Baja racing is a nuanced spur of motorsports that combines adventure travel, extreme endurance, and hundreds of miles of high-stakes problem-solving down Mexico’s western peninsula. Here’s a look at what the Baja 500 really looks like from a small family team’s perspective.
Off-Road Brands is a lean company run by Baja and off-road veteran Ron Stobaugh, his son Austin and a new racer from north of the border (Montréal) named Mike Jams. These guys build Jeep axles, prepare race cars, teach people how to drive fast in the sand, and help amateurs realize their dreams of desert racing.
Sometimes, those dreams become nightmares. But that’s the nature of the beast that is Baja.
Jams has been building momentum, slowly but steadily, moving up from a rented race-prepped Jeep Cherokee to a little car called a TrophyLite, to a slightly-less little car called a BajaLite, which you see us running in this video.
The BajaLite looks like a beast in an Orange County parking lot but it’s pretty modest by race car standards. Putting shy of 200 horsepower down to its rear wheels, the BajaLite rewards finesse, luck, and patience a lot more than that “point-it-and-hang-on” strategy the race-leading 700 HP Trophy Trucks get to use.
Still, the Baja 500 is a challenge of attrition more than raw speed.
I was lucky enough to tag along with this team’s 2015 Baja 1000 effort, and, well, if you don’t remember how that went, it was basically the most miserable day of my life.
That story will give you a good idea of what it’s like to be in the car when shit gets real, but this video captures the whole picture of what’s happening behind the bling and dust flings to make a small Baja team run.
And I promise, the pain you see on people’s faces on screen pales in comparison to what people were feeling off-camera.
If you enjoy El Rey Network’s delightfully overdramatic presentation of our struggle, you should check out its full coverage of the entire race itself today.
A one-hour special is airing August 6 at 2 p.m. PST/5 p.m. EST on the El Rey Network which is DirecTV Channel 341 and Dish Network Channel 253. If you don’t have either of those, go to http://www.elreynetwork.com/providers, click “find us” pop in your zip code, and you should see where to go.
The 49th running of the Baja 500 went down June 1-5, so some of you already know the results. But it’s going to be a fun ride and a great new perspective on a splinter of motorsports you really need to see to appreciate.
This year’s race ran 513.76 miles with just over 230 starting competitors... and a whole lot fewer finishers. Tune in and you’ll sure see why.