The Baja 1000 is a Mexican off-road motorsport race held each year on the Baja California Peninsula. The race was founded by Ed Pearlman in 1967 and is sanctioned by SCORE International. It is one of the most prestigious off-road races in the world, attracting competitors from Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Brazil, Belgium, Canada, England, Finland, France, Germany, Guam, Guatemala, India, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay, The Balkans, and from every state in the United States, as well as the host country of Mexico. The race is the final round of a four-race annual series, including the SCORE Desert Challenge, the SCORE San Felipe 250 and the SCORE Baja 500. The 2017 Baja 1000 marked the 50th anniversary of the race.
The Baja 1000 allows various types of vehicle classes to compete on the same course with classes for cars, trucks, motorcycles, ATVs and buggies. The course has remained relatively the same over the years, about every other event 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 can be misleading as the mileage varies for the type of event ("Loop" of 600 to 850 miles starting and finishing in Ensenada, or "Point to Point" also known as the 900.
1962: The first timed run
When Jack McCormack and Walt Fulton of Honda's American subsidiary decided to hold a long-distance run to prove the reliability of the new Honda CL72 Scrambler motorcycle, they approached well-known off-road motorcycle racer and local Triumph and Honda dealer, Bud Ekins for suggestions. Ekins suggested the Tijuana to La Paz route (Federal Highway 1) which was 950 miles (1,530 km) of rocks, sand washes, dry lake beds, cattle crossings, mountain passes, with few paved roads. Ekins declined to undertake the run because of his professional association to Triumph but, suggested that his brother Dave Ekins and the son of another Southern California Honda distributor, Billy Robertson Jr. could accomplish the trip for American Honda.
After performing an aerial pre-run over the peninsula in Fulton's Cessna 180, Ekins and Robertson began the journey to La Paz just after midnight on March 22, 1962. While being followed by two journalists in an airplane and using telegraph offices at the Mexican border and in La Paz, Dave Ekins recorded the first official timed run in 39 hours 56 minutes (39:56) with a total distance of 952.7 miles (1,533.2 km). The event received coverage in the Globe, Argosy, and Cycle World magazines, earning awe and respect for Honda and the Baja run. The Globe and Argosy accounts also included close encounters with death and other dangers which Ekins claims were "colorful additions".
Four wheels vs two wheels
Wanting to beat the existing motorcycle record and to help fuel sales of the Meyers Manx, Bruce Meyers used his original prototype buggy called "Old Red" for an attempt at breaking the record set by Ekins. After pre-running a course south to La Paz, Ted Mangels and Bruce Meyers started the record-breaking attempt back to Tijuana from La Paz at 10:00 pm on April 19, 1967. With journalist from Road & Track magazine following the two to witness the attempt, the final official time was 34:45 beating Ekins' run by more than 5 hours. Upon returning to the United States, the journalist documenting the run sent out press kits with photographs and a news release with the headline "Buggy Beats Bike in Baja." to hundreds of magazines and newspapers. Soon, more stories of adventure, close calls, and broken speed records received media coverage around the world. Following the event, Bruce Meyers and his Meyers Manx became an overnight sensation and the competition between four wheels and motorcycles for the fastest Baja run began.
In the following months, more attempts at breaking the record would take place. One of the attempts included a multiple vehicle run organized by Ed Pearlman that ended in an official four wheel record being recorded but, with the overall time falling short of the record set by Meyers. On July 4, 1967, an American Motors Rambler American sedan would leave Tijuana at 9:00 am to successfully break the record set by Meyers with an overall time of 31 hours.
1967: The Mexican 1000
As the timed runs recorded via telegraph became popular, a need for an organized event to compete for the quickest Baja run was starting to grab the attention of other competitors. In response to Meyers' record setting run, Ed Pearlman convinced Dick Cepek, Claude Dozier, Ed Orr, Drino Miller and journalist John Lawlor to make the run to La Paz. In June 1967, Pearlman and group left Tijuana and immediately ran into mechanical troubles. This trip inspired Pearlman to organize an off-road race down the Baja peninsula by creating the National Off-Road Racing Association (NORRA). After Pete Condos and Pearlman put up the funds to incorporate NORRA, the group announced an official recognition of the previous record setters and created classes that related to the type of vehicle used to break the record. During the later part of summer, NORRA named the event the "Mexican 1000 Rally" and announced the first official race from Tijuana to La Paz was to be held on the peninsula.
