The 2013 Baja 1000 Off-Road Race Was Much Tougher Than Any Expected

2013 BAJA 1000-1

Among off-road races there is only one that brings the word “legend” to mind. That is the Baja 1000. Begun as a bet between a couple of guys on motorcycles who got time-stamps on sheets of paper at telegraph offices in Tijuana and then the next day in La Paz to see who could ride the length of the Baja Peninsula in less time, the race that in November of 2013 was nearly 50 years old has now turned into an international motorsports event that makes worldwide headlines.

In 2013 it was also a six-way race for the season title between 850-horsepower high-tech unlimited race trucks in the marquee SCORE Trophy Truck division. Half a dozen drivers were that close in points to clinching the class championship title–this final race of the year meant that much. However, for all that horsepower, the 46th annual Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 off-road race still included everyman racers from across the United States and around the world.


Baldwin ran a strong race, having no real problems except for difficulties with visibility in the dust, and finished first in Trophy Truck class and second overall, with only one motorcycle clocking a better elapsed time over the 883-mile course.

And if the Baja 1000 race itself wasn’t traditional enough, Master of Ceremonies for this legendary event was none other than a legendary competitor: Ivan “Ironman” Stewart. Stewart stood at the start line waving off the Trophy Trucks as they roared away!

The Baja 1000 was the final event of the 2013 SCORE Desert Series, and was held on a brutally-rugged 883-mile desert race course. With the rugged course traveling on both sides of the Baja California peninsula, the world’s most famous desert race started and finished in Ensenada, Baja California Norte.

It was the longest course in the race’s history for a loop race. Since 1967, the mother of all desert races has run over the mysterious and majestic Baja California peninsula. It’s the most well known of all desert races, and it remains as the single most appealing accomplishment to a driver.

When the green flag dropped on that Friday morning of November 15th, 2013 for the cars and trucks, the starting grid included 254 entries from 36 States, the U.S. territory of Guam and 23 countries competing in 42 Pro and seven Sportsman classes. The elapsed-time race has a 36-hour limit for cars and trucks, and the fastest vehicles were expected to complete the grueling course in approximately 17 hours.


Master of Ceremonies and legendary racer Ivan Stewart (top) flagged racers off the starting line of the 2013 Baja 1000. Contingency and tech inspection of all race vehicles (lower left) occurred the day before the race and was a crowded affair. Interviews with popular drivers such as Bryce Menzies (right) also took place while they were accompanying their vehicles through inspection.

As the World Series is to baseball and the Super Bowl to football, the Baja 1000 is to off-road racing, and the tension of those expectations were felt by drivers and seen by spectators as the drivers left the start line in Ensenada. The course was expected to close officially around 11 p.m. on Saturday night. There was a crowd of spectators, supporters and media, waiting and watching for updates at the start line until the very last finishers trickled in.


Rob MacCachren scored second in class in his Chevy Trophy Truck, losing time after suffering a flat tire.

Triumphant Trio

Driving patiently over a tight and technical course which is not his style at all, Las Vegas’ B.J. Baldwin pulled off a rare back-to-back victory, crossing the finish line of the 46th Annual Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 with an elapsed time of 18:36:10, running at an average speed of 47.47 MPH.

For the second straight year Baldwin drove his Chevy Silverado Trophy Truck to the overall SCORE Trophy Truck race win in the granddaddy of all desert races. While speed was his ally during last year’s race down the Baja California peninsula, this year was a tight, twisty, silt-ladden, rocky and brutal course.

Of the race, Baldwin said. “I’m better at fast roads and backing it into corners between 85 and 110 miles-per-hour. The tight, technical stuff isn’t nearly as much fun as rotating the truck at very high speed. I just ground it out and I’m surprised that we are here. We had a good day. Andy and Rob put on a hell of a race and it was a fist fight for the last 50 miles. He is ruthless.”

