Thursday, March 31, 2016

San Felipe 250 Race Weekend

It's the last weekend in February, and the little town of San Felipe, on Baja's Sea of Cortez coast has swelled from a sleepy population just under 10,000 to a busting-of-the-seams 30,000 or more.  Fans from across North America have come to watch the spectacle that has made Baja off-road racing world famous.


While the Baja 500 and Baja 1000 races are more well-known, the San Felipe 250 is run by the same organization (SCORE International) and draws a robust and loyal crowd every year. It's even televised by CBS Sports (broadcasts start on April 10th)!

Hans, Ursula, and I dust off our cameras and head out Friday morning for the first event of race weekend-- Contingency Row.




The day before race day, all racers line their vehicles up to parade them down the malecon (beachfront) of downtown San Felipe.  The official reason is to conduct final safety inspections of each vehicle-- to make sure they have a fire extinguisher, spare tires, roll cages, safety harnesses, and the like.


But, unofficially, Contingency lets fans see the cars up close-- to touch them, meet the drivers, take pictures, and get autographs.  Starting the day rather skeptically, as we now approach the line of cars, I find myself becoming more giddy-- these cars are so colorful and impressive!  The drivers, so young and handsome!!!


Soon, we're engulfed in an enthusiastic mob along the malecon.


The music blares loudly from the Bud Light party platform.  Lots of beer and fish tacos are consumed!


This YouTube video gives a great sense of the festivities of the day:



While the trucks and dune buggies are impressive, I'm drawn to the retro old-style Baja bugs-- the VW Beetles!




These buggies have been tricked out almost like their bigger brothers.  There are air hoses for drivers to breathe dust-free air, and gigantic shocks and struts crammed into where the backseat used to be!



Meanwhile, Ursula has started chatting with last year's race winner, Apdaly Lopez of the RPM Team.


The RPM Team has a great video of Apdaly and his teammates in action during the next day's race.  Wow!



We chat with the father of the Bud Light truck's driver who tells us these custom trucks can cost about $250,000 and up.  Looking at the tires, shocks and interiors-- one can see why!





After the fun of Contingency, we are more psyched than ever to head out to watch the racers on Saturday.  Not so psyched to wake up for the 5:30am start of the motorcycle racers, but excited enough to get there by 10:00am for the truck starts.

What a thrill to see them coming over the hill from beneath the arches, engines roaring!


After watching a few starts, we head over to one of the first turns in the desert sand where racers kick up an impressive dust cloud (and we crazy fans literally stand within inches of these vehicles as they come roaring through)!




We see a few of our friends from yesterday too!  Here's the Bud Light truck racing by a few empty12-packs of what else? Bud Light!


 The VIP racer that Ursula posed in front of on Friday is now out showing its stuff on Saturday...



After a quick lunch back at the malecon, we head down about 20 miles south of town to a desert viewing spot that another fan has recommended.  A terrific place to see the Sea of Cortez in the background, and watch racers roar through the valley on their way back to San Felipe's Arches and the finish line.


Incredibly, some of the racers we'd seen at the starting turn are now whizzing past us 3 hours later out here, like the Valvoline racer...



And this Necksgen truck...




I put together a little video of some of my shaky clips of the day.  Probably should have drank more beer to smooth it out a bit more!



On Sunday, Hans, Ursula, and I are still pumped up from Race Weekend's excitement.  As we drive past the big sand dune next to the RV park, we see some guy in a normal-looking Jeep Grand Cherokee cutting donuts and whipping up a giant cloud of dust behind him.

Hmm.... my little yellow Tracker can usually do just about anything a Jeep can do.  That's all it takes for Hans to egg me on and dare the little Tracker to match the Cherokee's dust cloud.  He quickly jumps out to film the action as Ursula braces for dear life in the back seat.  I rev up the Tracker's engine to let it rip loose across the desert.

The G forces pin me to my seat!  Comically, not so much once we see Hans' video!



Poor, poor gutless yellow Tracker!  Maybe the VW Beetle guys can do something to soup up its pitiful little engine....!!!!













5 comments:

  1. Love the end. Oh what fun you are having.

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  2. Looks like lots of fun. Loved the Tracker video and the buzz of it's little engine ;)
    J. Dawg

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  3. You picked the busiest weekend to enjoy what once was a sleepy fishing village. No more it has been discovered, the road from Mexicali paved, and flights from San Diego! Great pics of the crowds along the Malecon, the trucks and buggies. Like the action footage, but think ESPN has nothing to worry about :). Have to smile at your Tracker spinning the donuts!

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  4. I really enjoyed your coverage of this event. Thanks. Fun to see the little Tracker as an off-road wanna be.

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  5. Think I would be a little concerned about breezing all that dust But looks like a lot of fun.

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