Off-road driving has long been the stuff of Baja lore. They say that a man called Outdoor Franklin was the first to drive from Tijuana to Santa Rosalia, back when off-road driving was the only way to travel through the area. By the 1940s, adventurers and sports drivers in pickups and Jeeps coming down from California were common on the peninsula. Even after the Transpeninsular was completed in 1973, a vast network of unpaved roads covered much of Baja.
In fact, only a year later, in 1974, the Tecate SCORE Baja 500 was officially born (though it had been organized under the banner of the NORRA organization for a few years prior). The race is half the length of the Baja 1000, but more than half as fun. It begins and ends in Ensenada (in front of the Riviera del Pacifico—once an exclusive resort, now a cultural center on Boulevard Costero in the heart of the city). This is the place to be if you want to be part of the fun.
This year, the race is scheduled to begin at 6 a.m. on Friday June 1, led by a near-record 40 SCORE Trophy Trucks, the marquee SCORE racing division of high-tech, 850-horsepower unlimited production trucks. Included in this group will be the last nine race winners and a total of 11 of 18 former race winners.
Entries are accepted as late as the morning of the race and have so far come in from 34 countries including the United States, Mexico, Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Finland, Germany, Guatemala, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and Spain. A total of more than 275 total entries are expected, competing in 36 Pro and 7 Sportsman categories for cars, trucks, motorcycles, and ATVs.
The rugged 450-mile course runs clockwise, first east to Ojos Negros, down near San Felipe, then west to the Pacific Ocean below San Vicente and back northeast through Santo Tomas on the way back to Ojos Negros and finally Ensenada.
There will be four official stop points, where all vehicles will be required to stop—at race mile 88.56 (Santa Catarina), race mile 219.72 (South San Matias Wash), race mile 314.13 (Northwest of Colonet near the Pacific Ocean) and race mile 402.90 (West of Ojos Negros)—as well as 52 virtual checkpoints.
All vehicles also will be required to run International Rally Consultants tracking devices, so that spectators can follow the race live at www.racetheworld.net. Live race coverage will also be available at www.dirtnewz.com and www.race-dezert.com. You can view photos and more details in the Baja.com directory.
Michele has lived in, and traveled extensively in Mexico, and has written about it for magazines including Conde Nast Traveler and travel guides like Fodor’s, Berlitz, and Insight Guides.
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- Tecate—the ‘Heart of Baja’