Baja 1000 thrills of a lifetime

This story originally appeared in the October 22, 2020 Inquirer and Mirror.

400 miles deep in the Mexican desert last November, Dave Dunn fell into a trap. He was halfway through the Baja 1000, considered perhaps the most dangerous off-road race in the world. On his Husqvarna FE501 off-road motorcycle he was thousands of miles away from his daily job, working as a manager at the Sconset Casino.

The race is notorious for a small number of hooligan spectators who attempt to sabotage parts of the course, in the hopes of seeing an accident.

In a fraction of a second, his race was over. He hit a hidden ditch that made him fly over the handlebars. He cracked a few ribs and destroyed his communications equipment. Without the ability to radio communicate with his team to pick him up, Dunn had to drift for hours, alone in the Mexican wilderness before reaching a pit stop and being able to radio communicate with his team. He was one of more than half of the participants who couldn’t complete the race.

Despite all this, Dunn, 31, wants to return to race again in 2021.

“It’s so much fun to be in this arena,” he said. “The adventure of it all. It really is like the Wild West. There were times when I was on my bike, we couldn’t see anyone. I was literally on this mountain range and could see for miles you feel so adventurous. It’s a bit intoxicating. If I never finish racing for the rest of my life, it’s okay as long as I’m here and in this world.

When Dunn reached his late twenties, he realized that it was now or never if he wanted to compete in some of the long distance events like the Baja 1000, which had captured his imagination when he was young. .

“I didn’t want to get to a point in my life where I look back and wish I had done X, Y or Z,” he said. “It was time for me to start doing these things. And I hope to inspire some people to step out of their comfort zone.

It’s more of a hobby than a job. Dunn funds his entire operation, with the help of a few sponsors who help offset the cost of the operation. Along with the thousands of dollars in registration fees required to participate in the Baja 1000, a race that requires over 30 hours of driving over a handful of days, you need a support team that includes mechanics and managers. .

Dunn’s racing team, Mystery Moto understands his lifelong friend and fellow islander Jason Sibley-Liddle as crew chief, crew chief Rick Hoffman who was a former Union Pacific Railroad engineer, Greg Nearhood who was in charge of operating a support vehicle as well as Dunn’s wife, Emily, who was the race coordinator. Jonathan Nimerfroh was the team photographer.

“Maybe I’m the one riding the bike, but it’s all a team effort. You cannot do it yourself ”, Dunn said.

Dunn started off-road motorcycling at the age of 16, on the local Nantucket off-road motorcycle track. It’s one of those sports that you don’t equate to Nantucket. But just off Industry Road, away from the squash and tennis courts, is the Nantucket Dirt Bike course, a small stretch of narrow, winding dirt track with a handful of jumps.

The track helped nurture Dunn’s running addiction and keep him in shape during the offseason.

“I don’t think people realize how lucky we are to have this track,” he said. “When I go off the island, I have to drive an hour to the trail, pay $ 40, then drive another hour to the house. Here you can be on the track in 10 minutes, and it’s free.

Dunn’s friend Andy Meier, who moved to Nantucket from Missouri this year, couldn’t believe how enjoyable the Nantucket dirt bike trail was, but also that it was free. As soon as he saw it, he went out this spring and bought himself a new mountain bike.

“They did a great job maintaining it. This is one of the most enjoyable tracks I’ve been on, there are a lot of people coming out and it’s fun to race (against each other), ”said Meier.

Once he got serious about the Baja 1000, Dunn used the Nantucket track to stay in racing shape, although it wasn’t the same terrain he would see in Mexico, it was essential for keep him from regressing while he worked at Sconset Casino.

“Having that track over there on Nantucket, there’s no way to train for those off-road races on the island,” he said. “I’m not the type to go through the Moors. and to somehow destroy the natural beauty of the island. The fact that we have a designated area that is very safe to ride, you can get the most out of it, regardless of the discipline you focus on.

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About Frances R. Smith

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