Technical Inspection, Baja 250, Feb. 28, 2014
The Malecon was a crush of people yesterday and photographing the entries in this year's Baja 250 felt less like journalism and more like a contact sport. The river of people flowing around motorcycles, cars, trucks and ATVs, seemed to suggest things were getting better, from an economical perspective. The queue of pavilions, kiosks and puestas that crowded both shores of the Malecon appeared to rubber-stamp that opinion. But a little number crunching revealed the sobering fact that this year has only a modest turnout, about half of 2007's roster of contenders.
Registration costs now hover near or beyond $2000. In addition, there is a mandatory tracking and recording fee of around $300. Perhaps this, in addition to a number of tragic deaths of both competitors and spectators during Baja races over the last three years, has dampened the off-road enthusiasms of the sport's most devoted participants. Whatever the reasons, there has been a steady decline in Baja 250 registrants since 2007.
At 6AM this morning, quads and motorcycles began departing on schedule across a stiff breeze, a remnant of the previous evening's aggressive wind. Trucks and cars were slated to leave at 10:30AM but were delayed when reports of rain and course damage at the summit were relayed back to the starting line. They waited two hours while Roger Norman, who bought the SCORE International desert racing organization from Sal Fish in December of 2012, frantically labored to effect course repairs. He dispatched a bulldozer to the Valle Trinidad area but it became bogged and blocked the bikes. He quickly re-routed the track toward Borrego which resulted in about 60 miles being shaved off the race.
One of Baja's more rambunctious characteristics is the keen way in which it eludes predicatability. Wind storms, flash floods and land slides are just part of its capacity to awe the untested and the agnostic. But racers are by nature a heardy stock. Here is what one competitor reported to a racing forum:
Summit was impassable. A 4x4 built Jeep couldn't make it through. Roger tried to get a dozer up there to fix it and the dozer either broke or got stuck itself. Roger improvised. We racers are dealing with it and are still down here having fun. Bring on the old fashioned course markers and break out the lights! I'm ready to do this! Thanks everyone at SCORE. It truly is a thankless job what these promoters do. I applaud Roger for changing things up in his year or so with SCORE now.
Although some racers have crossed the finish line many hours ago, it is too early to tell who the overall winner will be. Rumor has it the Vildosola father and son team will take the top laurels, but no offical announcement has been made. Awards will be presented on the Malecon tomorrow, Sunday, March 2, 2013 at 10:00 am.
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