It’s probably the first time the waiter in Ensenada has heard these two words, but he takes them in his stride: “Ta, cobber.” In turn, Chris Western takes to the largest steak on the menu—he double-checked to make sure—with gusto.
The 40-year-old Gold Coast resident is in Ensenada, in Mexico’s Baja California state, to take on the SCORE International Baja 1000, the crowning event of off-road racing’s international calendar. It’s a massive affair, about 1820 kilometres point-to-point, Ensenada to La Paz, with few opportunities for drivers such as Chris, who will be behind the wheel the whole way—“ironman-ing” it—to catch any shut-eye.
It’s also hugely popular. The population of Ensenada, an hour south of Tijuana and the US–Mexico border, has exploded in the lead-up. The bars and restaurants are overflowing with Americans, Mexicans, Europeans and Japanese in heavily branded T-shirts, and local children accost them at every turn for handfuls of team stickers. Chris’s Off-Road Rush Mickey Thompson Race Team—friends and family, including his parents, his wife and three kids—runs out of theirs before the race has even begun.