By Charlene Bower
I knew it was going to be a lot of work. I mean a LOT of work for 13 days straight. It was imperative that I did my research and chose the right Ladies Offroad Challenge participant to join me. I can’t be more proud of Megan Stevenson and my work where we were able to produce 25 wild stories exposing all of BFGoodrich Tires efforts at the iconic 50th Anniversary of the SCORE Baja 1000.
We had our own race, our own mission. Our job wasn’t to take the green flag and race the Baja 1000 on the dirt, but fall behind the scenes and revel what it takes to put on this grueling race. We embedded ourselves with the title sponsor and 40 year SCORE International partner BFGoodrich Tires. “If it wasn’t for BFGoodrich and Frank DeAngelo there wouldn’t be a SCORE. What they have done for the series and to help the racers afford to be able to race by providing their pit support has had a significant impact on SCORE. There have been other companies that try to come in and replicate what BFG does, but they don’t come close to the thorough, dedicated and professional manner that all BFG crews represent. Plus, they have the most fantastic tire in the world!” said Sal Fish, owner of SCORE 1974 - 2012 and this years Grand Marshall. BFGoodrich Tires provides teams who run their tires pit support, intricate map books and GPS files that have additional race notes.
Our adventure started on Friday in San Diego 6 days before the green flag. We coordinated with the BFGoodrich Tires team and started taking note of the amount of work that goes into getting the pit trucks ready, followed by a day of racers dropping off over 370 tires and over 100 fuel dump cans for the pits to take down the peninsula in preparation for the race. After we crossed the border on Monday, with the parade of semis, trucks and trailers and 10 passenger vans, we peeled off the group and changed modes for a couple days.
Enjoying the atmosphere of downtown Ensenada during race week is unexplainable. It is truly a national holiday where schools are shut down, stores are closed and families come to see the cars and trucks parade through contingency alongside the Ensenada Cultural Center. Although we joined the outside activities occasionally, our job was inside. We set up in the registration and media room where we worked to find every lady that was putting on a helmet during the race, either driver or navigator. It was a long 2.5 days, but our diligent work paid off when Roger Norman, SCORE President, announced our stats on the starting line at the opening ceremonies: “60 Ladies will be racing, 7 are Drivers of Record and 2 are Iron-Womaning the 50th Baja 1000!” That was an awesome moment for all of us ladies!!
When the green flag dropped on Thursday morning at 10am, we were less than 100ft away as pole position Robby Gordon shook the street and raced off, followed by his 38 Trophy Truck competitors, all taking a green flag one minute apart. We didn’t stay for the 4 plus hours of green flags that would drop for the 412 vehicle competitors, we only stayed for about 15 trucks – it was time to start our adventure down to La Paz. We wouldn’t stop until our heads hit the pillow 46 hours later, over 850 miles away.
Our stops were specifically planned and loosely timed. We were going to make our way down the racecourse dropping into each of the 8 BFGoodrich Tires pits with our end goal hitting the finish line by Saturday noon at the latest. Pit by pit we got into a routine of taking pictures, gathering information about racers that were in the pits and those that had been through, talking to the pit about something of interest and launching the satellite. In between each of the pits I would sit in the back seat of Frankie (the same green BFG Jeep that I won the Rebelle Rally in 2016) and type. Type and type and type, and then download and edit pictures. By the time we made our way to the next pit, my pictures were sorted and watermarked and my story was done and proofread by Megan. Once stationary at a pit, Megan would launch the satellite and it would take me about 45 minutes to load the story – but it looked great once it was up. We did this routine 7 consecutive times. My brain was smoked after the 5th pit, but we pushed through and kept writing reveling experiences and background information that had never been publicized before.
One of the fun jobs that we were given was being the BFGoodrich Tires Battle of the Banos judges. Each of the pits is given a wood outhouse to build for their workers and racers. It is up to the pit crew to decorate it with anything that they have or with a maximum budget of $10. The themes were incredible and the effort was intense. As ladies, Megan and I appreciated the opportunity to test drive each space and appreciate our surroundings. After about an hour of photo, mental and verbal deliberations Pit 1 was declared the winner who would be rewarded with BFG Yeti cups and be the featured outhouse on the custom ‘crappy shirts’.
We were in Pit 5 just as the sun rose Friday morning when the overall winners started crossing the finish line. We hit Pit 8 around 10pm on Friday night staying to enjoy the racers that were still out on the course. As we rounded our way into La Paz to the finish line it was 1am and time for our driver/bodyguard Rich Klein from CargoGlide to get to bed. Megan and I dropped our bags in our room, but didn’t stop instead we headed to the finish line just in time to see some of my friends finish. Then one of the most historical moments in Baja racing history happened: Rod Hall, with son Chad driving, crossed the finish line completing his 50th Baja 1000 and excitedly celebrating his 25th win!
We finally decided to call it a race and our heads hit the pillow at 4:30am, 46 hours after we had woken up at the start line. Our race was still far from over. Saturday we spent more time at the finish line and celebrated with the winners at the awards ceremony. Sunday we enjoyed a well deserved day off in La Paz and then started heading back towards the border on Monday.
With a schedule to cross the border on Wednesday, we took a much more casual pace up the peninsula stopping at some scenic water areas to enjoy and two missions Parroquia de Santa Barbara in Santa Rosalia and San Ignacio. We made our way eating at interesting restaurants and staying in a hotel and a personal home in Ensenada. Our trip home energized us back up after a tough fast haul focusing on the race. Baja is beautiful.
“My favorite part of the trip was all the people I met, everyone was upbeat and happy. Everyone at BFGoodrich Tires really likes their jobs and that was really cool to see. The toughest part was not sleeping for two or three days from crossing the start line to the finish line - it’s been a long time since I have done that on purpose!” said Megan Stevenson, 2017 Ladies Offroad Challenge winner.
As we crossed back over the border on Wednesday afternoon, I took a deep breath. We won! We had our own race, our own finish line and we crossed it with success. Please enjoy our 25 stories and our personal daily recaps of our trip at www.ladiesoffroadnetwork.com/baja-1000