On Rob MacCachren following close behind, Baldwin said continued. “I’ve got this 99-cent rearview mirror on this half-million dollar truck so it actually worked pretty well. It is the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 and you want to win by seconds and not by minutes or you’ll never get here. The truck can only take so much and your body can only take so much mentally and physically. Any time I saw him (MacCachren) I just put this thing on the chip and let it eat up the bumps.”

Giving Las Vegas racers a sweep of the podium, with second and third overall four-wheel vehicle finishes were Rob MacCachren and his co-driver Andy McMillin (from San Diego) in MacCachren’s Ford F-150 Trophy Truck, and the team of Troy Herbst and co-driver Ryan Arciero (of Foothill Ranch, California) in the Herbst Ford-F150 Trophy Truck. MacCachren finished in 18:43:29 and Herbst completed the course in 19:15:34.


Troy Herbst and Ryan Arciero shared driving duties for a third place in the Trophy Truck class.

“There are a handful of guys that are going to go and do battle at the race,” said Rob MacCachren. “You take the green flag and wait to see how the cards are dealt and then see who falls out. When we got down to the far south end the players were down to four, then three and then it really went to two. When Andy was in the truck, he and B.J. (Baldwin) started doing a little dice and B.J. got ahead of us when we had an issue.

“I ended up catching him at Valle de Trinidad but I couldn’t get by him in the dust. At the end here, crossing Ojos Negros, I got a flat and lost even more time to him. He knew that once he got in front of us all he had to do was make it so we couldn’t pass him. The dust was heavy enough that we couldn’t. I tried really hard and took a lot of chances.

Juan Lopez and his son Apdaly of Tecate, Baja California struggled, but brought their Chevy Trophy Truck (left) in for fourth in class and fifth overall. Robby Gordon also had problems, breaking a front spindle on his Chevy Trophy Truck, but a quick repair was made and he was able to carry on for sixth in class and seventh overall.

MacCachren went on to say, “He (Baldwin) didn’t make any mistakes and I pushed him hard until we had our flat tire. You try to hang out and stay with the front runners and take care of your truck. That strategy keeps us together and it ends up being a sprint race down the end. This one ended up being about track position.”

Troy Herbst drove the Ford F-150 Trophy Truck from the start to El Crucero and Ryan Arciero drove from there to the finish. Herbst spoke at the finish line, saying, “We had a decent day. We had two mistakes and had some flat tires. You can’t have flats anymore. They were my fault and Ryan’s fault. They weren’t tire related, but human related.”

Stories of Struggle

Juan Lopez of Tecate, Baja California and son Apdaly drove their Chevy Trophy Truck to fourth in class and fifth overall. Lopez shared driving duties and told us, “I am very proud of my son driving in his first SCORE Trophy Truck race. It was a very difficult race with lots of rocks. We lost our brakes at race mile 600, which cost us a great deal of time.”


Jesse Jones took the Trophy Truck he co-drove with Bryce Menzies the last part of the race to the finish line and talked about the blown tranny that kept them down to 13th place.

Dan and Luke McMillan finished fifth in the Trophy Truck class and sixth overall, also sharing the driving. Dan talked about how competitive the Trophy Truck class has become, and that, “You just can’t make any mistakes.” They had a rock take out a driveshaft, lost a starter, had a flat tire, but were still able to make repairs and finish in 19 hours and 54 minutes.

Robby Gordon handled his Chevy Trophy Truck for the entire 883, bringing it in for sixth in class and seventh overall. “We broke a right front spindle and thank God we had one to change. There are so many good teams and somebody is going to get through and that’s the reality.”

Gordon went on to say, “Somebody is going to run a clean race and when you have 30 trucks showing up, somebody is going to trouble-free it. The broken spindle cost us an hour and a half. I passed B.J at one point and we were back and forth. I was changing a puncture and he went by.”


Despite a rollover into a ditch and running much of the race having to speed-shift due to a clutch packed with silt, Dan Chamlee was still able take first in Class 7.

