Preference: Charlene Bower and Ladies Offroad Challenge winner Megan Stevenson will be reporting live from the 50th Anniversary of the Baja 1000 as they expose the complexity of the BFGoodrich Tires Pit Support Program, highlight all the ladies racing and of course talk racing! This article is by Charlene Bower:
Ensenada, the Offroad Capital of the world, is buzzing with excitement. Today starts contingency for the 50th SCORE Baja 1000. Starting contingency on Tuesday, November 14th is new, it is a two day experience this year because of the pure number of vehicles that need to be inspected at tech. So, although it is already crowded, there is still a lot of room for expansion tomorrow. What we do know is large T-shirts are pretty much sold out at all the SCORE booths and it is only Tuesday at noon. That is impressive!
Ramping Up Registration
As with the BFGoodrich Tires pit program, there are hundreds of people that make SCORE International successful. With the BFG Pits on the move to their location and two days until the first green flag, we spent the day in registration looking for lady racers. We found an amazing group <STORY POSTED SOON>, and we uncovered the core group that keeps the SCORE racers managed: another tri-pod team of Elise Norman, Michelle Ou, and Audi Cuarez.
Elise Norman, Vice-President of SCORE International, is hands-on with the daily business. As she sits at the table ready for racer’s questions and handing out the spectacular bottle of Baja 1000 Tequila and Cigar to the driver of records, I start asking her what she does for SCORE. She looked at me with a bit of an overwhelmed face and said, “I don’t know where to start, so let’s look at my task list!” At that point I could hardly keep up with writing: Managing registration, logistics, accounting, sponsor relations, clothing and apparel, travel logistics, awards and trophies ordered, trophy design, ordering bottles of champagne, course workers, banners, swag, ordering transponders and equipment needed, timing and scoring, staffing, hospitality tents, and we both knew there was more to the list.
There are 100 core staff, where 90% come to every event. Jobs include: Race Ops, timing and scoring, photography team, safety, security, social and digital team, live show team, air medevac, transport crew, media registration, tech inspectors, marketing team, and of course, the Race Directors. There are another 200 course workers that help with the Baja 1000 and another 25,000 that work through Aficianados Responsible who are part of safety and security who help keep the course safe, booby trap free, and trying to keep the locals off the course throughout the peninsula.
“Roger is the 30,000 foot big picture person, and I deal with the day to day of corralling everyone and keeping them pointed in the right direction. Like any small business, I don’t get to do all the fun stuff, but being able to grow the whole sport is the initiative. As we are able to grow, I will be able to bring on additional help, so I can focus on hospitality and growing SCORE in 2018.”
Audi Cuarez is the Registration Director. She does a lot of customer service and problem solving. She is in charge of the membership database, insurance forms, and reconciliation of race entries. As the racers are ready to start, she walks down the procession, and it is her responsibility to check the drivers and co-drivers wrist bands, logging if they are the Driver of Record. SCORE Rules state that the Driver of Record must either start or finish the race. “I love my job. I have been around racing since the age of 3, mostly motocross, so desert racing is new for me,” said Audi. Michelle Ou is the face everyone probably sees first at registration pulling your file to get it ready for processing. She is the administrative assistant for the Norman’s and helps with registration as everything gears up. She also takes care of the online store, packing and shipping your purchases.
Other Tables at Registration
In the same room, at the same time, is media registration. The media are the workers that help feed the public with information and have helped grow the sport. There are over 400 confirmed journalists, photographers and video teams that will be present on course. Each media professional is issued a specific vest with a number.
A second table has insurance. Instant Mexico Auto Insurance is the official insurance for the race. They insure 22 Baja races a year, including all the SCORE Races. “We insure the offroad racers and take care of safety, rescue, ambulances, and have adjusters here at the races to personally do the work. We insure the trailers that the racecars are on, but not the racecar once it hits the dirt. We also insure spectator’s vehicles with our tourist policy: a full coverage policy for vehicles in Baja. “It is really important that visitors realize that their US insurance doesn’t cover what our Mexico insurance does. It is necessary for them to get insurance before or as soon as they cross the border,” said Steve Guillen, Public Relations.
The third table was ours. Well, okay, maybe it belonged to BFGoodrich Tires. BFG had gifts for all the media folks, a nice tablet cover and a pair of socks. Megan and I took over the other half talking to all the ladies that were checking in getting ready for our next story.
