For even casual off-road racing fans, Ivan “Ironman” Stewart needs no introduction. His name rests in the most elite pantheon of competitors who have braved the Baja Peninsula in a quest for glory. With three Baja 1000 wins and an amazing 17 Baja 500 wins, Stewart has more than made his mark in Baja racing’s fabled lore.
For the 46th annual Tecate SCORE Baja 1000, Stewart has made another one, serving as Grand Marshal for off-road racing’s most famous event. Off-Road.com caught up with the “Ironman” as he stood at the starting line, waiting for the truck and buggy classes to get underway today. Here’s what he had to say:
We know you enjoy coming down to Baja, as it is such a big part of your life. How have you enjoyed this particular experience, being the Grand Marshal for the 46th annual Tecate SCORE Baja 1000?
To be in Mexico and be around all of my competitors and friends that I raced against for years is always special, and it gets more special every year. I tell the story all the time that this has become a huge three-day event. And if they don’t forget to do it, they throw an off-road race in the middle of it. (laughs) It is almost a bigger event than it is an off-road race.
So you are obviously having a good time?
Oh yes. It feels like I’m in my second home.
This year’s race is a long race, 883.1 miles, and the course is very technical. We suppose that a couple drivers may have come to you for advice, asking if you remember this old section or that old section. How about it?
They’re still running many of the same roads as when I raced down here, but the biggest difference is that the roads are so much rougher now because they’ve got such huge tires. With these 42-inch tires they make much deeper furrows. The courses have gotten a lot rougher over the years for that reason, and it also takes more horsepower. The guys I feel sorry for are the guys in the little classes with the small tires. They’ll have to plow through it because they can’t get up on top of the bumps.
Any predictions as to who will win the race?
There are so many good drivers and teams here that I would never venture to pick someone. You’d have to go by their records. Robby (Gordon) has obviously got a tremendous record down here. It’s going to be a rough race. It always is. It’s the Baja 1000, and it will never change. The guys that finish, it’s going to be special for them, and there are lot of guys that won’t.
But the sale of SCORE to Roger Norman by Sal Fish has brought about some change. How do you like what you have seen in SCORE now that Roger has taken over and applied his vision to the organization?
I support Roger and Elise Norman because I believe in what they are doing. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be here. I think change is good. Roger has the passion for it, he has the resources and he has the vision. He is making changes, but that is how you learn. Not everybody is going to be happy with the changes that he makes, but if you don’t do anything you never learn anything. So he is learning, and I will continue to support him because he is going in the right direction.
MORE SCORE BAJA 1000 COVERAGE
Photo Highlights of the 2013 SCORE Baja 1000