300 px|Rider at Mile 328 of the Baja 1000
Baja 1000 is an off road race that takes place on Mexico's Baja California Peninsula during a full moon to aid the racers. The competition was officially started in 1967 (it had previously been the site of informal dirt bike racing), and originally went from Tijuana, Baja California, to La Paz, Baja California Sur. Now it starts from Ensenada, some 70 miles to the south. It is usually held the weekend before the Thanksgiving holiday is celebrated in the United States.
From 1967 to 1973 the race was organized by the National Off Road Racing Association (NORRA); however, in 1974, the government denied NORRA permission to hold the race, and the fuel crisis of 1974 forced the race to be removed from the off-road racing schedule.
In 1975, SCORE International, with sponsorship by Tecate beer, resumed the Baja as a loop course race with the start-finish line in Ensenada, and in 1979, SCORE was able to resume racing on the legendary 1,000 mile course to La Paz, as they have intermittently raced on the 1,000 every three to four years.
Although motorcyclists participate and are often the overall winners, many competitors drive modified or stock 4-wheel vehicles such as cars, trucks, ATVs and dune buggies. Race teams consist of factory supported groups that build custom fabricated vehicles and provide chase vehicles via helicopter, to the much smaller and less glamorized sportsman teams competing in an all stock vehicle with no chase vehicle support at all. Stock Volkswagen Type One Beetles and modified for use in off road terrain known as Baja Bug have been a common sight throughout the event duration, but the factory-supported all-spaceframe Trophy Truck entries are the most visible.
In contrast to the current factory supported modern race vehicles that overall the car and truck classes, Erik Carlsson drove a basically stock front wheel drive Saab 96 V4, finishing third in 1969 and fifth in 1970.
Sabotage and booby-traps
Each year there are reports of spectators sabotaging or booby-trapping the course by digging holes, blocking river flow, or burying 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. The haphazardly designed jumps created by the spectators are very dangerous as the contestants are not aware of the course changes (after previewing or prerunning the course) and may negotiate the modified terrain at a much higher rate of speed than the competing machine can handle. Awareness of booby traps and course changes are often part of race day strategy but competitors quickly communicate course hazards to other competitors through on-board radio communications and radio relay.
- Ivan Stewart
- Larry Ragland
- Robby Gordon
- Parnelli Jones
- Gunnar Nilsson
- Mickey Thompson
- Walker Evans
- Erik Carlsson
- Roger Mears
- Jesse G. James