Meet the Couple Who Conquered ‘World’s Toughest’ Off-Road Race Together

by Jennifer Shea
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Kristen and Wayne Matlock have raced across the world together. They’ve been everywhere from Las Vegas to Saudi Arabia to Baja California. And all that off-road racing was good preparation for the big one, the world’s toughest off-road race: the Baja 1000.

The couple race on the Polaris UTV factory team, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. And Wayne won the 2018 Baja 1000 driving solo. But the 2021 Baja race was epic, coming in at a total of 1,226.35 miles.

And the Matlocks were determined to conquer it together.

World’s Toughest Off-Road Race ‘Has Everything’

Taking place on Mexico’s Baja peninsula, the Baja 1000 is considered the world’s hardest off-road race. It runs from Ensenada to La Paz, from the northern to the southern end of the peninsula.

“Baja has everything,” Wayne Matlock told CNN recently. “You’re crossing back and forth over the peninsula and the difference in the environments you go through is huge. I mean, there’s areas where we’re going through pine trees and then there’s other areas where we’re down in the salt flats, and other areas you’re up in these super unique cactuses, the boojum trees and stuff. It’s just mind-blowing and once you do it, it gets in your blood and you get hooked.”

Wayne did the race with his protégé Josh Row, while Kristen raced the whole course on her own. That’s a formidable challenge for anyone to tackle.

“They call me the Iron Woman down here because when I get behind the wheel, I don’t share driving duties with another driver,” she told CNN. “Typically, somebody would for this race, especially the 1,227 miles of this Baja 1000.”

Ultimately, both Matlocks finished the race. Wayne made it through the course in a brand-new UTV, the Polaris RZR Pro R, which Polaris rolled out on the eve of the race. Kristen raced in an older model UTV.

But the killer off-road race was not without its setbacks. Wayne broke a shock absorber on a big rock, then another a few miles later. Kristen, meanwhile, broke two wheel bearings.

Wayne and his protégé came in third, clocking in at 33 hours and 10 minutes. Kristen came in fifth, with a total race time just shy of 37 hours.

For Matlocks, Racing Is a Family Pastime

Wayne and Kristen met in 2001 when they were part of different groups playing in the sand at Gordon’s Wells off Interstate 8 in the San Diego area, the Union-Tribune reports. They now have two kids: Wyatt and Clayton. Both their sons enjoy racing, as well.

“First I just went to race with him,” Kristen told the newspaper. “Then I drove his chase truck and became the team manager. I fell in love with it. My first race was 2005.”

Fast-forward to this year. Wayne is a 10-time UTV Baja champion, having won the Baja 1000, Baja 500 and San Felipe 250 races multiple times, per KUSI. Kristen is a seven-time Baja champion, winning the overall UTV category at the 2020 Baja 500, among other races. And so while they may not have won the world’s toughest off-road race this time around, there’s always next year.