Jenson Button made his off-road racing debut at the Baja 1000 as the 2009 F1 world champion took to the desert in a Sky-sponsored off-road race truck.
Button competed in the event in Ensenada, Mexico, for Rocket Motorsport, the name of the karting team founded by his late father John Button, and raced alongside team-mates Chris Buncombe, a former Le Mans LMP2 class winner, Mazen Fawaz and Terry Madden.
Unfortunately, unlike the close scrutineering that F1 provides, the Baja 1000 showed its mettle as Button and his co-driver Madden spent 17 hours stranded in the desert. Button hit trouble after a strong start when the Trophy Truck’s differential broke in one of the many remote parts of each stage.
“The problem was we had found the most remote place to breakdown which meant we spent the whole night and a total of 17 hours under the stars,” Button said.
“Fuelled by energy bars and a fire that needed constant help as all we could find was twigs, Terry and I could just enjoy the moment of peacefulness by telling stories which always ended with ‘it’s Baja’. A life experience but not the one I expected. But I’ll take it.”
The Baja 1000, staged since 1967, is off-road racing’s oldest and most prestigious competition and represents another challenge for Button is expanding his racing portfolio in a way few ex-F1 champions do.
The 2019 event featured an 800-mile-long course through the desert on the Baja California Peninsula in Mexico.
Since retiring from F1 in 2016, Button has had seasons in WEC and Super GT, which he is leaving at the end of the season, while also taking on the 24 Hours of Le Mans with SMP racing last year.