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, 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 NORRA and grew in popularity with ABC's "Wide World of Sports" sending Jim McKay to cover the 1968 event, and attracting new participants like the late Mickey Thompson, Indy 500 winner Parnelli Jones, movie actor James Garner, and Mary McGee, the first woman to compete in the event. By 1971, major sponsors such as Olympia Brewing Company and Minolta Cameras began to support Parnelli Jones in his Dick Russell designed and Bill Stroppe prepared "Big Oly" Bronco and Larry Minor in a similar Stroppe prepared Bronco.
1973 oil crisis and SCORE
In October 1973, the price for a barrel of crude oil shot up 70% overnight as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) launched the Arab Oil Embargo. With fear that competitors would abandon the idea of competing and stay home, NORRA cancelled the 1974 Baja race – despite assurances from the Federal government run Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) that fuel prices would remain stable – and announced they would instead hold an event in the state of Arizona.
It was at that time in history, Baja California governor Milton Castellanos handed over sanctioning of the event to a non-profit Mexican corporation called the "Baja Sports Committee" (BSC). BSC renamed the event the "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 SCORE International 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 (a year where motorsport was curtailed in the United States because of the oil crisis). 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.
The 1979 race was notable for Walker Evans’ overall win in a Dodge truck, the first truck to win the overall title of the race. In 2012, the racing organization was purchased by Roger Norman and continues to run under his presidency.
The Baja 1000 is open to entrants competing in several classes ranging from motorcycles, ATVs, UTVs, stock Volkswagens, production vehicles, buggies, trucks, and custom fabricated race vehicles. Race teams consist of factory-supported groups that build custom fabricated vehicles and provide chase vehicles via helicopter, to the much smaller and less glamorized sportsman teams competing in an all-stock vehicle with no chase vehicle support at all. Stock Volkswagen Type One Beetles are modified for use in off-road terrain, known as Baja Bugs, have been a common sight throughout the event duration, but the factory-supported, all-spaceframe Trophy Truck entries are the most visible.
In contrast to the current factory EX supported modern race vehicles that overall the car and truck classes, Erik Carlsson drove a basically stock front wheel drive Saab 96 V4, finishing third in 1969 and fifth in 1970.
- Point-to-point: A point-to-point race is one that starts and ends in two different locations. The start is traditionally held in Ensenada but has been held in Tijuana and Mexicali as well. The course length varies for a point to point but is often over 1,000 miles (1,600 km) and ends in La Paz.
- Loop race: A loop race is one that starts and finishes in the same location. Traditionally the race starts and ends in Ensenada but has started/finished in Mexicali as well. The course length varies from 600 to 850 miles, depending on the course route.
The starting order is generally determined by a random draw, except when preferential starts are given to those who finished in top positions in the previous race/season, or when qualifying is held. For Trophy Trucks & Class 1 vehicles, qualifying for the Baja 1000 is now held during SEMA at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Sabotage and booby-traps
Each year there are reports of spectators sabotaging or booby-trapping the course by digging holes, blocking a river to create a makeshift watersplash, or burying and hiding obstacles. Racers are warned to beware of large crowds of spectators in remote parts of the course since it may indicate hidden traps or obstacle changes. Many of the booby traps are not created to intentionally injure the contestants but are created by the local spectators as jumps or obstacles for their own entertainment and to create intriguing moments to be caught on videotape. The haphazardly designed obstacles, created by the spectators, are often very dangerous as the contestants may inadvertently enter the booby-trap at unsafe speeds, resulting in damage to the vehicles or injuries to competitors or spectators. Awareness of booby traps and course alterations are often part of race-day strategy and convey an advantage to the best prepared teams – nonetheless given the danger the traps pose, it is customary for competitors to quickly communicate course hazards to other competitors through on-board radio communications and radio relay.
