Alexander Rossi adds Baja 1000 class victory to his Rolex 24 triumph this year

Honda Performance Development
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Alexander Rossi bookended his 2021 season with another major victory outside the NTT IndyCar Series where he races full time — adding a class win Friday in the prestigious Baja 1000 after opening the year as part of the overall winning team in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

The 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner tweeted about winning his third start in the prestigious off-road race along Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula. Co-driving a Honda Ridgeline each time, his first two races were eventful. In his 2018 debut, his truck nearly had a head-on collision with an SUV coming in the other direction but finished second in Class 7. In 2019, Rossi misjudged a 90-degree turn and rolled the truck into a ditch around the 95-mile mark, forcing a retirement 100 miles later because of mechanical damage.

After a one-year absence from the event because of the pandemic, Rossi returned to the Baja 1000 this year in the No. 709 Honda Ridgeline with co-drivers Jeff Proctor, Richard Glaszczak and Baja legend Steve Hengeveld. The team’s navigator was Evan Weller.

They started in the coastal city of Ensenada and went on a 1,226-mile trek south to La Paz. Proctor finished behind the wheel for a time of 23 hours, 4 minutes and 49 seconds with a winning margin of just more than three hours. It was the fourth consecutive class victory for the Honda Off-Road Ridgeline in 2021, which also won this year at the San Felipe 250, Baja 500 and Vegas to Reno.

“What a wild ride this race, this event, is,” Rossi said in a Honda release. “I can’t even begin to explain what it’s like.  It’s equally chaotic, awesome and terrifying!  To drive this truck through the desert, and the mountains, in the middle of the night, through fog that’s rolling in from the ocean – with hundreds of other cars and their dust – is unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced.  It’s insane, and it’s really cool.”

Rossi is the sixth Indy 500 winner to compete in the Baja 1000, joining Parnelli Jones (who won the Baja 1000 in 1971-72), Ryan-Hunter Reay, Rick Mears, Danny Sullivan and Buddy Rice. He is the first to win the Baja 1000, Rolex 24 and Indy 500

And though he endured a winless 2021 in IndyCar (extending his victory drought to 37 races dating to June 2019 at Road America), Rossi can claim two memorable accomplishments for Honda Performance Development in other disciplines.

“I feel very fortunate to be able to take part in it three times now, with Honda and HPD,” he said. “To help give Honda this very big win is something very special to me.  Huge shout out to [team owner] Jeff Proctor for letting me drive his truck; to our navigator, Evan Weller, he’s ‘the man’; and the entire Honda Off-Road Racing Team for such a huge effort.”

In January, Rossi teamed with Ricky Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Helio Castroneves to win the Rolex 24 for Wayne Taylor Racing, which was making its debut with an Acura in the premier DPi division.

What other racing series are on Rossi’s hit list to conquer? The Auburn, California, native who also is a veteran of Formula One seems veratile and willing enough for anything as noted in this interview with NBC Sports’ Parker Kligerman in January.

Rossi, who also made a start in the 2019 Bathurst 1000 Supercars race with IndyCar teammate James Hinchcliffe, said he eventually would like to try the NASCAR Cup Series and the Dakar Rally (though don’t expect to see him in the field when the desert racing classic begins early next year).

“I’d 100 percent love to do Dakar at one point … but it’s so different from Baja in the sense it’s like the Tour de France,” Rossi said. “You do stages. You have rest days. Baja is a 19-hour sprint, where Dakar is over (two) weeks. It’s a very different type of race. The vehicles are more spec.

“And the other thing is the navigation is a lot harder. You’re having to navigate almost as a sailor would by the stars in some categories. You don’t have GPS systems. You have a map. A whole different challenge, but one that I would love to do one day.”