The Second edition of “Camino de las Leyendas “is out, and here is the article that Andrea Tomba wrote for the magazine.
Get a copy in the local Southern Baja newsstands
The Dos Mares 500:
An off road curse of delight
The Dos Mares 500 has come to be known as one of the most spectacular, visually intoxicating, and demanding off road races in Southern Baja. Presented by the Murillo family, together with other race promoters, this is definitely a race put together by racers, for racers! The Murillos, originally spearheaded by married, racing couple, Moncho and Tonita Abaroa, and now their sons Cynthia and Jose Juan, whom are slowly taking over the torch to carry out the thousands of task that need to be done to get this race carried out. This includes visiting the numerous “ejidos” and ranches to get permission to travel through their land, and the family take approximately four days to run the complete trail, with the necessary “café de talega” (coffee cooked with the grains in it, and then strained through a long filter, often refereed to as the “calzetin”, the sock) and sit-down chats with ranchers and owners. They sleep usually camping out with one of the friendly ranch owners. And they do this “round” three to four times prior to the race, as once permissions are received, they then have to mark the trail, and check for any advances or comments from the ranchers closer to the race. This is definitely a hands-on organizer, who is very close to the racers hearts as well as the ranchers, as they take their role as organizers to a higher level, close to being the mother hen of the sport. If a racer has a problem, has gotten lost, a truck has had to be left in the trail because of a major break down, they feel that part of their responsibility is being part of the race team. That is, being part of EACH race team that race. As this is an event that welcomes, and brings several outside teams, from both mainland Mexico and USA, they only rest once they know that each race vehicle and team has been accounted for, and receive and manage calls, radio communications from teams and ranchers alike, trying to put together the calls of “we haven’t heard from one of our drivers” with the rancher calling via rural radio saying “ Hey, I have a gringo in our front room (probably their only room) drinking coffee and eating cheese with all the kids from the area… I think that he belongs to you… we will give him somewhere to sleep here till you can send someone for him”.
As the race starts in San Juan de la Costa at 4.00pm, a lot of the race is run at night, and getting stuck in the desert at night can sometimes be quite an experience… For the Murillos, I think that the race last a full 86 hours, but they are always there to lend a listening ear, and have most of the race team owners mobile number on hand, and will call around to see how they can help coordinate the sometimes daunting task of getting a stuck driver or vehicle out of the desert, and have become true legends in the local off road racing scene, not to mention valued friends.
This is the year’s favorite race for most drivers, and most teams do everything they can to get their weapon of choice as well prepared and ready as possible for this event, as this is THE race that everyone wants to win. 192 trucks and cars lined up for this 2016 edition, as well as 65 motorcycles and quads. All are looking immaculate and are ready for battle. However, off road racing has a way of sometimes bringing out the beast that lies inside the heart of all vehicles, wanting to test you and your team’s patience, dedication, ingenuity and skills, and in this race, this beast often raises its ugly head!
The race starts with a “fake start” along the La Paz main boardwalk, “El Malecon”, giving thousands of locals the opportunity to cheer on their favorite racer and for sponsors to be seen by the general public. The participants continue to Chametla, where the airport is, and are then free to take the vehicles by road or trailer to San Juan de la Costa, 30 miles north along the Sea of Cortez, where the vehicles regroup and the timed start takes place. The race runs along the stunning scenery of the mountains that hug this beautiful coast line, before heading northwest towards Ciudad de Constitucion, and from there joining the classic Baja 1000 route heading south along the Pacific finishing back in the Malecon of La Paz. Hence the name “Dos Mares”, the two seas.
Most cars are already lining up around 3.00pm, and it is generally a hot, sweltering day, especially walking around in a race suit, and little shade. This year, the set up at the start was better than ever, with the organizers not allowing any car that wasn’t racing to the start area, and had a separate line up for different classes. It was really impressive, and all the drivers seemed really appreciative! It is always fun to see the various drivers’ routines prior to a race, those who always seem to find 101 things left to do to their race vehicle, those who seem to most enjoy the opportunity to socialize with the other drivers and teams, those whom seem to do a full prayer and visualization technique and those whom merely seem to try to take it as easy as possible. We were racing in a Class 1, and were trying to keep as cool and hydrated as possible, and just before deciding that it was time to dress up with full overall, helmet, harness, ear plugs and all that, it was time again… Yep, trying to get the male external racing catheter kit on, or otherwise known as the famous “piss tube”, which allows the racer to pee through a condom attached to a flexible tube that is strapped down one leg, and comes out at the bottom of the trousers, and hopefully is long enough to stay out of ones shoes, as it is always REALLY annoying to find out that going through the woops has managed to fit the tube with surgical precision inside ones’ shoe, fact that one finds out when you feel the warm and wet feeling around your toes.. Now, it might not seem like much, however trying to get a condom on without having the benefit of a voluptuous and sexy woman’s company to get one’s interest…up… is always somewhat of a battle. Somehow, it works, and you get into the truck, and in between tubes, a safety harness and a 5 point race harness, things are getting far too busy and tight in that area, and it always takes a while before one can get his mind off of it…
Waiting for the start is generally the toughest, most mentally punishing and stressing moment for the driver, as he feels the nerves and tension invade every square inch of his body and mind, as he feels his body tense, and his mind starts doubting everything “Did we do this? Did we check that?…” However, once the green flag drops, it is all business. You focus on the task before you, and you switch into the racer mode that has made you so addicted to this sport.
