Baja 1000 preview: Can Ken Block win?

Block teams up with a Baja 1000 winner and a 16-year-old for the Mexican off-road enduro


Ken Block won’t sleep very well tonight. Guaranteed. Actually, he won’t sleep at all tonight. Fact.

Just when most of us are finishing supper and thinking about a cheeky Thursday night digestif (likely to be a Limoncello for those in and around Piedmont for the World Rally Championship finale), Block will be stepping aboard an already warm Geiserbros G6 about a third of the way down Mexico’s Baja California peninsula.

And for the next five hours, KB and co-driver Alex Gelsomino will charge into the night chasing glory on one of the world’s most prestigious off-road events. They’ll deal with dust, rocks, riders and a whole lot more as they guide 1100bhp of unlimited class trophy truck south towards the finish in La Paz.

It’s Baja 1000 time again.

The 1000 is something Ken’s always fancied. He had half a go a few years, but that one didn’t end well. He’s hoping for more than a cactus plant in his lap this time around.

“I grew up in southern California,” he said. “I grew up around dirt bikes, trucks, quads and all that sort of stuff. My first crash in a four-wheeled vehicle was when I rolled a buggy in the dunes, so I’ve sort of been around that world.

“Baja’s always been in my psyche and something I’ve wanted to do. I’ve always thought it would be very cool.

“I have sort of done it before. Or I did some of it. Monster [Energy] put a bunch of athletes in some spec cars and I was in with a motocross rider. Because of my rallying background I drove the car first. We started 16th on the road and in 80 miles I’d passed everybody in my class.

“I think Baja suits my driving style, I have a pretty good knowledge of racing in the desert and I can read the road pretty well. So everything worked out pretty well. Then the other guy got in and after six miles, we rolled and I ended up with cactus in my lap!”

This time it’s Block who’s coming in with less experience. He’s sharing the truck with Baja winner Alan Ampudia and legend in his own short – like 16 years short – lifetime Jax Redline.


Ampudia en route to 2019 victory

“Jax is starting the race for us,” said Block. “He might only be 16, but he already has three or four years of really good experience of driving these cars off-road. I’ll take over for the middle sector before Alan drives to the finish.

“I guess I am the weak link this time, but I’ve done everything to prepare for this. I don’t plan on being that weak a link. I know there are a lot of people relying on me.”

The race is the full-length point-to-point Baja, going from Ensenada to La Paz. The trophy trucks have to stop to refuel every 150 to 200 miles and each of the three crews sharing will complete 400 miles.

“I’ve been working on my sleep pattern. I’ve been going to bed later and later to be ready to get in the car and drive into the night. I want to be 100% for this thing – not just drinking a bunch of caffeine on the night. I’ve obviously competed on rallies in the night and recently, so driving in the dark is something I’m used to.

“We’ll be doing some pre-running at night as well. The pre-running is like a recce. We make pacenotes, but they’re not as detailed as the ones we use in rallying. Alex will call all the junctions, but, for example he might call “Five hundred kinks” in a fast section with a bunch of fives and sixes in there. Don’t forget, this is an endurance event – we’re not at 10/10ths through every corner.

“I’m really looking forward to it. Rallying is, for me, still the best sport in the world, but I’ve always been fascinated with how capable a trophy truck is and now I’m going to get the chance to get in one.”

The Baja 1000 is a race which captures the imagination of everybody with an interest in cars. The King of Cool himself Steve McQueen did it. Paul Newman did it aged 80. Erik Carlsson and Jenson Button also have it on their CV.

It’s the sort of race that gets under your skin. The Baja can definitely do things to you.

A good friend completed the whole thing on a bike, solo. He rode the ironman solid for 60 hours. No sleep. He rode until his fingernails fell off.

DTM Spielberg 2018

That’s how much it gets to you.

Question is, can Ken win?

“I’m told we have a good chance,” he said.

A little over half a day after Redline sets the Geiser on a course with California at his back, we’ll know. Just over 1200 miles will be complete and another Baja adventure will be done and very much dusted.

Words:David Evans