Since the inaugural event in 1967, Baja California has played host to a race that many people believe is nothing short of crazy. After all, who in their right mind would leave the comforts of home to drive some 1,000 miles across the barren Mexican desert? Anyone who has driven the Baja 1000 will tell you they do it for the same reasons thrill seekers climb Everest, jump out of perfectly good airplanes or scale frozen waterfalls – not for glory or fame, but for the extreme adrenaline rush.
An admitted adrenaline junkie myself, my reason for soloing the race’s 50th anniversary this November is slightly more complicated. With only one kidney, I want to race not just for the rush, but to raise awareness about kidney health and funds to help the National Kidney Foundation.
History of the Race
The Baja 1000 allows drivers to compete in one of several vehicle classes – from such small and large bore motorcycles, stock Volkswagen, production vehicles, buggies, trucks, and custom fabricated race vehicles. The course has remained relatively unchanged over the years, alternating in a point-to-point race from Ensenada to La Paz, or a loop race starting and finishing in Ensenada. Here are a few more details about the race:
- From 1967 to 1972, the race was organized by the National Off-Road Racing Association (NORRA).
- The Baja 1000 grew in popularity when ABC’s Wide World of Sports covered the 1968 event.
- Over the years, the race has attracted noteworthy drivers including Mickey Thompson, Indy 500 winner Parnelli Jones, movie actor James Garner, and Mary McGee, the first woman to compete in the event.
- By 1971, major sponsors joined the fray, supporting the likes of Jones, Bill Stroppe and Larry Minor.
- When the price of crude oil shot up 70 percent overnight in October 1973, fearful competitors abandoned the idea of competing and stayed home.
- NORRA also abandoned the race – and held the event in Arizona.
- The “Baja Sports Committee” (BSC) renamed the event the “Baja Mil” (Baja 1000) and ran the race on the original dates NORRA had chosen, effectively competing against the Arizona race.
- Thereafter, the Mexican government gave exclusive rights to SCORE (Sanctioning Committee Off Road Events) to hold Baja races and reluctantly canceled the event for 1974 (when motorsport was curtailed in the United States because of the oil crisis).
- SCORE took control of the Baja 1000. In 2012, the racing organization was purchased by racerRoger Norman, who remains president.
“Nearly 50 years ago, the race that embodies all that is crazy and addictive about motorsport began…This epic endurance event has developed into a sort of a mix between Mad Max, the Dakar Rally and The Twilight Zone, attracting hundreds of racing legends, thrill-seekers, movie stars and rank amateurs to Northern Mexico to take on the longest non-stop point-to-point race in the world. Sure, the 24 Hours of Le Mans is hard going, the Indy 500 and the Daytona 500 are also tricky, but those guys and girls don’t have to deal with oncoming traffic and fan-built booby traps.”
My Baja 1000 Goal
At 62 years of age, my goal to Ironman the race has earned me the nickname, Viejo Loco Chingon (Old Crazy Badass) by friends and fans alike. One of the reasons friends mock me is because I am a survivor of Chronic Kidney Disease. But I don’t let the fact I have only one kidney define me. I like to live life to the fullest and want to encourage others to do the same.
About Dennis Rogers
Please follow my videos learn from my experiences, laugh at me or with me. I will share my knowledge of what in hopes I’ll be able to help others along the way. The best advice I can give is to get to know your kidney health. A simple blood test can reveal how well your kidneys are functioning. So, ask your doctor for a test. It will be time well spent.