Racing the Baja!
Opportunity for adventure doesn’t knock just once….it comes at you in mysterious ways. When something is in its infancy hardly anyone notices, so you have to be aware of what’s happening everywhere. Who’s doing what and how…and most importantly, how can you get there and be a part of it? Prior to Bruce Meyer inventing the dune buggy hardly anyone went into the deserts of Baja California. When Bud Ekins decided to ride a motorcycle all the way to La Paz, Meyer decided to beat his “record”. That was the beginning of what today is called off-road racing. The first Baja 1000 (then called the Mexican 1000) was held in 1967 and Brock wasn’t going to miss the chance to be a part of it. He knew nothing about Baja but went for it and it became his favorite form of motorsport. He hasn’t missed a Baja 1000 in decades!
In that first year, BRE prepared a Datsun pickup for a well known female motocross racer who had some experience there and Brock crewed to get some firsthand knowledge. They finished! Brock was hooked. The next year Brock himself drove a Datsun 510 four door sedan against the world famous Erik Carlsson, who was driving for the SAAB factory. “We were faster but kept breaking and came in second”; Brock reminisces.
In ’69 BRE entered the truck again plus three works-built Datsun 510 “Safari Cars”. Brock recounts: “I had one of the most exciting races of my career, but we still came in second to Carlsson! There was a reason for all this and it had much to do about learning Japanese culture. We knew before leaving the shop that the shocks on the car would fail, but there was nothing we could do about it as the factory didn’t want to fix the problem as it would cause someone in the company to lose face. We lost as a result but the experience was worth the effort.”
In the following years BRE continued to race Datsuns in the Baja, including a gloriously striking 240z. The large wheels and tires and oversized night driving lights BRE installed made it a sensation.
Shorty thereafter Brock discovered Ultralight flight and found hang-gliding too irresistible to not follow. With the impending fuel crisis and contingent lack of factory support, Brock shuttered BRE in ’73 and in 1974 founded UP (Ultralight Products) which became the largest hang gliding company in the world. Competitive as always, Brock used his race car experience to further the sport of long-distance hang-gliding. His UP team won six of the next seven years of World Cross Country Gliding Championships.
BRE was out of the car business but their experience with off-road racing ultimately led to Nissan’s own successful off-road program.
“Today I still love going to Baja and many other SCORE desert races because the competition and the cars are so varied and technically interesting. Nothing since the great days of the Can Am even approaches desert racing for appeal and pure adventure!”