How to celebrate launching a new motorcycle with better off-road ability? How about immediately putting it into one of the toughest and most legendary non-stop desert races? That’s the kind of approach we can respect, as Triumph enter the new Scrambler 1200 XE for the Baja 1000.
With relatively few modifications, the new Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE will be raced by stuntman and off-road racer Enrie Vigil on a gruelling course linked to motorcycling since it was first created back in the 1960s. A route from Tijuana to La Paz was originally ridden by Dave Ekins and Billy Robertson Jnr, covering 952.7 miles in 39 hours and 56 minutes. As cars and motorcycles competed to beat that time, the first NORRA Mexican 1000 Rally kicked off in 1967.
Now part of the desert racing World Championship, the Baja 1000 varies slightly in route and length most years. But the concept remains the same as all sorts of vehicles compete at the same time, with classes for cars, trucks, ATVs, buggies and motorcycles. It’s known as a tough race both for the natural conditions. And the unfortunate habit of spectators to add additional hazards for racers to liven things up even more.
Fortunately Ernie Vigil is both a talented freestyle stunt rider, and has regularly raced off-road. Including previous Baja and relaunched NORRA events. In the past he competed on a Triumph Tiger, regularly reaching speeds of around 130mph on dirt. Check out this classic ‘City is my Playground‘ video featuring Vigil riding for Icon clothing back in 2013 for an example of his skills.
And he’ll be following in historic tyre tracks. Notable competitors in the Baja 1000 motorcycle class include the legendary Malcolm Smith. He won the race six times (3 on a motorcycle), and also won eight gold medals in the International Six Day trail, riding alongside Steve McQueen and Mert Lawwill when he was featured in the classic documentary On Any Sunday.
Other motorcyclists noted for their involvement include stunt rider and desert racer J.N. Roberts, Marc Coma, Bruce Ogilvie (who won Baja events in four different decades), Travis Pastrana, AMA MX champion Marty Smith, Jeremy McGrath, Cyril Despres, and the late Kurt Caselli. Celebrities other than McQueen include four-wheel fans such as actor James Garner, Mike Nesmith of the Monkees, and Paul Newman, who became the oldest-ever participant when he competed in 2004 at the age of 80.
Ernie said; “I am so excited to get the chance to not only take on the Baja 1000, but also to be the first racer to take Triumph’s next generation Scrambler back to desert racing where it all began.”
The 2019 Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE Baja Racer:
Triumph has been involved since the start of desert scramblers back in the 1960s. The stripped back bodywork and exhausts of the early racers led to production scramblers including the 1963 Triumph Bonneville T120TT, the Bonneville 120c, the TR6C and SC. Which were used by the likes of Steve McQueen for off-road racing and competing in the International Six Days Trial (ISDT) for the USA team. It was also the brand of choice for multiple British ISDT teams, and for other American desert racers like Bud Ekins.
But when Triumph enter the new Scrambler 1200 XE for the Baja 1000 in 2018, it’ll be with relatively few changes to the standard motorcycle.
The Scrambler 1200 XE has a new race exhaust system and tuning. And it has also been lightened in line with the Baja 1000 race specifications. Obviously items like the pillion pegs and indicators were the first things to go in the bin.
And crash protection is also important. So some of the key additions have been engine protection bars, and an extended sump guard.
The stock 2019 Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE already comes with a more powerful engine than the standard Bonneville and Street Scrambler, with 89hp at 7,4000rpm and 81 ft/lbs of torque. Plus it comes with full-adjustable Ohlins rear suspension featuring 9.8 inches (250mm) of travel. Then there are the Showa front forks, Brembo calipers and an ‘off-road pro’ riding mode which completely switches off ABS and traction control to use a specific throttle map. With an IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) calculating the roll, pitch, yaw and lean angle at all times.
So it’ll be interesting to see what progress Ernie Vigil and the Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE make in the 2018 Baja 100.