The Baja 500 is a notoriously dangerous race. In some instances it has even proved fatal. To give you an idea of just the kind of experience our very own Team BaDoink will be facing as they race across the Mexican desert, here’s four of the worst accidents to have gone down during the Baja.
The first Baja 500 death we’ll look at took place in 1996 during a race when a local police cruiser pulled in front of a motorcyclist. Witnessed by Jeff Lewis, a San Clemente driver who raced against Jason Baldwin for three years in Trophy Trucks and who won the Class 7 race as recently as 2013, it was the case, Lewis insisted, that spectators often put themselves in a dangerous position to watch the races, “not thinking what could happen. There was probably more fault with the spectators than with anyone involved,” Lewis told the L.A. Times. “To be able to see a race course and put yourself in a position like that, it’s kind of crazy.” With local police expected to be everywhere over the area of the 450-mile track, the police tend to go almost as fast was the race drivers.
At the 39th running on June 5, 2007, a competitor, Chris Lokken of Carlsbad, was killed in a rollover accident. Riding in a buggy that had its transmission break down on the 196th mile of the Tecate SCORE 500 off-road rally early Sunday shortly after midnight. He had, according to an A.P. source, no radio communication but managed to flag down a passing truck, which was simultaneously competing in another race class. The truck’s two drivers’ agreed to drive him to the next checkpoint, to get assistance. Lokken then sat in behind the seats inside the stretched cab, an area with no seat or seatbelt. He did wear a helmet, but it was unbuckled, SCORE Chief Executive Officer Sal Fish said.
The truck was about a mile away from its checkpoint destination when the course went up a steep hill. The truck couldn’t make it. The driver backed up and gunned it. Unfortunately, it went over the side, rolling over and over down a 100-yard ravine. Lokken was thrown from the truck and his helmet came off. He died, at the scene, of head and internal injuries. The other two people in the truck, wearing their helmets and seatbelts, were not hurt.
At the 45th running, a spectator was killed and two kids critically injured in the crash of an off road racer. The modified road racer driven by Kevin Price of San Francisco, California; it rolled and tumbled into the crowd on a curve that had already been the scene of other accidents during the race, crushing Vital Jorge Armando Limas and injuring two young boys aged 11 and 16. Local police had already pulled the crowd back from the curve but as soon as the cops quit and left the scene, the crowd pressed their way to the side of the track, rushing back into the danger zone. Price was arrested and released after posting a $23,000 bond with Mexican authorities.
Kevin Price Accident
On June 2, 2013, although there’s no mention of it in either Mexican or local American news sources, The Baja Nomad blog reported that an unidentified motorcycle rider who took on a dune at high speed, “landed between two spectators.” A municipal police report named the victim as Jorge Armando Vital Files, 39. A minor named Marco Antonio “N”, 11, was injured. Other details were unavailable.