In popular culture
- In the film Timerider (1982), the hero Swann is competing in the Baja 1000 when he inadvertently stumbles on to a time warp experiment and is sent back to the Old West in the 1870s.
- The documentary Dust to Glory (2005) follows contestants of the Baja 1000
- The follow-up documentary to Dust to Glory, Dust 2 Glory follows contestants over the 2016 season before being released in-time for the 50th anniversary Baja 1000 in 2016.
- SCORE International Baja 1000, known in Europe as SCORE International Baja 1000: World Championship Off Road Racing, is a video game developed by Left Field Productions and published by Activision in 2008. It was released for PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Wii, and Xbox 360.
|Year||Route||Cars & Trucks||Motorcycle|
|1967||Tijuana-La Paz|| Vic Wilson
|Meyers Manx VW||27:38|| J.N. Roberts
|1968||Ensenada-La Paz|| Larry Minor
|Ford Bronco||21:11:32|| Larry Berquist
|1969||Ensenada-La Paz|| Larry Minor
|Ford Bronco||20:48:10|| Gunnar Nilsson
|1970||Ensenada-La Paz|| Drino Miller
Vic Wilson Miller
|VW||16:07|| Mike Patrick
|1971||Ensenada-La Paz|| Parnelli Jones
|Ford Bronco||14:59|| Malcolm Smith
|1972||Mexicali-La Paz|| Parnelli Jones
|Ford Bronco||16:47|| Gunnar Nilsson
|1973||Ensenada-La Paz|| Bobby Ferro
|Funco VW||16:50|| Mitch Mayes
|1975||Ensenada-Ensenada|| Malcolm Smith
Dr. Bud Feldkamp
|Hi-Jumper VW||18:55:49|| Al Baker
|1976||Ensenada-Ensenada||Ivan Stewart||Chenowth VW||12:17:28|| Larry Roeseler
|1977||Ensenada-Ensenada|| Malcolm Smith
Dr. Bud Feldkamp
|Funco VW||15:10:42|| Brent Wallingsford
|1978||Mexicali-Ensenada||Mark Stahl||Chenowth VW||12:55:42|| Larry Roeseler
|1979||Ensenada-La Paz|| Walker Evans
|Dodge Pickup||20:48:27|| Larry Roeseler
|1980||Ensenada-Ensenada||Mark Stahl||Chenowth VW||13:33:55|| Larry Roeseler
|1981||Ensenada-Ensenada|| Mark McMillin
|Chenowth VW||20:29:14|| Scot Harden
|1982||Ensenada-La Paz|| Mickey Thompson
|Raceco VW||19:40:23|| Al Baker
|1983||Ensenada-Ensenada|| Mark McMillin
|Chenowth VW||20:29:14|| Dan Smith
|1984||Ensenada-Ensenada|| Mark McMillin
|Chenowth VW||16:27:09|| Chuck Miller
|1985||Ensenada-Ensenada|| Steve Sourapas
|Raceco VW||17:54:55|| Randy Morales
|1986||Ensenada-La Paz|| Mark McMillin
|Chenowth Porsche||18:26:28|| Bruce Ogilvie
|1987||Ensenada-Ensenada|| Bob Gordon
|Chenowth Porsche||13:15:04|| Dan Ashcraft
|1988||Ensenada-Ensenada||Mark McMillin||Chenowth Porsche||18:07:09|| Paul Krause
|1989||Ensenada-La Paz||Robby Gordon||Ford Pickup||18:04:07|| Larry Roeseler
Ted Hunnicutt Jr.
|1990||Ensenada-Ensenada|| Bob Gordon
|Chenowth Chevrolet||12:30:45|| Larry Roeseler
Ted Hunnicutt Jr.
