Baja awaits the San Felipe 250

Bike Week in Baja

This isn’t quite the same bike week that just happened in Daytona, but for off-road racing aficionados, it’s the equivalent. The once sleepy fishing village of San Felipe on the Sea of Cortez becomes host to some of the most awesome machinery imaginable, from million-dollar Trophy Trucks and shock-absorber festooned Baja Runners to tricked-out motorcycles and ‘lowly’ ATVs.

SCORE International’s San Felipe 250 runs on Saturday, March 13 and is the first in a series of three famous annual races including the Baja 500 in June and the granddaddy of them all, the Baja 1000, in November. Everybody – the different vehicle classes, privateers and factory teams – competes on the same terrain, one designed to punish both machine and man.

The 248-mile course encompasses high-speed stretches on gravel roads and a dry lakebed, deep sand washes, whooped-out jeep trails, rocky creek beds and lots of plain old desert. It is not something you try for the first time on race day. Pre-running the different parts of the course began late February and peaks during the week before the race. San Felipe enters an altered state of mind as the teams, quartered throughout the town, dial in engines and suspension systems and plan their strategies.

The race starts and finishes at the Arches – San Felipe’s monumental gateway on Highway 5. Teams can distribute their pit stops at a variety of locations along the route, typically 30 to 50 miles apart. While a few individuals will "iron man" the race, most teams will have two riders who relay different sections of the course.

Motorcycles will start at 6 am, one every 30 seconds, then the ATVs. At around 10 am the Trophy Trucks will cut loose, careening from the starting line immediately onto a dirt road heading out of town, dusting the spectators who at times stand perilously close to these roaring monsters. It’s no wonder Baja races make great movies.