Riding a motorcycle has been a constant presence for the vast majority of 43-year-old Mike Inglis’ life.
After beginning to ride competitively in his 20s, Inglis has made his way through the various racing circuits, the most recent of which is endurance racing.
“I’ve raced motorcycles for a long time and I’ve raced a lot of different kinds of motorcycles in different types of races,” Inglis stated.
Nearly a decade ago, the thought of racing in the SCORE Baja 1000 was just an idea that Inglis entertained.
“It was in my mind for about 10 years. I did a 24-hour off road race in 2008 with a team of guys, and after the race I talked to those guys and said, ‘Hey let’s talk about racing Baja.’ They told me no way, that I was crazy and that they wanted no part of it,” Inglis explained.
Two years ago, Inglis decided that it was time to make his dream of racing in the Baja 1000 a reality.
“I made the decision that I was going to do it. I tried to get one of my friends to do it and have a two-rider team, but he would never commit to it,” Inglis stated. “Finally I just got to the point where I said, ‘This is something that I really want to do and I’m going to do it.’ I put together a plan and started mapping everything out logistically and financially. Two years later, here I am all ready to go.”
The Baja 1000, which is put on by SCORE International, is an off-road race held in Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula every November.
“There are three things they take pride in — it’s the world’s most expensive off-road race, it’s the world’s most dangerous off-road race and it’s the world’s most physically demanding, hardest off-road race,” Inglis commented.
The race alternates routes based on odd and even years between the Ensenada-to-Ensenada loop and the Ensenada to La Paz point-to-point.
This year, racers will travel the loop course, beginning Thursday and ending on Nov 17.
“The race course is not closed off to anybody. There have been racers who have died colliding with cars and there have been racers who have died colliding with livestock,” Inglis said. “There are a lot of dangerous things down there; it’s kind of like the Wild West once the race gets started.”
Anyone can enter the exhilarating and dangerous off-road race, and participants race in all sorts of vehicles such as motorcycles, trophy trucks, ATVs and dune buggies.
According to the Mexico-bound rider, the grueling, approximately 1,000-mile race is something he thinks almost all off-road racers consider, but rarely commit to.
“Baja is one of those races that I think anybody who races off-road motorcycles at least considers. Most people look into it and realize what it takes and either don’t want to spend the time, money or put themselves in that much danger — I do, though,” Inglis declared.
The seasoned endurance rider has set a pretty tough goal for himself when it comes to his ideal finish time.
“There is a 36-hour cutoff, but I plan to do it in 24 hours. I will just stop to maintain the bike and maybe get a drink of water and a banana, then get right back at it,” Inglis commented. “I will have to average 37 mph, which will be impossible in some of those canyons. There are 100 mph sections and there’s 15 mph sections.”
For Inglis, who will also be known as 743X on Nov. 14, the adventure aspect is one of the biggest draws of the Baja 1000.
“I fully expect this race to change who I am in a good, way and I think that it already has, even in just the planning stage. There are so many things that you’ll come across and overcome during that race,” Inglis stated. “I’ve had some experience with that, doing 24-hour endurance races, but there is the safety of it being a closed course and if something happens someone will be there within minutes. You take the safety aspects out in Baja, and it just adds a level of excitement and adventure that you don’t get anywhere else.”
Inglis will compete in the Baja 1000 as an individual rider in the Ironman class.
“This year is the first year that the promoters have had an Ironman class specifically for motorcycles. I inadvertently made history because I was the first ever Ironman [motorcycle] entry to the Baja 1000. They let me pick my number and when I wanted to start,” Inglis explained. “There are eight entries in that class and there might be one or two more by the time of the race.”
A group of four friends will be traveling alongside Inglis to Mexico.
“I’ve got a crew that’s going down with me that will piggyback me in a truck at different points. I probably won’t see them until 350 miles in. I’ve also hired a pit service, JCR Honda pit service, and they’ll set up about every 60 to 70 miles, and will have gas and spare parts if I need it,” Inglis commented.
In order to be even more prepared, Inglis has reached out to experienced Baja racers.
“I have connected with some people through friends of friends and Facebook who have done the race in the past. I’m trying to get as much information as I can,” Inglis stated. “Honestly the people who are real superstars of this race, real high-profile people in desert racing, have been very approachable and very open to handing out information. They want everybody to succeed, which is a cool thing about this.”