|1991||Ensenada-Ensenada||Larry Ragland||Chevrolet Pickup||16:37:35|| Larry Roeseler
Ted Hunnicutt Jr.
|1992||Ensenada-La Paz|| Paul Simon
|Ford Ranger||16:53:02|| Danny Hamel
|1993||Mexicali-Mexicali||Ivan Stewart||Toyota SR5||13:29:11|| Danny Hamel
|1994||Mexicali-Mexicali||Jim Smith||Ford TT||10:28:56|| Danny Hamel
|1995||Tijuana-La Paz||Larry Ragland||Chevrolet TT||20:14:12|| Paul Krause
Ted Hunnicutt Jr.
|1996||Ensenada-Ensenada||Larry Ragland||Chevrolet TT||14:38:59|| Paul Krause
|1997||Ensenada-Ensenada||Larry Ragland||Chevrolet TT||13:53:46|| Johnny Campbell
|1998||Santo Tomás-La Paz||Ivan Stewart||Toyota||19:08:20|| Johnny Campbell
|1999||Ojos Negros-Ojos Negros||Larry Ragland||Chevrolet||14:26:36|| Johnny Campbell
|2000**||Ensenada-Cabo San Lucas|| Dan Smith
|Ford||32:15:39|| Johnny Campbell
|2001||Ensenada-Ensenada|| Doug Fortin
|Jimco Chevrolet||14:35:42|| Johnny Campbell
|2002||Ensenada-La Paz|| Dan Smith
|Ford||16:19:03|| Steve Hengeveld
|2003||Ensenada-Ensenada|| Doug Fortin
|Jimco Chevrolet||16:24:02|| Steve Hengeveld
|2004||Ensenada-La Paz|| Troy Herbst
|Smithbuilt-Ford||16:18:14|| Steve Hengeveld
|2005||Ensenada-Ensenada|| Larry Roeseler
|Smithbuilt-Ford||15:06:19|| Steve Hengeveld
|2006||Ensenada-La Paz|| Andy McMillin
|Chevrolet||19:15:17|| Steve Hengeveld
|2007||Ensenada-Cabo San Lucas|| Mark Post
|Ford||25:21:25|| Robby Bell
|2008||Ensenada-Ensenada|| Roger Norman
|Ford||12:40:33|| Robby Bell
|2009||Ensenada-Ensenada|| Andy McMillin
|Chevrolet||14:19:50|| Kendall Norman
|2010||Ensenada-La Paz|| Tavo Vildosola
|Ford F-150 TT||19:00:04|| Kendall Norman
|2011||Ensenada-Ensenada|| Andy McMillin
|Ford Raptor TT||14:51:36|| Kendall Norman
|2012||Ensenada-La Paz||BJ Baldwin||Chevrolet TT||20:00:59|| Colton Udall
|2013||Ensenada-Ensenada||BJ Baldwin||Chevrolet TT||18:36:10|| Colton Udall
|2014||Ensenada-La Paz|| Rob MacCachren
|Ford TT||22:31:27|| Ricky Brabec
Max Eddy Jr.
|2015||Ensenada-Ensenada|| Rob MacCachren
|Ford TT||15:38:33|| Colton Udall
|2016||Ensenada-Ensenada|| Rob MacCachren
|Ford TT||17:12:58|| Justin Jones
|2017||Ensenada-La Paz|| Juan C. Lopez
|Ford TT||19:53:36|| Francisco Arredondo
Max Eddy Jr.
|2018||Ensenada-Ensenada||Cameron Steele||Ford TT||16:24:02|| Justin Morgan
|2019||Ensenada-Ensenada||Alan Ampudia||Ford TT||16:10:35|| Justin Morgan
Max Eddy Jr
|2020||Ensenada-Ensenada||Luke McMillin||Ford TT||19:10:25|| Justin Morgan
**Officially the race was called the Baja 2000 (1726 miles) for the year 2000.
- Steve Appleton, President/CEO Micron Technology
- BJ Baldwin
- Ron Bishop, Only motorcycle racer to compete in every Baja 1000
- Pete Brock – Brock Racing Enterprises (BRE) built cars/truck for the Baja from 1967 to 1972
- Jenson Button, 2009 Formula 1 World Champion
- Erik Carlsson
- Kurt Caselli
- 3 time winner in class 1967 1968 1969 Stroppe team member
- Anna Jo Cody – First Female to complete the Baja 1000 solo.
