Friday, May 30, 2008


Pre-race festivities are in full swing in downtown Ensenada for the 40th Annual Tecate/SCORE Baja 500. Various crew members will guide the trucks through the tech line while Rod Hall and sons, Josh and Chad, attend this morning's press conference at the Riviera Del Pacifico Cultural Center, in Downtown Ensenada. The race will start directly in front of the Cultural Center in the morning but for now, all the attention is focused on the loud, pulsating motors of the race machines as they combine with the ear-piercing assault of disco music pumped out of gigantic speaker towers. As you try to force yourself against wave after wave of people moving against you like the offensive line of the New York Giants, an amplified voice from a stage filled with scantilly clad Tecate Girls surrounded by 20 foot tall blow-up beer cans bids you, "Welcome to Baja!"
Although the tech and contingency line is a part of the pre-race activities at each event, nowhere does the local community greet the process as enthusiastically as they do in Mexico. Even the schools close so the children have the opportunity to take part in the Baja Fiesta. The actual purpose of the tech and contingency line is to check your vehicle to make sure you are in compliance with all the safety rules and that you actually use all the products that the series sponsors require you to have on your vehicle when the race begins. I'm not certain that the local population knows or cares what the reason for the inspection line might be, they just seem to want to have a good time and and add to their sticker collection while enjoying a day in town with their friends and family. The economy may be sluggish and the price of gas is a burden on everyone, but you would never know such problems exist during race week in Baja. They truly love off-road racing in Mexico. 

And the party won't stop after the tech line closes. In the morning, the locals will line the race course by the thousands, creating a human wall on each side of the course as vehicles of every type and description hurdle past them, some at speeds well in excess of 120 mph. Some will try a touch the big trucks as they speed by in a demonstration of bravado only the locals seem to understand. There are just no greater fans in all the world than there are in Mexico and for our part, there's no experience quite like racing in the deserts of Baja...

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