Monday, April 27, 2009

The Baja 1000, a 32 years old Lady ...

Baja 1000 is an off-road race that takes place on Mexico's Baja California Peninsula in the fall. The event includes various types of vehicle classes such as small and large bore motorcycles, stock VW, production vehicles, buggies, trucks, and custom fabricated race vehicles. The course has remained relatively the same over the years with the majority of events being either a point to point race from Ensenada to La Paz, or a loop race starting and finishing in Ensenada. The name of the event is misleading as the mileage varies for the type of event (loop or point to point) and has represented Kilometers in the past.

The Baja is the most notorious and dangerous race in the world. Rivaling the Indy 500 and 25 Hours of Daytona, the race across Baja's peninsula is unpredictable, grueling and raw--just like the uncharted American West of yesteryear.

The first official race started in Tijuana, Baja California, on October 31, 1967, and was named the NORRA Mexican 1000 Rally. The course length that year was 849 miles (1,366 km) and ended in La Paz, Baja California Sur, with the overall winning time of 27 hours 38 minutes (27:38) set by Vic Wilson and Ted Mangels while driving a Meyers Manx buggy.

From 1967 to 1972 the race was organized by the National Off Road Racing Association (NORRA). In 1973, Baja California governor Milton Castellanos handed over sanctioning of the event to a non-profit Mexican corporation called Baja Sports Committee (BSC). BSC renamed the event to Baja Mil (Baja 1000) and scheduled the race to run on the original dates chosen by NORRA.

Though NORRA held a competing event in the United States that same weekend, BSC successfully ran the race from Ensenada to La Paz like the years prior. Unaware of the challenges, BSC found promoting Baja races more difficult than anticipated. Instead of giving up the race, the Mexican government requested help from Short Course Off-Road Enterprises (SCORE) in hosting and promoting future Baja races. Through negotiations with Mickey Thompson and his SCORE organization, the Government agreed to give exclusive rights to SCORE to hold Baja races and also reluctantly allowed SCORE to cancel the event for 1974. SCORE hired Sal Fish as president and took control of the Baja 1000 from that year on with the Baja 1000 race resuming under new control in 1975.

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