2019 Norra 1000 - Rock Donkey Racing recap

Dave Cole 4454

Sep 1, 2010
Lake Arrowhead, CA
Have not done one of these in a long time. Sitting on a beach in Bahia de Concepcion seems an appropriate time to write our race recap from 2019 Yokohama Norra 1000. It didn’t go how we planned but the adventure was still there in spades. We left the line in 11th place right behind friend/coworker/co-conspirator JT Taylor. We caught JT before we got to Ojos but couldn’t get passed him till we got back to the HWY. Coming into San Felipe we had the 6th fastest time of the day which put us right behind some legendary race cars like the Chenowth driven by Ryan Thomas and Bob Gordons 85 car piloted by Ryan Arciero. Passing Arciero in the middle of the last special of the day we found ourselves second on the road. It wouldn’t last. 5 miles from the finish and only a transit stage separating us from Day Finish in Bahia de Los Angeles the motor temp spiked to 270. Off the power it would drop but we had to limp to the finish giving up several positions.

That loss of track position would prove extremely costly. Starting 9th out of BOLA, Texas Jesus (my codriver) and I agreed to stay patient and let the first stage play out. Tons of cars always break or wreck going into Loreto. I wasn’t patient. 48 miles into the stage, I blew a high pressure line on my talent tank. Jesus was flipping the page on the road book and I drove into the dust. I tried to straighten out an obvious 45 right and hit a concrete abutment. The damage was significant. We effectively ripped the front left corner off going 70 to 0 in about 15 feet. The car was laying on its side and front inner C was exploded, the king pin bolt sheared, lower link mount ripped off the frame. Both front left shocks were bent 90 degrees. We were done.

Hall of Fame Photographer Chris Collard had an onboard welder. Jesus had practiced his stick welding before heading south (he really did), and were able to inch our way back north to BOLA. Along the way we found Scott Steinberger in his Can AM with a broken fuel pump. There was a second Can AM there with a broken A Arm. (There had been a big pile up of cars here earlier in the day). Scott was able to convince the bad A Arm car to let him steal their functioning fuel pump and he continued on (eventually to a 2nd place finish). We towed the other car back eventually finding Scotts crew with a replacement pump and the needed A Arm. Baja Karma paid forward.

We arrived back in BOLA around 4 PM. The leaders were closing in on Loreto. We were licking our wounds and preparing for the drive of shame north. One of the last minute additions to our team was Jorge Jiminez out of Mexicali. Jorge does the mapping and tracking for CODE. Unbeknownst to me, Jorge got on the phone with Alfonso Lacarra, one of the Directors of CODE, and found the necessary shock parts. The rest of the crew hatched a plan and were soon heading south to our buddy Junior’s place in Vizcaino. Jorge, Abe, and I boned north to San Felipe (we pulled it off in 4 hours). After grabbing a few hours sleep on the beach in Gonzaga, we met up with Derek, Jesus, Javier (one of JTs guys we picked up when he DNF’d in BOLA), Malcolm (a buddy from Malta), and Will (the guy who has the thread about wanting to join a team in Baja) in Vizcaino at 10 AM the next morning. We drove all day and most of the night arriving in La Paz just before midnight (after rescuing Robby and Max Gordon in Insurgentes). By 4am the car was pieced back together. No problem, there was no way we would be starting before 11 and that far back we would barely be getting on the throttle. Wrong.

Eliseo Garcia, Norra Race Director, felt we would be safety risk starting in the back and pushed us up to the 16th starting position. So with an untested car and a motor that was still border line overheating we proceeded to have a top 5 day including the 3rd fastest time on the last stage even though we stopped for a few minutes to tow Greg Distefano.

The crazy part is with JT out in BOLA with motor issues and Andrew McLaughlin losing a transmission in Loreto, we slid all the way back in to 2nd place. Shout to David Shields who motored to the win in his first ever Baja race. Thank you to Norra for putting on a great race and the people of Baja for letting us come into their backyards and make vroom vroom noises. Viva Baja!