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DUST TO GLORY
USA: IFC Films
Cast (driver appearances): Jimmy Vasser, Robbie Gordon, Ivan Stewart, Mike Groff, Robbie Groff, Michele Jourdain Jr, Roberto Guerrero, Mike "Mouse" McCoy, Johnny Campbell, Ryan Arciero, Alan Pflueger, Mark Miller, Malcolm Smith, JN Roberts, Jimmy Roberts, Larry Roeseler, Ricky Johnson, Parnelli Jones
Cast (celebrity appearances): Mario Andretti, Chad McQueen, Bruce Brown, Jesse James, Paul Page, Steve McQueen (archive), James Garner (archive), Tara Dakedis
Director: Dana Brown
USA: 97 mins
USA Rated: PG for racing action and peril, and for some language
USA Release Date: 8 April 2005 (Limited Release - wider)
USA Release Date: 1 April 2005 (Limited Release)
Every fall since 1967 a hearty and eclectic band of adventurers have gathered in Ensenada, Mexico in Baja California for one of the roughest, toughest and most exhilarating rides ever concocted. It's the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000, the longest non-stop, point-to-point race in the world. Now award-winning filmmaker Dana Brown (STEP INTO LIQUID) plunges into the world of the Baja 1000 with DUST TO GLORY a feature documentary that captures all the excitement, hard knocks, sights and sounds of this extraordinary event.
Using over fifty cameras and a crew of ninety, Brown puts the audience right in the middle of a race often called the most dangerous in the world. But the Baja 1000 is not only about the competition but the camaraderie among some 1200 participants driving 270 vehicles of all sizes and shapes in a carnival atmosphere witnessed by 200,000 spectators. As much as anything, DUST TO GLORY celebrates the unique people and geography of Baja, from sun-baked mountains to dusty deserts to the crystal blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. "The place is everything," says Brown. "If the race were someplace else, it wouldn't be the same. It's like a going back in time."
Among the people Brown introduces us to is Mike "Mouse" McCoy (who also served as one of the film's producers), a motorcycle maniac who gives new meaning to the term hard-nosed. For reason known only to himself, Mouse has decided to ride the entire 1000 miles of the race solo— with no other drivers to spell him for over 18 hours.
Also along for the ride are three generations of the McMillin family, including 16 year-old prodigy Andy, with a brand new Calif. driver's license, tearing down dirt roads in their open wheel Class 1 buggy. Keeping it all in the family is the contentious father-son team of JN and Jimmy Roberts. 62 year-old JN won the first Baja in 1967 but hasn't been back in thirty years. Then there's an all-women team as well as the remarkable sight of relatively unmodified pre-1983 VW bugs—the little engines that could—pushing to make it across the finish line.
And presiding over the whole event as the Grand Marshall is the almost angelic presence of the most famous racer alive, Mario Andretti, who seems like there is no place on earth he would rather be. In fact, celebrities have long been a part of the amazing scene and Steve McQueen and James Garner make cameo appearances in archival footage. Racing everything from motorcycles hitting speeds up to 120 mph, 800 horsepower trophy trucks, dune buggies with Porsche engines and even the diminutive Bugs, everyone is there just for the joy of it all and the accomplishment of completing something nearly impossible. And thanks to DUST TO GLORY even those less adventurous get to thrill in the ride of a lifetime.
History of the Baja 1000
The Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 is an unparalleled odyssey that has inspired generations of adventure seekers from around the world. Perhaps no other race in history has brought its participants—winners and losers alike—a greater sense of achievement, a greater sense of purpose or a greater sense of glory.
As is the case with many great challenges, the Baja 1000 started by accident. In 1965, two adventurous guys on a motorcycle decided they wanted to go from Tijuana, just over the border from the U.S., to La Paz, at the southern tip of the Baja peninsula, just to see if they could do it. So they got a paper stamped at the police station in Tijuana and ventured down the coast. When they reached La Paz, they did the same thing. And that's what started it all. After that, guys in four-wheel vehicles said, 'Hey, if they could do it, why don't we go down and try it? It has evolved into what is today one of the best known motor sports events in the world.
After a couple of years of people just going down to Baja on their own, a gentleman by the name of Ed Pearlman started a very loose organization called NORRA (National Off-Road Racing Association). He put some rules and regulations together specifying the different categories of vehicles and created the basis for an event put on with the cooperation of the Mexican government. The first race was held in 1967 and continued until 1971 before running into logistical problems. The Mexican government then put it on for a year, but that proved equally problematic.
One of the daring characters who came down to race in those days was Sal Fish, who drove a Baja Bug sponsored by the Revell model car kit company. "That's what put me in touch with he peninsula and the people and I fell in love with it," says Fish. "But never did I think at that time that I'd own the company or that I'd still be here."
In 1973, Fish left his job and became president of SCORE International, producing entity for the Baja 1000, and has been running the race ever since. "It's like a third world war to organize," says Fish. "It's unbelievable. I started 31 years ago. Governments change, people change, the land changes, the climate changes. You just have to keep the ball in the air at all times."
Categories of vehicles may come and go (there are now 26 pro classes), but the spirit of the race remains surprisingly unchanged from its early rough and tumble days. "Old timers say the race is a little more civilized but I think it's probably pretty close to what it was," says Brown. "Some of the guys who were in the early races and are now in their sixties or seventies are still either in the race or hanging around. It's not a money deal; it's not a fame deal, they just love it."
"Believe it or not, we're on the same roads and trails we used back in the early 70s," adds Fish. "Some have been paved or grated, but basically the footprint is the same as the early guys used. The event has grown, partially because SCORE has exposed the peninsula to tourism. Back in the early 70's Baja was not a destination spot. At that time, the Governor of Baja invited us down so we could help promote what a beautiful place it was. He thought if we did that the gringos would come down."
And they have. Today the event has become international. Competitors from Russia, Spain, Italy, France, England, Germany, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Japan take part in the race. The Baja 1000 has kept its popularity because it has not lost the spirit it was created with.
"This race is the only forum in motor sports that pits man and machinery against the elements," says Fish. "It's not like going into the Holiday Inn and getting your two hite towels and your bottled water. Baja is still quite a few years behind in everything, hich is nice. It's raw, you still have that cowboy roughing it effect. The race is about going own and doing something, and when you have a problem, you have to figure out how to get ut of it. That's something I've tried to keep in mind, we always wanted the race to have that feeling."