"Wide Open Baja gives you a sample of the world's toughest race"
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Wide Open Baja gives you a sample of the world's toughest race
Mexico is an incredibly popular tourist destination.
And if you want to holiday here, there are untold numbers of luxury resorts where you can be treated with the utmost care and comfort.
But if you're the kind of person who, I don't know, likes to watch Carfection videos, you might want to come here and leave those hotels and go into the savage beauty, face the wilderness in Mexico and do something that's a little bit more fun.
And this would be my toy for the next couple of days.
A Subaru 4 cylinder Their engine strapped to a custom chassis, a four speed manual gear box and a suspension setup to take some brutal punishment.
This thing has been built for one purpose and one purpose only, to take on the might of the Baja 1000, one of the most grueling endurance races in the world.
That takes in over a thousand miles of wilderness down the Baja Peninsula in Mexico.
And although I won't be taking on the whole route, I should be able to get a taste of the most epic race on Earth.
The team at Wide Open Baja offer the opportunity to come and try your hand at some of the challenges the Mexican wilderness can throw at you and cater to all skill levels.
BUt, there is no handholding.
After a quick demonstration from my unbelievably experienced guide, it was my turn to hop into the driver's seat and experience a side of Mexico that average tourist never gets to see.
The strong 5 point harness and full face helmet you put on seem to contradict the fact that there is no windshield or real doors to speak of But strapping yourself in and pulling away into the unknown gets the adrenaline pumping.
And pretty quickly after a few tentative miles you can start to have some real fun.
[SOUND] You say, you put your foot down, 60 miles an hour in this thing feels more exciting than on the Autobahn at a 360, I guarantee.
Yeah it used to be if you're traveling at easy material.
In fact you have to look at the GPS to be able to tell.
The fact is you drive up here, your skill level [UNKNOWN] and it feels fast.
The moment you come out of second gear And put your foot down.
The suspension is taking all of the bumps as much as it can out of the road, but you still feel everything.
And that main communication is coming back through the suspension.
You feel the car load up in the corners.
You can feel how the traction is acting through that.
And the experience is real.
There is no fakery.
There's no simulation of noise.
The simulation experience, this is an actual connection between you, the car and the roads.
There is no one else responsible for what happens on you.
If something goes wrong, it's because you did it wrong.
You are competing with nature, you are competing against yourself and enjoying the ride.
I don't care what the speed is.
And I tell you what, I'm too scared to look down to check.
Cuz half a second with your eyes off the road is the difference between making it around a corner and eating a tree.
Now the car wants to be loose.
It feels loose but you have to use that to your advantage.
To come through the corner as you need.
And you can drive this thing on the throttle, which is the most fun way to drive.
Now, on top of being able to control the car with the obvious things, the throttle, the steering, the brake, the gears, there's also the terrain, which is working with us as well These ruts in the road here are guiding the car.
It's as if the track itself knows where we want to go and sends us in that direction.
Mexico is helping me drive.
Mexico is my co-pilot.
[NOISE] The steering is wonderfully light.
It means that you're moving this car around, which has got some hefty weight, with a most of ease.
In fact, if I was brave enough I could do it with my fingertips.
Not wise, though, the bumps are.
Sending the [UNKNOWN] right on the straight [UNKNOWN] when I need it to so up most focus is required in fact talking to you right now is probably not the most advisable thing.
But hey someone has to tell you about it right?
This [UNKNOWN] was just the [UNKNOWN] to.
To give me a sample of just how rough get out on the Baja, I was directed to a slightly more bumpy section of road.
Warning, some colorful language is coming up.
[LAUGH] My God!
[LAUGH] [BLEEP] [LAUGH] That was insane [LAUGH].
My word, I'm gonna feel that tomorrow.
It's like I'm getting the absolute [BLEEP] kicked out of me.
Yet, I'm being expected to find a turning point and select the appropriate gear.
[SOUND] Now the terrain this thing can handle, It's great.
[LAUGH] Great made.
In fact, we haven't really encountered anything yet that it can't.
Now we've gone from relatively rough territory to very rough territory.
Uneven, bumpy as hell, sandy as you like.
Visibility is only one corner at best.
But the car takes the punishment, and you have the fun.
The landscape was indeed brutal.
It wasn't hard to imagine how one wrong move out here could be your last, and there was evidence dotted around to remind you of that fact.
As much fun as it is you need to remember that this environment is not made for the comfort of human beings.
To survive here, you need to work at it.
Getting the chance to experience this place though was amazing and it was made clear to me that by a long shot I haven't seen everything it has to offer Yet.
Beyond rough terrain and boulder-strewn passes, there was something else I needed to try my hand at.
Something a little harder to traverse.
And it got a bit sandier too.
With visibility dropping to zero, it was everything I could do not to lift off the gas.
But stopping in this would mean getting stranded, so counter to every instinct in my body I had to keep my foot down.
We had the benefit of tackling this in the day time.
But the Baja 1000 doesn't stop at night fall.
Drivers are expected to traverse these kind of terrains in pitch black darkness.
I could barely do it at mid day.
Although I struggled to make my way through the deep loose sand, the car had all the tools it needed at its disposal to make it possible.
And that's the point of these things.
On less than 200 horsepower, there isn't boundless power, but everything ahs been assembled to take on the wide variety, the full length of the Baja Peninsula can throw at you, and do so at speed.
And the scenery is unbelievable.
We're passing by a forest of cactus.
This is far as the eye can see in every direction.
It's like something out of a Tex Avery cartoon.
You do professionally, you could be going around the Baja 1000 40 hours, sharing it with just a couple of drivers, tearing around these things, It's like the marathon of driving.
Forget the Lamar, the Baha 1,000 is what the Ironman is to a marathon.
It was a mind blowing day of driving.
And nothing ties a day like that together better than a cold beer waiting for you at the end of it.
Retiring at night to a lovely relaxed environment still brings back all the memories from a rough day's driving.
And you find yourself going over the experience over dinner with your travel companions.
Comparing experiences and letting the full extent of what you tackled that day sink in.
It was only a brief snapshot of the amazing world of the Baja 1000, and only a short visit to Mexico.
But I know I was leaving with an experience like no other.
This trip out to Mexico has been filled with some amazing experiences.
Even outside of time spent in the car, hanging out with cool people, eating amazing foods, just seeing the parts of the world I've never been to.
But the driving, my word the driving there's blisters on my fingers, and ringing in my ears and I've loved every single minute of it.
Like the terrain we've been tearing through, it has been brutally savage and utterly, utterly wonderful.
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