The Best Off-Road Race You’ve Never Heard Of

May. 15, 2016 By Art Eugenio, Photos by Art Eugenio/

For 23 years the Dos Mares 500 has been run out of La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico, and for those 23 years it has been a race many dream of entering, one that those who have entered love to drive, and it is a crown jewel victory for those who have previously won it. The unbridled beauty of Baja Sur combine with this fabled race, and it just so happened that we were in the area and were finally able to see the event that we’d only heard about.

The off-road race culture in Baja Sur is very strong, as seen by the more than 250 entries the Dos Mares brings every year. For many, this is an area where the dreams of being an off-road champion are born, with scenes and murals of off-road racecars painted on walls in almost every town you pass through. Many ex-race cars from the States start their second life here in Southern Baja, while other vehicles are painted in tribute to their favorite race star from the States. Baja Sur is off-road culture personified.

Contingency for the Dos Mares 500 took place on the Malecon in La Paz (or the “boardwalk" for us English speakers) the evening before the race with a party atmosphere that rivals any U.S.-based promotion. Fans gather and mingle with their favorite racers, posing for photos and checking out the racecars as they parade through the streets.

Dos Mares literally translates to “Two Seas.” The race takes a ceremonial start in the city of La Paz and then restarts 30 miles north on the shore of the Sea of Cortez in the late afternoon. From there the course takes racers through the best of Baja Sur from the Sea of Cortez to the Pacific Ocean, through vast canyons and cactus forests connected by high-speed dirt roads with sporadic technical sections and silt beds. The racecourse offers a true test of driver and machine.

As the race turns south and loops back down the Pacific Coast and onto La Paz, the sun sets and the racers get to test their skill at night. Spectator campfires can be seen for miles, dotting the countryside as they stay out late to cheer on the racers under the Baja night sky.

Once a standalone race, the Dos Mares 500 is now part of a nine-race series championship recently created by consolidating all the local series that ran in Baja Sur.

We were lucky enough to speak to Rogerio Ampudia, State Secretariat of Tourism for Baja California Sur, about what’s been done with the race and his role in the new series in Baja Sur.

“As soon as I started working in the government I started to think I could be involved and make off-road racing in Baja Sur more professional and have only the one championship,” said Ampudia. “I started talking to the local promoters about my idea and everybody liked it, but they thought it was going to be an impossible job due to rivalries between promoters, but I liked the challenge to do it.”

Eventually Ampudia was able to get promoters together to discuss a realistic plan to make this series work.

“Then the plan started to take shape, and we were in 2.5 hours meetings twice a week for 10 months and finally we signed an agreement,” he said. “From there we laid out all the rules and regulations for racing, found the correct insurance for the championship, and then if it will be federated by CNO (federal off-road commission) which it is.”

Aside from the issues with logistics and competing promoters, the other challenges in creating the new series were finding the proper financial backing.

“It was not an easy task to do all of this things,” Ampudia said. “The most important [thing is] to have budget to do it. So I started doing it myself then asking for sponsors for the champions in each class. It is the first time any promoter in the USA and Mexico has got money for the racers, and right now we have collected 850,000 pesos for the champions. We expect more during this year and for next year.”

Ampudia also says he hopes to get television coverage of the series.

“I have also talked to Fox Sports TV to do the coverage,” he said. “We’ve already have had two meetings and I hope to get the budget to cover the production costs to cover it. Fox Sports TV is the one that covers Dakar, so if we got it will be televised in USA, Mexico and Latin America.”

Races in Baja Sur are growing considerably this year thanks to the added attention. Ampudia told us that race in Baja Sur last year only averaged about 60 entries. The first race of the year in Los Barriles had nearly 150, the second in San Jose had 165, and this year’s Dos Mares had 198. 

“This is all very exciting and we’re attracting racers from all over,” Ampudia said. “Dos Mares was part of the Mexican off road championship so we got racers from Guadalajara, Sinaloa, Baja Norte, Coahuila as well as many who came from the U.S. to race the Dos Mares every year.”

If you’d like a different place to test your skill amongst like-minded and friendly people, take a chance and try a race with the folks down south. You wont be disappointed. For more information about the race, visit the website at, and check out their Facebook page at “Campeonato Off Road Baja Sur.” Newsletter
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