The Party Doesn’t Stop as the Baja 1000 Starts

In Ensenada, celebrations start before the racing.

byChris Cantle| UPDATED Jan 4, 2017 5:12 PM
The Party Doesn’t Stop as the Baja 1000 Starts

Continued from Part One...

The last of the party animals are still winding down when the crackle of single-cylinder engines fills the air again. It’s before dawn, and the Coca-Cola girls are shivering on lawn chairs. Ensenada smells like salt water and uncatalyzed exhaust. It’s the same cast of characters as the day before, at scrutineering, just somber and game-faced.

Colton Udall, Ricky Brabec, Mark Samuels. All fast guys, all in the hunt for the Pro Moto Unlimited class win, which means they’re in it for the overall victory, too. Rumors fly about the course condition. It’s fast. Difficult and fast, everyone agrees on that. One of the riders promises he’ll be back across the line for beer at 11 p.m. That’s 16 hours away.

The flag drops.

There’s just a spattering of spectators at the start/finish line. Friends and family, mostly, but they cheer hard when the riders go ripping past the Coca-Cola girls and make the left-hander, foot out, flat-track style, inches away from the fence and outstretched arms of fans stretching the party into the morning.

There’s a big gap between the bikes and the trophy trucks. Ensenada takes the time to rally. When the trucks are lined up, the stretch of Hwy 1 around the start/finish is packed. Heroes of the sport shoulder their way through the crowds. Their thousand-horsepower trucks dangerously disinclined to idle through impossibly tight-packed and beery spectators. Admire the athleticism and guts of the motorcycle riders, but there’s no question the trophy trucks are the big draw here.

Robby Gordon looks totally at home. The favorites, Mexican drivers Carlos Apdaly Lopez and Tavo Vildosola are mobbed before they can get out of their trucks. Every time their name makes the PA system, it’s accompanied by a swell of chants. Viva Mexico!

The first miles of the course are drawn in human. You can’t miss it. Every tight tarmac corner, every underpass, every chance of calamity or chaos or roost or splash or racket has a too-close band of spectators, enthusiastic as they are fragile, waiting to cheer and spill beer for the trophy trucks. It’s a beautiful sight.