Pre Race Build UpJanuary 2, 2017
Ice Land and WaterFebruary 6, 2017
Kyra Sacdalan - Westx1000
Last month we watched the Dakar story unfold through the eyes of Lyndon Poskitt, and what a story it was. How many of us flicked through Facebook and thought to ourselves "one day", or "I wish", or "if only I had more money/skill/time"?
What if there was a rally that was just as exciting, just as challenging (almost), and actually achievable for the likes of you and me? Oh, and Lyndon too...
The BAJA RALLY is the Every-Man’s race. It’s the achievable Dakar. Not because the entry price and operating costs are drastically lower - though for many that can end the race well before the green flag can signal Go! Not just because the organizers work directly with local government to ensure the week-long event provides positive impact on the economy while leaving the most forgiving impact on Baja’s public lands. But, because it’s approachable.
The bivouac is unpretentious. As with any great rally, you’re racing against Greats: “Two-Time…” this and “Seven-Time…” that. But here, none of those particular guys and gals are backed by a million-dollar rig and racing crew. They don’t have a massage therapist at their beck and call, or in-truck catering. If tension amounts, it amounts to a feather that floats around in the breeze before it’s carried away for good. At the BAJA RALLY, competitors don’t have the tall order of racing for their careers. What’s on the line is human. It’s not tangible, nor life-changing.
Most teams come in twos and threes. A father and son team with a bike strapped to their aging pickup. Maybe two friends going for a strong finish with a third to help them wrench and drive the chase truck. The “Baja Legends” have arrived in desert-equipped portable garages that tuck neatly away into their compartments like a Transformer - intimidating, sure, yet undaunting. But in whatever fashion they arrive, the pros who grace the list are amongst their grass-roots brethren, starting and finishing at the same lines, sleeping under the same stars, in the same shitty parking lot, in their own Amazon Prime’d tent. The only thing that separates the champions and the hopefuls are their helmets and gear – just barely.
No rally fairing? No problem.
Big bikes, little bikes, all welcome
Unlike the Dakar’s and the FIM’s and the SCORE’s, the only thing that matters is the sport. The pure joy of pushing one’s self to the limits then making it home safely, reborn an Action Star to their loved-ones. There’s no purse. There isn’t champagne to spill across the podium. If they blow an engine or rank below the Top 10, no contracts will be severed or lives over. When it’s all said and done, they swap stories over beers, create friends out of opponents and post photos to social media all the while letting memories of exhaustion, struggle and pain fade just enough to crave those feelings all over again.
Maybe that’ll all change. Maybe by next year or the year after that, the parking lot in front of the San Nicolas Hotel & Casino that’s acted as the BAJA RALLY’s premier bivouac since its inception will be filled with vinyl wrapped chase trucks and six-figure school buses. Piles of tires stacked ready-to-use in front and unceremoniously discarded in back with barely a dent in their tread. Instead of a modest meal in the hotel diner or BBQ hosted by a local family of a ranchers, piles of money will be dumped into the pockets of first class caterers – serving wine by the carafe. And maybe, that’s what everyone wants. The rally would gain structure beyond its youthful nature. It will become wiser with age. Consider the details and cherish little things. “Growing up” is necessary for a rally to be successful, and there are many benefits. But what we’d lose in that whirlwind of luxury and etiquette is what makes the BAJA RALLY – at least right now – so wholesome. It’s not the race to outdo Dakar’s decadent efforts. It’s the rally built entirely around the race itself.
A Rally Raid, for those unfamiliar, is an off-road navigation-based event where operating the race vehicle along a rugged, sundry and intentionally unmarked terrain is just a meager part of the challenge. They’re tight-lipped operations which wait as long as humanly possible to hand over a roll of paper they call directions scribbled in French, gibberish and primitive hieroglyphics.
Order your electronic road book holder here
Order your ICO + Road book remote here
Order your Goldentyre GT723 Rally Tyres here
Racers hover over their scroll for hours color-coding it with highlighters into a unique language in hopes they can understand just enough in the split-seconds throughout the high-speed competition when they can afford to move their gaze from the road to the Roll Chart. As they try to navigate their way out of a desolate landscape, WayPoints are collected in the form of that familiar ding! Battles for position can often ensue toward the start of the course while locals and wildlife can pose an unintentional roadblock, and buses could end more than the Special Stage. But for most part, a rider is utterly alone with their motorbike. UTVs host a driver and passenger, but that doesn’t make them any less solitary. But, if they manage not to wander aimlessly along the invisible course from some single overlooked instruction adding unwelcome minutes to their time card, and they rode as fast as their heart and gut permit – without engine failure, accident or misfortune… They still might not have a chance because, well, that’s only the half battle.
Fancy giving The Baja Rally a go? The event organisers put on a training camp every month. Find out more here.
Kyra Sacdalan is a freelance journalist. She is the co-creator of WESTx1000, a multimedia company that creates unique content for motorcycle community. Follow her on Instagram: @WESTx1000
Photos: Donni Reddington
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