FTR Bio:, Mexican 1000
Length: 1048 miles
Vehicles that can enter: Buggies, trucks, motorbikes and VW Beetles
First raced: 1967
Original route: Ensenada to La Paz
On 28 April – 2 May stunt star Ernie Vigil is taking on one of the most dangerous and gruelling races in the world – the Mexican 1000. An incredible off-road racing challenge that takes in more than 1000 miles across rocky desert, tackles quicksand, unpredictable 1000bhp racing trucks and the elements.
Riding his new Triumph Scrambler 1200, the original plan was to tackle the legendary Baja 1000, but a broken ankle, sustained in training, put his plans on hold. Only a few months later, Ernie shares his recovery story and preparation for the equally challenging Mexican 1000.
The Mexican 1000 is a huge undertaking. Ernie describes it as ‘top of an off road rider’s bucket list’. If you want to compete in extreme endurance races on a motorcycle, the Mexican 1000 is one of the biggest. Starting in Ensenada, Mexico, the original 1,000-mile route (which is where it gets its name) kicked off in 1967. The route changes and the distance varies but it is always around 1,000 miles, and promises one thing: an incredible challenge. FTR catches up with Ernie, who explains how he got into off-road riding, his knowledge of the route, the extreme preparation required and of course his new weapon of choice the Scrambler 1200 XE.
How did dirt riding begin for you?
I started riding when I was six and got into off-road motocross at a young age. Riding was my escape, my getaway. I didn’t care about any sports at the time, all I cared about was riding my motorcycle. I didn’t come from a motorcycle family though. My father bought it for me because some of the kids that lived in one of the houses behind us would ride up and down the alley and I would sit on the wall and watch them. My father bought me a bike so I could go out and join them. My mother hated it, but my father was all for it.
From the age of 6 to about 18 all I did was ride motocross. I guess you could say that motorcycles kept me grounded, kept me in school. If I did anything my parents didn’t approve of, they just took my bike away and that was the end of my world. The dirt bike eventually evolved into a road bike and all the kids I grew up racing motocross with bought sport bikes at the same time.
We were doing a photo shoot with Icon Motorsports, it was a typical autumn photo shoot and we were gathering marketing content for new gear. One of the employees there at the time had a 2008 Street Triple R. Myself and Nick [Apex] had never ridden Triumphs and Nick got to ride it first. He fell in love and said, ‘You’ve got to ride this’. For what we do, we over-gear the bikes. A lot of our stunts are in small spaces, so torque is our friend. I got on the bike and fell in love too. The inline three cylinder has so much torque, and the motor is perfect for what we need and demand of the bike. The bike is also narrow and doesn’t have the width a four-cylinder would have. We were in the process of planning our next video, Motorcycle vs Car Drift Battle 2, and we approached Triumph for a Speed Triple. There were absolutely no modifications to the bike, other than the swing arm, and it was great.
Do you have experience with the previous Triumph Scrambler?
Before we did the drift video we did an Iron Butt ride, going from Mexico to Canada in under 24 hours. I rode a Scrambler 900 and Nick had a Tiger. He got to choose the bikes and thought he would be comfortable and I wouldn’t. It turned out to be one of the most comfortable trips I’d ever done! I rode the Scrambler back home and then took it out for the first of our Scrambler videos. The bike was bone stock. I fell in love with it.
Has stunt riding helped your dirt riding?
It’s funny how stunt riding has bridged the gap for a lot of these different events. When I first started stunt riding I didn’t touch a dirt bike for about four years. It took over my life. The stunt riding gave us a weird ability to be able to control all sorts of motorcycles. I’m more 50/50 in terms of street to dirt riding now though.
What kind of preparation are you doing and how has that changed since the injury?
It’s really all about mileage; how far you can ride and how much you can beat your body up and still maintain a decent pace and condition.
It’s been a little tricky. This was my first ankle break. I was calling all my buddies who had sustained similar injuries to see if I could get some tips on recovery. I started riding around three months after. When I was on the bike it didn’t actually bother me that much, it was more getting about day to day that caused pain. In a dirt bike boot it was actually very well supported. Luckily, I was able to get back sooner than I thought – I can’t stand just sitting around.
When I was going to race the Baja I was training super hard. I’ve had to adjust for the Mexican 1000 due to my ankle, but I’ve still been on the bike for four hours straight in training. It’s been hard to adapt and learn. The hardest thing is staying focused for so long.
Diet is huge too. I love food, but I’ve been on a really strict diet for two months to get my body in good shape. The course is 1,048 miles in total spread across five days with the opportunity to recover at the end of each day, so although not as exhausting as the Baja [which is non-stop], it’s still the same extreme terrain and will be punishing.
What are you expecting in terms of terrain?
It’s a lot of fire roads, as trucks and cars use them too. There will be times when we’ll be flat out – the way I like to ride. You see a dust cloud, catch up to it, then pass. There are a couple of silt areas that are extremely difficult, they’re like quicksand. It’s important to look for all these different areas.
What are your thoughts on the Scrambler 1200 XE you’ll be using?
The whole thing for the Scrambler is that it’s more of an adventure. I’ve ridden the new bike; it’s incredible. Coming from riding the previous Scrambler 900 to this 1200, it’s a massive step up in capability and the 1200 is a genuine off-road machine. The suspension is unbelievable. I tried to push it, but it always has more to give. The power, the chassis, everything is amazing.
Take it for a test rideBook now
What’s the plan for the Mexican 1000?
The race starts each morning, between 6-7am, and is around 200 miles a day. If your days run long it can be very hard. Say you’re rolling in at 10pm, you sacrifice your rest. A lot of it will depend how the days go.
The course is so gruelling and this is a bigger bike than the little 450s I’ll be competing against, so I have to ride smart. The goal is a competitive pace, but a safe pace. It’s a very strong bike, so everything is built to a high standard. There still will be gas stops where we can change tyres and make mechanical fixes – should there be a get-off. We’re getting around 23-25 miles per gallon at race pace in the four-gallon tank, so we’ve scheduled our stops at around 70-miles. The bike is great as it is straight from the factory, so we haven’t made many changes.
How are you feeling about it?
I feel good. I’ve been riding as much as I can – I’m doing loads of testing. I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico, so the terrain is very similar.
How much have you modified your bike?
Not a lot. You could easily take a stock bike. For this race, we’ve only changed a few things. There’s a lower belly pan – just extend a little bit from stock – and additional extreme lighting but that’s it.
Which class are you entering?
I’m going to be in the Modern Pro class. I’ll be with 20 other guys on 450cc dirt bikes. Of all the other teams, probably half of them have four guys per team. I’ll have my work cut out for me as I’m on my own!
Why do it?
It’s a bucket list thing; competing in one of the biggest off-road races in the world.
Mexican 1000 schedule:
April 26 – Welcome fiesta
April 27 – Driver registration
April 28 – Race day 1
April 29 – Race day 2
April 30 – Race day 3
May 1 – Race day 4
May 2 – Race day 5
May 3 – Awards ceremony