- Quinn Cody
- Marc Coma
- Valentino Danchev - Director at Grupo Vidanta
- Chuck Dempsey
- Patrick Dempsey
- Walker Evans
- Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff – Top Gear presenter
- Elliot Forbes-Robinson
- Tanner Foust
- James Garner
- Brendan Gaughan
- Bob Gordon – father of Robby and Beccy and off road legend
- Robby Gordon
- Jim Graham – The Free Hugs guy
- Mike Groff
- Robbie Groff
- Roberto Guerrero
- Rod Hall – Most class wins in history, competed in every race
- Chris Harris – Top Gear presenter
- Beccy (Gordon) Hunter-Reay – sister of Robby, daughter of Bob, and wife of 2012 INDYCAR Champion Ryan Hunter-Reay.
- Trevor Insley
- Jimmie Johnson
- Rick Johnson
- Parnelli Jones
- Michel Jourdain, Jr.
- Michel Jourdain Sr.
- Danny LaPorte
- Apdaly Lopez
- Rob MacCachren
- Hiro Matsushita
- Don McBride
- Mike "Mouse" McCoy
- Mary McGee
- Hershel McGriff
- Corky McMillin
- Steve McQueen
- Chad McQueen
- Rick Mears
- Roger Mears
- Rod Millen
- Larry Minor
- John Morton – Four time SCCA National Road Racing Championship Driver
- Michael Nesmith
- Paul Newman - Oldest participant when he competed in the 2004 event at age 80.
- Gunnar Nilsson
- Ted Nugent
- Bruce Ogilvie
- Danny Ongais
- Travis Pastrana
- CEO of Silicon Valley based Ryan Peacock Inc.
- Don Prudhomme
- Larry Ragland – several trophy truck class wins
- J.N. Roberts
- Larry Roeseler
- Alexander Rossi
- Armin Schwarz
- Jim Smith
- Malcolm Smith
- Marty Smith
- Ivan Stewart – ran for Toyota's factory team
- Danny Sullivan
- Mickey Thompson
- Jūgatsu Toi
- Johnny Unser
- Jimmy Vasser
- Frank "Scoop" Vessels
- Tavo Vildósola
- Ken Wahlster – Founder and CEO of BikeBandit
Current and past classes
Cars and Trucks
- SCORE Trophy Truck: Open Production Unlimited Trucks.
- SCORE Class 1: Unlimited open-wheel single-or two-seaters.
- SCORE Class 1/2-1600: open-wheel single-or two-seaters to 1600cc.
- SCORE Class 2: Unlimited 2.2-liter buggy.
- SCORE Class 3: Short wheelbase 4x4.
- SCORE Class 4: Unlimited 2.2-liter open wheel.
- SCORE Class 5: Unlimited Baja Bugs.
- SCORE Class 5-1600: 1600cc Baja Bugs.
- SCORE Class 6: V6 powered tube chassis trucks
- : Open mini trucks.
- : Stock mini trucks. (3000cc)
- SCORE Class 7SX: Modified mini trucks. (4000cc)
- SCORE Class 8: Full-sized two-wheel drive trucks.
- : Short wheelbase, open-wheel single- or two-seaters.
- SCORE Class 10: Open-wheel single or two-seaters to 2000cc.
- SCORE Class 11: Stock VW Sedans.
- SCORE Lites Class 12: VW limited open-wheel single-(1776cc) or two-seaters(1835cc).
- : Jeepspeed
- : Stock full-sized trucks.
- SCORE Stock Mini: Stock mini trucks. (4300cc)
- : Limited, identical open-wheel Baja touring cars.
