running strong at RM96.
The BFG Baja TAs gathered some debris (and was still holding air). The larger stick is around 3x the thickness of a pencil.
The BFG Baja TAs gathered some debris and was still holding air.  The larger stick is around 3x the thickness of a pencil.
After the race, Red Lobster personnel pose for photos next to the COPS Trophy Truck.
After the race, Red Lobster personnel pose for photos next to the COPS Trophy Truck.

Baja 250: COPS Trophy Truck and Contingency

DCIM100GOPRO
While in San Felipe, COPS Racing pretty much dominated the Red Lobster Hotel.

DCIM100GOPRO

DCIM100GOPRO
The COPS Trophy Truck runs with Rigid Industries LED lights.
DCIM100GOPRO
A peek inside the Trophy Truck’s front left wheel well.

DCIM100GOPRO

IMG_7622
Zak Langley, COPS Racing’s Trophy Truck driver at Contingency.
There was a record turn-out at Contingency along the Malecón in San Felipe, including an over-served local, singing the Bad Boys Theme in Spanish.
There was a record turn-out at Contingency along the Malecón in San Felipe, including an over-served local, singing the Bad Boys Theme in Spanish.

IMG_7618 IMG_7613

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!

IMG_7312

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.

IMG_7341

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.