It is going to be pretty hectic in Baja for the next 30 some hours. The Pro Motorcycle teams will do their qualifying in Ojos Negros this afternoon. While it will just be a quick lap around the short scrambles course, it will still require teams to spend most of the day out in the field. While the start position for the top bikes is typically not that critical. With the new night time start, I have to think that being first off the line, clear of any dust, will be an advantage. I expect the top riders; Weigand, Bell and Caselli, to all go flat out for that first position.
Most of the prerunning will already be completed as the teams will be wide open from now until the start tomorrow night. What IS left to prerun will be the start. That opens at midnight tonight. Riders will only have the wee hours of the night to learn the first 40 miles of the course. That is, if they want to see it in the dark, just like it will be when they race it. I hope everyone has teamed up with a riding partner to do this. Night time riding is sketchy enough, but through the suburbs of Ensenada makes it even worse.
There are not many places in Baja that make me think twice about riding. But this is one of them. Last June at the Baja 500 a rider was held up a gunpoint and had his bike stolen while riding the start. That was in broad daylight too! Even worse, it was a scenario of the thief acting as a rider who had crashed, just waiting for a helpful fellow rider to arrive and offer assistance.
The schedule keeps rolling on. Tomorrow morning will be tech inspection. That is followed by the press conference around noon. In the evening is the riders meeting. From there, the motorcycle riders will go almost directly to the start line for their 11pm call time. It will be a hectic day and a half and that is just to arrive at the start line! It is hard enough to find enough time to eat and sleep properly before a race even without all the additional work for this years race.
It will be very interesting to see what the night start brings. Will the teams take it easy and let the race be more of a procession until daylight. Will one try to sneak away in the dark? Will they all just go flat out? Will one team try come up with some alternate strategy just for these conditions?
Either way, let’s just hope for safe riding for everyone until daylight. There is a very good chance that the tone of the whole race will already be set as the sun comes up on Friday morning.