- : Limited Production Trucks governed by the Baja ProTruck Off-Road Race Series
- : 125cc or smaller two-stroke and 250cc or smaller four-stroke motorcycles.
- : 126cc to 250cc.
- SCORE Class 22: 250cc or more.
- : Riders over 30 years old.
- : Riders over 40 years old.
- : Riders over 50 years old.
- : Riders over 65 years old.
- SCORE Sportsman MC > 250cc: Sportsman riders 250cc (2-stroke) or 450cc (4-stroke) or greater.
- SCORE Sportsman MC < 250cc: Sportsman riders 250cc (2-stroke) or 450cc (4-stroke) or less.
- : Honda.
- : 251cc or more.
- Fiolka, Marty (2005). 1000 Miles to Glory. Arizona: David Bull Publishing. ISBN 1-893618-36-6.
- Ekins, Dave. "A Ride Down the Peninsula". Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved 2006-12-24.
- SCORE International (2006). "2006–2010 Off-Road Racing Rules and Regulations".
- SCORE International. "2009 New Classes & Existing Class Rule Amendments
- 2009 Baja 1000 Press Release
- "SCORE OFF-ROAD RACING – SCORE-International.com". score-international.com. Archived from the original on August 24, 2015. Retrieved December 28, 2015.
- "SCORE crown jewel since 1967 (October 6, 2005)". Desert Racing. Archived from the original on March 6, 2012. Retrieved November 5, 2010.
- SCORE. "2017 Schedule". Score-International. Retrieved October 30, 2017.
- "A Ride Down The Peninsula". budanddaveekins.com. Retrieved February 4, 2017.
- "Honda's First Four Years in America: and you thought it was easy". motohistory.net. Retrieved August 12, 2018.
- "American Honda Motor Company and Honda Motor Company". budanddaveekins.com. Retrieved August 12, 2018.
- "Honda's First Four Years in America". motohistory.net. Retrieved February 4, 2017.
- Geddes, Ryan (November 5, 2008). "Score International Baja 1000 Review (Wii)". IGN. Archived from the original on November 8, 2008. Retrieved April 2, 2016.
- Clark, Dominic. "MacCachren/A. McMillin/Voss 'Rockstars' earns Overall, SCORE Trophy Truck win at 47th Tecate SCORE Baja 1000". SCORE International. Archived from the original on December 26, 2014. Retrieved December 26, 2014.
- "Geiser Bros on Instagram: "The @rpmoffroad #team is #mexico 🇲🇽 bound for the @scoreinternational #baja1000 👊🏽 🏁 - #geiser #geiserbros #trophytruck #geiserbrostt…"". Instagram.
- Kelioh, Graham (April 16, 2019). "Jenson Button takes on The Mint 400". Motor Sport. Archived from the original on February 26, 2020. Retrieved May 6, 2020.
Chokhani, Darshan (November 25, 2019). "Button spent nearly 17 hours stranded in unique Baja1000 Experience". FormulaRapida.net. Retrieved May 6, 2020.
- Burns, Josh. "Kendall Norman, Quinn Cody Earn 2010 SCORE Baja 1000 Motorcycle Victory." Off-Road.Com. http://www.off-road.com/dirtbike/race/kendall-norman-quinn-cody-earn-2010-score-baja-1000-motorcycle-victory-52939.html November 18, 2010 Retrieved 1:35 p.m., Sunday, April 6, 2014 (PDT).
- "Valentino Danchev Competes in Baja Challenge Class at the 48th Annual Bud Light SCORE Baja 1000".
- "Valentino Danchev Competes in Baja Challenge Class at the 48th Annual Bud Light SCORE Baja 1000".
- "E-commerce pioneer bike bandit's ken wahlster". Dealer news. Archived from the original on February 18, 2015. Retrieved April 5, 2015.
- Official SCORE International website
- Official SCORE International Journal
- Official SCORE International Carbon TV channel
- 1967 Baja 1000 ( Twenty Seven Hours To La Paz – Video )
- General description of 4-wheeled off-road classes.