SCORE Baja 1000

By R.J. Archer

For many NOB (north of the border) folks, the word “Baja” conjures up an image of hot, dusty off-road racing. The grueling Baja 1000 has been run every year since 1967 except for 1974, when it was canceled due to the OPEC oil crisis. The race is held every year the third week in November and offers classes for a wide variety of vehicles—everything from motorcycles and ATVs to expensive, purpose-built racing trucks. These sponsored Trophy Trucks often come complete with multiple chase crews and helicopter support but there are also sportsman classes that feature all-stock vehicles without chase team support. One popular class consists of Baja Bugs—stock Type One Volkswagen Beetles modified for off-road racing.

The first Baja 1000 was organized by the National Off-Road Racing Association (NORRA) but today the Baja 1000, along with several other Baja off-road competitions, are under the management of an organization known as Southern California Off-Road Enterprises (SCORE).

The format of the first Baja 1000 was a point-to-point race from northern Baja to La Paz, near the southern tip of the peninsula. Today, the race alternates between the point-to-point course and a loop course. For the past 15 years both courses have begun in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, about 50 miles south of the U.S./Mexico border. The loop courses cover between 650 and 800 miles with racers returning to Ensenada in 12 to 20 hours, depending on the difficulty and length of the course. The point-to-point courses end in either La Paz or Cabo San Lucas and are often more than 1,000 miles in length. To keep things interesting, the official course is never the same and spectator-built “obstacles” create additional variety for the drivers!

The rugged Baja 1000 event attracts many well-known names from other types of racing. Indy car driver Parnelli Jones, drag racer Mickey Thompson and NASCAR/CART/Indy competitor Robby Gordon have all won in the car & truck classes and rider David Kamo and the Honda team have won the top motorcycle class 2 out of the past 3 years. Other well-known Baja 1000 veterans include Formula One and Indy Car driver Roberto Guerrero, NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson, Indy Car drivers Rick Mears, Johnny Unser and Jimmy Vasser, and entertainment names such as Ted Nugent, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, James Garner and “Grey’s Anatomy” star Patrick Dempsey.

The 2015 Baja 1000, the season finale of the five-race 2015 SCORE World Desert Championship will be a loop course starting and finishing in Ensenada. It will include nearly 250 entries from 25 countries and 40 U.S. states and the race will take place on November 20 & 21, 2015. Drivers will cross the peninsula twice and will race along both the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez coastlines. Thousands of spectators line the race course but if you can’t make it to Baja, you can follow the race “almost live” on the SCORE website ( or you can catch the coverage on several cable sports channels once the event is over.