AN 800-MILE INTERNATIONAL EVENT
In other parts of the world, racers and teams had been
prepping for months for the only pro-level rally race in
North America. Bikes were shipped, and trucks were in
route. Everyone was glued to the satellite images the week
leading up to the event, watching green bands fly across
the Lower Peninsula as Hurricane Odile destroyed hamlets
from Cabo San Lucas to halfway up the 1000-mile peninsula of Baja California.
The organizers were ready with race radios from the
famous Radioman’s team. They had satellite and on-bike
medical teams that would be strategically placed on the
Story and photos by Ian Reid
course. The crews from Baja pits were poised for mid-race
fuel dumps. Everything had been accounted for. Racing
fans could even follow the race online as each rider wore
two Spot locator beacons. And, Raven’s Jim McKoy was
bringing the heli. This race had it all.
International rally racing in Baja is fairly new, but motorcycle racing runs deep here in the heart of this romantic
country. The Baja Rally had no closed roads on its route,
and the director of tourism for Mexico gave the event
his stamp of approval. Pilots went from looking at terrain
to looking at the road book every few seconds for what
seemed to be eternity as the days’ odometer ticked off.
They raced and navigated through unknown country. In
a rally, it’s not just who can pin it that determines who
wins; it’s he who finds his way the quickest. To complicate
things, there is no GPS use allowed other than a waypoint
on a screen for an emergency route. There are no course
arrows, no flagmen, and no guarantees that something big
isn’t just around the corner. Attention to detail and focus
are a constant drain on energy. The consequences are
high, but the rewards can be higher. This is racing in the
Old West. If you make it to the top of the podium, you’ve
earned your turns.
The favorites going into the Baja Rally were many,
including some returning from the inaugural event, like
2013 Baja Rally champion Andy Grider, third-place winner
Chilly White and top-t10 finisher Michael Johnson. SCORE
veteran Steve Hengeveld threw his hat in, as did Carlos
Gracida from Mexico, and a newcomer to the Baja Rally,
2013 USA ISDE team member Scott Bright of Colorado.
Stage 1 began northeast of the host Hotel San Nicolas
Scott Bright pinning it
in the transition from
dunes to desert.
Patrick Reyes beginning his 500K
day with a cool ocean breeze.
In the days leading up to the 2014 Baja Rally, the organi- zation was in a quandary. How would the course be after
Baja’s most intense hurricane in modern history? What
would happen if Hurricane Odile hit northern Baja? The
organization sent support teams out for recon, rerouted the
course and recalculated the road books. “Are we a go?” is
all I asked. On the other end of the line, I got back, “We’re