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Baja Blacktop: Racing MEX-1

Published in blog.hemmings.com

Photos graciously provided by rally photographer, Eugenio Robleda of One way Books. Supplemented by the author.

For decades, Pedro Vargas has dreamed of bringing a true Mexican road rally to the Baja peninsula, running full-tilt across the wild Baja landscape down the mother road – MEX-1. This year, after 12 years of painstaking planning, this new Baja road rally has found its footing.

Why another Mexican Road Rally?

Since La Carrera Panamericana was revived in 1988, determined racers from all over the world have traversed mainland Mexico from the South to North in vintage, purpose-built race cars designed to handle the rigors of the Mexican libre roads. It’s a logistical and mechanical challenge, a traveling circus of racecars and support vehicles, that takes military levels of planning. Simply finishing is winning.

At some point the massively successful race, with its semi-specialized class of vintage cars, was bound to spawn some spinoff events and the Chihauhua Express was formed in 2007. Promoted as a scaled-down high-speed rally – the Chihauhau express is set up with a hub-and-spoke course design that allows service trucks to remain in one place. The Chihaua express lightened the logistical load and has attracted serious racers.

In 2016 Pedro and crew did a full dry-run of a new “Transpeninsular” rally race on the Baja peninsula and it went smoothly, paving the way for 2017 and beyond. Nothing about planning this race is trivial. Cooperation from the Federal and local Police, and other local authorities, make it possible.

To be able to run these special speed sections, we had to close down the highway to civilian traffic. Our Gratitude goes to the Federal Police Force. We were aided by more than 20 officers, police cruisers, motorcycles, and pickups. – Pedro Vargas

The future? In 2018 the National Rally Commission of Mexico has decided to recognize Pedro’s ambitious dream of a Baja Tarmac Rally, The Rally Historico Transpeninsular, with full sanctioning and support for June 22nd – 25th, 2018. Hemmings joined this year’s final full shakedown as support crew and navigator for one of six race teams.