Dust to Glory, the second film by Dana Brown (Step into Liquid), chronicles this journey, placing cameramen all over Baja, Mexico, to catch the action.
"The Baja 1000 is the most famous race that nobody’s ever heard of," says Mike "Mouse" McCoy, a racer and one of the film’s producers. "Trying to chase a live dragon across the desert is really daunting so [television] has given up on it. We had to approach this like an all-out military operation."
Originally, Sal Fish, owner of the Baja 1000, was reluctant to let the crew film the race, but after meeting with Brown and his team, Fish gave in because of Brown’s reputation from his previous film.
Soon after the green light, the producers began to assemble the team, but were afraid that nobody would answer the call.
"[The crew] was going to be sleeping in the middle of the desert with no food and no water, and we were blown away by the amount of people that wanted to work on this film," says producer Scott Waugh.
In the race, vehicles are separated into classes, but a 1982 Volkswagen Beetle and a 2005 850-horsepower trophy truck will eventually end up on the same course through mountains, desert and ocean.
Spectators also add to the drama, often being so close to the race that any wrong turn by a racer could take out an entire group of people.
"Motorcycle riders are always aware that if you turn too wide, you’re going to crash into somebody, but the car guys have to worry about killing people," says McCoy.
The crowd isn’t merely subjected to danger, though; sometimes it’s the cause of it.
"A lot of the time [the spectators] are awesome, they’re your biggest fans, but a few guys who drink beer all day like to build booby traps," says McCoy. "They’ll bury telephone polls or dig ditches, do all kinds of shit to watch you crash. Then they help you get back up, but a lot of [racers] get really hurt like that."
The movie follows the journey of many different racers – a father and son team, an all-woman team and a pair stuck in a broken-down Beetle – but the most compelling story is McCoy’s.
"What I was trying to do personally, which was to solo the Baja 1000 on a motorcycle, set me up for failure big time. A lot of people said this was going to eat [me] alive," he says. "I knew that I was doing this in front of all these cameras, so if I failed, I [was] going to fail big."
Brown says he wasn’t sure whether the film would have reached completion had somebody died while filming, but the race’s fatality rate – 40 people in 37 years – was not a factor. Only one person, who wasn’t involved in the Baja 1000, was killed, but many were injured, including McCoy.
"It was the roughest section of the course, my arms were locked up and my whole body was just destroyed physically. I hit a big rock-shell thing at about 75 miles per hour and flipped over the handlebars," he says. "I broke my ribs, my hand, my shoulder separated and I bashed my head really good, too."
After the crash, his adrenaline kicked in and McCoy got back on his bike to finish the race, but says that for days after he couldn’t get out of bed – and he never went to the hospital for his injuries.
Dust to Glory gives an excellent look into one of the most dangerous races known to man, displaying plot twists so far-fetched that the film wouldn’t be believable if it weren’t a documentary.
"This film is real – real men going out and really risking their lives," says McCoy. "This isn’t some computer-generated animation film. We wanted to give a 100 percent true-to-life racing film."
Dust to Glory releases in theaters April 1.