Ensenada Offroad Walk of Fame
In an incredible and historic event, the city of Ensenada revealed the Offroad Walk of Fame. One block south of the convention center, in front of the tourism building, large plaques now line the sidewalk, each one representing the 4-wheel and motorcycle wins. It is impressive.
Among the many in attendance were Malcolm Smith with his winning Husqvarna motorcycle on display and Bruce Meyers in one of his original Manx. They had the MANX hooked up to the cover and when driving away, IT revealed all the plaques. As part of the ceremony, dignitaries and government officials were featured. “Thank you for accepting SCORE and allowing us to race here. The racers present here, and now on the ground, is what has built SCORE into what it continues to be today,” said Sal Fish. Followed by Roger Norman, “I can’t think of a better way than this to kick off a week of the 50th Baja Mil immortalizing the racing that has been happening here for years.”
One of my favorite moments of the afternoon was getting to chat with Rod Hall. At 80 years old, and Thursday marking his 50th Baja 1000 start, he is an icon and a genuine person that has always supported my efforts throughout the years. His words of wisdom have entangled with many of us as motivators. Appreciating everything said and every moment, we must always remember: “You must first finish to win.” ~ Rod Hall.
BFGoodrich Tires Hospitality
There are few companies who understand the importance of hospitality and have the ability to, essentially, spoil their guests. I am lucky to be part of the BFGoodrich Tires family and have my guests, Megan and Rich, receive a firsthand experience of such activities. In addition to the three of us, there are about 100 other BFG dealers, influencers, and media from around the globe. “Baja is the one place in the world where they can see just how tough BFGoodrich Tires are and truly feel the BFG experience firsthand. Our hospitality is about immersing people in an environment that is so BFGoodrich,” said Lowell Eckart, Jackson Motorsports Group Account Director.
Tonight we were invited to Estero Beach for dinner, a favorite of BFGoodrich Tires and now of mine. The scene was beautiful up against the water with large displays of trucks racing through the dirt. The large white tent hosted large tables with beautiful centerpieces, and awkwardly, there were a couple tables at the front that looked like a wedding was taking place. After everyone joined in appetizers and drinks, the ceremonies started.
In BFG Style, there were 3 of the top racers there to share their experiences with the guests from Germany, Australia, UK, Mexico, and the US. Armin Schwartz has a 12 year history with BFGoodrich, not only desert racing, but also in rally car and snow. Mark McMillin was the first to overall a Baja 1000 in 1986, his son Dan McMillin was at the dinner and shared how they have been in Baja for 2 weeks rerunning about 2500 miles for a 500 mile section. Apdaly Lopez, a local resident and in his 5th year of racing, is already a two-time Trophy Truck class champion. Finally, they introduced the BFGoodrich Tires official BC1 team of Brian Finch, Lance Clifford, Larry McRae, Bob Bower, Bill Weber, Kyle Tucker, and Brad Lovell, all of which got to share a testimonial about the BFGoodrich Tires. The program finished with an epic video of Rob MacCachren as he is preparing to race for his 4th consecutive Baja 1000 win.
BFGoodrich Tires hospitality is also very apparent at the start line. New for this year, BFGoodrich has an elevated structure where guests will be able to see the start and finish. It truly is an epic view that the VIP guests will never be able to recreate. From contingency today to the start line on Thursday, most will then head to the airport to go down to La Paz to the finish line after a fun trip out to Pit 8. A few others have opted for a short trip to Pit 1 and then to a nice dinner and shuttle back to the US. The guests also had the opportunity to attend the press conference and get a ride on the Lucas Oil Offroad Short Course Track. There is no lack of spoiling going on here!
Behind the Scenes
I hope that you have been enjoying the behind the scenes snapshots that we have been able to expose. Not that we don’t love the racers and their stories, but sometimes, okay most the time, people forget how much work goes into just getting to the green flag from a business perspective. We aren’t finished exposing, but we do want to introduce you to some amazing racers we met in our next article.
Charlene Bower is the owner of Bower Motorsports Media since 2008, Ladies Offroad Network and Offroad Marketing School among other projects. Bower is a Performance Team Member for BFGoodrich Tires in addition to other honors and certifications. She has been working in the offroad industry for 23 years and has recently focused all her attention on supporting the ladies who love offroading. For the 50th SCORE Baja 1000, Charlene ran the 2nd Annual Ladies Offroad Challenge where anyone from across the country could enter to be her media assistant or participate in two other events. Megan Stevenson from CA earned the opportunity and is helping in the execution of this exciting project in coordination with BFGoodrich Tires.