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NORRA Mexican 1000 Race Report - Gaucho Mark's Racing Bronco #66

Team Todo En

Well-Known Member
This was my 5th year racing the event. All other years besides this year have been in my ’67 Bronco. The first 2 resulted in Baja defeating us, but since that 2nd year, we have developed more of a Baja spirit and instead of just ‘going fishing’ and making our way back up the peninsula after an issue seems too big, or maybe impossible, (sometimes they are and you just have to face it) we step it up a notch and do our best to work through it and do whatever it takes to finish. Period.

Our Bronco is a ’66 built from the frame up within the last year. It’s sort of a Franken-Bronco. The frame and tub is a 66, but not originally mated together. The other body parts are from other various donor Broncos, mostly ’66 as well, but some parts are other years. The fab work was started by the owner, Mark Womack and his fabricator, John Abatte, as his shop in Chico, CA, then finished by LaFortune Race Cars in Upland Ca. Motor tuning was done remotely by the EFI Guy, Garry Vance.

I have always driven the entire race, and our team was originally composed of 2 chase trucks, and 7 or 8 guys, I can’t even remember now. We had guys coming from all over, as far away as Jeff Bennett in Indianapolis, who’s father used to work with Bill Stroppe on the propane race Broncos in the early 70’s. As it is with this huge kind of commitment, we had guys bailing, adding a couple new ones, more bailing until we ended up with the Fab 4 and 1 chase truck and trailer. We have well over a 200 mile fuel range, so for us it was easily do-able with 2 guys in the truck and 2 in the racer with the Mag 7 support, but that’s an absolute minimum, unless you’re going “commando” like Ned & Kat Bacon do with no chase support at all. My hat is off to them!

With no issues at the border and one stop for another great meal at La Fonda’s we arrived in Ensenada Thursday afternoon to get settled, take it easy, party in town, and then be ready for Tech Friday morning. We ended up 2nd in tech line in the morning which worked well for us since we wanted to get everything out of the way. All was good until we were told we’re getting bumped up a class out of Pioneer 4x4 into Legend 4x4 because our radius arms weren’t stock length. We seriously thought we had covered the rules thoroughly. I honestly had no idea they weren’t stock length, so it was a real bummer not being able to race with our friends in the Pioneer Broncos, and an even bigger bummer for the Palapa Boys in their 4 cylinder Nissan now up against a Bronco with a 408 stroker. A couple hours later I was relaxing in my hotel and Boyd Jaynes called me on my cell as he was having issues getting through tech as well, so in the end the NORRA officials let all of the Pioneer 4x4 folks get together and work it out between ourselves. Jayne’s radius arms were stock length, just not the stock arms, so with ours really more out of class, we thought it would be best to bow out.

Day 1: Mark Womack, the Bronco owner co-drove with me the entire 1st day. I’m used to being in the Vintage classes that start sooner, so when I found my start position at 184th - 4 positions up from the VW Bus at the end, I knew it was going to be a long day. I thought it was going to get even longer when we got off the line and the Bronco immediately went into the ‘death wobble’ less than 200’ after the start line. I slammed on the brakes to stop it and Mark and I looked at each other, like WTF?? I had over 700 miles of testing on it and had driven it on the street 10 miles from the shop the last day before we left and never had any issues of this kind. How could this be? It did it one more time, then I couldn’t get it to do it again. Racking our brains, we thought maybe a tire out of balance or it was something else we would just have to deal with when it happened. We would find the issue later that evening in San Felipe. At least Chase was close most of the time, and we didn’t need to re-fuel at all being a short day.
We ran real strong and managed to pick up 70 slots for Monday’s starting lineup. We got our cervezas and tacos at the finish line in San Felipe and headed off to the bungalows at Stella Del Mar on the beach. Doing our daily routine maintenance we spotted a cracked frame around the track bar bracket that had obviously been the culprit for the death wobble and had gotten worse. I must have started the crack testing in the big woops at Barstow the weekend before and we just didn’t catch it. What Baja luck to have such a great guy in the bungalow next to us with everything we needed to fix it including a 220 stick welder/generator combo and a bunch of metal pieces to make tie-in braces and gussets out of! I wish I could remember his name. He even got us more food that night! Just a great guy. Thanks again amigo if you’re reading this!

