As it has been for decades, the hearty brand of rebel racers that comprised this year’s BFGoodrich SCORE Baja 1000 field is now cleaning dirty equipment and dumping coolers filled with a few waters and beers still bobbing in stinky, lukewarm water. With memory banks full and checking accounts emptied, all looked forward to a well-earned rest as the major league off-road racing season is over for 2019.
This Baja 1000 became a one-of-a-kind kaleidoscope of triumph and struggle, with pre-race storms changing the entire complexity of an event already considered one of the toughest in the world. The pre-race talk among participants was about how difficult the 800.5-mile grind of a course was going to be. Then came the rains, creating deep mud holes and suspension-crushing washouts on trails so rocky and technical they were almost impassible in the first place.
The race went on to demonstrate in no uncertain terms that “beating the Baja” is no joke, a rite of passage granting all finishers world-class bragging rights for the rest of their lives. There are no participation awards. But even taking on this relentless and time-proven challenge separates all comers into an uncommon minority. This isn’t soccer camp, but in this case, finishing was victory in itself.
Not everyone is a winner, but there were those that conquered and those that were also-rans for a variety of reasons. Not all have to do with the final results box. Here is our list:
Winner: The Ampudias
Talk about the ultimate dark horse story. Nobody could have dared predict that this small but tight-knit hometown team would have emerged from the Baja darkness to cross the finish line first in the Trophy-Truck class and first overall. Way back in 1990 Rodrigo and Rogerio Ampudia won the Baja 1000 driving a little Neth-VW in Class 1-2/1600. Almost 30 years later sons Alan, Aaron and Rodrigo Ampudia Jr. claimed the sport’s biggest title for their hometown of Ensenada, Mexico. The victory came in a bright pink I.D. Designs two-wheel-drive chassis — maintained right in town — that carried an eclectic mix of sponsors including Toyo Tire, Papas & Beer (the family’s chain of Mexican nightclubs), Weedmaps (online cannabis company) and Four Loko (caffeine in-fused alcohol drink).
After spending much of their last few seasons with Rodrigo’s Pro 2 efforts in the Lucas Oil short-course series, this win will be celebrated Baja-style until New Year’s Eve. As Alan stated after the race, “This has been a dream for us since we were little. Watching Ivan Stewart, Robby Gordon, all the legends in this sport. To be able to come out here with a stacked field like it was today and come out on top through all the elements Baja threw at us this year with the rain and the mud, it was crazy.”
Winner: Crew members
Win, lose or break, this tough race was a logistical nightmare to support, given the fact there were really two courses, one to the west and then a separate section to the east. The rain made the highways and access roads even more treacherous than normal, not to mention having to work on once pristine and perfectly prepared vehicles that had become rolling balls of sticky mud.
Being part of the Baja is never easy, with teams being given up to 34 hours to find the Ensenada finish line. Sleep is a prized possession, as is finding a good hot meal on what is essentially a cold night race. All that comes after months of endless preparation from dedicated and passionate crew members consisting primarily of friends and family, not paid professionals. It can be a dangerous endeavor, but one that provides unmatched satisfaction for just finishing the race. Cheers to all of them.