The 43rd Baja 1000 starts tonight at 11PM PST in the dunes of Ensenada, Mexico— a place where, according to P.J. O'Rourke, "things go wrong no one ever heard of going wrong before." It's an amazing event with something for every motorsport enthusiast, and not nearly enough people know about it.
This year's race sends motorcycles, ATVs, "cars", trophy trucks, and buggies blasting round an ~883 mile loop wrought with bumps, jumps, wandering animals, and other dangers that make this event tremendously perilous and terribly exciting.
To give you an idea of the bedlam that is Baja, here are a few excerpts from this year's Race Briefing:
"Be advised that spectators will engage in malicious activity by building ramps, digging ditches and placing objects on the course."
"The roads used for this race course are open to the public. You must expect at all times to encounter traffic on the race course, especially oncoming traffic."
"Less than 1% of dangers were marked and are there only to assist with controlled speed pre-running."
Unfortunately I'm not on-scene to recount the calamity firsthand, but I'm so excited about desert racing that I've preemptively answered all your biggest Baja 1000 questions right here on Jalopnik:
What's new for this year?
Starting order is now based on qualifying runs, rather than random luck-of-the-draw as it was in the past.
Additionally, this year's roughly 883-mile loop course will be the longest in the history of the event since management was taken over by SCORE.
Why is the Baja 1000 not 1000 miles?
The length of the course has varied between around 800 and 1100 miles since it was first officially run in 1967, taking the form of point-to-point some years and a loop in others. Changing the route every year means there's no way to keep the length exactly consistent.
What does the course look like?
Mostly a sun-scorched goat path with invisible pitfalls and an ambiance of burned out cars. Oh, you mean the route? Here's a map:
Who's racing this year?
There were 231 entrants as of SCORE's last official update, with racers hailing from seventeen nations plus thirty one US states. Competitors you might have heard of include Robby Gordon, BJ Baldwin, and Mark Post.
What's the schedule?
Motorcycles and ATVs will start at 11 PM on the 14th, with Pros running first every 120 seconds, followed by Sportsmen who will launch every minute. Four-wheeled vehicles start at 9 AM the following day starting with Trophy Trucks launching at one minute intervals, all others afterwards every thirty seconds.
Bikes and ATVs have a 34 hour time limit in which to finish the event. Cars, trucks, and buggies have two hours longer.
Competitors can actually register as late as two hours before the first green light on their respective day, so if can get your shit together you might still be able to throw your hat in the ring!
Desert motorcycle racing at night? Isn't that crazy-dangerous?
Organizers have decided this is the best way to separate the bikes/ATVs and bigger four-wheeled competitors so as to minimize their time near each other and mitigate incidents that such proximity would invite.
Sending bikes first means less riders caught in Trophy Truck dust clouds.
That doesn't mean the experience won't be terrifying— even the beastliest HID spotlight you can strap to a motorcycle won't illuminate every hazard and chupacabra that will be lurking in the desert darkness.
I can't just up and fly to Mexico right now, how can I catch the action?
Keep the sand out of your shoes and spectate via livestream.
I only care about one vehicle class and/or driver, but the camera is all over the place. How can I keep tabs on my favorite team?
Vehicles can be tracked in real time by category or driver via a SPOT Live map.
I'm in Baja and want the organizers to see this awesome selfie I just took eating a burrito with a burro.
[Sigh] the official hashtag is #46Baja1000.
Tune in tonight for what promises to be an epic endurance challenge and exhibition of awesome vehicles!
Photo Credit: SCORE International