Day 2: Karl “Special K” Armbrust co-drove the entire 2nd day into BoLA. The real test for the new track bar patch and fab job was the first 19 miles of woops. These Broncos don’t do real well in those, and we just need to take them as best we can. Someone asked me ‘how fast can you go in those woops?’ I just said ‘as fast as we can!’ No issues the whole day at all except, of all things, my CamelBak kept pinching up in the backpack and I could barely get a drop out of it. Luckily, Karl my co-dawg had a long enough water tube on his that could reach me, otherwise I surely would have had to stop just to hydrate.
We again ran strong and maintained 1st in class with no new issues but actually lost 13 slots for the long day’s lineup. We had a nice meet and greet in the tent and got to our hotel, which luckily was facing east and the wind just blew over so it really didn’t affect us this year. I will be sure to try for one of those rooms next year if we go to BoLA. Routine maintenance done, and after a nice chile relleno dinner and a last cerveza, the team is settled in for the night.

Day 3 of the #NORRA1000 proved to be long and grueling, but the #GauchoMarksRacing #66 #Bronco was up to the task.
Out of 188 entries, we have moved up to 64th overall, and are also maintaining a comfortable 1st place in class. We have also picked up a slot from 5th to 4th overall in Legends.
The first leg was extremely dusty and had a lot of rocky sections. Karl "Special K" Armbrust did a fantastic job in the co-driver's seat coming out of Bahia de Los Angeles. My bad and just bad luck, setting up for a pass and blinded by dust, we went over the side of a rocky embankment and through a tree. Luckily, we decided to run with the front hubs locked this day, so we were able quickly get it into 4x4 to climb back up to the road and continue on with no damage or injuries, losing only 1 position.
The last section was the longest of the 5 day event. "Gaucho" Mark Womack took on the task and co-drove as we really nailed it, hitting speeds upwards of 95mph over on the beautiful Pacific coast of Baja and bringing it home to the finish line in beautiful Loreto on the Sea of Cortez.

We enjoyed the party at the La Mision and as a bonus got to swap stories over dinner with a legend, Don Prudhomme. After the party, we retired to our beautiful rooms. A couple of the guys got on the Bronco prep and Mark & I went to our rooms to shower and check out the next day’s course then hit the hay.


Day 4: We always look forward to finishing in La Paz and seeing our Bronco Brothers from Club Baja Sur Early Ford Broncos, and the finish line did not disappoint with them all lined up revving their engines!
The first leg of the day was navigated by Karl "Special K" Armbrust through some really beautiful Baja desert scenery and some fast open roads. The Bronco was handling awesome. An absolute blast to drive.
Mark "Doc" Womack got in the Co-Drivers seat for the second and most difficult leg of the entire race for us. The terrain was rocky, wooped out, sandy, hot, and anything else Baja could throw at us. By the end of the stage, our shocks were gone (totally overheated) and the rear transmission mount was very loose so we had to baby it over what seemed like 100 miles (and probably was!) of the kind of woops the Bronco hates.
We did manage to finish the day picking up a few slots overall to 58th and are still 1st in class, 4th in Legends. We had very nice rooms in the hotel right by the day 5 start line. We ended all up meeting at the pool for more cervezas after the Bronco was done and transmission mounts tightened. I was would up like everyone else and ended up not going to sleep until about 1am. It’s nice not starting till almost 10! We were really looking forward to tomorrow where we will finish our racing adventure in San Jose del Cabo with family and friends waiting at the finish!