Mark Post, Jimmy Smith and Ed Herbst all shared the wheel at different times in a 21-year old Ford F-150 and ended up finishing 13th in class out of 32 entries. Post said, “I’ve been doing this for 30 years and this is the roughest course I’ve ever seen. It’s real Baja.” The truck had a bolt break on the upper arm, but other than that it ran clean all the way to the finish line.

Bryce Menzies drove to mile 567, then handed it off to Jesse Jones who finished the race, but lost a transmission and with help from the crew repaired it in the desert. However, that put them down for so long, it was a race crusher. As Jones said at the finish, “Bryce was killing it all day long and handed me the truck with a 19-minute lead over Baldwin. It was our race to win and we just had to cruise. It was really disappointing.”

Class Wars

Other truck and SUV classes in the race may not be as fast or flashy, but none-the-less, they are just as competitive with those members of their class. Class 3 is for short wheelbase 4x4s such as Don Moss’ Ford Bronco. Moss was first in class to finish and Ken Moss also drove. Don told us, “We didn’t have a lot of problems but it was a really tough course. We pulled some people out and we got stuck once ourselves.”

Dan Chamlee finished first in Class 7 (open, production mini trucks) in his Ford Ranger, telling us that he had just a bit of trouble. “When we were moving we were putting down some good time and having a lot of fun.

Joe Bacal (right), talking to race director Roger Norman, and his co-driver Payton Wilson had a nearly flawless run through the 883-mile course for the Stock Full Class win in their Lexus LX570.

Unfortunately we weren’t always moving. I flipped the truck on its lid, broke the transmission and took a long time to get through the silt and stuck it in a ditch. Most of the race I ran with no clutch and had to speed-shift because the clutch was packed with silt and wouldn’t disengage. We would blow it out and then we would hit another silt bed. My truck is thrashed.”

In the Stock Full Class, which is just what is sounds like, for basically stock full-size trucks and SUVs, Joe Bacal and co-driver Payton Wilson finished first in their Lexus LX570 F Sport. At the finish line, Wilson said, “Everything went as planned and we had zero problems. We had a little bit of a GPS issue early on, but it fixed itself.”


Rod Hall, another legend of off-road racing, and his team of drivers and co-drivers, brought their Hummer H3 in for second in Stock Mini Class after a long day and night that included a rollover.

There is also a Trophy Truck Spec Class (unlimited truck/SUV, stock sealed V8s). Clyde Stacy, who shared driving the winning Chevy Colorado with Eduardo Laguna said, “It was a long day and the course was really tough with lots of technical sections. We just kind of survived and are lucky we are at the finish. We get better every race and hopefully we will be here soon for a championship.”

Untold Tales

Unknown to but a few, yet a story revealing just how brutal the 2013 Baja 100 course was is the tale of the first attempt of the Quigley 4×4 Racing Team. It fielded a bright green full-size Quigley 4×4 Chevy van conversion. We spoke to them after the race and got the entire story. Quigley Motor Company is the leader in 4×4 van conversions and the third-generation family business competed in the 2013 Baja 1000.

The race vehicle was a Lifted Independent Front Suspension Chevy 2500 Express. The van completed the first third of the course with no issues, but for a front skid plate repair at race mile 209. After continuing on to Coco’s Corner, over to Route 1, then still farther north through the mountains, and after many delays due to bottlenecks in canyons caused by other vehicle’s difficulties, the team finally reached mile mark 673 completely exhausted and spent.

Realizing there was no way they could make the last 200 miles of incredibly rough and dangerous race course at night before they were timed-out of the race, the Quigley drivers and support crew decided it would not be safe to continue. The race van had made it that far without a single mechanical failure, and the crew was all safe. For the Quigley team, it was a win, and they followed the highway back into Ensenada.


Looking pristine going through tech inspection, the Quigley Chevy 4×4 conversion van ran almost the entire length of the 883-mile course with no major mechanical breakdowns before the team, exhausted and spent, realized they were timed-out and headed back toward Ensenada.