Through this communication, the Clevelander has learned about some of the more dangerous aspects of the race.
“The locals will booby trap the course to make it more exciting for themselves and they will also steer competitors the wrong way,” Inglis described. “A lot of the times they will set up a jump that doesn’t look like a jump. Also, they will dig holes and fill them in with soft sand in a fast section, so you’ll be going along and then hit one of those and go tumbling. I requested to start at the back of the motorcycles and let the more experienced guys go first. That gives me a chance to let all that play out before I get there.”
Inglis has also received some very helpful advice from past participants.
“The most helpful advice that I’ve gotten was from a guy who did it a couple years ago with his dad, and didn’t finish. When we first started planning this trip, I wanted to bring my own gas and do my own pit stops, and the guy pointed out that logistically it was impossible,” Inglis said. “I also found out that as far as communication went, everything I thought would work, wouldn’t — so I had to start all over. I’ve been through several of those situations, where I’ve had a plan but then find out that it won’t work, so we have to scratch it and start all over.”
For Inglis, who is married and has a 5-year-old son, there are many serious factors to take into consideration.
“Typically they start the motorcycles at 5:30 in the morning. This year, they are starting the motorcycles at 11 at night, so the first seven hours of the race will be in the dark. They don’t allow aircraft to fly at night, so if something happens in that first seven hours it may take a long time for someone to get to you because there is no [medical evacuation] helicopter. You’re on your own at night until someone can get there to help you,” Inglis stated. “There are a lot of bad things that can happen out there. When you commit to this, you have to accept that injury or even death is a possibility. If you don’t accept that, you go into the race unprepared, and that’s very dangerous.”
For the past two years, Inglis has been constantly prepping, training, and fundraising for his Baja dream.
“There are teams that go down there and have endless resources. We’ve had to scrounge for money just to make this happen,” Inglis described. “We’ve had people give donations, done some fundraisers and picked up some sponsors along the way. Logistically and financially, we’ve really had to fight to get things together.”
Some of the sponsors the 43 year-old has picked are Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Southern Honda Powersports, Arnette Goggles, Warp 9 and Hooters of Chattanooga.
He will be riding a Honda CRF 450X, which has been modified for the extreme conditions of Baja.
“When we got into this I didn’t realize how many modifications really had to be done to the bike. We’ve had to do a lot of things to that bike to make it not only competitive but able to handle the terrain and gas mileage.”
While fine tuning the bike, Inglis has also been fine tuning himself in order to be in excellent shape for the race.
“Physically speaking, you have to be in top shape to be down there and I’ve pushed my body to the limit in my training to get myself ready. The big thing about fatigue down there is that’s when you make mistakes and can get hurt very badly, so it’s important to train yourself to stay mentally focused,” Inglis explained. “I do a lot of bicycling and running. Once a week, on top of my regular training, I do weight and endurance training, as well as mountain biking and road biking. Basically I do the equivalent of a mini-triathlon once a week.”
During his last couple weeks of training, Inglis wound up with an injury to his right foot and ankle, which forced him to take it a little bit easier up until the race.
At his sendoff party at Bud’s Sports Bar on Nov. 7, Inglis said his foot had healed up well and he was ready to hit the road for Mexico.
With the race right around the corner, Inglis is still enjoying the fact his dream has become a reality.
“Now it’s the culmination of all the work I’ve put in, as well as my friends and those close to me who have taken a lot of time out of their personal lives,” Inglis detailed. “There are many people that it’s very important to that I finish this race. I don’t take it lightly, because I’ve had people that have told me that I’ve inspired them to go out and do something. When things get tough out there I will remind myself that I’m not just doing it for me, I’m doing it for all those who believe in me.”
For those wishing to track Inglis’ progress in the Baja 1000, visit his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/beatdownracingbaja, which, if everything goes according to plan, will have Inglis’ spot tracker synched with it to provide real-time updates as to where he is in the peninsula.
SCORE International will also have race updates on its website, at www.score-international.com.
“Just to get there and be on that starting line is a huge accomplishment,” Inglis proclaimed. “I feel like it’s already changed my mental way of thinking about the things that can be done. I think about all the people who said it was impossible and wouldn’t happen and it’s done; the entry fee is paid, all the pit service is paid, the bike is built, we have GPS and radios and are fully prepared. Now it’s just time to go do it.”