The first 250km of the race kill a lot of vehicles. A LOT!!! The terrain is very sinuous, tight with huge drop offs, however the biggest killer is the dust. Everybody is running strong, everybody is running quick and everyone is lifting a lot of dust, and choosing when and where to try to pass is one of the hardest choices that you will have to make as a driver, and one that can definitely cost you the race if you don’t make the choice wisely. That, combined with blown engines and transmissions in the attempt to keep up with the crowd, definitely take their toll.
The front runners get to Ciudad de Constitucion, “El Valle”, around 7.00pm, still with light, and the terrain changes completely. A much softer terrain, it is a great section with tight switchbacks, a bunch of jumps, woops and sections that feels like a “PlayStation 3” video game, with cactus half an inch from the driver side and ¼ inch from the co-driver’s side, which unfortunately have a habit of ripping large sections off the truck’s fiberglass, the borders of which then keep hitting the other cacti, reminding you of one of those little cardboard pieces that you used to hook onto one of your bicycle spokes when you were a kid to make your bike sounds like it had an engine roar (in your head at least… as it actually sounded like a pretty lame patetypat…) except that in these cases the fiberglass is the the cardboard piece, and the cacti lining the trail are the wheel spokes, and each patetypat leave an additional prickly souvenir inside the cab.
At about race kilometer 350, you have to face the silts beds. With all the pre running, these have now been torn up and are several feet deep, although at first they seem pretty deceiving and contained. That is until your entire hood gets buried in them forcing you to drive completely blind for what seems like an eternity, with every inch of the cab, filter etc. being completely caked in this white, fine, talcum powder like dust, as you continue on the throttle praying that you won’t drive into a cactus, because if you hesitate, if you let off for just a second… You may well have a several hour stop trying to dig yourself out! Unless you can convince a friendly tractor or huge 4×4 to give you a tow…
Generally, by this time, you have been in truck for several hours, and you start to get grateful for the discomfort of the piss tube, as you start getting mentally prepared to relieve yourself. This is when you start having some serious doubts… Things get a little tight and uncomfortable down there, and you can almost swear that it feels like the tube has been detached from the condom, probably by either the safety harness or seatbelt. Has it or hasn’t it? Hmmm… It is a tough decision, as if it has detached, you don’t want to find yourself possibly filling yourself with a warm wet feeling, because once you start… Ladies, you may sometimes envy us for our ability to go almost anywhere, however we sometimes REALLY envy to be able to stop whenever you want to! You try to hold it as much as you can, however it comes to a point where you just think “Oh well. I am not stopping to make sure” and you give in to the burning desire to let go, and generally you find that all the concerns were solely in your mind, and you feel inundated with a feeling of satisfaction and relief, rather than the warm wetness. Generally…
This is a very tough and demanding race for the chase crews too, as they are mostly working at night, have to run up and down the highways with hundreds of other chase teams whilst trying to anticipate any problems that their race vehicle may have, as communication is definitely one of the race’s biggest burdens. Deprived of the luxury of a “Pit stop” that sit still in one single location waiting for the race vehicle(s), generally set up with generators, lights, tool benches, compressors and air tools, the chase crew have to think on their feet and do their best in dealing with all kinds of different fixes and repairs. However, when you see them work, it is like watching a concerto, with everyone working in unison, in a perfectly organized chaos to get the job done as quickly and neatly as possible, all done in the middle of the desert without adequate or proper tools, most commonly as the temperature starts taking a turn towards what we local Southern Baja Californian would definitely assess as close to freezing and it is incredible to find out what can be substituted by what, in the hand of these magician mechanics.
Even late at night, or early morning, it is amazing how many people are out to watch the race, many getting up from cuddling next to bonfire to wave you on and shout encouragements, making you feel like you are spearheading the group, even though the winners are already back in la Paz drinking a hot coffee or a cold Tecate celebrating with their teams and loved ones. Most probably, your loved ones are cuddling up in chase cars, sipping hot coffee whilst trying to find out where you are, and probably praying that you are safe and that you will consider taking up golf or tennis next year!
The last 150 kilometers are a mixture of fun stretches, and punishing, rocky or wooped out sections, so just as the finish line seems within your reach, you still have to work for it. Nothing can really replace the feeling of driving across the finish line of the Dos Mares 500, as you are greeted by a huge crowd, warm smiles and hugs no matter what time of the very cold night or early morning. The Malecon is again the venue for the finish, and the place to get firsthand accounts of different drivers’ experiences, adventures, challenges and disasters. However, all have one thing in common. All are smiling, all are happy and proud to have made it to the finish, and it wouldn’t cross anyone’s mind not to do their utmost to be here again next year!
Off Road racing is not a sport, nor a hobby. It is a passion, a lust, an addiction! Golf or tennis…? We wouldn’t look good in the funny goofy pants or the white shorts anyway! So the Coyote 300 is the next race in 6 weeks… We’d better start getting ready!
For more information and updates on races & events in Southern Baja in English, please go to www.racethebaja.com and sign up for the newsletter. If you want to be part of a real race experience, contact email@example.com