Is Waiting in Line for the Baja 500 Better Than the Baja 500?
It's a beautiful day in Mexico, and I'm scared witless.
Nerves set in with the morning fog. That old uneasy feeling, a sick pit in the gut. The truck is off the trailer, the stink of race gas soaking into my clothes. In 24 hours I’ll be ripping off the starting line in Ensenada, dropping down into a silty river bottom, and driving two hundred miles of the Baja 500.
The thing became real overnight, sometime around when our crew took over a hotel parking lot and the VORE guys put their decals on the chase helicopter. Our chase helicopter. Jesus.
Contingency is a wonderful zoo. A chaotic mess of bodies and street vendors; a slow-moving parade with a tech inspection at the end for good measure. It consumes all of downtown Ensenada. Some teams stoically wander through the line. Some dig deep and improve the party. A buggy team hires a mariachi band for the day. By the time they pass Avenida Adolfo, their car is awash in beer cans and the entire crew is wolfing down platters of tacos.
The marine layer has the coast all socked in. Water’s dripping off windows, bodywork, everything. When the VORE crew goes to fire up the white truck—my truck—it won’t light. The nerves twitch hard. The other three trucks jump into the line while a handful of mechanics dive into the wiring, crawling over the top of the little Ford V6. The trucks come from Las Vegas. Muggy mornings at the beach don’t agree with them.
Driver registration wraps up just in time to meet the parade of VORE trucks turning onto the highway. It’s an incredible scene: families and crew and police mingle and funnel, street vendors cook corn with propane torches feet away from support trucks loaded with fuel. We tuck in behind BJ Baldwin’s trophy truck, which is adorned with Monster energy drink girls. When he lights the thing in front of the crowd, an explosion of purple glitter coats everyone.
Driving in the wake of one of the rock stars of the sport is unbelievable. And a little terrifying. Imagine driving a snorting racing truck through Disneyland at the peak of summer vacation, but everybody is drunk. Children climb into the windows with pens held out. I’m a nobody. The janitor’s more important, but I sign their t-shirts and hand out a stickers anyway. And they're ecstatic. If you ever want to feel like you’re somebody, race the Baja 500.
Let's see how long the feeling lasts.