Manolo Nunez, of ProBaja Race organization has spearheaded this new OFF ROAD magazine “CAMINOS DE LEYENDA”, with his associate Tito Frias, which is a beautiful production focusing on all local races and championships.
Every edition will include one article in English, and to inaugurate the magazine, Andrea Tomba wrote the first editorial, “Welcome back the future!”
Pick the magazine up in a newsstand in Baja, or you can read Andrea’s article here.
Welcome Back to a New Era!
2016 shows great promise to become a very memorable year for Southern Baja Off Road Racing. For over the past decade, various promoters and race organizers have appeared, and we have had as many as over 20 off road races in Southern Baja alone in one season. And this doesn’t even take the SCORE-International races into account! Although at first look, this would seem to be heaven for an off road racer, so many races and different Championships actually proves to be more detrimental to the sport than positive. Not only does each Championship have to be content with smaller number of race vehicles per race, as almost no racer has the funds or time to race ALL the races in the various organizations, so each pick one or two Championships depending on their likes and tendencies. Less vehicles in each class tends to lead to less hardly fought battles in the race, and sometimes, the big contenders themselves are not seen together in a same Championship. This leads to less prize money for the winners, less fans out to watch the races, and thus less sponsor incentive to get involved, which all lead to more costly races for racers, organizers and all the complementary businesses, such as photographers, media companies, beer suppliers etc.
The higher number of races is also a heavy burden on ranchers, as some trails are used in several races, and it isn’t only the races that they have to worry about, however, also the several weeks of pre-running prior to each event, where they risk not only their access roads and ranches, but livestock and families too.
So the 2016 joint championship was very welcomed by most, although it took a huge amount of effort, work and pulling and giving by, not only the existing promoters to agree on sharing the races, however also by government officials such as Rogerio Ampudia, who knows off road racing first hand and is now representing the State’s tourist department, Luis Medina with his extensive experience and passion in race marketing and logistics, to name but a few. Matt Campbell of El Martillo Racing is also continuing his personal support of the sport by putting up a significant Championship purse With COPA CAMPBELL, as an extra incentive for the racers, however also for the organizers as they have to meet with certain prerequisites in order for their race to be considered for the prize.
It is definitely a work in progress, and no one can take its success or longevity for granted. The race organizer will have to show that it can aptly embrace the responsibility to put together a good and safe race, as well as keep it attractive for the racers in order to be able to show a healthy vehicle presence. Many safety issues are being addressed, such as better vehicle tech prior to the race, and implementing tighter rules regarding adherence to helmet, harnesses and race suits condition and year of manufacture. Still, there are many that could still really do with some more effort and attention. Partnering with a race tracking company for example would not only allow organizers and the teams themselves to know where a race car is if it has an accident, is broken down or lost, but would also be a great tool in encouraging “fair play”, making inappropriate short cuts, or excessive speeding in speed zone, controllable by a computer, not by personal protests or allegations.
Another safety issue that has always been under attack is the insurance plan available for the racers. FEMADAC, the National Mexican Race Federation offers racers coverage during the race, for themselves and third parties, however one of the concerns that most drivers or co-drivers have is that it is paid upon a reimbursement principal, which in some cases make it very difficult for an injured party’s family to be able to cover all the health and emergency costs in the first place. Although it seems like a sound idea for FEMADAC and the Campeonato de Off Road de Baja California Sur to support each other, it would also be interesting to look into the joint purchasing power of all those racers whom would be willing, actually would look forward to, paying a premium to have a better and more complete coverage, including pre-runs for example, where the insurance would directly be responsible for covering any medical or emergency expenses for vehicle passengers or third parties.
We also have to reiterate that the racers also have a responsibility in the success of this championship. The organizers can only do so much in an attempt to keep pre-running speed down to a fairly safe level, and as in anything, it is just as important for anyone having an accident whether during a pre-run or a race, to make sure that they report the incident to the race organizer, so that they can take the necessary action.
Racers and fabricators also have to keep in mind that as the trucks and buggies are becoming faster and faster. With better and better suspension, we need to keep improving the safety features with the same vigor that we want to improve its speed, in order for us not suffer an unnecessary injury in the sad case of an accident.
As said, the success of this championship, as always, is a work in progress. However, the State for sure has several innate advantages. First of all, it is very rare to meet somebody who has raced in B.C.S., who does NOT include some part of the southern Peninsula as the most beautiful and fun place to run a race. Secondly, the people of Southern Baja have off road flowing through their veins. The support that they will give racers or race teams is incomparable with anywhere else in the world. They will go out of their way to help you, to be a part of your adventure or even more rewarding, be a part of your solution. Thirdly, in a sport that is in no shape, way or form, an “inexpensive” sport, Southern Baja offers a less costly solution. Several race teams based in the USA or Europe, for example, have found that with the cheaper labor and race costs, as well as the already extensive number of proven and experienced fabricators and race shops, it is cheaper for them to leave their race vehicle in Baja for the season, having the vehicle prepped and support supplied down there, and just flying in for the fun part, the pre-running, the contingency and the party. Direct flights into Cabo or La Paz, an extended week end of fun and adventure, and then back to work. The headaches, the sourcing, the prepping and the logistics are all taken care of by a third party for you. Even the transporting of the race vehicle to the race location is taken care of for you. It is a true arrive – and- race solution, doable in your own car or truck, to the level that you or your pocket is comfortable with.
It was great to listen to many of the SCORE race teams’ comment about the 2015 SCORE Baja Sur 500, and hear so many of them stating that it was one of the most fun and beautiful races that SCORE has ever put together. In that same breath, it was a very tough blow to the local race teams as well as the local businesses, when SCORE notified that they were canceling that same race this year, due to SCORE and the local government not being able to find a midpoint in their agreed monetary exchange amount, supposedly due to the fluctuation in the Pesos exchange rate from $12 to the dollar at the time of the agreement to $18 to the dollar at the time of payment. Sad that the local racers who were waiting for their planned opportunity to size themselves up with the SCORE racers will not be given that chance, sad for the many hotels, rental homes, transport companies and off road service providers who already have taken several bookings and reservations that will not come to fruition. Sad that a middle point could not be reached, that a way for each side to meet with their commitment could not be found, for the good of the locals, the local economy and for the good of the Off Road as well.
In brief, the 2016 Championship is offering us a great opportunity to once again build on the sport, and its people strengths to make Southern Baja not only a force to be reckoned with in the world of Off Road, taking advantage of its gift from nature of some of the best trails in the world, combined with the growing number of competitive and spectacular vehicles and drivers as well the great hotels and activities where the whole team can make a vacation of a race. An opportunity that will need a strong resolve and effort by many, however most of all, a combined positive outlook and attitude of participation and responsibility to make this the first year of many in a new generation of a forever growing Off Road Championship and family in Southern Baja.
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.