The Baja 1000: hardcore off-road vehicles racing each other, fighting a fiercely hostile landscape. Jumps, powerslides, awesomeness. Also hours of being jostled around a steel cage and pissing into a bag taped to your leg. Wish us luck!
I accepted the invitation to co-drive part of this legendary race with a shrug and a hell yeah, because Baja. Good friends, scenery, of course I could convince the Jalopnik brass I needed some sick days. The prerun was pretty much what I expected; sand, beers, maybe a little shoveling. Now I’m realizing race day is not at all the same thing.
As the sun dropped in Ensenada, you could feel a change in the air. More tension, testosterone. And not the kind that’s flowing when Paris Du Noche does happy hour. The Baja goofiness is gone. Replaced with, not aggression per se, but intensity.
Shannon Welch, a manager of the Ultra 4 race series and part of our Baja support crew, articulated it nicely; “sometimes brains go out people’s butts when those helmets go on.”
What she means is that when race day comes, red mist pours on. The drivers leave everything else behind so they can put 100 percent on the race course.
Athletes are reading this like– “well, yeah.” But I don’t really follow sports and don’t get tunnel vision trying to best somebody. This is a foreign emotional experience for me, and the closer we get to go-time the more frequently people are asking me questions I would have expected before I was offered this gig.
“Do you get car sick?”
“Do you remember which button is the horn?”
“Are you nervous!?”
I was totally going to tell my team I’d chickened out. Didn’t want to race after all. You know, I’d be just serious enough to make their faces drop then be all “gotcha!” Classic, right?
But the vehemence at our base camp beach house dialed up so dramatically in the last eight hours that I, uh, decided against it. Reality was hitting me harder than the prerun bar bill.
People had spend thousands of dollars and hours of time getting us here. Everyone was an integral cog in the machine that, if everyone’s on point and we get a little luck, will produce a Baja 1000 finish.
What business do I have being an integral cog! I’m a banal drone at best!
Honestly, it’s hard for me to care who wins in games and sports. But whether or not it’s about winning or finishing or just trying your damnest, people are counting on you and you can’t go cocking it up.
Car racing might look like a solitary sport, with a driver or two’s names on the door, but from where I’m standing it looks like a dedicated team that I’d be heartbroken to disappoint. High school dodgeball ball really did not prepare me for this.
So yes, I have a small part in a campaign to complete the 2015 Baja 1000. Which you’d already have heard plenty about if you followed me on Twitter or ran into me somewhere between beer six and eight the day we got here.
Basically; this Canadian adventurist named Mike Jams is chasing his dream of off-road racing. Six months ago he had never heard of a Ford Raptor, today he’s leading his own team into what might be the most (in)famous off-road event on Earth.
And he just might pull it off because he’s got great guys behind him. Racing pros Shannon Boothe and Ron Stobaugh along with Ron’s son Austin run Desert Race School out of Orange County, California and have worked their asses off getting Jams in shape and into a workable car for this race.
Last week we all came down to Baja and ran the course in a pair of Raptors, broke some stuff, got all sandy, drank a bunch and had our minds blown by one of the meanest and prettiest places on the planet. You should read about that ride right here.
Today at about 10:20AM Pacific Time, our tiny 2WD racing rig will be staging in Ensenada, Mexico and hopefully off the start line shortly after.
This is called a Trophy Lite, Class 3000 vehicle. It’s powered by a little EcoTec four-cylinder Chevrolet engine that squirts out around 200 horsepower. A manuall-activated automatic transmission, which is basically a sequential clutchless manual, puts all that to the rear wheels.
The entire vehicle weighs about 2,000 pounds and tops out at a little over 80 MPH. I think we’ll be averaging closer to 40 MPH over the 821.38 miles of the race.
Yeah, the “1000” isn’t always 1000 miles but The 2015 Baja 821.38 doesn’t really have much ring to it.
Mike and Shannon will take the car off the starting line. This ZZ Topp-looking bro named Josh will relieve Shannon as a fresh co-pilot early on. Then about 200 miles in, Ron will take the wheel and I’ll be navigator for another 250ish miles.
If we keep the car intact, Austin will take the car with another friend Robby running the GPS. At the very end, Mike will be pilot again with one final co-driver named Dan.
Meanwhile another ten-plus people are moving around the peninsula in (at least) seven other vehicles to support the effort, including Ron’s wife/Austin’s mom Tracy.
She’s cool with her son competing. In fact, this will be the first time Ron and Austin are actually in the same race. “I mean, I’m not going to bawl,” she said with smile. “But I could cry when he leaves.” It’s a healthy balance of pride and concern, but she’s used to this and completely confident her boys will bring the car and themselves back in one piece.
For everyone else who wants to keep tabs on our fate, there are a few ways to track the 2015 Baja 1000.
The organizing outfit SCORE International is streaming the race right on the front page of their website right here. But be warned, I’ve had a lot of issues making that work in the past. Be awesome if it works, otherwise wait for a CBS broadcast eventually.
There’s also a live tracking page you can try right here. That’ll just be dots on a map, but when you see our car gallop off-course and into the abyss you will know it was my turn to read the map.
New for this year; you can text your favorite racer’s number to 619-344-8852 and SCORE will allegedly give you that car’s position and speed.
And finally; you can add our superstar Mike Jams on Facebook if you want. He says he only made an account to spread the word about his racing, so presumably he’ll put some good off-road pictures on there soon. Maybe we can convinced him to do a Kinja next.
Now for all you Jalopnik superfans and my mom; our race number is 3003. There’s only one other car in our class, his number’s 3030. Don’t mix those up! Unless he’s winning, then you can pretend he’s us. (Got it?)
See you at the finish line. I hope. If you do see me, please say hello I might have a sticker for you!
Images via the author
Contact the author at email@example.com.