Prerunning is the act of running something in advance and in our case, that something was the 2015 Baja 1000 race held in Baja Mexico. Prerunning is a large part of the Baja racing experience and many teams will spend weeks driving the course and making notes to use once the race starts. We headed down to Ensenada, where the race would start, to meet up with Eric Filar of Motive Gear on a Monday afternoon. We would spend the next several days prerunning the course in preparation for Eric’s section of the race starting on Friday.
Once we transferred our gear into the trucks we took off towards Santo Tomas which lies south of Ensenada. The racecourse ran through town which is where we started out at race mile (RM) 80. The course ran toward the Pacific Ocean and we stopped on the beach at RM107 for the night where we met up with the rest of Eric’s group at Coyote Cal’s.
The entire course is typically marked with several different signs and ribbons. Mile markers appear on occasion and are marked on white signs. Course directions are marked with arrows on orange signs and will point up, left or right. A single or double arrow pointing down will mean there is a danger such as a cliff or washout. Green signs with a W marked on them mean you are going the wrong way. The course can be downloaded from the SCORE website prior to the race, however, GPS is not required as long as you keep an eye on the signs.
This year the course ran counter-clockwise and would be on or near the beach for the first 200 miles. We took a few breaks to relax between sections of driving the course and to take in the ocean view.
Prerunning can be done in almost anything that is capable enough to take on the desert terrain. We saw some traffic on the course from motorcycles to open wheel buggies to stock trucks and highly modified trucks.
Nearing RM 160 and the town of Camalu we pulled off the course at the shipwreck for another break. Just offshore is the rusting hull of a ship that washed up and is slowly breaking up over the years. A fun part of prerunning is that you never know who you will see in the middle of nowhere. A Ford Raptor and Bronco drove up while we were at the shipwreck and Curt Leduc hopped out. Curt is a Baja veteran and although he was not going to be racing, he was still out having fun.
After a resupply and refueling in Camalu we returned to the beach and continued following the course. We decided to end our prerunning for the day late in the afternoon and setup camp on the beach before the sun set. It is hard to beat camping on a nice sandy Baja beach with friends, a campfire and watching the sun set after a full day of prerunning.
The next morning would be a big day and we would need to cover some ground so that Eric could see the section of course he would be driving. We packed up and returned to the racecourse on the beach. Just as we turned inland a truck in our group got stuck in the deep sand. Everyone in our group had 4-wheel drive except the F150 that just got stuck. Usually momentum will be all that is needed but this section just didn’t have enough room to gain any. A yank from a strap and we were back underway. There were many sections of the course where 4-wheel drive was an advantage during prerunning.
We took the first access road to the highway and drove into El Rosario. We stopped to fuel up, resupply at the grocery store and stop into Mama Espinoza’s. Mama recently turned 109 years old and the restaurant is run by her family. El Rosairo is where Eric would be getting into the race truck so we jumped back onto the racecourse in a wash just off the main highway to continue our prerun.
Our group spread out finding different lines through the wash around deep sandy spots. Soon the course left the wash and turned up a shelf road twisting through the mountains. We regrouped at the top and continued until the next highway crossing. 30 miles down and many more to go!
We bypassed part of the course that Eric was already familiar with and continued down Mexican Highway 1. Our next stop would be the road crossing just north of Catavina where we would continue our prerun of the course.
We had 80 miles to go until we would see the ocean and make camp for the second night on the beach. The rumors were flying about how bad the silt was on this section of course and we were ready to find out. We hit a few silt beds just as the sun was setting and found a few different lines for race day depending on how bad they would get.
Silt is dirt that has turned into a very fine powder that will go everywhere once a vehicle enters it. It can be blinding, coming over the hood and past the windows. Our group had spread out during this long section and those in front found a nice spot overlooking the ocean and then called it in over the race radio on how to find them.
The next morning we had 30 more miles to go to get to the highway. We were prepared for more silt beds and we found them! It was Thursday morning and contingency had started back in Ensenada. Our group was likely one of the last to pass through the silt beds and they were only going to get worse. The trick is to stay on top of the ridges between the deep ruts in the silt beds but that doesn’t always work and the strap got used a few times.
We took the highway again to Coco’s Corner where the race course joined the highway for roughly 80 miles before splitting off into the desert again. Eric had already run this part of the course before we met up with him so we stopped for fish tacos in San Felipe before returning to Ensenada to catch the very end of contingency. Prerunning the 2015 Baja 1000 was in the books and it was a fun few days!