RACING WITH A HEART. Baja Charity Run 2 Update

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA BUSINESS LEADERS BRING A TOUCH OF CHARITY TO A LEGENDARY MEXICAN DESERT RACE

In its purest form, motorsports is a very greedy, very self-serving undertaking. The very nature of the sports demands taking, not giving. It demands time, devotion and money, lots of money. Auto racing has always been that way, and always will be. But if you scratch the surface, sometimes, just sometimes, you can find instances when the kindness of the human spirit can be added into the traditional, and often greedy, motorsports recipe.

Such was the case at the recent Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 desert race, when a team of big-hearted southern California businessmen and off-road racers came together to form “Team Wahoo’s Baja Charity Run 2.” Eschewing traditional conventional motorsports greed, this diverse group from various industries united to race the most famous desert marathon in the world while also donating much needed food and firefighting supplies to the people of San Felipe, a beachside village on the Sea of Cortez that stood at mile 357 of the 2008 Baja “Mil.”

Taking place just south of the border in Ensenada, Baja, Mexico, SCORE International’s iconic Baja 1000, while attracting adventure seekers from around the world since 1967, has been the dusty playground for racers from all around southern California. But in the year since the race’s 40th anniversary running in 2007, the violent news emanating from the often bloody drug wars (primarily centered in the border town of Tijuana) has not only made headline news, but also choked off much of the income towns like San Felipe derived from once healthy American tourism.

It was against this dramatic and dreary background that the Team Wahoo’s Baja Charity 2 was organized. The effort came together quickly, as life’s good things often do. The idea was a take-off of the original Baja Charity Run that was created for the 2006 race by Marty Fiolka, group editorial director locally-based Dirt Sports magazine. For that year, Fiolka organized three different race teams to benefit three different charities and was later awarded BFGoodrich Tire’s prestigious “Motorsports Person of the Year” for his work.

For 2008, Fiolka approached Eric Morley and Jeff Bentley of Blue C Advertising in Newport Beach and Wing Lam, founder of Santa Ana’s Wahoo’s Fish Tacos (a supporter of the original Baja Charity Run) and additional support of Monster Energy to resurrect the idea, this time with Wahoo’s as the primary supporter. Instead of focusing on three teams, the campaign would be centered around a southern California-built, 650-horsepower Penhall-Chevy Class 1 unlimited buggy driven by Lee Patten; Chris Paulsen, owner of Indianapolis-based C&R Racing, and Fiolka himself. Supplemental team members and co-drivers include Jim Riley of Ketel One Vodka; Nelson Stewart, father of NASCAR’s Tony Stewart and Rob Forman of 4 Wheel Parts/TransAmerican.

Within two weeks, support came in from Monster Energy Drink, 4Wheel Parts, BFGoodrich Tires, C&R Racing, Alpinestar, Patten Construction, Intersect Race Group, Herzog Electric and Speed Unlimited. Their quest? To not only kick-off the Wahoo’s Baja Charity run as an annual event, but to aide Baja 1000 race veteran and noted Baja philanthropist Nick Baldwin of San Juan Capistrano, Calif., who founded his AOK (Acts of Kindness) organization to fund and execute personal acts of giving throughout the world. Via AOK and Team Wahoo’s sponsors, on Wednesday, November 19 the Team Wahoo’s/Monster Energy race team came to two San Felipe kindergartens – Baja Mar and Jardin de Ninos – so that each could receive 634 cans of much- needed food to match the 634 miles that comprised the route of this year’s Tecate SCORE Baja 1000. For five years, Baldwin has personally rebuilt the school facilities and provided educational materials to help the children of San Felipe.

In addition, the effort also managed to donate a much needed “Jaws of Life” piece of firefighting to the local Baja Red Cross (Crus Rojas) equipment via San Diego-based Fire Etc. as well as joining the Carson, Calif.-based Full House Racing in their charitable contribution of a similar Jaws of Life for a very appreciative San Felipe fire station.

On race day, the good karma that should have followed the Team Wahoo’s Class 1 team failed to appear, as a broken transmission ended a very fine run at near race mile 120. Such is the nature of the incredible challenge that is the annual Baja 1000. The overall four-wheel victory was claimed by the #8 Trophy-Truck team of Baja legend Larry Roeseler (of Irvine, Calif.) and San Diego based racer and business man Roger Norman.

Despite the disappointment, all of the team principles vow to return in an even bigger way in 2009, armed with the knowledge that providing “AOKs” and following in the footsteps of generous men like Nick Baldwin is always the right thing to do – even in a resource devouring activity like racing in the Baja 1000. “I think I speak on behalf of all of us involved with this very cool coming together of racing and charity,” shared the ever smiling Wing Lam. “Any type of charitable effort, even a small first step like this one, seems to bring out the best in all of us. Without that, none of the truly great things in world would really be possible.” san-felipe-school-5_sized

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