The Baja XL off-road rally race that runs through Baja California and Baja California Sur every two years is known as an “anything goes” sort of race, with few restrictions.
But as far as Baja California Sur officials are concerned, nothing goes this year due to the high coronavirus risk and they reacted swiftly to turn the racers back out of the state after the event kicked off last Friday in Baja California.
Civil Protection officials working with local police and the military intercepted drivers in towns along the rally route around one of the race’s Baja California Sur checkpoints in Guerrero Negro. In the town of San Ignacio, about 150 kilometers south of the checkpoint, about 50 drivers were detained and told they could no longer continue.
Authorities took down drivers’ information and then escorted them in their cars back to the Baja California border.
Drivers were left with little information about what to do next except for that on the event’s Facebook page, which informed them that authorities were aiming to turn them back north and they should try to to get to the nearest checkpoint.
This year’s rally, which began last Friday, has about 100 teams registered.
Some drivers’ objections that they had brought evidence of negative Covid-19 tests fell on deaf ears, as authorities said that the event itself was in violation of the state’s restrictions against large gatherings.
Civil Protection official Carlos Godínez told the newspaper Tribuna de Los Cabos that the operation to detain drivers was put into place as soon as officials realized that the rally was happening. He said that organizers had not obtained permission for the event.
Godénez also said the same criteria being applied to the local population regarding Covid-19 sanitary protocols would also apply to people coming from outside the state.
According to a notice posted by Baja XL organizers on their Facebook page, they were summoned to police headquarters in the town of Villa Alberto on Sunday and told that authorities would begin turning cars back starting that day.
Event organizers warned drivers on the Facebook page to “be prepared for a turnaround order.”
But for many participants, the rally carried on. Photos were posted to Facebook Monday of rally vehicles near Loreto.
The event, which usually begins and ends in Los Angeles, California, and does a large loop through Mexico, moved its starting point to Tecate, Baja California, this year, ironically because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The rally is scheduled to finish on February 7 in Tijuana.