Few knew at the time, although I saw it finish and shot photos as it came in at about 8:00 a.m. Sunday morning long after it was timed-out of official race finish scoring, that Ford has snuck a 2015 F-150 prototype into the 2013 Baja 100. Greg Foutz, of Foutz Motorsports in Mesa, Arizona, who built the truck and oversaw the Baja race effort, was told to leave the truck as stock as possible.

The powertrain, brakes and intake were stock. Other than a few things such as racing tires, fuel cell, roll cage and some FOX shocks borrowed from a Raptor, the F-150 was built to it’s class spec’s. To disguise the 2015 truck, an all-aluminum skin was stamped in the 2014 configuration!

Although it crossed the finish line almost a full eight hours after being timed-out of the race, the 2014-skinned, but all-aluminum-bodied 2015 Ford F-150 race truck ran the Baja 1000 course without a mechanical failure.

Foutz told me later, “Our race in Mexico went down with no problems at all, except for delays in three different bottlenecks where other race cars that started ahead of us were tangled up or broken down in tight spots (narrow canyons) or very steep hills on the course.”

Foutz explained, “We couldn’t get through, nor could many other vehicles, while these bottlenecks were cleared away and that put us behind the clock by many hours, causing the truck to time-out of the race. We did bring the truck all the way to the finish line, though, and had no mechanical failures, no flat tires, never changed out one single part.”

Lasting Loss

The one thing all of us in the off-road community regret is when there is a racing accident that claims a life, and the Baja 1000 took one–the life of motorcycle racer Kurt Caselli. No one can be sure of exactly what happened, but from what is known, somewhere near mile mark 792 Caselli was riding his KTM motorcycle at a rapid pace, and it appears his motorcycle struck an animal, either a horse or a coyote–both were seen in the vicinity by other riders and animal hair was found on the bike.


Carrying spare parts such as an extra driveshaft along with you is a must, as breaking down in the middle of the Baja desert wilderness without a pit crew anywhere nearby, means you have to have it with you and fix yourself on the spot.

Then, judging by the scene and his injuries, people who found him believe that he and the bike struck a tree near the race course. Fellow racers and participants finally did find him, approximately an hour-and-half after the accident, but Caselli died from his injuries before proper medical professionals and transportation could arrive.

The next truly saddest part of the loss is that some bloggers took this opportunity to create havoc and make reports that were unfounded, before Caselli’s family could be informed. Rumors as to what happened and who may be responsible for this loss are still being spread to this day.

Caselli, and for that matter, all men and women who participate in motorsports, especially off-road desert racing, understand and accept the risks involved. If there is any bright spot in all this, it is that changes were being made, and continue to be made, to make the sport safer than it ever has been. But off-road desert racing continues to be a challenging motorsport.


B.J. Baldwin had his helmet and game face on while others were being interviewed just minutes prior to the start of the 2013 Baja 1000.

The Race Goes On

Off-road races such as the Baja 1000 will continue because there are adventurous people who will always have the desire to challenge themselves and the machines they build to go harder and faster than ever before. Off-road racing offers suspension companies the perfect laboratory in which to research and develop new spring, shock absorber and other suspension component, material and design technology.

Automotive OE and aftermarket manufacturers use it as a proving ground for overt and covert product testing and evaluation. And the beauty and alluring landscape of the Baja California peninsula and its beaches, waters and sunsets are undeniably attractive. The food is darn good too. As a matter of fact, we’re pretty sure there’s going to be a 50th annual Baja 1000 soon, and so on …

Photos by Stuart Bourdon and Trackside Photo: Be sure to see the Gallery of 2013 Baja 1000 images below >>>


About the author

Stuart Bourdon

A passion for anything automotive (especially off-road vehicles), camping, and photography led to a life exploring the mountains and deserts of the Southwest and Baja, and a career in automotive, outdoor, and RV journalism.
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