Bilstein Shock Absorbers has a long and successful history of supporting competitors desert racing in the Baja Penisula. For this year’s historic SCORE-International Baja 1000, Bilstein-backed racers triumphed over the difficult off-road endurance race, and Justin Park of #714F Ford Ranger finished first in the Class 7F category and clinched the season championship.
The Baja 1000 off-road race is among the most prestigious motorsport events worldwide and is known for its length, difficulty, and harsh conditions. This year’s event made history in multiple ways adding to the challenge. The 1,310.95-mile course was the longest ever, only the Baja 2000 was longer. Also, for the first time, racers would start in La Paz at the southern tip of the Baja Penisula, and race north to finish in Ensenada.
Bilstein Racer Justin Park Wins Difficult 2023 Baja 1000
The 2023 Baja 1000 brought the heat and wild weather pushing competitors to their limits hoping to finish within the 50-hour time limit. Enduring the brutal conditions was challenging for Justin Park, but he anticipated the trying battle. “It was hot outside, and I knew what was coming with such a long race,” Park said. “The final section was tough.”
Park’s Bilstien #714F Ford Ranger races in the Class 7F which is a mini or mid-size truck division and requires the use of a stock frame. These trucks can be two- or four-wheel drive. There were four starters in the class. The #714F Ford Ranger’s total time on course was 46 hours, 53 minutes, and 39 seconds for an average speed of 27.96 miles per hour.
To Win In Baja, You Must Beat The Baja First
The Baja 1000 encompassed over 1,300 miles of very challenging terrain and took place on November 13 through 18. That was really just the tip of the iceberg since most competitors had been prerunning the course for weeks practicing their lines.
Drivers had to be careful while on the long course to avoid mistakes, break down or get stuck. Competitors must hit every corner and expect the unexpected while navigating this marathon. “We knew we could end the whole race there if we missed a corner at that point,” Park said. “Every section of the race was amazing — the people were so happy, and the scene was just incredible.”
A Complete Team Effort
While Park started and finished the race, he had some help from his fellow Bilstein racing team. Cole Andrews, Jeff Tiglio and Eduardo Martinez got behind the wheel of the Ford Ranger to navigate the challenging course.
The team had a solid Ford Ranger with Bilstein B8 9200 external bypass and B8 9200 coilover shocks, outlasting every competitor in its class. However, the race didn’t come without adversity. The Baja 1000’s slippery terrain forced Park and the Bilstein racing team to remain in second gear for long stretches.
While Park and his teammates won, there were a few other Bilstein entries in the field. For example, Doug Mittag’s UTV used Black Hawk 9300 Powersports Bilstein shocks on his way to a 10th-place finish in the Pro UTV Open race. Mittag, along with Kyle Ahrensberg, Keegan Kincaid and Rick Johnson, were one of only 10 teams to finish the race. Five teams in the Pro UTV Open failed to complete the course.
The Baja 1000’s Importance
Off-road racers look forward to the Baja 1000, one of the most demanding but rewarding races. It’s one of our favorite events because it caps off a year of hard work in off-roading. Before this race, competitors raced in the San Felipe 250, the Baja 400 and the Baja 500. Completing the circuit shows a competitor is among the best in North America. The next step would be completing the Dakar Rally and fighting the harsh conditions in Saudi Arabia.
Its format has changed slightly over the years, but the Baja 1000 has remained mostly the same since its 1967 inception. Some of racing’s most famous names have competed in this event, including Rick and Casey Mears, Travis Pastrana, Alexander Rossi and Jimmie Johnson. Newcomers to the motorsports world, such as Riley Herbst, have also made their presence known in the Baja 1000.
This year’s Baja 1000 started at an unfamiliar location. For the first time in its 56-year history, the Baja 1000 began in La Paz, Mexico, the capital of Baja California Sur. Then, the 1,300-mile race finished in Ensenada, Mexico, about an hour and a half south of Tijuana. The racers only had 50 hours to complete the course, leaving over 150 teams with DNFs due to the challenging conditions.
Other winners of the 2023 Baja 1000 included Bryce Menzies, who became the 10th Baja triple winner after previous victories in the Baja 500 and San Felipe 250. Kyle Quinn and his team defeated Casey Mears and Brendan Gaughan for a Class 1 first-place finish.
Looking Ahead to the 2024 Season
The SCORE season has concluded after the Baja 1000, but we’re already looking forward to next year. The season starts with the San Felipe 250 from March 20 to 24. Then, we’ll conclude 2024 with the Baja 1000 from November 12 to 17. Racers hoping to be successful should consider strapping up with proven Bilstein Shock Absorbers.