Score Cancels Baja 500 Off Road Race

Can’t get rights to tip toe through the cactus. What’s up with that?
BY: BARNEY OLDFIELD

Everyone’s heard of the  Baja 1000. It’s an off-road race that’s been taking place on the Baja Peninsula since 1967. In that 50 years the technology of vehicles has come a long way, and so has the peninsula, although it sure looks the same. Except for that one skinny ribbon of pavement running the length of it that was built in the early 70’s.

offroad.jpgThe  world famous  Bud Light SCORE Baja 1000 is the final round of a five-race series that zips around Baja each year. The lead-up events are the SCORE Desert Challenge, the Bud Light SCORE San Felipe 250, and the Bud Light SCORE Baja 500. The 49th Bud Light SCORE Baja 1000,  from November 16 to 20, will actually cover only 800 miles, and not go the length of the Baja anymore; It’s a loop, both starting and ending in Ensenada.

SCORE is cancelling the Baja Sur 500 off road race that was originally scheduled to be held next month in La Paz. That one is a loop run, starting and ending in the town of La Paz.

Roger Norman bought the rights to SCORE just four years ago from Sal Fish who had it for decades. Sal saw the handwriting on the wall, as each year it became more difficult to negotiate rights to run the race over private property. Negotiations with dozens of land owners became mired down in fees that bordered on extortion, and worse than that, contracts were dishonored by the land owners at various times of planning and running the race.

Last week Norman, without elaborating, said he had just heard from the Governor that the state of Baja Sur would not honor their contract.  Norman would only say, “We have been informed that the BCS government is not able to honor the commitments they originally made for the event. We have been left with no choice but to cancel the race and we will proceed with a four-race SCORE World Desert Championship for 2016.”

These are the races left for this year: 48th SCORE Baja 500, June 1-5, Ensenada. 20th SCORE Desert Challenge, presented by Rosarito Beach, September 14-18, Rosarito Beach, 49th SCORE Baja 1000, November 16-20, Ensenada.

This appears to be the beginning of the end of an era, a tradition, here in Baja. The racers will miss it, and maybe even some of the locals will miss it, or at least they will miss our money. And maybe even the greedy land owners and government might figure out they miss it. Maybe not the excitement, but the money the race brought in.

Here’s a fun story on a pretty large faction of locals who will miss it:

Each year spectators sabotage or booby-trapping the course by digging holes, blocking river flow, 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 spectator entertainment and exciting moments to be caught on videotape.

The haphazardly-designed jumps created by the spectators, are 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 give an advantage to the best prepared teams — nonetheless given the danger the traps pose, racers quickly put out the word on these course hazards to other racers through on-board radios and radio relay.