Here’s video of an off-road racing truck stuck behind a slow-moving civilian truck, on a road in Mexico closed for the 2015 Baja 500. That bright orange machine piloted by Apdaly Lopez went on to win the race, after ramming this hapless driver out of the way.
The Baja 500, and many other major annual off-road races in Mexico, are organized by the sanctioning body SCORE International. They’ve chosen not to disqualify or penalize Lopez for this incident because they say the road here was clearly marked as closed, and their evidence suggests the driver of this unfortunate pickup was actually waiting for the racing vehicles to come through specifically so he could mix it up with them.
SCORE maintains that Lopez gave the interloper enough opportunities to get out of the way, and basically told me “if it hadn’t been Apdaly [hitting him], it would have been the next [racer].”
I have not been able to get in touch with the Mexican authorities for their thoughts on the matter, but we will update if we hear from them.
SCORE officials say spectator’s “complacency” at desert races has been on the rise lately. “We really want people to watch the race and have fun,” their representative told me on the phone, “but for some reason it seems like spectators are getting much less afraid lately.” Either that or we’re seeing more of their idiocy now that everything’s recorded, uploaded and hashtagged.
Controversy on whether or not Lopez did the right thing here is at a nice rolling boil over on the Race-Dezert forums. Meanwhile, off-road racing champ and Baja veteran BJ Baldwin made his feelings about that video above pretty clear on his Facebook page:
It’s all fun and games until we drive through you.
Let this be a lesson. Please for your own safety stay off the race course. These races are sometimes won by seconds, we do not have time to fuck around. I’m sure I’ll get some hate from this video and that’s fine but I believe our boy [Apdaly Lopez], [Baja 500] race winner, did the right thing here. I’ve done this before and I would do it again.
Let there be no confusion, we will destroy your personal vehicle in pursuit of that $29 dollar Baja 500 trophy, then go home and sleep like a baby.
We love Baja but for your safety, please, stay off the race course.
No one was harmed in the destroying of this pickup truck although I’m pretty sure they all blew their spokes out when they shit their pants. Lol.
In case you needed more context, Baldwin is the kind of guy who rented the city of Ensenada so he could wreak havoc on it in his trophy truck and make this truly insane off-road video.
Justin Matney, another longtime desert racer who runs the same RPM Off-Road livery as Lopez, agrees with SCORE’s assessment and told me spectators trying to “race competitors” is actual a pretty common problem.
“Apdaly gave the driver plenty of time to move out of the way but the driver lost control of his vehicle and rolled the vehicle. If you watch the video closely and slowly Apdaly, if he did touch them, it was ever so lightly,” Matney said over email.
So having seen the video, heard from several folks close to the incident, and been to Baja a few times myself, here’s what I’m gonna use my soapbox to say:
- This spectator shouldn’t have driven onto the course.
- Lopez shouldn’t have sent him into the ditch.
- This is a reality of Baja racing that always has and always will make the sport inherently dangerous. These are public roads after all, and race spectators are nuts.
I do think the civilian who got bowled over here knew damn well he was driving onto a hot race course, which was very dumb and dangerous. I know there are a lot of big gaps between race cars in an event like this. If this was “just some guy trying to get to work,” it would have been easy to cross the course between racing vehicles.
I also believe SCORE does everything they can to keep spectators and competitors safe and that this area was clearly marked as a race course... at the very least, death and dismemberment is bad for business.
And it seems like Lopez is leaning on his horn for at least a bit before bumping this dude; I’ll take it further and submit Lopez probably did not intend to roll the spectator’s truck quite so dramatically.
That said; this high-level desert racing boils down to rich dudes with sweet toys that are fun to watch. Of course Lopez, BJ, and friends get fired up chasing the trophy. I’m glad they do, it’s what makes the sport great and makes these characters exciting to follow.
But ramming some hapless Mexican spectator off the road sucks. If it happens all the time, that sucks too. This time it was caught on camera, so now we’re talking about it. And lines like “we will destroy your personal vehicle in pursuit of that $29 dollar Baja 500 trophy” is the kind of thing starts a shitstorm of hypotheticals “what if there were kids in the car!” and forces us to realize the impetuousness we admire in our favorite desert racers also manifests itself as arrogance and entitlement.
Part of me feels like an idiot imploring desert racers to “stay wild... within reason” but that’s exactly what I’m trying to say. There’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed, and that line is probably right around “ramming locals.”
Stay safe out there everybody. And for the love of god, stay the hell out of the way when you hear a trophy truck coming.