Mark "Doc" Womack co-drove the entire 5th and last day of the race. The terrain in the first half was made for the Bronco with winding desert roads and fast open straightaways. We saw the beautiful Pacific Ocean and it's cool sea breezes gave us some relief in the cab. 90+ mph was easy and the shocks and suspension had recovered fully from the previous day.
The 2nd half of the final day was very rocky and treacherous canyons for the most part. Seeing cars on their sides and broken reminded us how fortunate we're were to be still in the race. About 30-40 miles out I had to stop because even though I checked it before we got off the line, my dam CamelBak was pinched off again so I hadn’t had a drop of water and I was really becoming dangerously dehydrated. I found a nice spot under some trees and got out for about 10-15 minutes and just relaxed and drank until I felt re-hydrated. I know something that will surely be on next year’s list! Coming into San Jose del Cabo during the last 8 miles or so on the sandy beaches was exciting, and getting to the finish line with friends and family cheering us on was an experience you can only have with everyone's support. 5 days of racing from months of planning and preparation has led us almost 1300 miles to the finish line in San Jose del Cabo and 1st place in class. As an added bonus, we also finished ahead of all 14 Broncos (new and old) from all classes that entered which we thought was pretty cool.

We are thankful for everyone's support throughout our racing adventure and are so fortunate to have been able to participate in the "Happiest Race on Earth" 2019 #NORRA1000.

‘Rapido’ Randy Ludwig

Gaucho Mark’s Racing
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jeff

Moderator
Who's under the witness protection program on your team? ;)

Great writeup!

Aloha
 

JWHracing

Active Member
Awesome write up! Congrats on your win and finish!

Look into a universal windshield washer bottle for your water. I run 2 with push button switches. Hose runs up from the bottles mounted behind the seats to the driver and codriver, stick the hose in your mouth and push the button. I could never drink out of a Camelback while driving. This requires less thought and effort.
 

enesset

Well-Known Member
Always great seeing and talking with you guys again this year. Crazy jealous at tech when I was drooling over the race rig!

See you guys next year!
 

Team Todo En

Well-Known Member
Always great seeing and talking with you guys again this year. Crazy jealous at tech when I was drooling over the race rig!

See you guys next year!
Thanks amigo, and the same goes to you. Always good times, and love your Manx. I was hoping to see it again this year.
 

enesset

Well-Known Member
Thanks amigo, and the same goes to you. Always good times, and love your Manx. I was hoping to see it again this year.
There is a bronco and manx guy that Todd and Andrew and I are buddies with (Chris.H) and it would be rad if he would come down and race with me. Tough to get enough guys.....and little brother kirk from last year was a "one and done" kinda guy.

I'm always open/interested in "paying to play"....when our team owner retires maybe our core group....Andrew/TZ/Sam and me can wrangle a few more and co-op another year like we did in 2012.
 

LantanaTX

Well-Known Member
great write up! Just curious, is this Bronco legal for Pioneer class? What is the difference between Pioneer and Legend for a short wheelbase Bronco?
 

Team Todo En

Well-Known Member
great write up! Just curious, is this Bronco legal for Pioneer class? What is the difference between Pioneer and Legend for a short wheelbase Bronco?
Thanks!
We originally registered Pioneer but at tech, due to our oversight, we found out we weren't legal because of the radius arms being longer than stock. Everything else on the truck is Pioneer class legal. We are currently installing the stock length arms to get back in Pioneer.
Besides the vehicle year, Pioneer 4x4 and Legends 4x4 are very similar with regard to shock diameter, tire size, no coil overs or bypass, but the suspension wording in Pioneer is "The suspension must be stock including mounting / pivot locations and spring mounting locations" where Legends is "The suspension must be of stock concept for the chassis" and allows 2 rear links.
 
We will be legal for Pioneer in 2020. The paint scheme was copied from the 1966 Gulf GT40 and later Porsche 917. A little worse for the wear now but it'll polish out!
 

jon coleman

Well-Known Member
66, ford couldnt buy Ferrari, so he wooooped em',,,, bad!, picked 917 's 'cause s mcqueen 's le mans movie.original ' crank it up' movie
 

cavebiker

Member
Great effort. Great report. I can't get enough of these NORRA builds & reports.

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Beautiful!
I'm pretty sure I talked with one you guys this year, I complimented your ride. I was the nut trying to chase the race on a Sportster. Hope to see you in 2020
 

Team Todo En

Well-Known Member
Great effort. Great report. I can't get enough of these NORRA builds & reports.
I'm pretty sure I talked with one you guys this year, I complimented your ride. I was the nut trying to chase the race on a Sportster. Hope to see you in 2020
We will be there, and the 500 as well! See you there ??
 
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