Why race? Some find satisfaction in picking off the competition, one by one, on the way to victory lane. Others go for personal records to challenge their endurance, equipment, and reflexes against brutal terrain. The reasons tend to be as individual as the drivers and teams, but there's one overriding reason why they show up on the starting line: adventure.
The Baja 1000 began just after fire was discovered and the wheel was invented - in 1967. Not really, but the 1000 has been in place for three and a half decades, which spans Vietnam, two Gulf Wars, the crumbling of the Berlin Wall, and the terms of eight different U.S. presidents. The first Baja 1000 racers took off on a bet and a crude map. There were no helicopters at the ready in case of emergency. Chase teams were nonexistent; if you broke down, you fixed the vehicle or started walking. Adventure? More like an off-road version of Survivor. Baja had enough tricks up her proverbial sleeve to keep the racers coming back year after year, to test themselves and their machines against the terrain, weather, and each other.
By 2003, the Baja 1000 had reached legendary status in the world of motorsports. Only the Indy 500 is a more famous and prestigious event. Last year, Indy racer extraordinaire, Mario Andretti, was named Grand Marshal of the 1000 and waved each racer off the line with the green starter's flag. "I've never said I won't do this," Andretti revealed, hinting at what may be a future Baja 1000 entry for the pavement speedster. Andretti is well known and a celebrity outside racing circles.
Celebrities have had Baja racing on their "to do" lists in years past, with actors James Garner and Steve McQueen having pitted themselves against the 1000.
The supporting cast for the 2003 Baja 1000 included personalities such as ESPN's Cameron Steele, who won his class in a 1600cc VW-powered buggy. The Baja Challenge Touring Car class had names including Pike's Peak record holder Rod Millen, Chad McQueen (son of actor/driver Steve), and Monster Garage host Jesse James.
Adventure? Baja delivered. Some years, the course runs from Ensenada to La Paz, located at Baja's southern tip. The 2003 course was a loop, starting and ending in Ensenada. The conditions? Rough, rough, rough. Baja's racecourses become more heavily used each year, as sanctioning bodies besides SCORE, such as Best in the Desert and CODE, begin to focus on Baja. Whoops are dug ever deeper by each passing truck, bike, and buggy. Silt beds become bottomless, powdery snares. Add chilly temperatures and thick fog, and you've got a challenge on your hands, to say nothing of the other 271 entries on the course. One hundred fifty-three teams made it to the finish line.
Alan "Pfearless" Pflueger was the first Trophy Truck to receive Andretti's green flag. His Porter-built Trophy Truck was fresh from Porter Race Cars' shop via testing sessions in the Nevada desert. Pflueger already had the 2003 Protruck title in the bag, so he jumped into the Trophy Truck war one race ahead of schedule.
If you've never been to the Baja 1000, mark your calendar now. The 2004 SCORE Baja 1000 is scheduled for November 18-21. Whether you're fast, famous, or just curious, Baja adventure awaits.