Location: Baja Aragon
The mystery of Dakar desert and Baja California left their mark within the sports men and adventurers who were willing to fulfil their spare time with challenging experiences. At the beginning of the eighties, when the mythic Paris-Dakar was already consolidated as one of the most important raids events, a French-Spanish group lead by François Vincent and Carlos Gracia, who was at that moment president of the Aragonesa – Riojana Automobile Federation, decided to import the idea of these two events to Spain. Searching for the best possible route, they found in Aragon a beautiful semi-deserted area called Monegros, an unique place to enjoy, surrounded by amazing landscapes, which offered an ideal framework for the competition and with a perfect terrain for a 1.000 km non stop race. This was the beginning for BAJA SPAIN. At first it was called Montesblancos as the starting point was just besides the Montesblancos Casino. The big difficulties of the event, as the high temperatures and the dense dust, have been since the very first moment the most remarkable characteristics of a competition which has become a “classic” within the World Cup as well as one of the most appreciated in the International Calendar.
After the first three editions, new solicitors took charge of the organization, among them the current managing company Pro-Motor which now, years later, is once again involved with the race. Back on that time, the rules gained importance, this fitting with the International Regulations. Its compromise lasted for years, and after the cancellation of the event in 1992, due to the coincidence with the Olympic Games in Barcelona, it turned to be organized by theSpanish Federation. Such a charismatic race as BAJA could not disappear, and not only because of its crucial importance within the motor sports competition, but also for being an unique way of promoting Spain and Aragon thorough Europe.
In 1993 the Spanish Federation had to face the challenge of organizing an event which would be a vital round for the brand new World Cup. From that moment onwards, the presence of official teams such as Citroën, Mitsubishi, among others, would be usual. In the winner list of the competition we find world class drivers who have provided the BAJA ESPAÑA ARAGÓNwith enormous prestigious: Ari Vatanen, Pierre Lartigue, Jacky Icks, Timo Salonen, Jean Louis Schlesser… and more contemporaneous Nani Roma, Nasser Al Attiyah or Stéphane Peterhansel in cars; or riders such as Bacou, Arcarons, Mas, Gallardo, Steuri, Roma, Esteve, Coma, among others, in bikes.
Year 1999 set an historic precedent: for the first time, a Spanish driver, Jose Manuel Serviá, clinched victory in cars with other two country men, Miguel Prieto and Manuel Plaza, completing the final podium.
In the car’s list of winners, Jean Louis Schlesser is the most successful driver, with four victories to his tenure, while Nani Roma owns the general record of triumphs (6), both in bikes and cars. Regarding the manufacturers, Mitsubishi stands in the first position, with seven victories. Within the motorbikes, Isidre Esteve is the man who has accumulated more wins to his tally, five in total, all of them with KTM, the last one in 2006. The Austrian manufacturer has accumulated 19 triumphs in the BAJA so far, and they hadn´t meet defeat until Marc Guasch´s Yamaha took it from them in 2010´s edition.
In 2005, the competition entered a new phase with the arrival to the organization committee of the marketing company OCTAGON ESEDOS and RACE – Real Automóvil Club de España –, which would be in charge of the sports area, besides the support of Pro Motor – in charge of the route design-. Octagon, as an organizer for BAJA ESPAÑA, has the commitment of improving the level of former editions, with a special interest in including the participation of top class personalities together with the best riders and drivers in the event. Also willing to enhance the media coverage of the race, and with the inclusion of the trucks as a novelty – Francesc Selga and Jordi Torra (Iveco) – were the first winners with this big wheeled bulks. And all with the unconditional support from the regional Aragon government and the city council of Zaragoza, and the councils of the three Aragon provinces, Huesca, Teruel and Zaragoza.
Combining the dust, the heat, and the rocky and stony clay, this terrain brings out the best of man and machine in an impressive test of skill under the tricky conditions of a fierce environment, and it celebrated in 2008 its 25th anniversary. This 2016 will be its XXXIII, and it will be counting again for the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, as well as for the Baja FIM World Cup.