The Baja 1000 – The Desert Race


April 23, 2019 By Mike
Last updated on April 23, 2019
Photo by Robert Stokstad
Photo by Robert Stokstad

There are many races synonymous with motorsport, but few are as iconic as the renowned Baja 1000. In fact, this race embodies everything that’s unique about the high-octane and addictive world of motorsport, with this 50-year old event having begun in the Mexican desert back in 1967.

One of the world’s most epic endurance events, this race has developed into a fascinating meld of Mad Max and the Dakar Rally, whilst it continues to attract hundreds of racing legends and cult fans from across the globe.

In this article, we’ll share everything we know about the Baja 1000 and try to understand why it’s such an iconic event.

The Baja 1000 – The Fundamentals

The Baja 1000 has hit the headlines recently, after racing legend and former McLaren director David Clarke announced that he may well be competing in the race in the near-term.

Clarke, who’s spoke to Belstaff about his career successes and innate sense of style, has competed in various blue riband events throughout the years and this is yet another embellishment to an already impressive resume.

The course is certainly punishing, featuring a pronounced loop that starts in the quaint town of Ensenada and tends to finish in La Paz. In more recent races, the race has started and finished in Ensenada, with four separate checkpoint included as part of the vast, 850 mile course.

The route also kisses the Pacific Ocean before traversing over to the other side of the peninsula, taking in the idyllic Gulf of California coastline before twisting sharply back in inland.

As if this vast and diverse terrain wasn’t enough, competitors must also contend with the changeable weather conditions. Whilst the Baja Peninsular is often sun-kissed and extremely arid, there are areas along the race course that regularly encounter heavy snow, rainfall and almost impenetrable fog. 

Delving Deeper into the Baja 1000

Whilst the Baja is synonymous with motorcycles, those driving Beetles, buggies and trucks can also compete in one of the world’s most iconic events.

It’s fair to surmise that motorcycles and quad bikes start first, however, with Honda CRFs and Yamahas often prominent on the starting grid.

It’s at this point that the Ford and Chevrolet-powered trophy trucks hit the dirt, followed by the Buggies and the Class 11 unmodified Beetles. The latter models must have been manufactured pre-1982, and they remain central to the cult appeal of the Baja 1000.

Those who have competed in the race will also testify that local knowledge is key to survival, particularly given that the route can vary wildly and the fact that the Baja remains a largely untamed wilderness. 

This is why pre-running is such a popular tactic deployed by competitors, as this enables them to get acquainted with the course and the conditions that they’re likely to encounter in Mexico.

Without this type of precaution, there’s a significant danger that you could get lost along the Baja route and see your lifelong dream turn into an unmitigated nightmare.

The Baja 1000 – The Desert Race